Girl Friday Blouse – Fall for Cotton – Details and Giveaway!

Girl Friday blouse - front view-feather

I promised to post about the details of constructing my Fall for Cotton (a sewing challenge by Rochelle of Lucky Lucille and Tasha of By Gum By Golly) project. I chose to make the 1940s Girl Friday Blouse from Decades of Style (Yes! you can buy the pattern).  I posted several views of it earlier this week in My Fall for Cotton 1940s Girl Friday Blouse Is Finished! But I didn’t have any time to write about the nitty gritty details of sewing this blouse, which took many hours to complete. It’s not that it was difficult to sew, but I had to spend some time figuring out how I wanted to finish the seams, plus I did some hand sewing and embroidering.

Be warned – there are many, many photos in this post but if you get to the bottom you’ll get a reward – details to enter my small giveaway – a swatch of the vintage Swiss dot voile fabric I used in making this blouse. The fabric is from the late 1940s, which I didn’t know when I made it. Really. Earlier this week – after I’d finished it – I contacted the fabric store, Maxie’s Daughter Fabrics in Philadelphia, to ask what decade it was from. What a nice surprise to discover that I made a 1940s blouse using fabric from that very decade! And thanks to Trice of SewTell for telling me to visit the Fabric Row area or I never would have stumbled on this store when I was in the area in August!)

The facts:

Pattern: 1940s Girl Friday Blouse by Decades of Style – $18

Fabric: 3.5 yards Vintage Swiss dot voile, 34 inches wide – $35
(Some vintage fabrics have smaller widths. If I used 45″ fabric I would only have needed 1 1/2 yards, 1 1/8 for 60″)

Notions: Invisible zipper – $2.79
Green and yellow embroidery thread – $0.90 (45 cents each)
Gutterman thread $1.80
Design Plus superfine fusible bias stay tape
70/10 Schmetz needle

Vintage fabric - swiss dot voile

Wrong and right side of vintage Swiss dot voile fabric

The fabric is very lightweight and the “dots” are actually woven in the fabric. On the right side, it almost seems as if the dots are printed on the fabric. On the wrong side, the “dots” are rather fuzzy and raised as you can see from the photos. It was rather delicate to sew because the weave wasn’t very tight. Thus the best needle was 70/10, not 60/10. The 60/10 pulled on the weave of the fabric. At first I thought I had a tension problem but then I switched to a larger needle size and the problem went away.

Vintage fabric  Swiss dot voile detail - front and back

Right and wrong side of vintage Swiss dot voile

The fabric is not transparent but you can see my hand underneath the blouse front – and you can see the tucks.

1940s Girl Friday Blouse - vintage swiss dot voile fabric

There are only five pattern pieces to the 1940s Girl Friday blouse: front, back, three collars and back facing. Then you make bias tape for the front neck facing and armholes.

Girl Friday blouse - Decades of Style

I didn’t bother tracing the pattern because I got a late start because I changed my mind on what I was going to make because the fabric I initially chose wasn’t 100 percent cotton. Frankly I wasn’t entirely sure this was 100 percent cotton but I was told it was a voile and when I did a burn test, I didn’t get any hard residue. But

My waist fit the pattern’s size B/36 bust but my hips were closer to the next size up (41 inches). The pattern provides the finished bust and waist measurements. For the 36″ bust the finished measurements were 42″ best and 32.5 inch waist. So I graded up around the hips and made a muslin of the front and back pieces. (See the earlier post My Fall for Cotton Project – Sewalong Update for details on that.) Do not skip the muslin.

The  front and back pieces are straightforward – four darts in the back, two tucks on either side of the two front pieces and two shoulder darts. I didn’t realize until later that one shoulder dart ends nearly an inch lower than the other! Oops. But you really can’t tell because the collar hides it. So I left it as is. Darts were a bit tricky on this fabric because of the bumpy Swiss dots. I think that’s why I went a little further on one side. I pinned my darts but with this fabric I should have also basted everything. but I was a little impatient.

You don’t sew the center front seam until after you attached the collar.

The pattern instructions are clear but she doesn’t provide any suggestions on how to finish the seams on the front and back pieces. I decided to sew a french seam at the shoulders and on the right side. Christine Haynes has a good explanation on Craftsy: Seam Series: How to Sew a French Seam Tutorial.

The tricky part was installing the side invisible zipper on the left. I decided to use fusible stay tape on the fabric next to the seam for the invisible zipper. I thought about a skirt I have where the fabric is getting a bit frayed at the bottom of the side invisible zipper. I didn’t want my fabric to eventually tear near the zipper so I thought this bit of reinforcement would help.

I decided to go with black fusible stay tape because it was less visible than white. I didn’t want to sew through the stay tape because it was going to be bulky from the zipper tape. Thus I fused it so it would go right next to the 5/8 seam. It’s probably not so great to have such a curve on an invisible zipper but I didn’t want the blouse to be too loose around the waist.

Black bias fusible stay tape

The pattern doesn’t provide any directions on installing the zipper. It just says: “Insert invisible zipper in left side seam below notches as per manufacturer’s instructions.” Really. So I turn to the Coletterie tutorial Installing an Invisible Zipper to refresh my memory, install the zipper, and then sew the seam above and below the zipper. Luckily it went fine and lined up at the top.

I did end up sewing over the bias tape in some areas. I finished the seam by stitching the fabric to the zipper as you can  see on the left. Thanks to Brooke of Custom Style for suggesting that! Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics also gave me that advice.

Left side - invisible zipper - bias tape

The Collar

The collar is the most unique aspect of this blouse so I’ll spend some time here going over my experience with it. The most important thing is to mark the collar notches (the 3/8″ line(s) on the left side of each pattern piece) – two on the bottom collar, three on the middle collar, and one on the top collar. I just clipped right through the pattern pieces and the fabric to ensure accuracy. You will need to use those markings to line up the collars after you’ve sewn them. The instructions are very clear so be sure to follow them to the letter. The only challenge is that you have to figure out how you’re going to finish the seams.

Pattern collar pieces - Girl Friday Blouse

About an inch before I got to the collar point, I reduced my stitch length to 1, sewed to the point, pivoted, stitched about another inch and then increased my stitch length back to 2. You only stitch on two sides, leaving the notched edge open. I trimmed very close to the edge of the collar points so I wouldn’t have any bulk there. You can do that when you have a very short stitch length.

I trimmed the seams and clipped the curves. To prepare the collars for pressing, I used a point turner on the points and ran it gently over the curves areas to push out the fabric from the seam.

Point turner on collar curves

After you press the middle and bottom collars, the instructions say to “finish the remaining un-notched raw edges as desired.” Hmmm. I had to think about that. How should I finish that part? I decided to press a 1/4″ fold and sew close to the edge (see pinned side below).

Middle and bottom collars - Girl Friday Blouse

Now I had to decide whether I wanted to add any embroidery. The pattern says a collar embellishment is optional and suggests a running stitch with each stitch 1/4″ long and each line of stitches 1/4″ apart from each other. Because my fabric had two colors I decided I only needed two rows of embroidery so I went with one row of yellow and one row of green.

embroidery instructions - Girl Friday Blouse

It took me a while to mark each collar piece. I decided to use the Pilot Frixion Erasable pen because the ink just disappears with heat. You just use your iron on it and the ink goes away. Of course I tested it on a scrap to make sure it would disappear and it did. I wrote about using it in Tracing Patterns with the Pilot Frixion Pen and learned from a comment by Mallory of Daze Like This who told me about the heat factor.

Mark embroidery lines on collar

I marked my lines because it’s really easy to go off track when you embroider. The running stitch is easy to do. I loaded about three 1/4″ stitches on my needle before pulled the needle through. I used a two strands of embroidery floss doubled.

The important thing to to make sure your floss isn’t twisted. After you’ve threaded your needle, hold your thumb and index finger on either side of the floss and pull the needle up. The oils from your fingers and the action of pulling the floss between your fingers helps to get the twists out. I learned that tip from the Alabama Studio Sewing + Design book. I think Natalie Chanin called it “loving” your thread. I embroidered a ton of spirals last year before I figured that out (see Getting Started on My Alabama Fur Wrap and The Embroidered Wrap). 😉

Oh, and when you start your embroidery, you start your stitch on the inside of the collar. I didn’t think about that until I had already finished the bottom and middle collars. On those two collars, I started with my knot on the outside of the collar – uh, not sure what I was thinking there. You can see my knots in the photo of the backside of the collar.

You could also machine stitch your embellishment or just skip that part.

Here’s one row of yellow embroidery on the top collar.

1 row of embroidery on top collar

After all the collars are embroidered, you line them up starting with the bottom collar, matching the notches.

Collars pinned together - Girl Friday blouse

The you baste the collar together along the notched side and then hand stitch the underside of the collars together where they overlap.

3 collars hand stitched together

Next you pin and baste the collar to the front neck edge, which includes several inches of the front center seam. There is a circle you mark on the collars and the center front seam that you use to line up the pieces.

Collar pinned to front neck edge

As you can see, precision is important. Things will not line up if you don’t measure accurately. I was super careful in all my markings and in sewing my 5/8″ seams.

Next you sew on the back neck facing – once again, the instructions leave it up to you to decide how you want to finish the edges.

I pressed a fold 1/4″ from the edge and then folded it over a second time and pressed it. after I attached it to the back neck, I realized that I needed to finish the sides so I just improvised by pressing a fold and sewing close to the edge. A little sloppy as you can see below but at least the edge wasn’t left raw.

Back facing - finishing

Here’s what the front neck looked like at this stage. You can see that there are many layers of fabric where all the collars overlap in the front center seam. And you can see the shoulder darts in this photo as well.

Collar sewn on Girl Friday Blouse

The instructions say to make 1 1/2 inch bias tape for a facing. I had a 1 3/4″ bias tape maker so I cut my fabric for that but ended up making it by hand as I mentioned in an earlier post. I think my brain defaults to thinking double-fold bias tape whenever I read bias tape but the facings in this pattern only need single-fold bias tape. You can see the extra fold in the facing here.

Bias tap on neck - Girl Friday Blouse

I used single fold for the neck area but double-fold for the armholes because I liked the way it looked.

There’s no mention of understiching in the instructions. I understitched the neck facing. Then I hand stitched the neck facing to the blouse.

I sewed bias tape to the armholes. Rather than pressing the seam to the inside, I folded my seam to the outside, trimmed it and folded the bias tape over it and blind stitched the facing to the inside seamline. So there’s about 3/8″ of fabric added to the armhole. I didn’t take a photo of that so I’ll add it later.

One of the last steps is sewing the center front seam. This means sewing through all the collars – as many as six layers of fabric – and then just the two layers below the collar. I was nervous about sewing this seam and asked for advice on Instagram – Samina (Saminakaty on IG) of Sew Everything Blog suggested using a longer stitch length, bigger needle size and maybe walking foot, Laura (Laruahoj on IG) of A Make It Yourself Mom’s Diary suggested using a Jean-a-ma-jig which helps going from bulky to not-so-bulky areas.

I was still undecided about how I would sew this last seam so I dropped by Lacis in Berkeley because I knew that Erin had made the blouse. I asked her how she sewed it and she said she didn’t do anything special and said, “just sew it!” I also called up Stonemountainand Daughter Fabrics when I was at work and asked their advice. The person I spoke with told me that I didn’t need to do anything special but suggested that I do a test on some leftover fabric, which I did. I decided I could just use the same needle and stitch length.

I also decided to reinforce the center seam below the collars and iron on some fusible bias stay tape along the seam line.

I pinned and basted the center seam then I opened up the seam and saw that I could see the stitches where the collars were sewn together. I looked at the basting and saw that I was slightly off on one side. My seam allowance was slightly under 5/8″ on one side. So I removed the basted where the collars met and lined up the edges and basted again. I was good to go.

There was no way to do a French seam because of all layers. I ended up just pinking the edges. My finger is pointing to where the collars meet at the center front area.

Collars at center seam

Next, I tried on the blouse. I really had to shimmy into it and decided that I needed a little more ease. I have broad shoulders so I was afraid that I would be putting too much strain on the seams getting it on and off. I decided to remove two of the back darts. So I’d have two back darts instead of four – a small sacrifice. I highly recommend trying it on before you hem it!

I used seam tape on the bottom of the blouse to which I blind stitched a hem. The photo below shows the bias tape along the center seam and the hem.

Ctr front seam - bias-seam tape

Whew! And that’s why it took me more than 30 hours to make this blouse!

And now to the giveaway! If you’d like a small swatch of the vintage fabric I used in my Fall for Cotton project (it’s more than 60 years old!), just comment below on whether you’ve made anything with vintage fabric or with Swiss dot fabric, include a link (if you have one) of what you made, and what your experience was like. If you haven’t made anything with those fabrics, just let me know why you want a swatch! You have until Friday, Oct. 11, 6 pm Pacific to enter your comment. I’ll announce winners on Saturday. Then winners can send me their mailing addresses.

Here’s one last image for you – you can see the black feather in my vintage hat in this photo.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

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14 Responses to “Girl Friday Blouse – Fall for Cotton – Details and Giveaway!”

  1. October 10, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    Wow, what a gorgeous blouse!! And how perfectly serendipitous that the era’s matched, really lovely work. Thanks SO much for your detailed review – it makes me want to wish my latest vintage pattern order would arrive ASAP!
    My wonderful MIL gifted me her fabric collection, however most of it is 60’s cottons and not quite large enough pieces to create full garments, especially with the awesome large prints on them!
    I just want to fondle your vintage fabric – and recreate your top – but with such an amazing remnant, it would be a highlight for a vintage dress – collar/pockets, maybe a scarf trim, yes, defiantly an accessory, hmm… roses anyone? 😉
    – and with the spring racing season almost upon us down under, perfect timing 😉

    • October 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      Thank you! How wonderful to have a bunch of 1960s cotton! I’m sure the prints are fab! Thanks for visiting! Your chances if winning are excellent. 😉

  2. October 10, 2013 at 3:04 am #

    The Swatch:

    Oh, i see to enter the give-a-way I must state why I want the swatch, LOL. Aside from the fact that swiss dot is lovely, feminine, the ideal for 1940s/50s vintage fashions which are my passion it is flattering. As a mature woman AND big girl I realize the need to choose wisely what I wear. Swiss dot fits the bill.

    Also, I work with textures in textiles. A swatch with this pretty fabric will be used as a feature on a skirt or blouse to add dimension and interest. I quite excited about the possibilities.

    Thanks.

    :Lyric

    • October 10, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Thanks for your comment! Even if you didn’t answer the “why” question, I would still have entered you. 😉

      Swiss dot is an interesting fabric. I was surprised at how fuzzy the dots were on the wrong side – and how big they were compared to the right side.

  3. October 10, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Oh em gee, Chuleenan, how cool is this site!!! Thank you, THANK YOU for inviting me to visit and post. Truly, I will “follow” and return to read to my hearts content. I couldn’t sleep and decided to check email and how glad I am that I did.

    Two things: This blouse AND you got to participate in the Fall For Cotton event. Awww maaan. I was at the beginning of a relocation move when I discovered the event and just could not swing it timewise. I hope someone, or the same people do it again. What fun! I am sure the photos of everyone’s submissions are eyegasmic!

    This blouse IS THE BUSINESS. I love, love it. Has a 40’s flair, am I right? I am new to much of this vintage sewing love bug that has bitten me hard. The pattern and fabric are lovely and spot on.

    Wonderful eye candy for a Thursday a.m.

    Cheers,

    Lyric
    http://www.SewAndCro.com

    • October 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      Thanks so much for visiting and for your comments! The blouse has such a lovely collar. The 1940s was a great era for fashion. I can see why people still want to make garments from that period.

  4. October 7, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Gorgeous fabric! And an amazing blouse! It turned out beautifully! I just put in my 2nd invisible zipper and used the Coletterie tutorial as well. Both times! I will probably have to head back to it every time I install one! I have never sewn with swiss dot that I can remember. But really I just wanted to let you know the blouse you created is most beautiful! ~Laurie

    • October 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      Thank you so much! I’m glad I was able to finish it! Yes, the Coleterie tutorial is really helpful.

  5. October 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    I made this blouse for the collar challenge last year on Sew Weekly : ) I’ll finish up my other one soon and then we should do lunch in our matching-but-oh-so-unique blouses!
    I think my most recent post is still up where I made a blouse from my favorite pattern, which just happens to be from 1940, using 2 old flour sacks from the 40’s. LOVE it, and even though the green/orange/burgundy color combo isn’t in my usual comfort zone it still works.

    • October 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      Yes – it would be fun to lunch in our respective blouses! I checked out that post I can’t believe that they were flour sacks! I wonder if that was a way to get people to buy the flour – knowing that people would reuse the sacks? The blouse looks great! Thanks for sharing!

  6. October 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Thank you! The collar was a lot of work so it was a relief that everything lined up. I just realized that I forgot to include my tip about using a point turner. I got a flu shot yesterday and was feeling a bit draggy after working on this post for a few hours. I think it’ll have to be a separate post!

    I hadn’t thought about using the other side as the “right side.” Those dots were surprisingly fuzzy on the “wrong side.”

    This is my first project using fabric that was so old.

  7. October 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Thanks for sharing so many details, and the one about “loving” the thread. Also, many thanks for including a link to my blog!
    I’m posting this comment to compliment you, rather than to win the fabric, much as I love it. Am trying very hard to sew through my stash.

    • October 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

      You’re welcome! Glad you found it useful! I’m only giving away a small swatch of the fabric so you won’t be able to make anything with it. 😉

  8. October 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Great tips for sewing this kind of blouse! That collar looks like a lot of work, but SO worth it! And, that fabric is too pretty. From the pics, it actually looks like it could be used with either side as the ‘right’ side. How serendipitous that you bought it and it was fabric from the 1940s!!! I have no idea if I’ve used or have vintage fabric. My mum has bought fabric before up north and it is definitely not ‘new’. And, I have purchased fabric from the Textile Museum in Toronto, Canada before, but do not know how old or new the fabric is. Not sure if there is a way to tell or not. But, none of it seems to have a real vintage feel or look to them, so likely nothing before the 70s or 80s. I’d love to be able to see what fabric from the 40s looks like and also how the Swiss dot is weaved. I have never used it before.

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