So, inspired by all those creative sewing blogs and websites, I decided I wanted to make a blouse. I took a few pattern alterations classes earlier this year where we learned to make adjustments to simple skirts, cardigan jackets and pants. After attending those classes, I made a jean jacket (McCall's M5191) in tan corduroy; since I made alterations to that pattern successfully, I felt like I could try a blouse next. And besides, I haven't been able to find any new blouses this summer at the mall.
JoAnn Fabrics was about to have a $1.99 sale on Simplicity patterns, so I searched that website first and found Simplicity pattern 7086 - a basic blouse with 6 variations. It looks just like one of my favorite ready-to-wear blouses. I recently discovered PatternReview.com, so I headed over there to read the reviews and they were all favorable. On the day of the sale, I stopped in at my local JoAnn's in Ramsey and purchased the package with sizes 14-20; based on my measurements, I thought I would be a 14.
The most important lesson I learned in the pattern alteration classes is to do a muslin version of a garment before cutting the "good" fabric. I took home my pattern and got started on a muslin right away. But right from the start I had "issues" . . . I had neglected to read the back of the pattern envelope where it showed the garment's "finished" sizes and as it turned out there was 5-7" of ease in both the bust and waist . . . much too much for me. As a result, I reduced the bust and waist by 2", but then the shoulders were wrong, so I shortened them and then the darts were out of alignment. It was very frustrating . . . it fit, but it still didn't look right.
Finally, I decided what I really needed to do was to buy the pattern in a smaller size and start over. The $1.99 sale was over, but I was able to use a store coupon to buy the 2nd copy of the pattern. I started a new muslin in a size 12 and the fit is MUCH better. I needed to increase a little bit below the waist (where I really do need the size 14) and take in a little in the shoulders (where I'm closer to a size 10). I don't really feel that the first pass was a wasted effort . . . I did get to practice sewing a collar and facing and that part turned out rather well.
Later in the week I was browsing through the bargain and clearance fabrics and found this seersucker plaid and thought it might be an inexpensive option for my first attempt at a "real" blouse. It was $4.96/yd and I used a 40% off coupon to buy 4 yards. I know -- it's plaid . . . but I really like the colors. I'll do my best to match it all up properly, but if it doesn't turn out perfect, that's okay. If it fits properly, at least I will have completed one blouse (and I'll consider it a "wearable muslin"). Then I can go and buy some more expensive fabric to make the next one. Maybe in orange with blue buttons to wear to the Mets games. (Just kidding)
And the next time I buy a new pattern, I'll remember to read the back!