Thursday, 25 November 2021

Denim Shirt Anthea Blouse

I'm so excited to finally share this project with you because more went into it than most of my projects. More time and more techniques, and a lot more thought. This was an idea-itch that I had to scratch, and I was more invested in manifesting my idea than the actual outcome. However, I do love the outcome also!

This secondhand denim shirt has been in my stash for a shameful ten years! I feel bad about that because it's possible that someone else could have been during that time. Anyhow, I was keeping it out of landfill at least! I've always loved those pearly snaps and knew that they had to be included in whatever it was to become.

I'd had my eye on the Anthea blouse pattern by Anna Allen (pictured below) as soon as I clapped eyes on it. I have adored every single version I've seen on Instagram. And it's been a very popular pattern so there are a TON of versions to behold! 

(image source: Anna Allen)

The problem was that I didn't have any pieces of fabric in my stash suitable for the pattern, and I couldn't justify buying a new pattern AND new fabric when I already own a lot of both. I'm not exactly sure where the idea came from to use the denim shirt, but I've been having so many inspiring conversations with interesting people lately for my podcast, Check Your Thread, that my mind is kind of permanently in this kind of zone these days. 

I removed the front pockets so I could fit the Anthea front pattern pieces on, and I love how a shadow of the pockets remain. I reapplied the pocket flap on one side to reference the removed pockets, and stitched it into position with random sashiko style stitching. For this I used some 'proper' sashiko thread that I bought on eBay a couple of years ago but had yet to try. That spot on the sleeve is a hole that I covered with satin stitch to stop it getting any bigger.

As you can probably imagine, this project was not without it's challenges, but I like how the challenges determined the aesthetic in some cases. For example, the pattern pieces for the body were wider at the hem than the original shirt. So I ended up piecing together the side seams with sections of the original collar (see above). I then decided to highlight the join with another row of sashiko-style stitching, which is a theme that I continued throughout the project.

The sleeve pattern pieces on the Anthea are pretty massive, far larger than the original shirt's sleeves. So to form a sufficient area of fabric, I had to piece together pieces of the original sleeves with lots of other pieces harvested from the original garments. I didn't think about it too much, just joined the edges with my overlocker, then 'topstitched' down the seam by hand using a mixtures of stitching styles that I was totally winging. 

I really like the hints of shading and differing colours that existing in the original shirt. However, I tried to play down the patchwork vibe a little, I'm not sure if I quite hit the right balance. 

I made binding from some scraps of lightweight washed denim from my stash. That was used to finish the neckline and the sleeve hems. I don't really like the bias for the sleeve hems and I think the opening is a bit wide. I think I'll go back at some point and make cuff bands instead. 

What is incredibly pleasing is the little pile of scraps that remain from this project. I really wish that I'd weighted the original shirt, and then weighed the scraps to see if I beat the industry average of 15% of fabric wasted during the cutting process.  

The lack of available fabric meant that I couldn't really overthink the placement of various elements in this garment. That felt pretty freeing actually, and I just have to accept the outcome and find elements to enjoy. 

I haven't owned a proper denim shirt since I was a teenager, so I was very surprised by how warm it actually is. Pictured below is how I've enjoyed wearing it the most since I finished it: layered with a long sleeved thermal top underneath and dungarees on top.  

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