I’m very guilty of being an ‘all or nothing’ kind of girl. If you’re going to do something, go big or go home. Either eat salad all day and be really healthy, or eat the whole packet of biscuits, then the crisps, and then a whole tub of ice cream for dessert (guilty of all of the above). If you want to start exercising, enter a marathon (guilty, twice). There is no ‘happy medium’ with me, it’s either one extreme or the other.
I think this is why I have a distinct lack of ‘happy medium’ clothes in my wardrobe. It’s either fitted dresses with skulls on and shiny silk skirts and shirts, or sweatpants and trapeze t-shirts. When getting dressed for work the other day I saw either shirts (which I love, don’t get me wrong), or t-shirts. Very formal, vs very casual. Where are the tops that are neither? Where are the ones that would fall into that weirdly named ‘smart-casual’ category? Probably in the same place as my enthusiasm to make them.
The Deer and Doe Datura blouse caught my eye though. It’s those little triangle cutouts. Just enough detail to spark my interest and make me delve down that middle-of-the-road smart-casual rabbit hole. Perfect for those days when you want to wear a top that’s a little bit smarter than a t-shirt but you don’t want to look *too* posh or make too much of an effort.
Deer and Doe are an independent French pattern company, who have a small but perfectly formed collection of patterns designed for hourglass shapes – generous hips and bust but a narrower waist. Which just so happens to be my shape #winning. When I look at how many of their patterns I actually have (or want to have), it’s quite a few. More than any other brand. It seems I’m a bit of a fangirl.
Their patterns are printed on nice white paper and come with both English and French instructions – which *can* be a little bit vague so if you’re attempting something for the first time so you might need some YouTube help.
The Datura is a sleeveless blouse that you can make with either a cut-out neckline or a Peter Pan collar, pattern pieces are provided for both. The Peter Pan one is a bit cutesy for me – it would need some seriously cool fabric for me to consider it, I’m thinking of a very loud, possibly studded, possibly embroidered collar – but it didn’t matter as I only had eyes for those little triangles.
I’ve made my Datura from a plain red cotton lawn. I have seen a few versions made up in patterned fabric (mostly Liberty prints) but I feel that for the cut out version, using a patterned fabric is just a bit too much going on (says she that uses totally crazy prints, lolz). I’ve also seen patterned ones that use a coordinating plain fabric for the top panel, which to me just looks a little bit weird and kind of like you’re wearing a quilt.
As I’ve found with other deer and Doe patterns, the instructions can be a little vague. This was the first time I had made a top of this style and I must admit I had to read through the instructions a couple of times to figure out what they were trying to tell me. It was the straps that I found particularly confusing, so I’ve taken a couple of pictures of what you should be ending up with in case you’re having the same troubles. The first picture shows ‘pull the straps of the front yoke for about an inch’ and also by my finger is ‘stitch the seam continuously’. You’re basically sewing over the top of the seam allowances, joining up the seamlines you have made above and below these (soz – red thread on red fabric doesn’t photograph too well…). The second picture shows both sides already stitched continuously and the seam allowances trimmed. You stitch through all layers of fabric when stitching continuously so you have to be careful not to catch the main strap with your stitching (the bit that you were pulling up in the earlier step). If it will no longer move freely when you pull it, you’ve got it caught, so go and get your seam ripper.
Thankfully, the instructions for bringing those triangle cutouts to life are a little bit clearer. To get them exactly straight, I found it helpful to draw on the seam lines before sewing. If I’d have eyeballed it they most certainly would not have been either equal or straight and there would have likely been tantrums and calls for the sewing machine to be banished to the corner of the room to think about what it had done.
Once you’ve stitched the lines, you then need to cut (VERY CAREFULLY) into the points of the triangles – close to the stitching line but not through it – and along the tops of the peaks (but again not through your stitching!) as shown by the lines below. Steady now though – this isn’t an Edward Scissorhands audition.
Once you’ve trimmed these, you can turn the whole thing right-side-out. (If you forget to trim these, when you turn it out you’re going to have lumpy, bumpy, formerly-known-as-triangle shapes because it won’t have the ease it needs to lie flat).
Changing to a shorter stitch length as you approach the points of the triangles will help to strengthen the seam, and they will need a SERIOUSLY good press after you’ve turned them right side out. Get that steam iron going. I use a bamboo point turner to get nice sharp corners, and a tailors clapper to press everything down nice and flat. Not so long ago, I used to kind of blag it with my hands as a presser and a knitting needle as a point turner but fingers don’t play well with the iron and a knitting needle is just a little bit too keen on poking its way through seams and causing havoc. Point turners can be picked up pretty cheap and a clapper can be substituted in a pinch by anything else flat and heavy (a hardback book, a bread tin, a cold iron… you get the idea).
One thing that did frustrate me about this pattern is that they don’t tell you how long to cut your bias tape for the neckline, so you’re faced with no other option except trial and error. It’s hard to get the right amount of tension at the front in the gaps between the points of the triangles, so that the tape neither strangling you nor sagging outwards (I ended up with both of these outcomes and got it right third time lucky). There’s no guidance whatsoever on how tight you should be pulling the tape as you pin it, and it’s not until you’ve stitched the second (closing) line on the tape and put the top on that you really have an idea of how it’s looking. Which obviously makes for a long and tedious process of unpicking if you’re not happy with it. Thinking about it, what I should have done was measured the successful bias tape length so that I could have just cut the right amount if I made this pattern again. Yeah, I didn’t do that. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing.
I sort of shot myself in the foot using the plain lawn to make this – it meant that I couldn’t cheat and use store-bought bias tape as no way would I be lucky enough to find the *exact* same shade, and I could never have lived with myself looking at bias tape I knew I’d cheated on and that looks totally rubbish because of it.
I did however use ready-made bias tape on the hem, because it’s on the inside and it doesn’t really matter if it’s not quite the same shade! (It’s pretty damn close though, you’ll have to take my word on that).
I do really like this top, but it’s a proper pain to have to iron it before each wear. Domestic goddess I am NOT in case you hadn’t noticed. I’d like to try making one in a slinkier fabric like rayon or viscose just so that I don’t have to iron it ? This cotton, while lovely, creases up from just me looking at it. And you probably know by now that ironing is way WAY down on my list of Things That I Want To Spend My Time Doing, so we’ve got a bit of a problematic combo here.
The buttons on the Datura pattern are purely decorative – seems a little pointless to me not to do them properly but there you go. I made mine functional buttons though, because without being able to get that extra ease in the top by undoing the back there was no way I was getting the top on! I would have had to have made a couple of sizes bigger in order to be able to get it on without buttons, and then it would have looked like I was wearing a sack #nothanks. It’s strange because they don’t say that you could (or should) use stretch fabrics for this pattern, so I’m very confused over how you actually go about getting this on and off. It’s like trying to put on a fitted dress shirt that has buttons that you can’t undo.
I used these cool little bronze fat buttons, which look good but In hindsight I wish I had used flatter buttons. If I’m sitting with my back right up against a chair they dig in to my spine a little ? next time it will be comfort over style and sensible buttons will be the order of the day. Note to self: do not get lured in to buying pretty but impractical buttons in the store.
Despite the buttons fiasco, and the fact that the fabric is a tad high-maintenace (read as: massive crease-fest within 20 minutes of putting it on) I’m pretty pleased with the outcome and its a cool little pattern. It’s something that’s just that little bit smarter than a vest top for that one whole week of summer we get here in London. I’m already thinking about what other garments I can incorporate those little triangles into… maybe the yoke of a long sleeved collared shirt? The hem of a pair trousers? Watch this space…
Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… my very first attempt at the popular Ogden Cami pattern from True Bias, in a print that is totally matchy-matchy with my hair ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!