This most basic model of the ever-popular “peasant blouse,” is at it’s core 4 rectangles. The sleeves are in the raglan style, which employs the absolute minimum of fitting, or precision of sizing, while still managing to be almost universally flattering. This style of blouse made appearances in European folk costume throughout history, and in the 20’s and 30’s as the “Hungarian blouse.” However, it’s two most stunning incarnations were that of the 15th century German Hemd, which often featured excessive amounts of extra yardage, gathered up in ornate smocking at the neck and cuffs, and the Ukrainian Vyshivanka which features a slight variation on the basic design in the form of elaborately embroidered epaulets.
The beauty of this blouse is it’s versatility. It can be the quickest, easiest garment, with an elastic casing at the neck and open cuffs, or the most elaborate, with smocking, decorative embroidery, faggoting at the seams, and multiple points of gathered, sculpted cloth. Fabric choice, color palate, seam styles, neck and cuff closures, hemline and any number of other finishing details can create radically different effects from the same basic “pattern.”
When designing this garment, ask yourself a few questions:
Would you like long sleeves or short? Gathered or hemmed? Would you them voluminous and full, or as close to the body as possible?
How long would you like it? Will it be tucked in or worn untucked? Will it be a blouse or a dress?
Would you like a wide neckline or a close one? Do you Want a drawstring, a V, or an elastic casing?
Do you prefer a curved or straight hem? Slits at the hips, or extra width?
After considering these design elements, sketch your blouse. Decide if you would like to include armpit gussets (for ease of movement), or if your shirt will be extra baggy. Will you be embroidering your blouse? Will you be binding your cuffs, or simply hemming them? Consider any additional pattern pieces or items necessary, such as bias tape, cuffs, elastic or drawstring.
Now take your measurements. Start at the neck. In front of a mirror, drape a measuring tape at the depth of neckline you intend your shirt to have. Write down this number on your shirt diagram. Now, from the point where your neckline will sit on the front of your chest, measure down to your desired hemline. Write this number down on your diagram.
Now do the same for your sleeve. Starting at the top of your shoulder, around where your neckline will fit, measure, with your arm down, to the point at which you would like your sleeve to end. Write this number down.
Measure the widest point on your arm and add it to your diagram. Do the same for your torso (usually this will be the bust, though it may be the stomach. If you are making a dress, it may be the hips or buttocks).
If you will have a curved hemline, measure from your armpit to the point on your hip where you would like the highest part of your hem to sit. Again, include this number on your diagram.
Now, add ease to your measurements. If you want a closer fit, add 1 inch. If you would like more volume, add 2”-5”.
Add seam allowance of 5/8”-1” . It is helpful to mark clearly, and record it as, for instance, 32”, +1” seam allow(33”).
Now, take your pre-washed and dried, unwrinkled fabric, and make sure that it is folded in half lengthwise, and lay it on the floor. Pin it flat, and look at the pieces you will need to make your shirt. Using a yard stick or measuring tape and a piece of tailer’s chalk, mark your pattern pieces, leaving space for seam allowance.
Pin your fabric together along cut lines, and then cut it out!
- Begin by pinning your body and sleeve pieces together, making sure the showing sides of your fabric are together.
- Use a simple backstitch or your sewing machine to connect these first seams, making a tube. Crease or iron these seams open or flat, as desired.
- Next, if you have decided to include an armpit gusset, pin and stitch half of it in place, where the sleeves meat the body of your shirt.
- Now, pin the front and back of your shirt together, up to the gusset. Attach the gusset to the armpit on the other side, and pin the sleeves together as well. Stitch. Crease or iron these to match your first seams. (If you intend to flat fell your seams, now is a good time to do it. Otherwise you can just whipstitch the edges together when you are finished.)
- If you are including an open neckline, now is when you will add a little slit to the center-front of our blouse. Using carpet and button thread, make a running stitch all the way around the neckline, and use this to gather your neckline to its desired width, do the same to the cuffs, if they are to be gathered.
- Gather the neckline and cuffs, and secure them. Ironing them flat helps with the next part, but is not mandatory.
- Turn your blouse right side out, and pin the right side of your binding pieces or bias tape along the gathering seam of neck and sleeves. Stitch these in place. trim the seam allowance of your neckline and sleeves, press the binding tape up, and fold it over to encase the edge. Fold the ends in and pin it all in place, before stitching it down.
- Roll and pin the slit cut at the neckline of your blouse, and use a whip stitch to secure it in place.
- Either roll, or fold and press the hemline of your blouse, and stitch it in place. Finish any remaining exposed edges inside the blouse.