Now it's safe to say that I have something of a pattern-crush on the Sencha blouse from Colette Patterns. Pictured above is my latest version which will soon be heading for a new life in my best mate's wardrobe (with regular outtings I hope!). It's made from some beautiful vintage crepe fabric. It's previous incarnation was as a large second hand handmade skirt that had been dwelling in my stash for at least six months. The colours in some of these photos have gone a bit screwy, but the above photo is the most accurate depiction. I've got some really lovely pieces of fabric in my stash, and I'm really trying to focus on turning them into wearable garments that will make someone happy, rather than languishing for years in a dark cupboard.
Well, I haven't seen a version of the Sencha blouse on the tinter-webs that hasn't made me feel want-y. But you know me, I just can't leave a pattern alone! Since my first (Sailor) endeavour, I've made quite a few Senchas for my boss and other ladies at Traid. I've continued to tweak the pattern and streamline the construction method so that, combined with the practice I've got from making them all, I can make six in a day (including cutting out) without, IMO, compromising the look of the original blouse style.
I'm betting there probably aren't many sewers out there who are interested in making six Senchas in one sitting. But I thought I'd share the bigger changes I've made in case it helps someone get more out of their limited sewing time. Of course, making these changes to the pattern will take some extra time in the first place, but if you plan to make several versions of this blouse, I think the changes'll pay off in the long run. Anyways, here's what I did:
1) Remove half of the seam allowance from the neckline on the front and back pattern pieces and completely ignore the neck facings. Then once you've attached the front and back pieces at the shoulder seams and neatened the shoulder seam allowance, overlock round the raw edges. Then fold the overlocking to the inside and stitch neatly down. Press the neckline with the iron and you should have a pleasingly neat finished neckline (see above) without the faff of a flapping facing.
2) Similarly, remove most of the sleeve facings leaving about 1cm (3/8") seam allowance. Overlock around the edge, fold the 1cm back and neatly stitch down. Press, and all will be well! (See above.)
3) The most major of the changes is to ignore the whole back button fastening thing, cut away the most of the back facing and insert a zip instead. Now, this would have been much easier to do if the Centre Back was marked on the original Sencha back pattern piece (which, inexplicably, it isn't) but it's easy to make an educated guess where the CB should be by seeing where the button/buttonhole indications are and just having a stab. You can always err on the side of caution and not cut too much away, then try the garment on before inserting the zip to decide if more needs to come off. I used a 1.5cm seam allowance and inserted a long closed ended zip (see above).
4) A general way to speed up the construction of garment is to, where possible, make closed seams rather than open ones. Basically, this means that after stitching your seam, you finish the edges of the seam allowances together rather than separately. With a closed seam, the seam allowances are pressed together in one direction, rather than pressing the seam allowances apart which makes an open seam.
I've spoken to a couple of clothing designers and pattern cutters about open seams V.s closed seams, and in situations where either are possible, and the consensus seems to be that the main benefits of closed seams is that they save time and overlocking thread. If you press your seams neatly during construction, from the outside both types of seam should look the same. If you were into making a couture-style garments, you'd probably opt for an open seam. I'm not. I'm into making neatly finished, nice looking garments that don't require an investment of months of precious sewing time to construct.
Anyways, as a fan of the mid-century kimono sleeve (AKA grown-on sleeve, Dolman sleeve, etc), I've long been seeking the neatest method of finishing the underarm seam at the curve to not create too much bulk. Having inspected lots of vintage garments with this type of sleeve, most seem to have had the seam allowance trimmed away at that curve and left with a raw or pinked edge. That can create a fraying issue, and the long term life span of a garment with raw edges concerns me. Therefore I've concluded that my favourite method for finishing this bit is to first make the whole of the side seam a closed seam. I flat-stitch as usual, then when I use my overlocker to neated the edges of the seam allowance, I basically cut away the seam allowance (overlockers, AKA sergers, have a blade in them that trims the fabric away as you sew) as close to my first stitching line as I dare. I then turn the garment through so the right-side is out and press the garment flat so the curve sits as it should do.
I hope any of those ideas/techniques come in handy to someone at some point. Happy Sencha (or any other kind of) sewing!