Draft Your Own Peasant Blouse Pattern

Draft Your Own
Peasant Blouse
Pattern
(tutorial by Kate & Rose for Soma Patterns)
Sylvie, thank you for the opportunity to post this tutorial! Zero or low-waste sewing is
important to me - not least because I grew up in Cold War-era Hungary. My grandma
was an incredible recycler-upcycler-reuser, she could figure out so many ways to use
things rather than throw them away. I know that one of the goals of Soma Patterns is
to make patterns that reduce fabric waste, which is something central to folklore
sewing, and also very important to me.
Part of my uniform as a creative professional and mom of two little kids is The Peasant
Blouse. It's easy to wear, easy to make - I own a huge variety, and keep making them
over and over. I’m going to show you how to make one of the most classic styles, which
looks a lot like the style you’re most familiar with when you think of a peasant blouse.
[Figure 1]
DIY Peasant Blouse Pattern - Kate & Rose !
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But there’s a twist: I’m going to show you the old-school way to do it, the way it was
made of homespun linen in Eastern European villages, India, Rennaissance-era Italy,
and much longer ago... It’s a way to make clothes that’s been around for many
hundreds of years, before easy access to scissors that let you cut curves easily, before
people stopped worrying about wasting fabric by cutting curved pattern pieces. I mean,
if you made the fabric yourself, you’ll probably want to use every last scrap of it,
wouldn’t you?
A very folksy way to look at things: make a blouse by tearing off rectangles of fabric
and sewing them together. [Figure 2]
I’m from Hungary and in Hungarian-speaking villages, this kind of blouse would most
often have been made up of a 240 cm (95") length of fabric that's 70-72 cm (28") wide.
None of the fabric would have been wasted. It would be one-size-fits-all so it would
have a LOT of fullness to, you know, fit a lot of body types.
It’s quite easy to adapt the design for a more contemporary look, and draft a pattern
for a blouse you'll actually want to wear. In fact it’s so easy I’m almost embarrassed!
A word of caution: this isn’t classic patternmaking but, rather, folklore sewing, which
is to say we try to make do with what we have on hand and don’t worry much about
going by the book. Because... there is no book.
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OK, let’s get started! First, gather your supplies:
- notebook
- measuring tape
- scissors or rotary cutter or cutting device of your preference, a quilting ruler might
come in handy too
- fabric - traditionally you would of course use linen, hemp or cotton but really, use
anything you want. I prefer lightweight fabrics with some drape and a soft hand like
cotton voile, lightweight silks or rayon, lightweight linen - thread, sewing machine, and - if you like - a bit of embroidery thread
We’ll begin by taking some measurements. You’ll need your bust circumference, the
length you’d like your blouse to be in the center back, and the length you’d like for
your sleeve. Wear something with a neckline you like and measure the desired sleeve
length starting at the neckline. [Figure 3]
My bust is 36” (91.5 cm); I’d like the blouse to be roughly hip-length, which for me is
23” (58.5 cm), and I wanted a 3/4-ish sleeve so the sleeve length from neckline to
sleeve hem should be about 22” (56 cm).
We’ll need a few more measurements: for the width of the sleeve, the width of the
cuffs, and the neckline of the blouse.
To measure for the sleeve width, make a circle of the tape, slip it over your hand and
adjust it so it comfortably encircles your arm around your shoulder and armpit, and
measure this.
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For the cuff, tighten this circle and fit it loosely at the point where you’d like the
sleeve to end, making sure it’s wide enough to go over your hand.
For the neckline, lay a large circle of tape around your shoulders, roughly where you’d
like the neckline to be. This is why it really helps to wear something with a neckline
you like, you can just use it as your guide. (I really like the front neckline of this old
leotard left over from my flamenco-dancing days - though obviously the low back is
entirely unsuitable for a blouse ;) [Figure 4]
My armhole width came to 15” (38 cm), my cuff 10” (25.5 cm), and my neckline 32” (81
cm).
Now let’s turn these measurements into pattern pieces. Here are the pattern pieces
we’ll need with the traditional proportions and pattern piece sizes [Figure 5]:
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We’ll use our own measurements to personalize them.
Take half your bust measurement (for me - 36:2=18"), we’ll add to this number to
create nice fullness. I like far less bulk than the average peasant blouse so I’ll only add
4" (10 cm). You can arrive at your own preferred number by the highly scientific
method of laying your favorite blouse flat, measuring it across the bustline, and
comparing it to your bust measurement. By this method, the width of my bodice pieces
comes to 22" (56 cm), and the length will be the center back length I wanted: 23” (58.5
cm).
Let’s do the sleeves. Take the measurement you took round the armhole, we’ll add to it
to create comfy and cute fullness in the sleeves. Peasant blouses will add at least 1/2 to
this measurement (mostly more than that), but 1/2 extra works out to a pretty nicelooking sleeve so that’s what I’m going to use. My armhole measurement was 15” (38
cm), I’ll add 7.5 (19), so I have 22.5” (57 cm) for the width of the sleeve. The sleeve
length I wanted was 22” or 56 cm.
We’ll also need underarm gussets (two squares sewn into the armpit area) to shape the
flat and motionless sleeves and bodice to our 3-dimensional and mobile bodies. The
pattern in Figure 5 used 10cm by 10 cm (4” by 4”) squares for the gussets, another
common size is 15 cm by 15 cm (6” by 6”). I prefer the larger ones because they work
better with skinnier sleeves.
We’ll finish the sleeves with cuffs: I measured 10” (25.5 cm) so I’ll take that plus twice
the width of the seam allowance for the length, and I’ll use 4” (10 cm) for the width
because it looks nice (and also, that’s how my fabric worked out).
Finally, the neckline binding: 32” (81 cm) plus twice the width of the seam allowance
will be the length (for me that’s 32 7/8” or 83 cm), and 2-3” (5-7 cm) in width, 2 1/2 is
what my fabric allows.
One last thing: I didn’t add seam allowance to the sleeves and bodice pieces because I
felt they were plenty wide enough the way they were, but you most certainly can, if
you prefer. About seam allowance: my (fairly stern) grandma taught me to sew with a 1
cm (3/8”) seam allowance and now I feel like I’m wasting fabric if I use more. Plus, by
now I can eyeball 1 cm anywhere and why would I waste that skill?
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Here are my personal pattern pieces [Figure 6]:
This is where we can begin economizing! You may or may not have enough fabric to fit
all of these pattern pieces in exactly these sizes. Some of the measurements are nonnegotiable: the bodice width, the sleeve width, the neckline length and the cuff length,
but others are much more open to interpretation. I used a vintage sari of mysterious
fabric make-up for my blouse, with a width of 42” (110 cm). I wanted to use the border
print at the bottom of the blouse, and on the cuffs and neck binding, but then I didn’t
have quite enough fabric to fit the full length of my sleeve pieces, so I made them a bit
shorter. I wanted to be all traditional so I added extra width to the cuffs and neck
binding and folded them under instead of using interfacing (because you’re unlikely to
find interfacing in a very traditional peasant blouse).
To assemble the blouse, stitch the side seams, leaving 24-25cm or 9.5-10" open at the
top. It’s the width of the gusset (15 cm or 6”) plus the area where you’ll attach the
sleeve (another 10 cm or 4”- roughly). Insert two adjacent sides of each gusset into the
opening at the top of the side seams, matching the corner to the point where you
stopped stitching. Sew from the center points outwards. [Figure 7]
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Stitch the sleeve seam, leaving 20 cm or 8 inches open at the top, just like you did with
the bodice. (I finished the seam allowances together but you can finish and press them
apart, if you prefer.) Line up the open portion of the sleeve seam with the armhole you
created, making sure that tip of the gusset fits into to the end of the opening in the
sleeve seam. [Figure 8]
Stitch, then repeat on the other side. Finish seam allowances and press towards the
sleeve. Traditional dancewear is also often topstitched on all seams but my fabric was
a little thin for this.
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Next we’ll create the neckline. First, cut a small vent (4” or 10 cm long) on the front
bodice. It’s starting to look like a blouse, isn’t it? I finished this opening by rolling
under the edges for a kind of rolled hem. (Traditionally it’s finished with decorative
handstitching with contrasting thread.) [Figure 9]
Gather the neckline to the length of the neckline binding. Line up binding with
neckline, leaving 1 cm seam allowance on either end. Stitch one edge of the neckline
binding to the neckline on the right side. Press, then fold binding under twice to cover
all the raw edges and press in place, also folding in the seam allowance at the ends of
the binding. Topstitch all along the neckline and press again. I also added a loop-andstring closure, using some pretty variegated Valdani embroidery thread that matches
the colors of the blouse, twisting six strands into a thicker string. Very folksy looking,
right? [Figure 10]
To finish the sleeves, fold the cuffs in half and stitch along the open edge. Press seam
allowances open. Gather the sleeves with 2-3 rows of gathering stitches to the length
of the cuffs. With right sides together, stitch one edge to the gathered sleeve hem.
Press to set the seam, then fold under twice to create a binding that covers all raw
edges, the same way as the neckline binding. [Figure 11]
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Oh hey whaddya know! It’s a peasant blouse!
You can of course change and modernize the look any way you like. If you want to
make a tunic or night gown or smock dress (OK - not that modern) and would like to
add more fullness towards the bottom of your garment, you can easily do so by cutting
two more long rectangles of fabric, cutting both in half to form right-angled triangles,
and sewing them to the sides of the bodice pieces before closing the side seams.
[Figure 12]
Or you can get yourself some funky fabric and make a HUGE underarm gusset to make
a batwing blouse! [Figure 13]
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