“Hi-de-ho! Brigid here, with a message from the Blouses without Boundaries project. Did you know that you can wear a blouse and still have full range of movement? You might say we’re nuts, but we’re telling the truth! With the new flexsleev adjustment you can make any blouse you sew as comfortable, and as mobile, as any t-shirt…”
That was fun, wasn’t it? I like writing scripts for 40s style advertisements. 😀 But in all honesty, the banner picture makes me so happy, because the blouse I am wearing marks a major achievement for me. I made a blouse that I can lift my arms in without it coming untucked from my skirt! Want to know how I did it? I’ll give you my best shot at explaining if you’ll read on.
First off I should start with the pattern that I used. I used McCall’s 9053, wonderfully reproduced by Lady Marlowe Studios. I have been longing to find the perfect vintage blouse pattern, but had no luck until I came across this delight. After I graded it down one size, and took in the waist just a smidge (I don’t have the exact bust/waist ratio of the original pattern), the pattern was a perfect fit! No, more than perfect. Ideal!
The fabric I used is some striped cotton lawn that I had been saving for just such a purpose since last Summer. I purchased it from Mood Fabrics, but unfortunately it is no longer available. The weight of the fabric is light enough to be the perfect blouse weight, while it has a crisp enough hand to hold the gathers and collar in a nice shape. Both the front and back yoke seams were top stitched, and then overcast by hand on the wrong side. All of the other seams, excepting the collar, which finished the neck-seam by the way it was constructed, were french-seamed, including the armscyes (more on that in a bit).
This was my first time, in quite a few years, hand-sewing buttonholes. I used Gutermann silk thread. It isn’t the most ideal solution to my lack of real silk buttonhole twist (I need to get my hands on some of that stuff!), but it did the job much better than any polyester or cotton thread would have done.
The fit of this blouse turned out so nice that it looks equally good un-tucked as it does tucked in. Probably my favorite part about this whole project however, other than the sleeves (which I promise I shall get to in just a moment!) is the fact I didn’t use a stitch of interfacing! Not on the collar, cuffs or placket! And everything is holding up splendidly. That makes this fusible-interfacing-loathing heart of mine happy (yes I know there are woven options, but I don’t have those in my stash just yet).
Don’t I look just glamorous? Well I had to do some sort of Vintage Vogue Magazine pose to give the Flexsleev adjustment a bit of elegance. 😉
So, how did I make this blouse so maneuverable? Well, a few months ago I discovered in a vintage magazine post on New Vintage Lady’s blog, an advertisement for a very clever invention which was called a flexsleev. It allowed the wearer to completely lift up her arms without causing any strain on the garment. I did a piece of research, and found the patent for the invention that dated to around the time of the magazine (there were multiple patents placed over a few decades, but I finally managed to find the one from 1942). In the now-expired patent, it had a diagram and a description of how the flexsleev adjustment was made to the blouse or dress pattern. I decided I would give it a go when I made up this blouse pattern, since puffed set-in sleeves are notorious for limiting your range of motion. I will only briefly explain what I did here, since I hope to do a more detailed post in the future, but the gist of it is this: The flexsleev adjustment is basically a cut-on oval-shaped gusset. It causes the armscye to be more square shaped once the adjustment is applied. This causes the armhole to be much higher, while at the same time giving the wearer a huge range of motion, such as me being able to lift my arms without my blouse coming un-tucked.
There were a few errors in my first attempt at the alteration, such as the armscyes being just a wee bit too high for complete comfort (word of advice: don’t put on a blouse with small armholes after you’ve gone half the day wearing a t-shirt. Put it on first thing in the morning, and you won’t feel half as uncomfortable), and an oddly cut sleeve shape which led to that funny bubbling you see when I lift my arms. BUT! I can lift my arms and move about as much as I want without my blouse coming untucked, which is what I wanted to accomplish. So I would say that this was a 75% success, and hopefully the next experiment will be a complete success, now that I know what to change. But next time I shall have a perfect blouse without boundaries. 😀
EDIT: Tutorial for Flex-Sleeve adjustment now available! Click here.
What do you think of my blouse?
Have you ever heard of the flexsleev adjustment?
Would you like me to do a tutorial on the flexsleev adjustment?
Let’s start a #blouseswithoutboundariesproject, shall we?
Brigid, the Middle Sister and Singer