top-halfs wardrobe

Sewaholic Patterns – Pendrell Blouse

sewaholic pendrell -

I’ve been getting really into understanding and learning more about different types of fabric and weaves lately. It might be a by-product of blogging, as I don’t want to be spewing incorrect information about what fabric type I’m using, but I’m really enjoying nerding out on the properties that makes one fabric different from another, especially when it comes to using these properties to my advantage.

For example, I’m so tempted to call this 2×1 yarn-dyed linen twill a linen denim. Why? Because 2×1 is the standard shirting weave for denim, and it’s yarn-dyed in the same way denim commonly is (albeit without indigo), with the weft threads dyed brown and the warp threads left white prior to weaving. But that’s a lot of nerd-speak for a beginner sewist, so to really break down what all of that means I’ll have to back up and explain what twill is and the difference between it and denim.

sewaholic pendrell -

sewaholic pendrell -

Like squares and rectangles, all denim is twill, but not all twill is denim. Twill is a basic weaving technique that generally employs the pattern of 1 or more weft (crossgrain) threads crossing over 2 or more warp (grain) threads. This means that twill can be a 1×3 weave (1 weft over 3 warps), a 2×2 weave (2 wefts over 2 warps), a 4×4 weave, and many variations between and beyond. This weaving technique creates diagonal “ribs” in the texture of the fabric. Sometimes these ribs are texturally pronounced (as it is in many khaki pants, for example), and sometimes they blend into itself (as it does in the linen used in my I Am Aphrodite dress). Sometimes there isn’t much visual difference in the face side of a fabric and the wrong side, as is the case in a 2×2, 3×3, or 4×4 weave, and sometimes there is a pronounced difference, such as with a yarn-dyed 1×3 weave.

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Back to denim: if you look at your jeans, you’ll see the diagonal weave in addition to feeling it. That’s because the weft is generally indigo-dyed prior to weaving and the warp is left un-dyed, creating a visual diagonal. Now, if you take your jeans and turn them inside out, you’ll notice a difference in tint as well; the face of the fabric is generally darker and the wrong side is generally lighter.

There are two reasons for this, and they work together. One is that a major characteristic of denim is a 1×2+ weave (one weft over 2 or more warps). The other is that the weft is colored and the warp is not. Thus, on the face side, more of the weft (that is indigo-dyed) is visible than the warp (which is un-dyed), and on the wrong side, more of the un-dyed thread is visible than the indigo-dyed.

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By the way, 1×1 (or plain weave) weft-dyed fabric is generally considered a chambray and is not a twill weave. Save for imperfections, chambrays tend to look identical on both the face and wrong side. I mention this because denims and chambrays tend to get lumped together, and it’s a quick distinction to make.

We’ve covered the visual properties of twill and denim, but there are basic physical properties as well. One quick one is that the twill weave lends itself beautifully to being draped. My theory on this is that weaving over multiple threads creates more room for the movement of individual threads. Another property, which is mostly denim-specific, is that a higher warp count creates a stronger and more durable fabric. I’m not sure about the science behind this, but this is why a 1×3 weave is generally heavier and reserved for pants or jackets while a 1×2 weave is generally lighter and used for shirting.

As a side-note, I tend to play a lot with placing pattern pieces on the grain or crossgrain, depending on the specific design details I want in my finished garment, or sometimes even depending on how much fabric I have to work with. You know the saying about rules being meant to be broken? I whole-heartedly agree, but with a caveat: You have to know the why’s of the rules before you can break them. One basic ‘Why’ of cutting on the grain is that the grain is generally stronger or more stable than the crossgrain; if you play too much with the grain and crossgrain, you can end up with garments that sag in one area and not the other. Another one is that the weave is not always the same on the crossgrain as it is on the grain. If you turn a twill sideways, you’ll see a difference in the direction of the diagonal rib or in the angle of the diagonal. So, while it’s possible to play with the grain placement on a twill, it’s important to be intentional about it, otherwise you may end up with something totally wonky-looking. You can see this effect in the bias binding I made for the insides, as I unintentionally angled the strips in two different directions.

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Okay, have we sufficiently nerded out on fabric today? On to this blouse itself…

The Pattern: Pendrell Blouse by Sewaholic Patterns – View B
The Fabric: 1.25 yards 100% Linen Twill remnant from Mill End
The Size: 0
Adjustments: none
Alterations: cropped the length by 5 inches, accidentally shrunk the neckline.

This blouse is truly a quick sew. Yes, there are more pattern pieces than a basic blouse, what with the princess seams and ruffles and all, but there are no zips or button closures to fiddle around with. This means I also have really minimal notes on the making of this blouse, which is why I was able to drone on about warps, wefts, and weaves above.

The droning, by the way, has a purpose! I mentioned how I want to call this fabric a linen denim, and why. I also talked about using the properties of fabric to my design advantage. Well… visually speaking, this linen is a little backwards in that the face of the fabric is lighter than the reverse, but all-in-all, it’s a yarn-dyed 1×2 weave which allowed me to play with the difference in tint. Instead of using the face of the fabric for the entire blouse, I created the ruffles with the wrong-side facing out for a subtle contrast. I think it adds a playfulness to an otherwise drab color-way.

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As always, I’m more interested in the insides than the out, and this blouse is no exception. In fact, I think I’m more enamored with the contrast of the binding to the body on the inside than I am with the pretty ruffles on the outside, and it’s definitely a technique I’ll employ on the outside of a garment sometime soon.

sewaholic pendrell -

sewaholic pendrell -

For finishing the seams, I used both french and flat-felled seams. The french seams were used on the shoulder and side seams, while the princess seams were flat-felled, primarily because the bulkiness of the ruffles tucked into the seams made french seams a near impossibility.

The pattern calls for making bias binding for the neck and arm holes, and I took it one step further and bound the bottom hem as well. I did this because I had only 1.25 yards for a pattern that called for 2, and chopping 6 inches off the bottom meant I no longer had room for the 1.5 inch folded bottom hem. The bias binding adds the same kind of weight a 1.5” hem would, so it’s functionally similar. I also nixed the top-stitching of the bias binding, and opted for a hand sewn blind-stitch. I think it gives it just a little bit of a cleaner look.

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One silly mistake I made (that I don’t really mind) is that the pattern includes a 5/8” seam allowance on ALL pieces, including the bias binding. For some reason, I assumed the bias binding was meant to be a double fold rather than a single and thought that a 2″ bias tape with 5/8″ seam allowance seemed too small, so I sewed the seam allowance on the neckline at 3/8”. This made the neckline smaller in diameter by a 1/2”. Fortunately, my head can still fit through that hole, which is, you know, the entire function of a neck-hole. No harm, no foul.

Speaking of fitting, I’m really happy with how this blouse fits on my body, but it is absolutely a challenge to take off. This is entirely my own fault, as my bust measured a size 4, my waist a size 2, and my hips a size 0. Looking at the finished garment measurements, I decided to go with a size 0. And, of course, the top fits all around my body with the perfect amount of ease, especially tucked into a high waist, but it’s almost too small now to fit over my bust without turning myself upside down and contorting myself in embarrassing ways. I think if I were to make this blouse again in the future, I’d keep it as a size 0, shorten the torso instead of cropping it, and add an invisible side-zip.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far. Until next time…

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6 Comment

  1. Oh this is gorgeous! Such a chic interpretation. And your twill ramblings are so interesting! I had a twill-orientation tragedy last year with some beautiful Japanese denim…. sigh. The end result is wearable but makes me sad…

        1. Ah, I totally understand. I always love seeing other people’s mess-ups though 🙊 makes me feel a little less alone, haha!

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