All About Alma

It took me a long time to make Alma.

I acquired the pattern about a decade ago (as calculated on the basis of sewing blogging and tweeting time. According to the Gregorian calendar, I acquired the pattern in October 2012.) I traced it almost as soon as I got it (yay me!) and then I did nothing with it for an age (boo me!)

Prior to Christmas, I cut out pieces. The fabric was acquired from The very lovely Kat of All the Whimsical Things at i think the very first Social Sewing day in September 2012. After cutting, I did nothing for an age (are you sensing a theme?)

The cut pieces sat on a hanger, which hangs off the floor lamp near My Sewing Corner. This is where all my started projects sit.

The WIP Station

The WIP Station

Cut Alma sat there for a long, long time. She watched a Tiramisu come and go. She watched three shift dresses come and go. If she were a person, she may have wept and wailed that I was not paying her any attention. Or she would have glared at me every time I sat down at the sewing machine with something else. If I was Alma, that’s what I would have done.

But, thankfully for me, she was, at that time, multiple inanimate, emotionless pieces of fabric, and I was projecting my own guilt onto her and then mirroring it back to myself. What a bizarre vortex of emotions, that affects nobody at all. And really, that vortex should barely affect me. But there you have it, those were the feelings around Alma.

I eventually started sewing Alma up in mid January. I sure as hey took my time with her. I picked her up; I got nervous; I put her down again. It was clear that every other project I was doing was procrastination from completing Alma. I don’t even know why. Sure, I was a bit nervous putting in an invisible zipper, and a bit perplexed by the shoulder/sleeve binding instructions, but why on earth did I avoid completing Alma for so very long? I honestly do not know.

Anyway, she is done, and I adore her. I’m definitely going to make more. Not sure how long each of the mores will take me. Hopefully, less time, as one of my sisters would like an Alma of her very own. I’d like to fulfil that desire in a timely (for me) fashion. My sister has been warned not to expect anything any time soon.

Also, I am not sure I made sense of the shoulder/sleeve binding instructions. I even tweeted Tasia to ask her but got no reply.

In case someone goes a-googling like I did to try to make sense of it, here is what I worked out and I hope I’m right.

I basted, as Ms Bimble and Pimble would say, like a boss. But, sadly for me, I basted on the sewing line (that is 5/8″ from the edge of the fabric) I should have basted on the inside of the seam allowance (that is, anywhere closer to the cut edge than 5/8″). Foolish me. When instructions say baste, always baste inside the seam allowance. Otherwise, you will have to put the sewing away and wait for a day when you feel like unpicking the unsightly exposed stitching.

This is how not to baste.  Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

This is how not to baste. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Where I had issues was with the instructions about binding.

The instructions are:-

Pin armhole binding to armhole with raw edges together, matching notches, and sew.
Trim seam allowance close to stitching, press binding to inside and edge stitch close to fold.

Is this terribly clear to everybody but dense me?

Eventually, I found the answer by googling images of sewn up Alma blouses, enlarging pictures and staring at the shoulder seam. The clearest image was Lauren Llladybird’s plaid Alma, where you can see the stitching line. Lauren is a ridiculously accomplished seamstress, so I was happy to concede that this was the correct way of reading the instructions.

So, you are supposed to sew the folded over piece – #8 – and then stitch it down. In effect, you will get some top stitching appearing from the other side, but if you match your thread very nicely (woo hoo! I did this!), it is barely visible.

I maintain that the shoulder/sleeve binding is weird. However, I cannot work out how to make it less weird. (Word me up if you’ve got a fancy shmancy trick.)

Was it only me who thought this was completely bizarre? The bizarreness is the appearance of the top-stitching on the right side. It’s barely noticeable, but it’s just weird. I don’t have a problem with it, I just think there must be a better, non-top stitching way. Not that I don’t like top-stitching. I’m rather a fan, and I top-stitched the facing at the neck-line down like nobody’s business (two lines, even). Since completing Alma #1, I’ve noticed that, on almost all of my partner’s shirts, the stitching line at the shoulder seam is similarly visible. I had no idea.

On the subject matter of top-stitching, I discovered that top stitching is best done with a slightly longer stitch length. So, if you sew at stitch length 2, you should increase to 3, or maybe even 4 if you’re feeling all crazy-like, for top stitching. I sew at 2 (most of the time), top-stitch at 3 and baste at 4.

It took me a month to complete this single step because it just kept weirding me out. Every time I came to do it, I would re-read the instructions and think, “But that can’t be right,” pick up the garment, stare at the shoulder sleeve, put the garment down and think about it some more. Perhaps, I’m the one with the problem.

Really, I love this top.  Posing for pics in my made garments? Not so much.

Really, I love this top. Posing for pics in my made garments? Not so much.

But the pace of this project actually worked well for me. I’ve found there is always a point when making something up that I get suddenly nervous: that it won’t work out; that it’s ugly; that it won’t fit; that I cease to like it. But if I just leave it and come back later, I’ll love it again. It’s weird and irrational, but that just seems to be my way.

This will not be the last Alma. I finished this Alma quite a while ago, and have worn it roughly once a week! I have orders from my sisters, and I definitely plan more for me. It is a perfect work blouse for me. But there are other things in the sewing queue at the moment, and quite a few almost finished projects that I need to finish, and then blog about. You cannot wait, can you?

Oh, for more hours in the day, or fewer hours at work, or another me.



  1. This. Is. Radness! Absolutely love this version and that fabric is delish (Kat is such an awesome fabric enabler) I wasn’t happy with my armhole finishing on my version- I will be prick stitching it into place next time as I don’t like the topstitching. You owned this Alma like a boss!


    1. Thanks 🙂 Kat is quite the fabric enabler!
      I don’t know about this prick stitching, but if it involves hand sewing … I’m not on board!


  2. Hi Oanh! I remember being a bit confused about the sleeves too… for me the issue was being confused about bias-band finishing the WHOLE arm seam, even under the sleeve itself! I remember that Tasia used a similar bias finish on part of the Sorbetto – I think it is her way of making easy a self-fabric “bias tape” effect, withou having to make bias tape! It is a bit confusing though, and I just checked – My top stitching shows too! in theory stitching in the ditch should hide the stitches, but that’s a bit tricky to do on a fiddly armhole seam. Your finished blouse looks great though – Well done! 🙂


    1. Hi Gillian!
      Yes, I got my head around bias tape finishing armholes where there were no sleeves but I’m glad you too think this is weird. I’m not so good at stitching in the ditch…


  3. I love your posts. Sew more. Blog more. That’s an order.
    From memory with my Alma, I sewed the binding on, turned it under and slip stitched it down. Just seemed neater. Just think of it like putting bias binding on an edge.


      1. Oh it’s just what you do when you don’t have a chance to sit at the sewing machine, you know while the pot is boiling, trying to spend time with significant other etc. LOL

      1. Hi Oanh, ditch stitching is easier if you pull both sides of the fabric when you are feeding through the machine as you can see better to sew in the ditch!
        I think your blouse is lovely and suits you very well! Carry on sewin’

  4. Alma didn’t complain because she just knew that you’d appreciate her once you got round to her 🙂 Love your writing style Oanh, I always get a good giggle 🙂 It’s gorgeous on you, too!


  5. Love your Alma! She’s a beauty. I too was perplexed by the armhole instruction, but I love hand sewing so I took it as an opportunity to multitask. Sewing while watching TV makes me feel less guilty about being a couch potato.


    1. Sewing while watching TV is the perfect storm for me to sew myself to the garment and the sofa. I am not talented enough!


  6. I I had a sudden vivid mental image of you saying “But that can’t be right when I got to that part! Love the blouse. I don’t have the pattern tho so can’t comment on the construction.


  7. I was a little confused by the sleeves too (not much the instructions but the result): why bind the inside of the seam? Plus if your fabric is a little on the heavy side, it means that this area will look a little bulky. So I agree with you, there must be some other way. About men’s shirts, are you sure it’s top-stitching and not the result of flat-felled seams (usually the main type of seam used in men’s shirts)?
    Your Alma looks great! oh and I love the way you neatly pack your wips, mine always end up in a lump somewhere..


    1. Thanks, Sophie! I’m so glad I’m not the only one perplexed by this.
      Re men’s shirts: I’m not certain they’re not flat felled seams, but my business shirts don’t have the same treatment at the armhole seam, even though all the rest is flat felled, but my Partner’s shirts do. Most perplexing…


  8. Oh, Oanh, I love Alma! I think I’d be pretty perplexed at the complicated sleeve/arm instructions and probably fake something easier. And you’re posing really well. It’s the facial expressions that I love, though 😉


    1. Yes, I was most impressed with my face in this one. I’m a great face puller. I think i hear the catwalks of Milan and Paris calling …


    1. I’m kind of surprised that I am a follow the instructions sort of sewist, but I reckon as soon as I’m confident, ill be off free styling it. As with my cooking, so will be my sewing!


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