three Laurels


I’ve made three blouses from the Laurel pattern so far, out of which two keep defying the camera. The photo above is the only one I’ve been able to take with a modest success. You still can’t really make out the details. In all the other photos the black and navy blouses came out as spots of color, basically.

So I drew them. Here’s a glimpse into my sewing notebook. I’m still trying to figure out the best approach to taking notes on my projects.


And here’s what they look like in greater detail:


The absolutely camera-resistant black top. And one that helped me understand what a sway back adjustment entails in solid, practical terms (thanks to this incredible tutorial).

My one serious mistake with this top was ignoring what I saw on my first Laurel (the dress) and doing a “pre-emptive” adjustment to the bust darts based on what I was reading online. A lot of sewists commented on how high the bust darts were. The original placement, while it does look pretty high indeed, works for me, and the lowered bust darts pull on the fabric in a strange way. Don’t make my silly mistake — it’s important to collect helpful  information about a pattern you’re making but it’s even more important to remember just how different bodies are. An adjustment that works for many other people might be just not right for you at all. Lesson learned here, and, luckily, the blouse is in spite of this minor problem.

It was looking pretty bare, so I decided to experiment with drafting a collar. I followed the instructions from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing. They’re good, overall, but I couldn’t — and still can’t — find any tips on determining the correct grainline for your self-drafted collar. I wish I had done more research instead of improvising because Gertie actually talks about it in the videos from her two-part online tutorial (part 1, part 2). If there’s a new edition of the book, I really hope that crucial bit of information makes it into it.

Finishes (my favorite topic): the seams are just overcast with mock-overlock on my machine, the hems are turned twice and sewn by hand for an almost invisible finish as is the bias binding on the collar.

For this blouse I used the original pattern for the blouse version, where the front shoulder section is drafted differently than the dress. I would have liked the slightly roomier fit from the dress better (it still fits, though). For the other versions, I redraw that part from the top based on the dress pattern.

The second Laurel was a bit of a fortunate accident. It was cut from an already cut and basted top, McCall’s 6927. I fell in love with Maya’s version of that top, but I just wasn’t able to figure out how to fit it. The day I figure out how to fit Big 4 patterns will be historic. After many attempts and lots of research, I’m still clueless. (Any tips?)

Anyway, the accidental Laurel actually doesn’t seem to mind getting photographed:


The fabric is a mystery thrift find. It feels like it might be rayon but it might not be rayon… It has much more drape than the crisp cotton lawn I made the other two blouses in, so I skipped the back darts. The back seam on the McCall’s top was slightly curved (that’s another way of making a small sway back adjustment) and I kept that curve.

The neckline finish was inspired by the York blouse from Seamwork. I pieced the bias binding together from fabric scraps. There was enough left for a Hong Kong finish on the central back seam. All other seams are French seams. All the hems are narrow hems — a technique I learned from Collete’s free e-book of hem finishes.

The third, and last to date, of my Laurel blouses was the most challenging. It demanded the most attention to detail.


The inspiration for the neckline cutouts came from the Datura blouse by Deer and Doe. I wanted to try my hand at this tricky detail.

modest success photographing the neckline detail

I drafted facings from the front and back pattern and added the triangles. Clipping the seam allowances was very important, especially on the points of the triangles. Understitching wasn’t possible, so I topstitched the neckline instead. The key was working slowly and marking the pivot points on the fabric.

The bias tape finish for the neckline was, again, taken from the York blouse. This time I used pre-made bias tape, because it was stiffer and so it holds up the shape of the neckline well over the cutouts.

Voilà. The Laurel blouses so far. There will likely be more since this pattern makes a good blank canvas and since I’ve already fitted it (the value of that in time and potential tears cannot be overstated).


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I write about sewing, knitting, and may sometimes be tempted to talk about books.

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