I’ve sewn dozens of blouses in the eight years since I learned how to sew, but only used 3 or 4 different patterns. Shirt patterns are fussy. They need to fit nicely over a number of curvy places on the body, and so the fabric must be manipulated with darts, gathers, and other techniques that I don’t find particularly fun. These techniques take time, and so the instant gratification factor is far too low for my liking.
If you look closely at the one shirt that I make regularly (two often-worn iterations of which are shown above), you’ll notice that there are only three pattern pieces (front, back, sleeve) and nothing fussy whatsoever. A piece of elastic in the neckline does all of the work of making the fabric conform to the curves. This kind of sewing suits me perfectly. In fact, I can pretty much sew Simplicity 3835 in my sleep now.
The thing is, elastic is not always an appropriate substitute for good fit, and sometimes it’s nice to have a garment with more of its own shape to it. I recently bought some super lightweight plaids that were begging to be shirts, but I felt they needed more structure than my usual style could give. That’s when I started shopping around for a new pattern.
I decided to try Beatrix, and there were several reasons for that: I loved the look of the samples online. There had been a sew-along that I could look to if I needed some help. Lots of people had made it, so there were plenty of examples to inspire me in social media.
Right off the bat, I decided to modify the pattern so that it didn’t have the button band on the back. I’ve never gotten the hang of buttonholes, and I didn’t want to be bothered by them. (See above RE: lazy sewist.) Additionally, I decided that the advice to first sew a muslin didn’t apply to me. (Again: lazy) and I cut right into my favorite plaid with wild abandon.
The results were actually a lot better than they should have been, given my lack of due diligence.
It turns out I had chosen a size much too big for me (a common mistake of mine) so I took the shirt in about an inch on each side. That was better, but I had a gape in the neckline that I didn’t like.
I tried a few things to fix the gaping problem, but nothing really grabbed me. I’ve decided for now to just wear it as-is. I still love this fabric, and if I throw a light cardigan on over it, you don’t really notice the flaws. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
For my next try, I made some changes to the pattern pieces: I took an inch off the back piece at the fold. I did a hollow chest adjustment on the front piece (to address the gap) and then took a tapered inch off at the fold (an inch at the bottom, tapered up to nothing at the top) on that same pattern piece. I adjusted the facings to match the new necklines.
Attempt #2, with the adjusted pattern was a much better fit.
In fact, the only problem I really had with it was that the facings were too small to go all the way around the neckline. I won’t pretend to understand how that happened. I just made a note to go back to the old facings for next time.
I like the way this pattern looks with my knit cardigans. One of the problems I have with my elastic-neckline tops is that they dip below the collars of my sweaters in the back. This pattern does not. I also like how the shirttail hangs out below the edge of the sweater. Thumbs up.
The last one I made is pretty much perfect in every way 🙂 I tried the short sleeve option, and I can totally see myself wearing this a lot next summer. And in the meantime, it’s nice under a sweater.
Beatrix includes all of the following fussiness: gathers, interfacing, curved hems, stay-stitching, under-stitching, bust darts, and set-in sleeves. The first one I made took me all day. But the second one did not, and the by the third, I was fitting the whole process into a single morning.
Will I make more of these? It’s very likely. I might even try doing a sleeveless version.
As much as I prefer the no-fuss no-muss done-in-under-an-hour thing when it comes to sewing, I am really appreciating what a well-fitting top does for me. With the modifications I made to the pattern, it really does fit me quite well, and it’s probably worth the extra hour or two of my time.
For now, though, I’m out of fabric, and I kind of want to put away the sewing paraphernalia and restore my dining room to its former glory before I am tempted to go full on dumping ground in there again.