Saturday, August 8, 2015

July MAGAM Finished and a few helpful hints

I recently read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo, and I have since gained a new perspective on the clothes in my overstuffed closet.  My biggest takeaway from the book was that if a possession doesn't bring you joy - get rid of it.  I have expanded that rule in regards to my clothes - "if it's fildly, uncomfortable or just darn annoying (thus not bringing me joy) - Donate it!"

I had high hopes for this blouse pattern because it looked so darn cute in the book, but sadly, I was disappointed with my end result. After being worn once, my new clothing rule will be claiming this blouse too.  I have to confess that my theme for the past few months of sewing clothing duds seems to be continuing (Vogue 8596 and Butterick 5856 - both of which I wore once and then they ended up in the donate pile).

The task for the July challenge was to sew something from a book.  I selected the Origami Blouse from the Twinkle Sews book by Wenlan Chia.  The instructions in the book were "less than ideal" to be nice.  I had intentions of turning this post into a full tutorial for the entire blouse and took pictures of every step along the way, but since I was so disappointed with the end result, I decided to just highlight a few of the trickier parts of the construction process that could use some further explanation if you choose to make this blouse for yourself. This is a long post so I've broken it up into sections.

What happened?

The Origami Blouse from the Twinkle Sews book looked good on my dress form, whom I have nicknamed Elizabeth:

But less than stellar on me:

Some key "points" to note on this blouse -

Notice the difference in the bust point and the low point on the front cut-out.  There is about 1 inch difference on these two points on me and this was not a good thing.  When getting ready for work the other day, I had the blouse on and must have seen about 10 boob/bra flashes in the mirror just while getting ready.  I knew this random exposure would drive me crazy throughout the day so I quickly grabbed a piece of scrap fabric out of the trash and haphazardly pinned it in place to remedy the flashing problem.  I could have worn a camisole underneath and this would have alleviated the problem, but who wants to wear a double layer when it's over 100 degrees outside - not me!

Where does Pattern Piece Number 5 come into play?

The instructions call for purchased bias tape - yet it provides pattern piece number 5 - which is bias tape.  No where in the instructions does it mention using this pattern piece. The instructions should say you can either use purchased bias tape or cut out the optional pattern piece number 5.

The bias tape (or piece number 5) will need to be sewn on the neck edges (as shown below) and the top of the back (not pictured). Fold the tape in half and sew to the edges right sides together.  Trim seam to 1/8 inch.

Press and turn bias tape to wrong side and stitch along edge.  The front and back pieces are pictured below:

You Call This a Sleeve?

The sleeves are just weird to say the least.  First of all - here is the sleeve pattern.  It states to "Cut 1" which is clearly incorrect - last time I checked I had two arms, so I need two sleeves. I sewed a size 8 pattern - maybe the other patterns are correct and say to cut 2 instead of 1?  And - just where is the sleeve seam?  I have it marked in red in the picture below.  It's sewn from the small notch on the side (just above the dotted line) to the bottom. That's it for the sleeve seam.

The way the sleeve sets into the rest of the garment causes a weird triangle looking pulling action underneath the arm that was very annoying when wearing.  See pulling action below:

When sewing the sleeve into the garment, you are asked to have 1.25 inches hanging off the top end of the front and back sleeves.  Here's a picture of what that looks like.

The piece that hangs off the end is then turned under and hand tacked down to make up the top of the sleeve.  You'll notice that I have pins in the bottom of the sleeve too.  I opted to sew the casing for the elastic in the sleeve after the sleeve was sewn into the garment rather than before (as the book says to do).

Constructing the Origami Squares

Step 1 - Cut out 8 squares from fabric.
Step 2 - Fold in half.
Step 3 - Stitch 3 sides of the square using a 3/8" seam allowance, leaving a 1 inch gap for turning.
Step 4 - Clip corners.
Step 5 - Turn and press.
Step 6 - Slip stitch opening closed.

To form the triangles:
Step 1 - Press square piece in half.
Step 2 - Open up rectangle and now fold one side in so the top edge of the fabric lines up with the edge of the fold you just made in the middle and press again.
Step 3 - Fold down the remaining side to match and press again.

When sewing these shapes to the garment, you will open up the folded shapes and sew along the "triangle shape" that was formed when pressing.

Pin in place as shown below (or if you want a different arrangement, go for it!) and then open up shapes to sew them down.

Sew the front neckband extension in place and the aluminum foil trick

With right sides together, pin the front neckband extension piece in place matching the small clip on center front of the shirt to the mid-point on the extension piece.

Here's what it looks like pinned together:

Using a 3/8" seam allowance, sew neckband extension in place.

Now for the aluminum foil trick on the front placket facing:

Make a photocopy of the front neckband extension and cut off the outside seam allowance.  Using a piece of tagboard, trace the pattern piece (without the outside seam allowance) onto the tagboard and cut out again.

Now for the clever bit:
- Place a piece of aluminum foil larger than the neckband extension on the table.
- Place the fabric on top of the foil with right side down.
- Place the tagboard piece on top of the fabric lining up the top and inside edges.

Carefully fold up the foil and fabric around the tagboard using the tagboard guide as your edge making sure to keep the top and inside edges of the fabric and tagboard lined up.  Smash the foil flat against the tagboard and press the edges with a hot iron.

Remove the foil and here's what your facing piece will look like - a perfectly rounded curve with no burnt fingers in the process!

Here's the right side - just look at that great curve!

Next, with right sides together, sew the faced neckband extensions together along the top edges and inside curve.  

Clip, press and turn and voila!  A perfect curve on the inside to either hand stitch or machine stitch down.

Here's another look at the triangles on the front.

And a few of the back.  There was lots of extra fabric in the back too.

If you choose to make this blouse, I wish you luck and hope that yours turns out better than mine. Although the idea of the blouse is a good one, it just didn't work for me.  

Work or not, this blouse was still made from fabric from the stash so at least I can count this into my total for the year.  This blouse only called for 1.5 yards, but I ended up using about 2 yards and threw out the remaining yard of fabric because I was so disgusted - so I'm counting that extra yard too! This brings my YTD stashbustin' total to 39.5 yards.  Yippee!

Happy Sewing everyone!


  1. Regardless, I still like the style and love the shorter length

    1. Thanks Nancy. I think I forgot to mention in this post that I added 6 inches to the length. I ended up cutting off a few inches but had a much deeper hem than what was originally called for.

  2. It's a shame isn't it as it looks fantastic on Elizabeth. The origami squares look nice and that's a clever trick with the foil and I have put it in my mental file! Thanks.

  3. I really appreciate your honest review.

  4. Why is it that some project turn out the way. Although the sleeve is weird the top is cute and I hope you will make it again.

    1. the problem is that this is a raglan and there is no curve for armscye at the underarm. The volume of your deltoid doesn't exist on Elizabeth (armless mannequin). With that underarm width missing, the sleeve-to-body seam has no choice but to ride up with activity.
      I think I have her book at home, and will look to see if i have missed the point and will revise if i am mistaken.

    2. checked the schematic and there is no curve for the underarm, just printed the pattern to check it out…too bad you threw away the remaining fabric i think it could be salvaged to a redeemable and worthy result.

  5. I wonder if it would turn out any better in a softer fabric with more drape? Love the foil idea, that's genius! x

    1. It might be better in a drapey fabric but the sleeve would still be funky and the front cutout would still be too low. I love the foil trick. I use it all the time and thought I would share with everyone.

  6. The foil trick is brilliant but the blouse would be too blousy for me! Probably better for a lady with typical Japanese build. I like the idea of the origami, and the fabric looked good stuff. Better luck next make. Regards TS

  7. You have so much patience to deal with all the origami detail! It is sad after all that work to say goodbye. You do inspire me however. I enjoy reading about your sewing adventures!!

    1. Thanks so much Denise. That really means a lot to me.