May 28, 2016

Lekala 4456 Blouse Sew-Along #4: Plackets, collar, and sleeves

Previously: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

Before we begin today's session, give yourself a round of applause: you've made it past the halfway mark! And, to be completely honest, the 6th installment is just pics of the finished garment -- so you're even closer to your goal.

But don't get too cocky. We've got our work cut out for us today: plackets, collar, sleeves. At the end, you will have a true BLO! (Blouse-Looking Object).

Today's Agenda:

  • Attach plackets (10 minutes)
  • Sew the side seams (10 minutes)
  • Attach the collar (10 minutes)
  • Hand-stitch collar lining (20 minutes)
  • Assemble the sleeves (10 minutes)
  • Insert the sleeves (15 minutes)
Yep, you read that right: we're doing all this in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Think you can beat the world land-speed record for Lekala 4456? Let's find out.

Attach plackets (10 minutes)

Technically, a placket is just an opening in a garment. But most sewists have something more specific in mind: a long rectangle of fabric that goes down the center front, adding a little more structure to the opening than a simple facing. Plackets are also rife with possibility for contrast and colorblocking. We're not doing that today, but you could next time.
Plackets extravaganza! As demonstrated by McCall's 6606. See how View D (leopard print shirt) uses a black contrast fabric on the placket and collar to add some "pop"? And View B (orange blouse) is the same basic blouse, but without the contrast and with a bow? Quite a difference, no?
Using your trusty steam iron, press down 1/2" along one long side of the placket. Wrong sides together, right sides out.
1/2" pressed allllllllllll the way down the placket
Sew the un-pressed side of the placket to the center front of the first bodice piece. Right sides together, wrong sides out. Try to make sure the top and bottom edges of the placket line up with the bodice's neckline and bottom hem.
The non-pressed side of the placket gets attached to the main part of the shirt. Don't sew the pressed edge yet!
Press this seam toward the center.
Use lots of steam to get a crisp, thorough press toward the center.
Fold the un-sewn edge of the placket (the edge you pressed first) over to meet the seam you just sewed. Try to line up the knife edge of the fold against the seamline. Press like the dickens. Or the Dickens. Imagine little Oliver Twist in a Victorian garment factory, steaming his little heart out. Or don't; sweatshops are no laughing matter and why would I even make a cheap joke about them? Because I am a monster. Moving on.
Here, look at this folded-over placket and forget I said anything. Better yet, read up on current anti-sweatshop activism.
Topstitch on the outside to secure everything in place. Optionally, you could also topstitch the other long edge, at the same distance from the crease, to make everything symmetrical. A lot of shirts have two rows of stitching, but if your fabric is drapey or delicate, extra stitches could add unwanted stiffness. 

The placket has been folded and topstitched along the seamline. Later, I added a second line of stitching at the other edge. You'll have to wait 'til the final post of this series to see.
Repeat everything on the other side.

Sew the side seams (10 minutes)

Pin the front to the back at both side seams. Again, try to line up the tops and bottoms as best you can. If you have to sacrifice one edge to asymmetry, I'd say make the bottom edge uneven. It's easier to clean up a hem edge than an armscye.
You're looking at the garment from the back. Both side seams have been pinned, and it looks like they lined up nicely.
Sew the side seams. So few words, but such a critical step! Things are starting to take shape.

Finish the raw edges with the method of your choice - pinking, serging, rayon seam binding. As always, I applied rayon seam binding to mine.
Again, from the back: see the rayon seam binding along the side seams.

Attach the collar (10 minutes)

This part always seems a little scarier than it is. It's just a simple straight line of sewing, but when you're done, there's a wonderful collar on your garment. How did that happen?

Separate the two pieces of the collar stand. One of the pieces is interfaced, and one is plain. Fold back the plain piece, and maybe even pin it out of the way if you like.

Pin only the interfaced piece to the neckline of your blouse. It needs to reach to the very edges of the neckline, so it's okay to stretch the bias a little, if it's not exactly even. 
Collar stand pinned all along the neckline, so that the edges meet perfectly
If you're having trouble with floppy fabric that gets in the way, pin down the un-interfaced edge so you don't accidentally sew over it later.
Sew the collar stand to the neckline. Be careful not to catch any of the un-interfaced piece in your seam.

And there you have it: the collar stand has been attached to the neckline!

Hand-stitch collar lining (20 minutes)

Now we're gonna take a break from the sewing machine, and do some old-school hand sewing. We need to secure the un-interfaced piece of the collar stand to the interfaced piece, and seal everything up for good (that's right, Sol Rosenberg, I said seal me up for good).

Fold under the raw edge of the un-interfaced piece about 1/2 inch.

The top layer of the collar stand has been folded and pinned down. It looks a little sloppy in this view because the fabric is drapey (not crisp), but I assure you, once it's sewn, it will look fine.
Using tiny little fell stitches, sew down the folded piece. You want to sew through all layers of the seam allowance, but not through the outermost layer of the yoke in back. You don't want your stitches to show when you're wearing your blouse.

What's a fell stitch? Oh, it is a truly wonderful stitch. Truly beautiful, and whenever you use it, it adds more than a hint of class to your garment. For more info, hop over to The Tailoress: Fell Stitch.

Here's an action shot of fell stitches being created. Again, the photo makes it look slob-o-riffic, but the end result was fine.
Do you want to add a label to your garment? I like to throw a little somethin' somethin' in there, usually a simple tag with the year embroidered on it. Nothing elaborate; my sewing machine does very basic lettering, so I just use that on a grosgrain ribbon. I fold the ribbon onto itself and tuck the raw edges into the seam line we're stitching in this step.

It's 2016, y'all! Party.
When you're done, the collar will be sealed up, and your blouse will look even more like its fully actualized self. Groovy.

Oh, Martha, what's that on your arm? I have to wear this thing whenever I can, to avoid the unpleasant complications of a nasty bout of tendonitis. Makes sewing a bitch, so sometimes it comes off. But not today, no sir. Also: yard lilies! Yay.

Assemble the sleeves (10 minutes)

Here we'll just be sewing each sleeve to its lining. No big deal, but it helps to have pics.

Pin and sew the long straight edge of each sleeve and lining piece. This is the un-notched edge, for those of you keeping score from home.

Un-notched edges of sleeve and lining are sewn together. One long straight seam.

Bring the two short, straight edges together. These are the edges that will line up with the side seam when we insert the sleeve.

Sew across these edges.

What are we even doing? This is going to make sense in just a minute. Promise.

Flip each piece so that the right side of the fabric faces outward (wrong sides together).

Fold along the long straight seam you sewed above (aka the outer "hem" of the cap sleeve), bringing the notched/curved edges of the lining and fashion fabric together.

Baste along this notched/curved edge. This is optional, but it helps keep stuff in place when you're trying to attach these things to the armscye. It can get tricky, depending on your armscye-sleeve relationship. Oh, so many tears split over that relationship! Not on this garment though; my sleeves went in pretty well, without a lot of easing. Hopefully yours will too. Because that's where we're headed next!

Happy sleeves. Basted and ready, like a couple of Thanksgiving turkey drumsticks.

Insert the sleeves (15 minutes)

Here's we'll be sewing a seam around a circle, attaching the sleeves to the bodice at the armscye. Yup.

Let's have a little talk about ease, shall we?

  • Depending on the pattern, you might sometimes be asked to create "ease" in the sleeve cap. That's another way of saying "one piece of fabric is longer than the other, on purpose, so you need to kinda do this special thing so they'll fit together." Sometimes that "special thing" is using a million pins to squish the longer piece in place, and sometimes it means you run a line of machine-basting and pull the stitches slightly to shorten the fabric.
  • I did not need to ease the sleeve on Lekala 4456. My sleeves just popped right in, and the fabric was evenly distributed all around, on both sides. 
  • If you want to learn more about attaching set-in sleeves with ease (in the sewing sense, not necessarily in the facile sense), see a step by step tutorial (with pics!) from Craftsy: Sewing a set-in sleeve.

Pin the raw edges of the sleeve to the raw edges of the armscye. Make sure that you've got both right sides of the fabric facing each other. That means, if the bodice is inside out, you'll be looking through the arm-hole at the wrong (lining) side of the sleeve.

Sew the sleeve to the bodice, starting and stopping at the side seam, aka the armpit.

Finish the raw edge, using the method of your choice: pinking, serging, rayon seam binding. Me? I used rayon seam binding. HUGE SURPRISE I KNOW. I usually press the raw edge toward the sleeve (away from the bodice, so I plan the "nice side" of the rayon seam binding to be on the side that shows. In other words, I sew the bodice side of the seam binding first, and fold it over to cover the sleeve side for the second seam.

Repeat for the other sleeve.

Look at that sleeve! Look, I tell you! Not a smidgeon of ease in it.

In conclusion

As an instructor on one of my favorite workout DVDs says, "Are ya sweaty yet?"

We did so much today! A million years ago, it seems like, we started by attaching the plackets. Then we sewed the side seams, put on the collar lickety split, hand-stitched the collar stand's lining with leeeeetle fell stitches, made two lovely lined sleeves, and sewed those puppies in.

How long did your version take? Maybe a little longer than the projected 1 hour 15 minutes? That's okay, we're not building a bridge here. Construction over-runs and delays are no big deal to seasoned sewists, who enjoy the process as much as the end result.

Join me next time, when we put the finishing touches on our project: buttons, buttonholes, hem, and more. And if you have any questions or photos of your garment in progress, share them in the comments. Until then, au revior, my blouse-making compatriots!


  1. Oh, I made this shirt some weeks ago, I loved this project. Unfortunately I just realized your sew-along here, but it was a really quick and easy project :)
    I blogged about it here:
    Currently I'm making one for my mom, too!

  2. Thanks for this sewalong - a real treat for Lekala patterns! My shirt is all cut out and ready to sew next week.