Hi everybody! Today I’m sharing something that wasn’t in my plans at the start of the month, but I’ve managed to incorporate it into Sew My Stash September anyway. A few months ago I signed up to be a pattern reviewer for Jennifer Lauren Handmade. In exchange for an honest review, you get a pdf copy of one of Jennifer’s patterns, and there’s a different one each month. I won’t be reviewing a pattern every time, but I did stick my hand up for this month’s pattern, the Afternoon Blouse.
Now, I have made this before, but it was way, way back when I had just started sewing. My last version was in a Liberty lawn and looking back it is definitely not my best make (unfinished facings, shocking topstitching etc). I wanted to revisit it to see how far I have come.
When I made the pattern first time around it was only a top with a choice between a round or square neckline finish. The reissued version now includes a shift dress extension with an elasticated or pleated waist in the back. I’m not really a fan of shift dresses on me, so I went for the blouse with the round neck finish. The fabric recommendations span drapey fabrics like voile or rayon, through to stiffer fabrics like quilting cotton. Something crisper might be good for the dress version, but I think the top works best in something nice and flowy. I had just the right amount of rayon left over from my last Penny dress, and this was the perfect opportunity to save it from my stash. I only wish I had more so I could attempt to pattern match – it doesn’t match through the front seam and now it’s all I can look at.
The pdf pattern
We all know that printing, taping and cutting out pdf patterns can be a hell of a faff, so anything to reduce the time is a good thing in my book. I was impressed that Jennifer has taken the time to show which pages you need to print depending on the version you’re making. Saves time and trees. However, putting the pattern together could be made a bit simpler. There aren’t any triangles on the pdf to help you line things up and keep track of what sheet attaches to which. You could refer to the instructions for this but I think it would be helpful to do it straight from the pattern.
The Afternoon Blouse has just four pattern pieces (front, back and two facing pieces). It features kimono sleeves and there’s no fitting around the bust to mess about with. It’s a simple sew, but the crossover neckline keeps things interesting, and is probably the most challenging part, especially if you’re a beginner. You need to do some pretty accurate sewing to ensure that there aren’t any holes beneath where the round extensions cross over. I found the drafting to be accurate and well thought out here, and the whole blouse came together for me without any issues. I’d note that there are no notches on the pattern to help you match pieces, and while I didn’t find that a problem while sewing, others might find them useful.
My main criticism of the pattern is with the instructions, but even then these are minor points as they’re pretty easy to follow. I struggled a bit to get the neckline lying flat, and in a thicker fabric I think the facing might pop out, particularly around the back neckline. You secure the facing with a couple of hand stitches at the shoulder and beneath the crossover, but I think some understitching might help. You wouldn’t be able to understitch the entire facing but certainly around the majority of the front and back neckline before you get to the crossover.
Speaking of hand stitching, there is a mistake in the instructions about this. In the “Attaching the facing” section, points five and six are the wrong way round, so it has you stitching the facing down before you’ve turned it the right side out. I told Jennifer about this via email, so hopefully it’ll be updated pretty quickly.
I cut a size 12 around the bust, blending out to a 16 at the hips, which is a usual adjustment for me. The fit seems pretty spot on – there’s no gaping across the bust and it’s cut high enough to be decent but not too buttoned up. The lack of shaping means it’s quite a loose fit, which I like – it has just the right volume so in rayon it looks nicely poofy when tucked in but also soft and flowy when worn loose.
All in all…
I might have a few small issues with the pattern here and there, but these are so small they didn’t affect my enjoyment in sewing this top at all. Because, really, I bloody love this top. Chris even said he liked it without me having to prompt that I’d made something new. That doesn’t happen often. It’s a good top to have in your collection – quick to put together, simple to fit and easy to wear. This particular version is smart enough for work but I can see it doing very nicely for date night when worn with jeans, too.