Monthly Archives: May 2015

Craftsy’s Sassy Librarian Blouse

What did I make with 3 yards of cotton fabric I bought at the thrift store for $3?

I sewed view 1 of the Sassy Librarian Blouse by Christine Haynes which is provided as a pdf download with the Craftsy class, also taught by Christine.  It’s a fitted yet demure pattern with a retro vibe that has darts, release pleats, facings, sleeves, a flat collar, interfacing, and a button placket. I learned many new techniques while making this shirt by first watching Christine do the sewing.  View 2 is sleeveless and features a pintucked bodice with a bow tab at the neck and bias trim at the armhole.  The pattern options can be combined in different ways to make different looks.

Craftsy Class Pattern by Christine HaynesI had some fitting issues as I chose not to make a muslin version before cutting into my fabric.  Although my fabric was cheap, I was still determined to end up with a casual, wearable shirt.  The class covers strictly the sewing of the shirt and doesn’t address fitting of the pattern. After finishing the librarian blouse, I have started learning more about how to sew a muslin, mark it, assess the fit, alter it, and transfer the changes to the pattern.  With this knowledge, I will be more likely to make a muslin mockup in the future.  This time, I wanted to concentrate on the sewing, and not get hung up on the fit too much.

Once you have your pattern and fabric, the next step is deciding what size to make.  The patterns always tell you to go by your full bust size for a blouse. I’m finding that I’m not a standard size, and I should start with the size to get a good shoulder and armhole fit, and then alter for a fuller bust.  That’s why other sewists I’ve read say to use your high bust measurement, which is measured high on the chest just under the arms,  for a cup size larger than a B.  I started with a size 14 for a 39 inch bust and the shoulders were too wide and deep for me.  I improvised by hacking some fabric off around the armhole and resewing the shoulders shorter.

Christine is very precise in how she sews all the steps of this blouse; she even has a technique for sewing on the buttons.  In contrast, I have always had more of a haphazard approach to my marking, measuring, cutting, and sewing the fabric, and try to “wing it” when things don’t work out.  Not having had classroom experience, it was enlightening watching her sewing and explaining what she was doing.

Techniques I learned and followed from Miss Haynes:

To sew darts, she has you reduce the stitch length to 1 or 1 1/2 for the last 1/2 inch or so before you sew off of the fabric, and then trimming the threads flush instead of the traditional method of tying the threads.

She demonstrates setting in a sleeve by sewing two rows of basting stitches, pulling on the stitches to gather the ease, and then sewing the seam with the sleeve side facing up and the shirt side against the feed dogs.

Setting or easing in the sleeves was the hardest part for me.  While I did have a problem with puckers the first time, the second one went in smoother.

Sewing woes: setting in sleeves

oops, not a good sewing job, must stitch it again

Even my fabric was inspirational, encouraging me to believe, create, imagine, and play!  I believe I can do better!

The buttonholes are sewed last. To my relief they were a breeze; I practiced one and then sewed them all without a hitch.

I enjoyed and recommend this class, especially for beginning sewers.   Although the pattern doesn’t come with written construction directions,  the Craftsy platform has a feature called “Notes” that is very useful to create your own written instructions.  I wrote the steps down and then printed them out from within the class.  My sleeve section notes were the most detailed with 17 entries.

And my finished blouse:

Sassy Librarian Blouse close-up

Sassy Librarian Blouse View 1

I’m not a librarian, but I am bookish, so maybe a more apt name for my shirt would be “the sassy used bookstore blouse”.





Overcasting Stitch for Fabric Finishing

These days, it’s not uncommon for home sewers of garments to use a serger to finish the edges of fabric.  A serger is a specialty machine used with multiple big cones of thread that is especially useful to sew knits, as it sews the seam and finishes the edges as the same time. Serged seams give a store bought look to the inside of a garment, and make a neat, sturdy finish that prevents unravelling of the fabric.

Are you a person who is quick to buy all the possible equipment, machines and gadgets for your craft?  I’m not – expense, space availability, and difficulty of use are some factors to consider.  I don’t have a serger, and would have to believe I really need and will use one before I buy one.  I think if I had a dedicated sewing room, and wanted to sew knits instead of wovens, I’d be more likely to buy a serger.

Arrow pointing to overcasting stitch

I sew with an inexpensive basic Brother machine.  I have finished seams in simple tops by a clean finish (turning and sewing), and by mock french seams.   I started to sew a shirt with sleeves and facing, and I needed a seam finish that would lie smooth and not add bulk.  The pattern recommends a 3 step zigzag, but I didn’t like the way it looked.

Previously, I had bought a special overcasting or overedge foot.  overcasting foot bar and rudder

It has a little piece of metal that is lined up with the edge of the fabric.  Used  with the overcasting stitch, number 17 on my machine,  it produces a finish that I am pleased with.

facing with overcast stitch

finished seams with overcasting foot While this stitch is very slow for a machine stitch, and uses a lot of thread, it produces a finish for the raw edge of fabric that looks similar to a serged edge. I did have a mishap when I started experimenting with the overcasting foot – I broke a needle!  The stitch width has to be turned all the way up to keep the needle from hitting the bar in the foot.  Oops!


Have you ever sewed a seam that looks good, and you turn it over and it’s a mess? That’s what happened to me sewing the hem on a shirt sleeve.  The lousy side is the side that is seen on the outside of the shirt.  Yikes!

uniform stitcheswrong side of fabric with bad stitches

Since it was the underside of the sewing, my first thought used to be that there was a problem with my bobbin, or perhaps my tension was off.  Now the first thing I check is the top threading of the machine.  I carefully rethreaded, and my stitches were back to normal.  I love it when a sewing machine problem is so easy to solve!

In this case, I had previously unthreaded the machine to wind a bobbin, and had made a  mistake in threading, something I don’t usually do anymore.  In fact, my machine and I are getting along really well lately, and I was able to finish my shirt.