5 Years Later: Sewing the Sencha Blouse Again

Pattern: Colette's Sencha Blouse
Fabric: silk
Cost: free from Bay Area Sewists fabric swap

When I first started sewing, I made tons of mistakes (not necessarily more than I do now, just different ones). I left my seams an unravelling mess. I cut out a pair of pants on the bias. I didn't understand what an invisible zipper was. And I made patterns that just didn't work. Sometimes in really expensive stuff.

My Colette Sencha Blouse is one such example. Without making a muslin, I sewed it up in a beautiful silk, taking time to add special embroidery and finishes. But the fit wasn't quite right. The bust was too big and the neckline was too high.

Now, over five years later, I decided to return to this pattern. Would I find it to be adequate? Was it possible to adjust the bust to my liking? I was curious to see if the issue was with the pattern or with me. It is such a cute style that I wanted to give it one more shot.

The Pattern

First off, I noticed how much the branding has changed over the years. I loved the old picture, which really shows off the details and vintage vibe of the top. The new picture obscures a lot of those details and makes it look much more like a plain boxy tee. While boxy tees are very popular right now (I love them and have made a few!) what makes this pattern special are the waist tucks, button back, and neckline options. I wanted something stylish to wear to the office for my internship this summer, so I took my inspiration from the old picture instead.

My sewing perspective has also changed since five years ago. I remember this being a fairly daunting pattern the first time I sewed it, but revisiting the directions I really appreciate how much hand-holding Colette does for beginner sewists. I do wish, however, that she had included a couple more details like stay-stitching the neckline. Compared to so many basic beginner patterns on the market now though, this one has all the interesting details like tucks, buttons, and various necklines. What happened to interesting patterns like this?

The Muslin

Unfortunately I no longer had my original version, so a muslin was a must. Part of the fit issue that I noticed right away was that I had cut a straight size 4. While this is correct for my waist and hips, I needed a size 0 for the bust. So for the muslin I graded down to 0 at the bust only. In the grading, I also noticed that the pattern pieces angle in to a point at the waist and back out again, which I found odd.

I also decided to lower the neckline a bit, as my original looked a little high. This was a common adjustment I saw across many different blogs. Back then I didn't do much blog research, which would have helped a lot! (There also weren't as many bloggers, so less fodder for research.) After grading down to the correct size and lowering the neckline, the front fit rather well. I was worried I'd need to do an SBA, but since I am a B/C cup I fit into the pattern's C-cup design just fine.

However, I did have some issues with the back. I have a swayback, and the pattern creates considerable pooling of fabric back there. This was common across many versions I saw online, and even the model seems to be struggling with bunching fabric. In fact, looking more closely at the the modeled photos, I am not terribly impressed with the sample garment. It doesn't fit as well as you'd hope, and the pleats don't seem to be pressed right.

The last change I made was to remove the back button band and the back slit, which is designed to sit slightly open at the back. I didn't want to have it look like I couldn't button up my clothes all the way! I eliminated the button band and deepened the back tucks at the waist to remove some extra fabric. On my final version, I also took 1" from the shoulder seam to eliminate additional fabric. I wish I had done this at the muslin stage, as ideally you would want to recut the armhole to match.

The Final

After grading between sizes and eliminating my sway back, I am quite pleased with the final garment. However, I am not sure I would have been able to accomplish as great a fit as a beginner. Looking at the pictures online, I don't think many people have.

In fact, after all of this I'm wondering if I might have been better off drafting the tucks onto a top with similar sleeves rather than taking the time to alter this one. I'm just not convinced that the Colette drafting is that great. The waist curve is very angular and the way the sleeves are drafted makes them flip up slightly at the end. From wonky bust darts to awkward arm holes, I've seen more and more people complaining about the poor drafting on their patterns. Even with the return to vintage patterns as of late, I've been unimpressed with some of the drafting choices.


I love the idea of the Sencha blouse. It is a cute beginner-level top with nice details and a vintage vibe. However, I can't get past some of the drafting and potential for serious fit issues. It doesn't appear to work that well on many body types, and requires some reworking to get the right fit on what should be a simple top. Five years later, and maybe the problem wasn't me.

That said, after a lot of hard work I do like this top. Five years later and I am still learning a lot!

How a Sewer Makes Shoes

Well, I did it! I made my first pair of shoes. Are they perfect? No! But do they kinda look like shoes? Hell yes! I have a lot to learn, but for my first pair I just went with my basic sewist instinct. How would a sewer make shoes? For me it was a logical place to start, and I learned a lot along the way.

Admittedly, sewing is very different from making shoes. There's different skills, different materials, and a lot more glueing. A lot. But, sewing does give you certain advantages in learning the craft. I know how to make a curved seam lie flat, I have oodles of fabric for muslins, and I own a sewing machine or three. So this post is all about how I made my first pair. How a sewer would. It's not necessarily the traditional way, although it does incorporate things I've learned from shoe makers online. Rather, it's how I used my sewing materials at home to craft my first pair of shoes. They're far from perfect, but I'm very excited about my first attempt.

Here's what I recorded along the way:


If you've ever traced or drafted anything yourself, drafting shoes is no different. I traced my own using my deconstructed shoe (full post here) and several muslins. However, if you'd like a boost there are several patterns available online. Shoeology and uku2 sell beginner patterns on Etsy with lots of instructions and hand-holding. I also like their modern shoe designs, which aren't too cutesy and aren't slippers. I have noticed though that non-garment patterns don't always follow the same conventions that we are used to. I've found dog clothes patterns and shoe patterns sometimes have odd seam allowances and less attention to sewing details, so watch out.

Here are the components of my pattern, traced from a deconstructed shoe:
  • lining - traced from my deconstructed shoe and refined through test muslins
  • outer - same as lining but cut with a 1/2" larger seam allowance around outer edge
  • interfacing - same as lining
  • toe puff - just toe portion of lining
  • heel padding - just heel portion of lining
  • padded insole - traced from my deconstructed shoe and refined through test muslins
  • insole lining (optional) - same as insole
  • sole - same as insole but no seam allowances
  • heel - just heel portion of sole


    Fabrics: Most home-sewers will be comfortable with the fabric components of the shoes. I needed an outer fabric (canvas, leather, etc.) and lining fabric (broadcloth, felt, etc.)

    Interfacing: Again this is something most home-sewers will have on hand. I used a moderate fusible interfacing for the body of the shoe, although I may experiment with heavier options on later shoes. For the toe and heel puffs, I used Pellon fusible thermo plus, which gives some nice fluffy padding and shape to the shoe and heel.

    Insole: My deconstructed shoe had a padded insole. There are insoling options available on Etsy, but for my first version I just used bra cup foam I had on hand. Familiar, and no trip to the store needed. You can choose to either glue your fashion fabric to the top of the insole so it matches, or leave as is like I did.

    Soling: You will most likely have to purchase soling. I used Sole Tech which I found on Etsy from Two of a Kind Supplies. They were a really good resource for shoe-making supplies and have many different thicknesses and options, from indoor non-slip to thick outdoor soling. Next time I will try something thicker, maybe 1/4" thick rather than 1/16.

    Glue: This also required a purchase, although some of you may have some in your garage. I bought Weldwood Contact Cement. Other contact cements like Barge, Klebfest (UK), or even the non-toxic Aquilum should also work for attaching the shoe to the rubber sole. You put the glue on both surfaces, wait for them to become tacky, and press together. Less glue is preferable, as it doesn't take as long to dry.

    I also had some Speed Sewn fabric glue on hand, which is useful for attaching lining to the insole, etc.

    Lasts: Do you need lasts? If you're going to really get into it, I believe you do need shoe lasts. However, the sewing patterns listed above can help you make shoes without lasts. I used a shoe tree we had in the closet, which was free for me and was fine for my first pair.


    Free Resources-
    DIY Shoes: Great step-by-step from materials to final shoe.
    Illustrated Step-by-Step Instructions
    Natasha Estrada's shoes
    Parts of a Shoe
    My Shoemaking Pinterest Board

    Professional Help-
    I Can Make Shoes
    Shoemaking Course Online
    Mary Wales Loomis

    Amazing Sewers Who Make Shoes-
    Handmade by Carolyn
    Scared Stitchless
    A Handmade Wardrobe

    My Steps:

    If you want to make shoes like a pro, I recommend you consult some of the professional resources above. However, to make shoes like a sewer, here's what I did:

    1.Cut pattern pieces.
    At this point, if I were planning on covering my padded insole with a lining fabric, I would have also glued the insole lining on top of the insole and set aside to dry.

    2. Apply interfacing to the wrong side of the shoe outer. Fuse or glue toe puff and heel stiffener in place on top of interfacing. All these layers felt thick, but in the end they could have been even stiffer.

    3. If desired, sew additional felt stiffener on top of the lining.

    4. If your pattern has them, sew the heel darts in outer and lining. Clip seam allowance of dart.

    5. Sew lining to outer along top edge. My pattern was drafted with 3/8 seam allowance for everything. Trim and notch seams carefully - pinking shears work great for this step. Turn to right side.

    6. Open up lining and outer and sew side seam together in one continuous seam (lining and outer). Notch seams. Optionally, understitch or topstitch around opening, depending on style and preference.

    7. Sew lining to insole, right sides together (seam facing outside of shoe). Leave outer free.

    8. Try shoe on for fit, even though only the lining is sewn in. Then trim seam allowance around insole to 1/8".

    9. Sew gathering stitches at toe and heel, about 3/8" from edge.

    10. Put last in shoe. Apply light coat of fabric glue between lining and outer and press together.

    11. Pull gathering stitches to warp outer around bottom of insole. Glue outer to bottom of insole. I used pins through the fabric and insole in this step to hold everything in place while the glue dried.

    12. Glue on the sole and heel to the insole, covering fabric. I think you are also supposed to sand the heel flush with the sole at this point.

    Truth be told, my first pair went much better than expected. They fit, although they could be a bit more snug. All the components are there, and they feel a bit more shoe-like than regular slippers.

    However, I know I have a ton to learn. At this point, they still don't feel like "real" shoes. I need to get a thicker soling and glue it better to the bottom of the shoe (in the photos you can see the soling isn't glued on tight). I also want to use a sturdier material. Yet at the same time, all the layers make these shoes really hot!

    I also need to tweak the pattern a bit. The toe puff isn't positioned right - you can see some wrinkling where it ends in the wrong place. And the toe isn't quite on center, so that needs to be fixed. There is also some gaping that remains, but that might be fixed by using a stiffer material.

    To start me off, are there any shoemakers out there with tips for next steps? Anything in the above that I could absolutely improve on that I haven't mentioned? I have plans to get the I Can Make Shoes Flat Pumps Ebook (which is surprisingly affordable), and go from there. 

    Shoe Making Step 1: Deconstruction

    Ever since I was a child I've hated shoe shopping. As a kid, I preferred to be barefoot and only tolerated the most comfortable of footwear. As an adult, I find that many of my favorite ballet flats rough up my heels and the ones that don't are hard to come by.

    Yet for all the trouble, shoes don't seem that complicated. Don't get me wrong, there is a rich history of shoemakers and some very exquisite things on the market today. But some of my favorite shoes are simple, cheap flats without much structure or support. I wondered if I couldn't recreate a very elementary shoe to try out for myself. How amazing would it be to have properly fitting, non-chaffing shoes in whatever colors I wanted! So after years of talking about it, I have finally taken the plunge and decided to make my first pair.

    I am starting this adventure by deconstructing an existing shoe. The victim is a pair of simple ballet flats that fit really well but were chewed up by the dog on one heel. I got out my scissors and seam ripper and decided to see what these shoes were all about. Here they are from the outside in:


    1. Taking off the sole - The shoe had been glued to the sole and stitched. The stitching had worn out in places over time, but overall the shoe was still tightly secured to the sole.

    2. Heel - The heel gave 3/8" height in the back and was sandwiched between the sole and the shoe, sanded down until it met flush at mid foot.

    3. Heel padding - Under the heel was some additional cotton padding. Not much support, but interesting to note that even a little shoe like this has something.

    4. Toe - The upper had been wrapped around the bottom and stitched to it, which is done best with a last. The stitches were gathered near the toe. At this point, the inside of the shoe was still completely intact.


    5. Interfacing - Ripping the outer away from insole, you can tell that it is lined with an interfacing, possibly a two-sided fusible. This gives structure to the overall shoe.

    6-7. The toe and heel have additional padding, which was fused between the outer and the lining. This gives the shoe the right shape and rigidity at those crucial spots.

    8. There was also some additional interfacing along the inner side seam.


    9. More padding - There was some additional padding at the center back above the heel. The round pad was at the top of the heel, while a thin strip reinforced the back heel dart.

    10. Dart - The back heel has a tiny dart for shaping. It is also pieced with a contrast color fabric.

    11. The front has a notched seam allowance around the tongue so that everything lays flat. Notice also the black tape that gives some additional reinforcement at this crucial area.

    12. Lining - The lining isn't turned under at all. Because it is leather and doesn't ravel, it is sewn directly to the outer. Actually, between the outer and the lining is some piping, which was bound around the outer before being sewn to the lining.


    13. Insole - Once the outer is off, you can see how the lining is stitched to the insole, right sides together (seam facing the outside of the shoe). It is stitched with a very narrow seam allowance to keep everything flat.

    14. Fabrics - Notice also how the lining is in two fabrics - a leather for the sides, front, and insole, and a suede for the heel. This eliminates the need for the inner side seam on the lining, which could be a nice detail for a shoe outer in the future.

    15. Toe - At the toe, the insole almost wraps under towards the sole, perhaps giving the toe a nice round edge. The stitching here was very durable and I had to use a seam ripper instead of ripping the seam.

    16. Insole Padding - I couldn't separate the foam padding from the lining, as it was glued together very well. Still, that extra bit of padding looks like a nice touch. In the photo, I cut into the insole slightly to see what was inside.

    And here is the outer laid flat on the table over a purchased shoe pattern:

    How does it compare to a purchased shoe pattern? Well, it's different. The toe is similar, but it's hard to compare the rest because the pattern has the seam at the back heel and the shoe had the seam at the inner side. Overall, however, the deconstructed shoe spreads out wider but the fabric itself is more narrow.

    The whole process has been very enlightening in terms of construction and pattern. I now need to review my other research (saved here on Pinterest), and figure out how to procure the necessary materials. I also need to create a pattern from this shoe, as well as check out a purchased shoe pattern for comparison. I'll see which one I like best, take my favorite aspects from each, and sew up my first shoe. It's completely uncharted territory for me, but not impossible.

    More coming soon!

    10 Years

    Pattern: Vogue Pattern's Bellville Sassoon Misses' Dress #1162
    Fabric: 2 yds ponte
    Cost: $50

    It's the year of tens. Ten years since I graduated from high school, ten years of living on my own, ten years of dealing with a stupid knee injury, and even last week my bank wished me a happy ten year anniversary. This also meant that it was time for my ten year high school reunion.

    High school reunions get a lot of hype in the movies and can cause a lot of anxiety. Part of you feels like you have to present your best self, be super accomplished, and not have gained a pound. Part of you is not sure what it will be like to see the same group of people you spent years of schooling with and haven't seen since. In reality, my ten year reunion was pretty chill. Armed with one of my best friends and our partners, we mingled, enjoyed the open bar, and caught up on old gossip at a local burger joint. I realized it didn't matter as much if my classmates were PhD students or expecting their third child, everyone was just living their lives and doing their things.

    Prior to the event, however, I did spend some time stressing out over what to wear. Santa Cruz County, where I group up, is very laid back fashion-wise but I still wanted to look good and fit in (kinda like high school, no?). I like my figure, but was also a little self-conscious about some extra padding I developed this summer thanks to working too much and not exercising. I decided to just go for it and make my favorite style of slim-fitting dress, but with a few tucks in the front so it was less clingy. 

    The fabric was also a big decision. After waiting to go to my favorite local fabric store, I was disappointed to not find something that sparked my interest (for the dress, but I did buy some fabulous material for pants!). I then found the perfect fabric online for very cheap, but after I ordered it I realized it wouldn't come until hours before the event. I ended up at another great local fabric store, Piedmont Fabrics, and after much deliberation bought two yards of this fuchsia ponte. I don't often wear this color, but it is a jewel tone and made me feel special. Mr. Made says I'm making up for the rest of the time when I don't dress as much like a lady. 

    My friend of course then shows up in jeans and a tank top (cue minor internal crisis), but it ended up being the perfect thing for the event. Paired with strappy black flip flops, I felt laid back, comfy, and like myself. And that booty though. 

    In terms of construction, this dress was a bit of an experiment. It's drafted from Vogue 1162, which has great pleats across the front, used before in this dress. However, the pattern is for wovens, so it's graded down a bit for knits. Then, I grafted on a t-shirt style for the top, and split the back in two to make an easy swayback adjustment. The swayback could probably use some work, but it got most of the way there. Luckily, I cut out just the front first and discovered it was going to be too small, so the back is cut wider to accommodate. Fit-wise it's not the best - this adjustment means the side seam is very curvy, and the shoulder seam also is too far to the back. For this purpose, however, it looks good on and no one is going to notice these little things like a sewer would, so I'm calling it a win. 

    This dress will be handy to have on hand for other moderately dressed up occasions, and could probably even work for work party with a blazer and heels. And now that my other fabric has come in the mail, I have a new dress to make for the fall wedding season, too!

    So here's to another ten years of semi-adulting, trying new things, and sewing! Lots of sewing! 

    Reef Tank - Party in the Back

    Pattern: Megan Nielsen's Reef Tank
    Fabric: something synthetic ??
    Cost: free (remnants)

    I celebrated my birthday last month and decided to do something fun for the occasion. We held a casual BBQ on the back patio (complete with friends and dogs and cupcakes!). Since I'm not a fancy dress type of girl, I made myself a sparkly Reef tank to celebrate. With its back strap details, it lends itself perfectly to some creative straps.

    For the straps, I started with a sheer novelty fabric left over from this shirt. I then trimmed the seam allowances and bound the edges in fold over elastic. I sewed the two together using my BERNINA coverstitch, stretching the elastic slightly as I sewed. I am still getting used to the coverstitch so this took some practice, but eventually I got a fairly nice finish. 

    Here is a full view of the back. I was careful to overlap the stripes so that they match up where the straps cross.

    This is the perfect top for me because it's simple and subtle, but with a fun twist. The body is made from the same material as my Pattern Magic dress but turned to the wrong side, which is black. It has already gotten a ton of wear as something easy to pull on and head out for the night in. It goes well under my black jackets, but is perfect for warmer restaurants and bars. (Worn here with my modified not pull-on Misty Jeans).

    Welp, it's another year under my belt. I've already got lots of plans for more things to sew, but also trying to relax and have fun. Happy birthday to me!