Linen is one of my favorite summery fabrics. While most people tend to focus on the impracticality of a fabric that wrinkles the second you put it on, I’m a fan of how breezy and wearable it is. The versatility of linen is one of it’s best selling points because it can be dressed up or down and it’s insanely comfortable at the same time. Not to mention, it’s a natural fiber which makes it perfect for DIY projects that involve heat and dye, which, let’s be honest, is nearly all of my projects.
I knew I wanted to make a lightweight, swingy blouse when I ordered this flax colored linen a couple months ago. I immediately narrowed it down to a simple sleeveless top that would go with anything, but after weeks of thinking about it I realized I also wanted to add some pretty ruffled cap sleeves to make it more interesting. Like all of my sewing projects, the final product came about through trial and error.
Lots and lots of it.
Let me just tell you, while a little ruffle sleeve looks easy, the actual construction behind it nearly made my head pop off*. But once I finally got the shape figured out, it was easy as pie to put together.
When all was said and done, I got out some old dyes I had leftover from a few projects of yore and mixed up the perfect orangey-red color. Then I simply dipped my shirt into the dye and let it absorb the color at varying increments to get a pretty ombre effect.
Despite all the trial and error this little shirt caused me, I’m super smitten with how it turned out!
*Ps. I apologize if the step-by-step pictures are less than obvious – after ripping and re-ripping seams, the process got a little muddled. Hopefully my descriptions will help, but if you try this and you still have questions, email me and I’d be glad to help!
1 1/2 yards linen
Pen and paper (to create a pattern)
Stitch Witchery fusible hem tape
Dye suited for natural fibers
Old shirt that fits
Double fold binding tape (I used Dritz)
Needle for hand-sewing
Before you get stared, be sure to wash and dry your linen fabric to prevent any unwanted shrinking later.
- Take an old shirt and place it on top of your piece of heavy paper. Trace the body of the shirtand the sleeves separately as best you can (they don't have to be perfect). To trace the sleeve, I free hand sketched the shape of the sleeve as it looked when the shirt was lying flat, then when it came time to cut it, I folded the piece of paper along the upper/outside edge to get the front and back of the sleeve.
- Cut out your template pieces.
- Take your sleeve pattern piece and cut about 6 long slits in it, starting at the flat edge and extending to the curved edge. Do not cut all the way through the curved edge. Next splay the sections until youget a large curved shape (see the red shape in Step 3 above). Trace.
- Trace the body pattern piece onto your linen (this will be the front of your shirt). Be sure to add a 1/2 inch seam allowance, then cut.
- Cut your the body piece down the center so you have two separate halves (this will be the two back pieces). Trace each half onto your fabric with a 1/2 inch seam allowance all the way around. Cut.
- Lay your two back pieces on top of your single front piece with right sides together and line up the seams. Pin along the edge where the back should meets the front shoulder. Sew along this seam.
- Open the shirt right side up so that the front piece is laying to the left and the back pieces are laying to right, connected by the shoulder seams in the middle. Next, fold your sleeve pieces down the middle and iron to make a crease - this will help you center the sleeves on the shirt. Take your sleeves, and lay them right side down (so that right sides are facing each other) with the fold in the sleeve lining up with the shoulder seam. Pin to the shirt with curves perfectly aligned and sew together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.
- Finish the arm hole by folding the seam allowance over by 1/2 inch the rest of the way around and securing with your Stitch Witchery fusible tape and an iron.
- Now take your shirt and, with right sides together, pin both side seams together. Sew the side seams.
- Hem the bottom edge and two edges at the center of the back by folding each edge over 1/2 inch, press with an iron, then fold another 1 inch and press again. Pin and sew.
- Mark out where you want your buttons and button holes to be.
- Take your double fold binding tape and fold it over top the raw edge at the neckline. Pin in place and then sew. I used an edge stitch foot to get the stitch nice and close to the inner edge where the binding meets the shirt.
- Make your button holes. The process will vary by machine. Here is a nice detailed guide on making button holes on a machine. Sew on your buttons by hand.
- Finally, dip dye your shirt using any natural fiber dye you like. Follow the instructions on the package for tub dying. Wet your shirt first and dip the top 1/3 of the shirt into the dye bath for a few seconds. Slowly pull the shirt out of the dye in increments until your get the desired concentration of dye. Rinse your shirt in cool water and then use the gentle cycle on your washing machine to get rid of any remaining dye. Let dry.
Rather than hem the sleeves and add bulk to the ruffle, I left the hem raw to retain the soft, frayed look. In order to keep them from fraying too much, I covered most of the sleeve with a piece of newspaper and then used a sprayable fray check on the outer most edge right where the fray starts.