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Janie Blouse in Pennycress design

Choosing sewing pattern and fabric

I don’t know what I like most, choosing the fabric or choosing the sewing pattern. I definitely think it’s lots of fun to combine the two of them. Here it was the fabric that came first. I like the lace-like structure of the Pennycress stem pattern that is made by the fibers and vessels in this microscopy pattern. The vessels transport the water in the stem of this small herbaceous plant and the fibers give the stem its stability. I had ordered the Pennycress fabric in Organic Cotton Sateen (130gsm, 3.8 oz per square yard) from Spoonflower. When I was looking for a matching sewing pattern, Estelle from Apolline patterns had just released her fall collection 2021. Included in that was the Janie blouse. A detail that caught my eye was the option to sew this timeless blouse with small ruffles at the sleeves. Also the gatherings below the shoulder seams in the front were a nice element. There was my match: I would sew the Janie blouse in the Pennycress stem pattern. I noticed that the fabric was maybe at the edge of being a bit stiff for this project, but I gave it a try.  

Drawing of Janie blouse
Janie Blouse and the different sleeve options. I decided for the centre one, long sleeve with small ruffles
Pennycress fabric detail, Organic Cotton Sateen ordered from the Flora-L Spoonflower shop

The many details of the Janie Blouse

This was my very first blouse sewing project. The collar, the button facing and the cuffs are probably the most tricky parts of such a project. Yet thanks to Estelle’s great instructions for the Janie Blouse, the project is totally feasible if you have some sewing experience. The advantage of using woven cotton is that it lays flat and can be easily cut out. I often sew in flowing viscose or tencel or in stretchy fabrics and there the cutting can be a challenge. I like to take my time with cutting the fabric so that I get it done as exactly as possible. A few millimetres here and there will otherwise add up and create frustration when sewing the different parts together. You save time later by taking time for precision in the first steps. The Janie blouse has gatherings in the back and below the shoulder seams. This gives it quite some volume around the bust. As I had a bit stiffer fabric as compared to Estelle’s inspiring examples, I decided to go for a size 36 instead of my usual 38. A choice that I should have thought through a bit more….

Gatherings at the shoulder seam
Gatherings at the shoulder seam
Janie-blouse in the making
The Janie blouse in cotton sateen with pennycress design in the making

Help from the designer herself

My six years living and working in France have left their marks on me. I still appreciate French clothing design. Estelle who founded her brand Apolline patterns just a few years ago, reconverted herself into a pattern designer from having worked as a journalist. That alone is inspiring! She has created an enthusiastic Instagram community around her creations and her collections are popular. And, the most wonderful, is that she still takes the time to personally respond to questions. Mine concerned the gatherings in the back of the Janie blouse. I had gathered the fabric in the area indicated on the pattern but this was just not sufficient to match the back piece of the blouse to the yoke as you see in the picture below. Looking carefully again at her photos I saw that the gathering are far less narrow on her blouse but distributed over the entire back. I reached out to her via Instagram and she reply very quickly and explained that she does all the gatherings by feeling. Her advice was that I should not stick to what was indicated on the pattern for the gatherings. That said I sew two new rows of basting stitches and gathered the back part over a larger area. That allowed me to sew the yoke and the back piece together without problem. This was the only moment where I was in doubt while sewing this project. 

Two rows of basting stitches on the upper end of the back piece as indicated in the sewing pattern
The yoke (right side up) is shorter than the back piece (wrong side up) despite very tight gatherings.
Gatherings on the designer's version of the blouse (upper picture) and on my fabric (lower picture)

Adjustments to the Janie blouse

Once everything was put together there were a few adjustments needed. Given that my fabric was stiffer than the fabrics Estelle uses in her examples, I decided to wear the blouse rather over than tucked into plants or skirts. However for this, the Janie blouse was a bit wide both in the back and in the front. That is a problem that is easily solved by adding darts in the front and in the back parts. With an eye for detail you can match the print pattern in a way so that the darts becomes almost invisible. My choice of size 36 around the bust was totally good and even then I needed the darts. However I would next time use a size 38 for the sleeves and the arm holes as I found those a bit tight. The lower seam of the sleeves is a French seams, which means there is no seam allowance that I could have used to win a few millimetres for more ease. I still love how this project turned out. 

Janie blouse with darts pinned for adjusting the fit

Learnings for my next Janie Blouse 

What I had fallen for were the gatherings and the lovely details at the sleeves when I picked the Janie blouse and I love how this turned out. Next time I would adjust the sleeve and arm hole size as I just mentioned. In addition I would want to sew the blouse in a more flowing fabric, which is a personal style choice. If you like fabrics with a bit of a stand, the organic cotton sateen from Spoonflower is a great choice. When you order from Spoonflower in Europe, the fabric is printed in and ships from Berlin. When you order from other parts in the world it will be printed in and ships from the US. It’s made on demand for you and complements the fabric in our webshop. In our Spoonflower shop you can choose from a large variety of fabric qualities and compositions for our designs, fitting the material property requirements of your project. If Spoonflower was offering woven viscose (ideally EcoVero viscose which is more environmentally friendly produced), that would have been my ideal choice of fabric for this blouse.  

Janie Blouse in Pennycress design

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