So, guess what I did two weekends ago? I sewed a blouse. BY HAND. I know, cray. I didn’t even know I could do that!
I’ve always loved sewing. The concept feeds my inner homemaker gal (she makes all her own clothes and holds dinner parties, presenting homemade recipes in her handmade plates and dishes which she made in her kiln, of course). For months I’ve been drooling over beautiful sewing patterns on Pinterest, but since I don’t have a sewing machine here in Guatemala, I just sigh and pin them for later. Every day I walk home from work I pass a giant fabric store. I’d never bought anything there; before this blouse, I’d just walk in, touch all the fabric and then walk back out. The workers there didn’t even ask me if I needed any help anymore, lol. BUT after asking around and not finding anyone who could let me borrow a sewing machine, I decided that maaaaybe just maybe I could hand sew something! I’ve hand sewn before but not real clothes. More so just little projects here and there. So, after watching some tutorials, realizing that people used to sew clothes before machines were around, and revisiting the concept of “couture”, I walked into the fabric store and finally bought some fabric!
Not gonna lie, part of me thought that maaaaybe this wouldn’t work out. I read a few posts and one girl announced that she’d made a hand-sewn dress, but it took her “approximately one thousand years”, lol. But you know me, a goal is a goal! Gotta a least try. So, I bought some fabric that was cheap because it had been misprinted, score. That way if it didn’t actually work I wouldn’t feel bad about the fabric going to waste.
Anyway- I wanted something simple, easy and with no fancy sewing required. Just a straight running stitch. And what’s simpler than a tank top? I went through my closet and found a fairly straightforward, no fancy anything top from Madewell. Now, before I get onto the actual tutorial, I’m going to go off on a fairly small, tiny tangent. Thank you for bearing with me.
Phew, where do I start? Right, clothes. Okay so for months, probably since I’ve been in Guatemala, I’ve felt strongly about clothing, ethically made clothing, and the working conditions in which our clothes are made. There are so many companies that are turning their eyes from the truth of how their products are produced. I don’t know how deep it runs, I don’t know all of the actions I can take yet, but I do know one thing: I have the choice to purchase from an ethically made, fair trade company. I can choose where my money goes. And the more I think about it, the more my heart knows that if I can at least buy smartly, I can make a difference. Now- there’s another part to me that is also burdened. The amount of money we spend is… just insane. We (and by we, I totally mean I) spend so much money and on what? So that’s just a tiny bitty part of the reason that sewing my own top made me so happy. My 30$ Madewell shirt vs my 2$ self-made shirt. I know if I continue to make my own clothing I’ll have to dig into the fabric production and etc., but for now, I was pleased.
Ooookay, back to regular programming.
Now, first things first. Find a top that you’ll make your pattern out of. My top was a little slippery since it’s a looser material than the cotton I chose, but I laid it out and pinned it well. Lay out your fabric WRONG SIDE UP and pin your top to it. Take two pens, fabric pencils, or felt-tip markers and rubber band/tape them together. These will help create the extra space you need to make the hem and will keep you sewing straight.
Next, trace your top all the way around carefully making sure both pens touch the fabric. You should have two lines when finished. Now you can cut your top out. Trace the first cut panel onto more fabric and cut the second panel out.
Still with me? Great. Go drink water or sweet tea for more energies now. K, thanks.
Okay, back from your water break- secure the two top panels together RIGHT SIDES IN with pins. Now you take your needle and thread it with your string. I recently learned that you DON’T have to make tiny knots at the end of your thread to secure it (which was like an answered prayer) but to explain that part I found this site from my friend Pinny aka Pinterest.
So, now that you’ve got that- start at the bottom corner of the side of your top, following the second line of your top. My original top had these two slits at the end of my fabric so I went ahead and followed that pattern. I started not at the bottom of the fabric, but about two inches above it. I left the two slits open at the end to deal with later. Using a piece of cardboard, I marked the two inches onto the fabric, then started sewing.
If you need help learning how to sew the basic running stitch, click HERE! Also, know that there are several simple stitches you can master and use on this top. I went super simple, but I will say that in the future I’m gonna use the Back Stitch. It’s just so much stronger and will hold better.
Okay, so stitch away while binging whatever Netflix show you like! Just make sure that you stop sewing as soon as you reach the armpit! Don’t want to sew the armhole shut. Stop your stitch and tie off like you first started the stitch. Now just cut the excess string.
Do the same with the other side and the top of the shoulder straps.
On the above picture you can see where I started at two inches above the end of the fabric!
Now, you’ll need the iron. Iron down the fabric you just sewed, folding the excess fabric to either side of your stitch and running the iron through. Take your top and fold the armholes in, using the line that you drew as a guide. Fold in and iron. It might be a little tricky depending on your material. All the way around, follow the guideline and iron it folded. Do the same with the other AND the neckline. Make sure you are folding down, onto the WRONG SIDE of the fabric.
Now, there is no line for this to follow, but you basically need to sew in the middle of the folded fabric. This is what will make your top look nice and crisp. So, just as you learned to start a stitch without a knot, do the same here. Sew all the way around the arm hole, tie off and cut. Do the same with the other arm hole. Remember not to pull the string so that the fabric bunches!
Do the same with the neckline. It should look like the picture below when you finish.
Now, back at the iron, remember those two slits we left open at the beginning? Now we iron them! Fold, and iron them out just as shown. Once you do that you can sew them. The needle below shows where you stitch across and down at each side.
It should look like this from the outside, when you finish sewing.
Back at the iron you finally fold your hemline up from the bottom of your top. And, last but not least, you sew! All the way around just as you did before. You’ll have to stop at the slits, but no biggie.
Okay, now you iron your finished top and voila! Your handmade blouse is complete! For 2 bucks and a couple hours, she’s a beaut. Hand Sewn Top- check!
Sewing, such a satisfying project (when things go good, yes I know, I hear ya). Next, I think I’ll try a skirt. Ambitious, I know! Hope this helped to show- hand sewing- not so scary after all.