How to Make an Edwardian Flannel Blouse
Now that I have sewn a few skirts, the matching uppers are missing. So I decided to sew an Edwardian blouse. Especially because I thought that this is a little easier to do than a body-hugging shirtwaist. However, this was a somewhat false assumption, because I did not use a ready-made pattern, but decided to use a pattern from the magazine “La mode illustrée” of 1908.
The blouse was called “simple” in the description, and I thought this was a good starting point.
I traced the pattern pieces from the “spaghetti pattern” using the software Clo3D and enlarged the individual pattern pieces. In the process, I encountered some inconsistencies, as the sleeve was way too small, and the front also looked strange once I shortened the lining by 5 cm, as indicated in the description. Since the pattern description offered no further help, I grabbed a 1909 tailoring book with the wonderful title “Ich kann Schneidern” and actually found the solutions to my problems.
The sleeve was missing a pattern piece, as the one specified was only the upper part of a gigot-sleeve and the second lower part was missing. I had assumed that all parts would be specified, but prior knowledge was expected here. After I copied the missing pattern piece from the lining sleeve, the sleeve finally fits.
The problem of the odd looking front was also solved. I had assumed that blouses must be gathered at the bottom hem during that period, as pictures and drawings often suggest this by the purposeful draping. Apparently, however, this was only partially the case; some blouses were worked loosely and just tucked into the skirt and then pulled out as desired. However, the authors of the book strongly warn against pulling the blouse out too far, as this would create an unattractive silhouette.
With this knowledge, I was now able to get to work on what was actually a mock-up, and the printed pattern pieces formed the starting point for that. Unfortunately, I had great difficulty fitting the pattern to my figure. I tried a lot and made a lot of mistakes, but after a myriad of test runs, I finally had a well-fitting mock-up.
The biggest changes I made were in the front, as I had to lengthen the shoulder area a lot and make the angle of the shoulder seam much steeper. I also moved the neckline up. Additionally, I added a bust dart so that the fabric wouldn’t pucker here. I also had to adjust the back piece because it was clearly too small, and the armhole was too tight.
Lastly, I tried to fit the sleeve, which was particularly complicated since I’m not used to the feel of a sleeve with a built-in bend. However, after a lot of back and forth, I had the sleeve shortened above the elbow and lengthened below it to fit my proportions exactly. I also added a bit of material to the front arm curve, taking tension out of the seam.
With these new pattern pieces, I cut the lining and the flannel. I was a little surprised when I read that flannel was the material used, because I really only know it as fabric for bedding. But after I was able to do a grip test at my local fabric store, I was convinced to try it with a dark green flannel fabric. The lining is an even darker viscose, as I wanted to stick with semi-natural materials.
Before I could cut the flannel, I had to work the pleats that were designed in the pattern. This was both a simple and challenging task, as they were all supposed to be the same width. However, if you look closely, you can see that I worked the pleats on one side a little too wide. This was the first side I made, and by the second I was a bit more experienced. I left it that way, though, because to my mind the unpicked seams looked worse than the slightly uneven sides.
I then pieced the lining and main blouse together and sewed them together at the collar and sleeves. This way, I only had to clean up the seam allowances at the armholes and the bottom hem. I did this with bias tape made of the lining fabric.
I sewed the stand-up collar separately by hand and then inserted it into the neckline, which had already been finished. In the process, I noticed that the collar was about 5 cm too short for whatever reason. Since I didn’t have enough fabric left to completely re-cut it, I decided to insert a piece in the center back and use it to pull up the double fold of the back piece into the collar. That was just enough, and the collar was just in length.
Now, I sewed in the cuffs and closed them with crocheted loops and buttons to gain a bit more width, because the cuffs turned out a bit tight. Here I was not sure how the cut was intended and found this solution to be adequate.
I saved one small detail for last, as I was really excited about it. This was the finishing of the lining hem with a lace. In the book “Ich kann Schneidern” it is described that higher quality blouses are worked with a 5 cm shorter lining to avoid unnecessary volume at the waist. This hem is then trimmed with a lace edging. And that’s exactly what I did, and I think it looks beautiful. Although, of course, few would ever get to see this detail.
With a few buttons, which are more pretense than reality – because I decided to close the blouse with hidden hooks and eyes – I gave the blouse the final finish.
It is wonderfully warm and very comfortable to wear. Even with the sleeve – which I was not sure at the beginning if they fit properly – I am now very happy.
- 2 m green flannel
- 2 m green viscose
- green cotton sewing thread
- 2 m lace edging
- hooks and eyes