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.







Verdict

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!


18 comments:

  1. that is super cute and yours fits better than anything they show. I will say it - their patterns are not very well designed. I find their armholes are the wrong shape compared with other pattern brands.

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    1. LOL, Beth, if you say it then the discussion is settled. I love reading your blog posts!! Sigh.... I dream of being as skilled as you are someday.

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  2. Interesting post. You are not the first person to complain about the drafting and fit from these patterns, I've read this from other blogs/posters. I have tried a couple and definitely had some problems, but I always need to alter patterns so wasn't sure how much was me and how much of the problem was the pattern. Your end result is really cute though!

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  3. Your blouse came out cute, despite the pattern issues! I've never had luck with Colette patterns, so tbh I don't give them much time of day anymore. Their drafting is definitely questionable and their designs have been pretty meh lately. It's too bad, because they used to really have distinctive designs.

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  4. Such a gorgeous end result and thank you for sharing your process for getting there!

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  5. I'm glad you were honest about your experience with this blouse pattern. I just wrote a post about fit problems in indie patterns and Colette featured heavily - I had such trouble with their Clover pants.

    That being said, you did make a lovely blouse! Though I agree with your assessment that it might have been less work starting from scratch or drafting onto another pattern.

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    1. Ugh yes I read your post and agree! Funny enough, the L-shaped crotch curve of the Clovers actually work great for me (but the weird hips and most of the rest did not). It's bound to fit someone, right?!

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  6. Thanks for sharing, Meg. It helps to hear that my problems with the pattern might not be me! I like their online magazine, but I've become afraid to try any of the accompanying patterns because the sleeves are ridiculously small, imho.

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  7. I have been eying this pattern for years but based on reviews I've read/seen, I've been apprehensive about the fit. Great to read your review, and you really did make the version I've been dreaming of.

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    1. With your fitting skills you could definitely do it... and you could also hack your own from a favorite boxy tee

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    2. Me, too, I feel like I've dodged a bullet. I considered making this when it came out and if I had, I'd probably just now be coming to terms with it, too. And silly thing is what I like about it is it's similar to a decaying vintage blouse I already own. Obvious solution, just copy that, why would I assume a commercial pattern is a better starting point? Doesn't make sense but I would have five years ago, I think I do know better now, but thanks for the reminder.

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  8. True! It could be a lovely project to wear around the holidays - special but not fussy. I did just finish a torso block, too, and it could be a fun drafting exercise.

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  9. Well done Meg on fixing what appears to be very poorly drafted pattern - it is definitely not you! Unfortunately with sewing patterns we can't ask for our money back when the product is faulty, like we can with most other products. Beginners need to be very 'buyer beware' and do their research, or they will continue to get ripped off.

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  10. You definitely did a great job with this pattern- and I love the colour on you. I know myself I don't deal with too many patterns (since I mostly make lingerie and swimwear and it's all self drafted). But it can be tricky working with patterns and finding companies that have a good match to your body type.

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  11. Thanks for the honest post--so refreshing! I've been eyeing the latest colette release, the rue, but know based on previous experience that their block doesn't work on me (or, it seems, many of the ladies they had "testing" the pattern), and I've been thinking I'll just hack the design from something I know fits me, much like you suggest hacking the sencha from a boxy blouse.

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    1. I've heard Burda 03/2016 #125 has similar style lines to Rue but with better drafting. It would look adorable on you!

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  12. Thank you for this. I thought I was the only one who passed on the Sencha after making a muslin of it. The insane amount of style changes that would have been required to make it halfway nice on me was not worth it.

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