Launching today is the first post in our Bootstrap sew-along for the month of February. A reminder, we have three garments we’re making: a semi-fitted women’s blouse, a classic trouser, and a jacket with diagonal zipper. These garments were selected as being classic, yet having opportunity for many possible variations.

Today, I will be leading you through the semi-fitted women’s blouse. This is a rather slim-fit menswear-style top with gently-shaped side seams:semi-fitted-womens-blouse

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
This garment is probably the middle-ground of the three we’re featuring this month. Menswear shirt construction can be quick-and-dirty, or far more exacting when it comes to seam finishes. This sew-along will lean to the latter, but I will give you shortcut tips.

Let's Get Rambling!

OK – let’s get started!

For the true, absolute beginner – let me talk about the parts of the shirt, as we see them on the Bootstrap pattern sheet:

Bootstrap Fashion: Semi-fitted Womens Blouse (pattern sheet)

From top left: under collar, upper collar, back body, patch pocket, and front. The front is formed with a double fold placket. Some shirts will have a facing – either cut-on or separate – for the leading edge.
At bottom, from left: sleeve (including a fitted, 3/4 length), collar stand, cuff, and back yoke.

Shirt patterns may or may not include yokes, and the yokes could affix anywhere on the front and back of the shirt; this yoke is dropped to the front of the shirt slightly (shoulder lines are marked on the yoke pattern, about 1 1/4″ from the yoke edge). Collars can be made a variety of ways, but this is more or less standard: a slight difference between under and upper collar, to make a good-looking roll line, and a separate stand. This is a very fitted sleeve through the shoulder – in general, you can tell by the very high, narrow sleeve cap.

If you have any questions about shirt parts – post them in the comments!

I am using a very lovely cotton suiting from Mood Fabrics. This was listed as a “suiting” but I believe this may be an error as it is very light-weight, and fine like shirting. In any case, there is a 3/8″ stripe that is subtle, but important enough to stripe-match. To that end, I made sure to fold right on a stripe, to cut the shirt front and back (next two photos):

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Before cutting, note that I am going to be adding 1/4″ seam allowance to the armscye (for the yoke, sleeve, and front and back) so that I can French seam. If you plan on serging, or stitching and pinking, or a simple seam finish, you can keep the seam allowance at 3/8″. I do not recommend trying to French or flat-fell the seam without adding additional width, as the shoulder fit is a close one.

So, for most the marks on the raw edge, we can clip 1/8″ into the seam allowance:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

I used a thread-tack to place the pocket edge. As I am cutting the shirt precisely on-grain, and the pockets are placed precisely on the crossgrain, I only need to mark one corner of the pocket placement. You will notice my perforated marks – I have made this shirt a few times now!

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse


On your sleeve, make sure to clip in at the placket location (top notch, below) as well as all four pleat locations (the little “boxes” that intersect the raw edge):

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

And ah – the sleeve! I find it helpful to label the parts of the sleeve. It’s simply two easy to get confused otherwise. I also put a safety pin on the front, right side of the sleeve. This has saved me lots of time and headaches. Note also below, my added seam allowance for French seaming.

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Remember to cut the yoke pieces right on a stripe:
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

I cut one yoke from the shirting, and the other from a grey chambray (shown beneath the outer yoke). This is the only contrast fabric in this shirt:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Since the two collars are roughly the same size, I cut two layers of fabric to interface the collar and stand pieces:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Both my pockets, and the cuffs, will be cut on the crossgrain. This provides a little interest in the shirt. The top edge of the pocket will be interfaced (as shown by the penned line below)…Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

And the entirety of the cuff will be interfaced. Again, I cut a slightly larger double layer, and block-fuse. Block-fusing isn’t generally effective for larger garment pieces, but for these shirting elements it will do:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Finally, I interface two pieces for the placket. I have sewn up many, many shirt sleeve plackets (here is one method); you can use the pieces provided in the pattern, or one you find elsewhere. My method will be using a one-piece placket; if you want to use a two-piece method, simply cut up from the triangular slash point, after you’ve block fused:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Below: fused and serged pockets, ready for pressing:
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

The fused, then cut collarstand. Go ahead and mark your buttonhole placement (in blue carbon, at left) and your button placement (goldenrod thread). You don’t need to worry about which side is which, for now, as the collarstand pieces are identical:
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

The fused collar; mark “upper” and “under” in the seam allowance, to keep them straight later:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Marked: the leading edge of the buttonhole placement, on the fused cuffs (note crossgrain placement). Mark in mirrored fashion, on the right side of the two cuffs:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Go ahead and press the placket in a double fold as marked on the pattern piece. You can place the placket fold on the public or inner side of the garment; I chose the public side. Topstitch:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Press your pockets along seam allowances:Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Mark your pocket reinforcement triangles with chalk, as a stitching guide. You don’t need pocket reinforcement but if there’s any chance these pockets will be used, it is wise:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Pin the pocket (aligning side of pocket to grainline, and corner of pocket to thread-marked pocket position, and pin:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Start stitching your pocket. I start at the base of one of the triangles, and stitch the entire pocket in one seam:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
After finishing, bring the threads to the backside, knot, and pull the threads to hide them in the pocket seam allowance:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Time for the yokes! You can certainly sew both the outer and inner yoke to the shirt bakc at once, but I like to sew them separately. Here, I am affixing the outer yoke to the shirt back, right sides together, right on the seam allowance:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Now, I pin the inner yoke to the inside on this seam, right-side of yoke to inside of shirt:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

I stitch right on top of the previous seam:Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
… and then grade it. (We are in for LOTS of grading, people!) In general, you leave the seam allowance closest to the public side of the garment, as the longest seam allowance. Grade, then press the seam up:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
How, it’s time to create our finished shoulder seam! We are using the burrito method, which can be a bit confusing at first but it very simple (and is detailed on may blogs).

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Here is the pinned shoulder of the inner and outer yoke, right sides together, with the shirt body rolled up inside:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Stitch this seam, slowly and carefully, making sure not to catch the shirt body in the seam:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Now – grade these shoulder seams!Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Below – the shoulder seam, finger pressed:Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Set the shirt body aside. It’s time to mess with that pesky shirt placket! I am following a method almost identical to that so wonderfully illustrated on Pam Erny’s shirtmaking blog.

Most of the placket fuss, is making sure you set it up right. You will place the placket RIGHT side to the WRONG side of the sleeve, with he short placket piece towards the back part of the sleeve. The larger volume of the placket piece, is associated with the larger sleeve volume (if the placket line was cutting the sleeve in two):

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Carefully stitch that rectangle, 1/4″ from the slash line, pivoting 1/4″ from the raw edge) above. Then cut the triangle shape carefully, right to the corner of this rectangle:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Carefully turn and press the placket pieces to the right side of the sleeve (below, at right). Below at left, you’ll see the clean-finish on the wrong side of the sleeve:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Now, go ahead and mark with chalk, for reference to the top of the seam you just stitched. We are about to form the placket underlap:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Press the placket underlap seam allowance to the wrong-side of the underlap piece. Either finger- or steam-press:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Fold that long raw edge of the underlap at 1/4″ to the wrong-side of the underlap piece, and press:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Now fold this underlap on itself, enclosing the underlap-sleeve join. Press:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Stitch from the right-side, 1/16″ away from this fold and just two or three stitches past your marked line:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Here is this seam, from the inside of the sleeve. Lovely!Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Okay – time to tackle the overlap!  We will be taking our long raw edge (at bottom right in the photo below) and folding it and pressing it at 1/4″:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Steam- or finger-press the overlap-sleeve seam allowance to the wrong-side of the overlap piece; fold the raw edge fold to enclose that seam, and press:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Go ahead and fold or shape your overlap head any way you like! I enjoy a classic triangle:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

And – as per many awesome tailors before me, including David Page Coffin – I use a nice goupy bit of glue stick to really cement that triangle tip to the shirt. I usually set my sleeves aside to dry, and fiddle with something else for a while.

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
You can either stitch your overlap head down right along that previously-marked chalk line (as the aforementioned Pam Erny’s blog illustrates), or you can mark a parallel line a little further downstream. Just make sure both sleeves have the same markings:Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
To stitch, I start at the “closed” side of the assembly, stitch along this line, and pivot and turn to complete the “P” shape we end up with:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Much like our pocket, we will pull these starting threads to the inside of the garment, knot, and hide them in the underlap layer:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

While were’ fiddling with the sleeve, why not install our pleats? Make sure your pleats are symmetrical, when comparing the sleeves:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Time for the armscye! Remember, I added 1/4″ for a 5/8″ seam allowance, and I will be french seaming here. If you want a different finish, post in the comments and I can lead you through it.

So first, pin the sleeves at a scant 3/8″, wrong-sides together, and according to the sleeve markings:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Stitch the armscyes at that scant 3/8″ at about a 2 mm stitch (I lift my IDT and stitch with the sleeve head down, and the shirt body facing up). Using a tailor’s ham, press this seam open:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Here’s a view from the inside of the shirt:Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Now, trim the seams down to 1/8″. You will not want to catch any threads from the raw edge, in your second seam. And yes, it sucks to trim the two seam allowances separately, but it’s better to press open first, than to trim and then press open:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Now, this seam will be easier. 🙂 Finger press the seam back in on itself, and pin at 1/4″. By pressing this seam open, it should fold so beautifully at this point!

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Slowly stitch this seam – you will be stitching the garment right-sides together now. Go slowly but sew with confidence:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
OHMYGOSH, how gorgeous is this seam? Go ahead and steam-press it:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Now, it’s time to make up our side seams! We will French seam these as well, but I’m going to show you a little cheater method. Because the side seams are practically straight, we can make use of a serger (if we have one) to trim our first pass.

So first, pin and stitch the side seams wrong-sides together at that scant 3/8″ (eagle-eyed viewers will notice I’ve changed machines here! My foot pedal went out!):

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Again, press this seam open:
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

(From the inside of the shirt):
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Now serge at 1/8″, closing those raw edges right before they pass into the serger:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Perfect! Faster than trimming by hand, and no pesky threads.

Go ahead and fold the seam back on itself:Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
And stitch this seam! Make sure to pin well at the armpit, and sew slowly over this join.

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
This is the result you get from careful pinning – as you can see above I do not remove my pin until right before the needle traverses the intersection.

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Go ahead and lightly press these side seams. 

Now it’s time for that collar!

We are applying the outer stand first, then forming the collar, and then applying the inner stand – much like this well-photographed method by Andrea at Four Square Walls. This is when you need to think about which stand piece you will apply, depending on whether or not you want buttons on the right or left. This client I am sewing for (my oldest child!) identifies as non-binary, so I elected a masculine-style shirt with the buttonholes on the right. But don’t worry too much if you use the wrong stand piece – you can remark you buttonhole and button positions.

So first, pin the long raw edge of the stand, to the right-side of the neckline:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Shown below: the leading edge of the placket should intersect one seam allowance from the collar stand edge:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Start and end with a firm backstitch, right at that join shown above.

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Finger-pressed up – make sure there are no little puckers in that seam:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Now, pin the collar pieces right-sides together and sew. Sine the upper collar is slightly larger than the undercollar, I will pin and stitch with that piece against the machine bed:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Go ahead and grade and trim your collar points (if you are a point purist or want to be, DPC wrote a wonderful article on this subject last summer):

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

After clipping and grading, turn and press:Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
Here you can see the upper collar (at bottom), and how it gently rolls to conceal the seam on the under collar side:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse
I like to baste the bottom raw edge, at this point, before topstitching the collar:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

After topstitching, I pin the finished collar to a tailor’s ham and steam-shape it, leaving it to dry thoroughly before picking it up again.

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

Next, I pin the collar to the outer stand as marked, right-sides together, and stitch:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse