The Biscayne Blouse pattern
The moment I saw the Biscayne Blouse pattern in its final stages of getting ready to be sent out into the world, I started stalking Adrianna's Instagram feed for a release date and hopes of seeing more pre-launch photos from its pattern testers (you can now see them all in this blog post where, without exception, they are all beautiful - it looks like a pattern that suits everyone). The focus of my stalking may surprise you as much as it did me, as it felt to be such a long time since I'd done any dressmaking that I did wonder if I'd ever get back to it. However, when I finally reached the other side of a work project that was so absorbing that even my English paper piecing had slowed to a weary tortoise pace over recent months, I suddenly felt the need to sew some clothes.
I have several quilt-related projects already on the go, with pieces cut, just waiting to be sewn together, as well as half-written patterns which I'd had to temporarily abandon (hoping to get back to those soon), but I was drawn to making something that could be finished in a day or so, rather than a year or so, and which didn't require as much mental headspace as pattern writing. With perfect timing, knowing how keen I was to make it, Adrianna of Hey June crept into my inbox and planted a copy of the Biscayne Blouse there a day or two before its release. I'd been planning on buying it the moment it came out, so this was a delicious surprise and I cut straight into it.
I should probably explain first why I'd become slightly obsessed by the Biscayne: I have an off-the-peg top with very similar style features, which I've always really enjoyed wearing. When I like a piece of clothing, I worry about its demise and in an ideal world I'd have favourite garments backed up to an iCloud, ready to be re-downloaded if something awful happened to the original, so when I saw the Biscayne blouse pattern it suddenly felt like a good opportunity to create my own iCloud functionality for this top. As it happens, the fit is actually quite different to my shop-bought blouse, but no less lovely, and it's definitely a pattern that I'll make up again.
The Biscayne Blouse has some gathering at the centre front, which means the neck is sewn into a collar that's slightly smaller, which naturally causes the button stands to separate at the top in a way that's easy to wear and doesn't look formal in the way that a placket that stands like a regimental solider can do; it has a lovely welt pocket; and it also has a concealed button placket (see photo at top of post for a close-up). I hadn't sewn a concealed button placket before, so seeing that come together was really satisfying; by the time I'd finished folding, concertina-ing, pressing, sewing and buttonholing that section, I felt like my brain had grown to such an extent that I suspect that the migraine I had later in the day may have been caused directly by the pressure on my skull of trying to contain my newly enlarged brain.
All of these details take what would be quite a simple sewing project and transform it into something that makes the finished garment feel really special. And totally worthy of cutting into some Liberty print crepe de Chine from my stash. It's not a blouse that is finished in a few hours, but I really enjoyed all the detailed, careful sewing involved.
I did worry while making this, that the print was a little too '1970s bedsheet', but by the end of the project, my eyes had acclimatised to it and either I'm wearing a bedsheet in blissful ignorance or it was never actually akin to a bedsheet in the first place.
I made a very quick toile for this pattern before cutting into my Liberty, which caused me to shorten the pattern pieces by 1.5" (if you're making one yourself, for reference I'm 5ft1" and I took the 1.5" off at the shortening/lengthening line on the pattern). I also took in the sides by a few inches in places. I found the shaping and fit on the hips was perfect, but I wanted the top to be more fitted across the chest and waist, so I re-drew the side lines of the front and back pattern pieces to give a curvier silhouette. The pattern suggested I'd need 1.25m of fabric, but there was a fair bit of material left on my floor - literally, as I still haven't quite mastered the 'tidy as you go' ethos - once I'd finished cutting out the pieces from the one metre of Liberty that I had at my disposal. I do love a pattern that fits into a metre.
The only piece of clothing I've made since moving into my sewing room was this top (which I love!), back in September 2014, so I was able to enjoy anew how much fun it is to cut a pattern out on a cutting table rather than my bedroom floor. It made me realise also though, how much I've set up my room for quilting - the pressing board is far too small and poorly shaped for pressing while dressmaking and so my construction took place over two floors of the house, as I keep our ironing board downstairs in a bedroom cupboard.
Last week, I finished four different tops (I'll share the others later in the next few posts) and stayed up until 3am on more than one occasion because I was having too much fun to go to bed. When my children were small we had a book called 'Slow Loris' about a seemingly dull creature who lived in a zoo, who spent several pages doing things very slowly. In the middle of the book though, we'd turn over to reveal a two-page spread of Slow Loris' face speeding towards us with the words: But at night, Slow Loris liked to do things F-A-S-T! This centre page was basically me, last week.
Finishing my work project which had monopolised several months, followed by a four-day break with my family where we went on long walks, ate amazing food and slept in the comfiest bed I've laid down on, I think may have launched me into the new half term with a completely new battery of energy and enthusiasm. We booked our holiday only a few weeks before and decided not to go too far away as we didn't want it to be eaten into by travel time. Embarrassingly, I fell asleep at about 8.30pm each evening and woke early and lay in bed reading books every morning until 10am, which felt incredibly self-indulgent. The bed was like a heavenly super-king-sized cocoon, with the perfect marriage of hard mattress, divinely soft sheets, layers of ridiculously thick, heavy duvets and quilts and was the ideal place for resting (and sneezing, but even hayfever couldn't detract from its loveliness).
From my temporary cocoon, I read Ian McEwan's The Children's Act, which I'd been warned against by one family member for it having received mixed reviews and sighted sceptical nose-wrinkling at the mention of it by another. But I took it with me as I'd already bought it and I actually really enjoyed it - I warmed to the characters (this matters to me as I've found when reading books such as Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal or Sebastian Faulks' Engleby, where I failed to feel affection for any of the characters, reading felt like an ultimately pointless activity - I really want to engage with the characters on some level, rather than just appreciate the craft of the storytelling or the perfection of the writing) and I found the details of the different court cases and the ethical dilemmas they presented, really fascinating. I then moved on to Nickolas Butler's Shotgun Lovesongs. I fell in love with this book. I have a penchant for books about small-town America where the characters feel a deep connection with their roots and this story has those things very much at its heart. I didn't want it to end. Tamara (Matamarama on Instagram) suggested that I might enjoy Kent Haruf on that basis, so I have this lined up ready to read next. I started on The Pink Suit at the end of our holiday, but due to the excessive sleeping, didn't make it very far into it! If anyone has read it (it's told from the point of view of one of the dressmakers who worked at the atelier that created Jackie O's wardrobe), I'd love to hear if it's worth re-starting it.
I'm not terribly good at remembering to do disclosure statements as I only ever write about things that I genuinely love and feel happy to recommend, but apparently bloggers are meant to do this now. So, disclosure: Hey June kindly sent me the Biscayne pattern free of charge, but I would have bought it anyway. Links to Hey June are NOT affiliate links. This post does contain Amazon affiliate links though, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase using this link. Amazon do not share your details with me. If you'd rather they didn't split their profits in this way, just go directly to Amazon and search independently for the book title instead. I actually bought all but the Kent Haruf title from my local Waterstones though - I had a lovely half hour choosing them after meeting my sister for a brunch of scrambled eggs and chatting one Sunday morning ;)