Sunday, 7 March 2021

Fixing Butterick 5997

Back in February 2019 I posted about making Butterick 5997 and the problems with the finished article, namely the absurd amount of overlap on the cuffs and the alarmingly low front. (There was no doubt about the cuffs, but I wondered if I was being overly fussy about the front, so I asked a friend for a second opinion - her response of, "Blimey, I see what you mean", convinced me that I wasn't being fussy!)

The cuffs were far too wide for me, hence the massive overlap

The low-cut front, with a tee-shirt underneath

I vaguely thought about trying to fix it, but other projects always claimed precedence, so it just hung on a hanger for the better part of two years.

The catalyst for doing something about it was that I recently read Overdressed, by Elizabeth L. Cline (thanks for the recommendation, Juliana), about fast fashion. While I don't buy many clothes nowadays, Cline's exhortation to fully utilize the clothes you own - either by wearing them or passing them on to charity, did make me think about my unworn top. At the same time I read somewhere that charity shops in the UK can't resell handmade clothes because they lack the legally-required composition labelling, so just sell them on for scrap. I don’t know if this is true, but the risk of my top being shredded for seat stuffing struck me as a criminal waste of Tana Lawn, so there was no option but to finally fix it.

The cuffs were relatively straightforward. I calculated that there was 1¼" of excess fabric beyond the button, so I cut off the button, unpicked the cuff from the sleeve, thanked past Ms Tulip for not trimming the seam allowances to nothing, shortened the cuff, pleated up the excess sleeve width, reattached the cuff and reattached the button. There was already a pleat at the buttonhole end of the cuff, and I was sorely tempted to create a matching pleat at the button end so that I wouldn’t have to unpick the whole cuff. But if a job's worth doing . . . . Regretfully, I decided that there was no point replacing something which annoyed me with something else which annoyed me slightly less, and did the job properly. There are now two pleats at the buttonhole end.

The fixed cuff, with pleats (plural)

The only possible solution for the low front was to make an infill piece. I did consider making it from leftovers of the fabric, but decided that it would look odd. So instead I made it from scraps of plain white cotton left over from my Victorian underwear.

The first job was to work out the size of the new piece. The top is pull-on, and there would be no point in carefully making and attaching the infill, only to discover that I couldn't get the end result over my head! Once this was decided, a 'pattern' was made by laying a piece of tissue inside the top in the correct position, drawing along the finished edge, and then adding an allowance for the overlap. I hand-pintucked a piece of the cotton, and added some tiny purple buttons. Next, I sewed on another piece of cotton along the top edge, right sides together, and folded it over. This created a neat edge, and also made the insert less flimsy. I marked the outer edge of the pattern with a frixion pen, and machined the two pieces together.

Making the insert from cotton scraps

I had considered unpicking the neckline of the top and fitting the insert between the top and the facing, but this seemed a step too far. Instead I overlocked the edges of the insert, and sewed it onto the facing, close to the edge.

The attached insert, from the inside . . .

. . . and from the outside

It's fortunate that the print of the fabric is quite old-fashioned looking, so the insert doesn't look entirely out of place. Also, I think that sewing the pieces together as close to the blouse edge as possible helps to make the insert look like part of the top rather than something worn underneath.

Wearing the updated top

I doubt if this will ever be a 'favourite' top, but it has a lot of design features which I like, and I will, now, finally, get some wear out of it. It’s always very tempting to just move from one shiny, exciting new project to the next one but as with the 'Meh' skirt, I did find taking the time to finally fix this a surprisingly satisfying job.

The side view makes it clearer that the insert isn't a separate garment


  1. Glad you enjoyed the book! The blouse looks lovely, and I'm glad you made it work for you!!

    1. Thanks Juliana! Having worn the bluse a couple of times now, it is definitely growing on me!

  2. The insert is perfect! I love that you did pin tucks and put buttons on. Neither would have occurred to me. It looks great!

    1. Thank you Gisella. I wanted to make it look like something which was meant to be there there, rather than something covering an awkward gap!