For the past six months I’ve been stuck in my comfort zone of mainly sewing knits. However, spring is just around the corner and I wanted to start making a few blouses to fill the gaps in my wardrobe. So when the By Hand London Sarah shirt pattern was released a few weeks ago I knew I wanted to make it. It is a beautifully designed blouse without many of the elements that can seem a little intimidating to a fairly novice sewer i.e. no collar stand, or sleeve or button plackets.
Pattern Name: Sarah shirt from By Hand London
There is the option for long or short sleeves and either a Peter Pan collar or a more traditional style with points. I decided to use long sleeves and the traditional collar on my shirt.
The pattern is available in pdf format, and it prints over 36 pages with an additional test square sheet. The pattern pieces went together easily and I had no problems matching any of them up.
Sizing: Sizes available are from UK 6 – 20 (US 2 -16). The finished measurements advertised on the pattern information are: Bust: 43” – 56” and waist 48 ¾” – 61”
What size did you make: I normally need a size 18 top, 20 waist and 22 hip but looking at the finished measurements on the pattern I could see that there would be more than enough room for my hips. I made a test muslin and went for a straight size 20 all over. You can see from this photograph just how much ease is built into the pattern.
What are your measurements and body shape?
Bust 46”, waist 41” and hips 52”. I’m a typical pear shape and just 5ft 1” tall. I have shortish arms, narrow, forward rotated shoulders, a rounded high back, sway back and rather large derriere.
What adjustments did you make and how long did they take:
I removed 1” at the shoulder seams on the front bodice and the back yoke and redrew the armsyce so that it was a smooth curve once again. This has improved the fit but I think I still need to remove more on my next version.
The Sarah shirt is designed to sit on your hips but I like tops to cover my bum so I added an inch to the front and back bodices. There was no lengthen/shorten line on the pattern and although I could have worked out where to put it, I simply decided to add an inch onto the bottom of the pattern and true up the edges. I wouldn’t normally do it this way for a blouse but as it is such a ‘swingy’ design it worked fine.
My arms are pretty short so I removed 1.5” from the sleeve. Again there was no lengthen/shorten line indicated so I took a guess as to where the best place would be to make the adjustment. I then cut horizontally across the pattern and shifted the lower piece up by 1.5” and trued up the curve on the sleeve edge.
What was the construction process like:
The construction was really straightforward, every piece of the pattern fitted together well with all notches matching perfectly.
The yoke was inserted using the Burrito method. I’ve never done this before and I did find the instructions a bit baffling the first time round. In actual fact, they are spot on but are just rather densely written in places. The finished result was really good and now that I’ve done it a couple of times (muslin and real blouse) it is not that difficult. There is a good YouTube video here which shows the technique clearly.
I liked not having to worry about sleeve and button plackets. The front button facings are made by turning the fabric over on itself and top stitching it in place. I had a bit of a head scratching moment when the instructions told me to turn the fabric back out towards the front of the shirt when intuitively I wanted to keep it all neatly tucked at the back. However, it was to enable all of the raw edges at the top border to be neatly sewn into the collar.
By Hand London have now produced a sew along which is excellent and is definitely worth a look at if like me, you are fairly new to blouse making.
What did you like?
I really love the design of the Sarah pattern. I like the simplicity of the design and how it works so well for many shapes and sizes. It is a very comfortable blouse to wear and it doesn’t cling to my lumps and bumps – definitely a bonus in my book. I think the faced yoke is great. It is nice to not only have a blouse which fits but one that also looks neat and tidy on the inside. It was definitely much easier doing the faced yoke the second time around.
I haven’t made many blouses before and the Sarah was a great design for a fairly novice shirt maker like myself. I didn’t have to worry about button plackets, sleeve plackets or collar stands. Having said that, there were plenty of new techniques for me to learn. This was the first time I have sewn a bias bound slit in the sleeve – maybe not perfect but I’m chuffed to bits with my first effort.
This is also the first time that I’ve attached a separate collar onto a blouse – my previous two blouses had a built in shawl collar that came straight off from the bodice. The collar sits beautifully and is less formal than one using a traditional collar stand. I love the gathers around the sleeve cuff – so pretty and feminine and they were easy to do.
Will you make this pattern again and if so, what will you change next time?
I will definitely be making this pattern again, it is incredibly comfortable to wear. The shoulders are much improved on my original muslin. However, I think I still need to take at least another ½ inch away. Although I shortened the sleeves by 1.5 inches they are still bunching around the cuffs more than I’d like. I’ll probably remove at least another inch on my next version.
I decided not to do a FBA on this blouse as there was so much fabric in the design. In the mirror the blouse looks fine but when I look at photographs I can see it is riding up a bit at the front. Next time I will try a FBA and see what difference it makes.
What advice do you have for curvy sewists?
If you are busty I would suggest making a muslin to double check that the blouse will hang properly at the front. There is a lot of forgiveness in the design and I’ve just about gotten away without a FBA but I am thinking of doing one next time.With many patterns you can often push the boundaries with fabrics beyond those suggested on the pattern. However, with the Sarah blouse I would strongly advise you to use the fabrics suggested. The whole design rests on using lightweight swishy fabric in order to make the blouse hang properly. Heavier fabrics could easily result in you having that ‘tenting’ effect where the blouse doesn’t drape nicely.
Along the same lines, because you are using lightweight fabrics be sure to use lightweight woven fusible interfacing. Don’t be tempted to swap in some medium weight, it really would make a difference.
Pattern Rating System
Size Range: 4
The pattern sizes on the packet goes up to a UK 20 (US 16). However because of the amount of ease it would easily fit someone at least one size larger. The only reason I have knocked off 1 mark is because the size range doesn’t offer a larger range of sizes to suit curvy sewers.
The instructions were for the most part straightforward. In places I found them a little dense and I did have a fair amount of head scratching where there were techniques I hadn’t done before. I’m sure more experienced sewers would have no trouble at all. Also, there is now a sew along to follow (this wasn’t available when I made my blouse)
Construction Process: 5
Once I understood how to do all of the techniques the construction of this blouse went like a dream.
Final Fit: 4.5
After making my shoulder, arm and bodice length adjustments I’m pretty happy with the fit. I do still need to make a few tweaks here and there but they are because of my personal body shape, not because there is anything wrong with the pattern.
Overall Rating: 4.5
I really like this pattern and would readily recommend it to curvy sewers. My finished blouse is comfortable to wear and I can see me getting a lot of use out of it. I do think though that you need to assess whether such a loose fitting blouse will work with your particular body type. Because of the looseness of fit, for some shapes it could end up hiding the curves that you want to show and make you look larger than you really are.