Folkwear 211 Middy Blouse Sew Along: Day One

Folkwear is excited to re-release our favorite nautical-inspired blouses, the 211 Two Middies, just in time for easy, breezy summer wearing. These are the perfect pieces that provokes a smart, yet carefree, aesthetic with just a touch of nostalgia.

Read about the Middy Blouse history and the inspiration for this pattern re-release in our previous blog post!

The 211 Two Middies pattern provides two different blouse versions (View A & View B) that will surely become seasonal staples in any wardrobe. You can find this pattern in either a printed or a downloadable pdf version. The size offerings for women range from XS to 2XL and S to 2XL for men.

 

flat illustrations of Two Middies sewing pattern, front and back

 

Today, we are starting a Sew Along for both middy shirts in this pattern. These blouses don't take a lot of time to sew, allowing time for creative embellishments or to make a neck tie (all part of the pattern)! Join us over the next few days to sew your own middy blouse. Here's the schedule:

Day 1 (today):  Preparation - selecting size, selecting and preparing fabric, getting to know the pattern.

Day 2:  Cutting and sewing View A

Day 3:  Cutting and sewing View B - front, back, neck facing and collar

Day 4:  Finish sewing View B - sleeves and hip band

Day 5:  Neck tie for View B

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Day 1:  Preparation

First, get the pattern (it's on sale through the 26th!).  Then, you can move on to selecting fabric, gathering materials, and figuring out what you are going to make and how!

Selecting Fabric

Sometimes a specific pattern and fabric just seem made for one another and the pairing is easy, but just about any fabric is perfect for this Middy blouse project as long as it is not too heavy. 

If you need a bit of inspiration or if you are not sure where to begin, be sure to see the Folkwear Pinterest board for different inspiring Middy Blouse looks and our fabric suggestion blog post.

Below is a collection of woven cottons and linen fabric swatches from my collection that would all be perfect for a Middy blouse.

collection of woven linen and cotton swatches

This pattern is perfect for light weight woven fabrics, such as shirting, cotton lawn, voile, handkerchief linen, mid-weight linen, chambray, gingham, oxford cloth, silk noil, etc. Any fabric that has a relatively light hand and drapes well would be suitable for this project, especially for warm weather wearing. A good test to help determine a good weight of fabric to use, is to double the fabric over and hold between your fingers and ask yourself if it feels too bulky? This technique helps in determining if a fabric will work well for pleats, gathers, or if it will make a nice crisp corner when the fabric is turned.

For cooler temps this pattern could be made with just about any weight of cottons such as twill, light to medium weight linen, flannel, denim, fine wale corduroy, or a light weight wool would all do.

Just the right knit would provide lovely results too. A medium weight knit like a double knit cotton or wool jersey, a firm 6 oz jersey Rugby type fabric, or even a ponte would be ideal. Look for double knit micro fibers in medium weights. If using a knit for the Middy Blouse, the knit needs to to be stable, which means some stretch, but not so much that the shape of the blouse can not be maintained due to too much loose drape and stretch.

For this sample, I am using a lovely pale gray cotton for the blouse body, with a blue-green cross weave linen for the neck trim for view A. For View B I have chosen a soft periwinkle blue handkerchief linen for the blouse body and a white cotton lawn for the tie.

Yardage, Sizing, and Adjustment Considerations

Once you have decided on a fabric, consult the yardage requirement chart on the back of the paper pattern or included in the PDF pattern instructions. You can choose a size based on the measurements in the chart. I considered the bust measurement first for both View A & View B, keeping in mind the loose fit.  The chart (below) is meant as a guide for the basic aspects of body to garment measurements. You can also see the yardage chart through this link (PDF).  We will learn some simple grading techniques using the chart measurements to allow for some easy adjustments. 

Sizing and yardage requirements for 211 Two Middies sewing pattern

Consider Simple Grading?

Simple sizing adjustments can be made using this pattern. For example, if you find the blouse pattern for the View B fits you nicely, but the band might not fit as loosely as you prefer, then a simple adjustment may be in order. If your bust is size Small but hips are size Medium or Large, you can adjust by grading a bit between sizes. Adding a 1/4 inch seam allowance at the side seams of the blouse bottom edge, as well on the side seam edges of the hip band should do the trick. This technique is called "grading." The general grading rule of thumb when adding or subtracting width at the side seams is 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch for sizes 6-18 and 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch for size 18 and up. The grading term describes the re-aligning of the original pattern and the newly added measurement.  This simple and subtle grading technique will be demonstrated in the making of the Middy Blouse View B. So stay tuned!

Note: Due to the minor size adjustment described here, the fabric yardage will not be affected.

Determine your size and any adjustments you might require and purchase your fabric accordingly.  Do not forget the width of your fabric matters. Be sure to purchase enough fabric to lay your pattern out properly and the way you intend. Design elements like stripes or pattern design should be considered. You will need to consider if your fabric design is directional and therefore you need to carefully plan how your pattern pieces will lay out, this may require more fabric yardage. Matching plaids will require consideration and most likely more fabric to enable matching. 

If you are making View A with the front and back combined as one pattern piece, note that directional prints will not work, because the front and back are cut on the fold as one piece. As a result, the print on the back of the blouse would end up being upside down. This issue can easily be remedied, by cutting the front and back separately, adding seam allowances, and sewing at the shoulder like you do!

Extra Details

Be sure to read the bonus material provided in the Folkwear 211 Two Middies pattern for ideas and instructions on some great embroidery designs to add to your blouse. It is easy to add extra detailed touches with ribbon, soutache, twill tape, patches, and braid, but some elements need to be added before the shirt is completely put together.  The nautical theme is just one of many possibilities to explore! 

Preparing Fabric

Once you have your fabric, it is a good idea to test the fabric for washability and shrinkage. Cut a small corner of fabric from your yardage that measures approximately 3"x4" rectangle. Place the swatch of fabric on a scrape piece of paper and trace around it. Set the tracing aside to use as a future reference. Wash and dry the fabric swatch according to fiber content recommends, or in the manner in which you intend to care for your finish garment. Then place your fabric swatch back down on the tracing to determine if your fabric shrank or changed in any way. Not all fabrics behave the same. Washing and drying gives you better insight into how your fabric will behave in the real world of washing and wearing. This simply allows you to make any needed adjustments forehand to help prevent disappointment.

Trace edge of fabric swatch on scrap paper before washing fabric to determine shrinkage.

Trace around the edges of the fabric swatch on a scrape of paper.

Tracing of fabric swatch to help determine shrinkage.Tracing a a fabric swatch helps to see if the fabric shrinks after washing and drying.

It is also important to wash all of your fabric yardage before beginning.  If your fabric has a loose weave, you might consider securing the raw cut edges first so it doesn't unravel. This is a simple, yet practical extra step. On your sewing machine sew a straight stitch or long basting stitch to keep the raw edge of the fabric from unraveling or getting tangled due to loose threads. Using a serger for this purpose is an excellent choice as well.  

A serge stitch helps prevent the raw edge of the fabric from unraveling when washed.
A serge stitch helps prevent the raw edge of the fabric from unraveling when washed.

This is also a good time to determine the right or wrong side of your fabric. It may be perfectly obvious for some fabrics, but not so much for others. If you have trouble determining the right from the wrong side, simply pick a side and stick with it. If you are unable to decide no one else will ever know the difference. Indicate the side you deem to be the right side, buy marking it using a needle and contrasting thread. Just catch a few threads of the fabric and tie the marking thread off with two or three tiny knots to secure.  

Once your fabric is all washed and ready to go, give it a good pressing not only to smooth it out, so the pattern will lay down well, but to force yourself to give the fabric one last good inspection before you lay out your pattern. Inspect for any flaws in the fabric that you want to avoid. Occasionally when being manufactured fibers can break, or snatches and pulls can happen or, discoloration can occur.  When ironing the fabric I intend to use for this project I came across a perfect example of a flaw. I knew it had been noticed, because the inspector left a visible tie thread at the edge of the selvage, adjacent to the flaw.

The white thread tied to the selvage indicates a flaw in the fabric to be avoided.The white thread tied to the selvage indicates a flaw in the fabric to be avoided.

Be Respectful of the Grain... 

For this project I am using a woven fabric and before pinning the pattern to the fabric, it is important your fabric is "on grain." This means your fabric grain must be straight. Grain refers to the lengthwise and crossgrain yarn of the fabric. It is important that fabric is on grain so your garment will fit and drape correctly and have the effect you intend. Always remember to have respect for the grain to avoid disappointment.

The vertical and horizontal yarns are always at right angles to each other. The fabric was woven on a loom this way and this is how it comes off the loom - with the grain perfectly aligned at right angles. 

If a fabric does not match up at right angles it is off grain, and the grain must be restored. To return the yarns of the fabric to their original rectangular position, the horizontal ends (the cut or raw ends) need to be straightened. Note that we are only concerned with the horizontal grain. The vertical grain (the selvedge edge) has already been established as straight by the loom along the selvedge edge. 

If your fabric has a "woven in" guide, like a stripe, line, plaid, or check your task is quite easy. You can trust the thread creating the stripe, line, etc. to be straight, because it had to be woven straight.

The next best thing and the easiest method of restoring the grain, is to tear the fabric. This creates an edges that is straight and is perfectly perpendicular to the selvage, making it easier to layout your fabric so that the grainline is straight.  Many fabrics tear easily, but not all. It is best to make a small test first. Make a cut through the selvedge and just into the fabric, with the point of your scissors and give the fabric a gentle tear. If it tears easily, proceed tearing carefully. If you are not used to tearing fabric, this process can be a bit unnerving, but all will be fine. Torn fabric grain should be straight. 

If your fabric will not allow for tearing (as in the case I encountered with the handkerchief linen I am using for this project), then try pulling a thread to create a straight guide to cut by. To do this cut into the selvedge and into a small amount of the fabric, just enough to pull a crosswise yarn with your fingers. The idea is to pull the thread to create a guide to cut by. Do not try to pull a thread all a in one go, the entire length of your fabric. The thread will most likely break, so pull a short distance, then cut.

Fabric gathers up along pulled thread used as cutting guide to straighten fabric edge.Fabric gathers up along pulled thread.

 When you pull the thread sometimes the fabric will gather up along the pulled thread. Simply smooth the fabric out a bit without pulling too much and cut along the guide the pulled thread has created. Continue the whole length of the fabric.

Use pulled thread as a guide to cut by to straighten fabric edge.Smooth gathered fabric out a bit and use pulled thread as a guide to cut by.

Just know that sometimes the fabric is not cut properly straight when you purchased it. Sometimes a printed design is unfortunately not printed straight on the fabric, which is most unfortunate. Sometimes nothing can be done to fix this issue.  Not all fabrics are created equal and knowing what to look for in fabric quality can help to avoid disappointment. 

Be aware that when fabric is not straight, you can lose precious inches, once the fabric is straightened. For this reason it is wise to buy a little bit more fabric than the pattern calls for. My rule of thumb is 1/4 of a yard more than I think I will need... just to be safe.

In the photo below you can see the attempts taken to find the straight edge of the fabric. I moved over gradually in order to determine the least amount of fabric to be wasted. This photo illustrates how incorrectly the fabric was originally cut. However, it is straight now!

 

The wasted fabric removed to restore the grain line.The wasted fabric removed to restore the grain line.

 

 

Gather Your Materials:

Photo of materials and pattern to make Middy Blouse View A & B.

 

  • 211 Two Middies pattern
  • pattern tracing material, if you are not cutting your pattern
  • fabric yardage
  • thread
  • buttons for the waistband (View B)
  • interfacing for cuff and waistband, if deemed necessary
  • bias tape tool, optional

... and all the usual tools and notions: pins, scissors, tracing paper, pattern weights, pencil for tracing, measuring tape or ruler, iron and ironing board. And a sewing machine in good working order.

If you decide to do any of the embroidery options provide in the pattern instructions then you will need embroidery thread, needles, and embroidery hoop for hand work.

Ready to Begin!

My inspiration comes from blue skies, white billowy clouds, warm sand, and sea glass. I have decided upon a pale taupe-gray cotton for the main body of View A, with a blue-green linen cross weave for the neck trim. For View B, I have chosen a beautiful light blue handkerchief linen and a very light weight white cotton lawn for a neck tie. 

Fabric and notions for Middy Blouse View AFabric and notions for Middy Blouse View A

Fabric and notions for Middy Blouse View BFabric and notions for Middy Blouse View B

 I hope this start of the Sew Along has given you some useful things to think about in planning your project. Have fun gathering your materials and dreaming up ideas for your Middy Blouse! I am off to trace my pattern and I will meet you back here to begin Day Two: Cutting & Sewing of the Folkwear 211 Two Middies View A.