Tutorial: How to make the ‘Deco Echo’ blouse

As promised, and per popular demand, a tutorial on my Deco Echo blouse!

First, a caveat.  This blouse best suits a figure with a small bust and less than 10″ bust/waist difference. If you have larger bust, you could try adding length and side-bust darts.  It would also help to taper the side panels in at the bottom, and to add a opening (either buttons up the CB, or a side fastening with snaps or hooks).

The finished Deco Echo blouse

Fabric: I used the panels of silk crepe from the susomawashi (the lower lining) of a kimono for my blouse.  I recommend lightweight silk or cotton fabrics.  Silk crepes are particularly nice because of their drape.

My blouse of silk crepe, side view

The blouse is made from 5 rectangles – two large ones, two narrow ones, and one really long and narrow one for the waist tie.

The blouse with the ties undone so you can really see the shapes

To make a blouse to fit a 34″ bust you will need:

  • 2x 21″ x 13.5″ (l x w) rectangles – these will be your front and back panels.
  • 2x 10.75″ x 6.5″ (l x w) rectangles – these will be your side panels
  • 1x 54″ x 4.75″ (l x w) – this is your waistband

To make a blouse to fit a 36″ bust you will need:

  • 2x 21″ x 14″ (l x w) rectangles – these will be your front and back panels.
  • 2x 10.75″ x 7″ (l x w) rectangles – these will be your side panels
  • 1x 56″ x 4.75″ (l x w) – this is your waistband

To make a blouse to fit a 38″ bust you will need:

  • 2x 21″ x 14.5″ (l x w) rectangles – these will be your front and back panels.
  • 2x 10.75″ x 7.5″ (l x w) rectangles – these will be your side panels.
  • 1x 58″ x 4.75″ (l x w) – this is your waist tie.
If you are very tall or have a long torso, you may wish to add length to the front/back and side panels.  If you are petite, don’t worry about the length – that’s easy to adjust later on in the sewing process.
  • Step 1: Finishing: Finish all four edges of all the panels with narrow hem stitching.  It’s important that all the edges are finished nicely, because the finished seams of the panels also form the armhole & collar edges.

    Seam & top edges finished with narrow hem stitching

  • Step 2: Side seams:Sew the narrow side panels to the front & back panels using 1/2″ seam allowances, right sides together, carefully lining up the bottom edges.

    The side front and back seams

  • Step 3: Fitting the sides and shoulders, and checking the length:Hand-baste the shoulders of the blouse together 2 1/2″ from the loose collar ends.  Make sure you do it really loosely – so its easy to unpick if it needs adjusting.  Pull the blouse on over your head.  Check the fit.  Is it too loose?  Take in the side seams.  Too tight?  Let them out.  Check the fit of the shoulders.  If the side panels are too low on you, sew the shoulder tacks lower.  If the side panels are too high, let the neckline out.  Now, check the length.  The bottom as it is should sit right at, or just the tiniest bit below your natural waist.  Remember that you have about 4 1/4″ of waistband to add.

    The inside out blouse with the waist-ties undone

  • Step 4:  The shoulders:  Hand-sew the shoulders together properly – .  Use matching thread, because it will show on the outside (I used white so you could see what I did).  Sew in from the front of the blouse, out the back, and in through the front again, enclosing the edge in your thread.

My sewn shoulder seams

  • CFStep 5:  The waist tie:  Carefully mark the CB & CF points of the bottom of the blouse, and the mid point of the waist tie.  Pin the waist tie to the blouse body, matching the CB of the blouse & the mid point of the waist tie.  Leave a 3″ gap unpinned at the CF of the blouse.  Sew the waist tie to the blouse using a tiny less than 1/4″ seam allowance, or an edge to edge machine faggoting stitch (this is what I did, but it’s a bit trickier), leaving your 3″ gap at the CF.  An easy way to do a cheater machine-faggoted join is the lay the two edges right next to each other, and use the stitch that looks like a zig-zag with running stitches.  

My machine faggoted join

  • Step 6:  The divided back collar:  Carefully mark the CB of the blouse, and cut a line 4″ down from the top of the collar along the centre back line.  Finish the edges of the cut with a zig zag stitch with a moderate length, and the narrowest width (basically, a buttonhole zig-zag).  Reinforce the bottom of the point.  I know it sounds like cheating, but it actually looks quite good!

The blouse back

The finished edges of my divided back collar

And that’s it!  You are done!

I had fun making my ‘Deco Echo’ blouse – it was so fast and easy.  And I had fun wearing it.  I hope you have the same experience!

There are all sorts of variants that you could do to this blouse – add a divided collar in front as well as back, or instead of back.  Add a button opening up the back.  Play – have fun!

Waitangi Day

Today is Waitangi Day – New Zealand’s version of Nation Day or the 4th of July.

Waitangi in the Far North

As an outsider, I find Waitangi Day a most peculiar holiday, because it isn’t a celebration.  It is, at best, a sort of uneasy acknowledgement of the beginnings of New Zealand as a nation.

This is my understanding of Waitangi Day:

Waitangi Day specifically commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands on 6 Feb 1840.

The beach at Waitangi, looking out over the Bay of Islands

The Treaty of Waitangi is to New Zealand what the Magna Carta is to the UK, or the Declaration of Independence is the US: it’s our founding document.

In some ways, it’s a good founding document.  It’s short, and simple.  It did three basic things: it establishes a British governorship over NZ (the NZ government essentially inherited this governorship), recognised that the Maori owned NZ, and had a right to their land and properties, and, finally, gave Maori the rights of British citizens.

Well, sort of.  At the same time, it’s a terrible founding document.

You see, the problem with the Treaty of Waitangi is that it wasn’t written by experienced treaty writers.  It wasn’t written to be a nation’s founding document.  And, worst of all, it was translated into the language of the most important half of the signers (the local Maori) by people who weren’t translators, and didn’t speak the language they were translating well.

So the English and Maori versions of the Treaty say isn’t the same thing.  What the Maori chiefs who signed the Treaty probably thought they were getting and giving, isn’t what the British signees thought they were getting and giving.

Talk about a recipe for disaster!

To make it worse, it wasn’t like every single Maori chief in NZ signed the Treaty: a small group of chiefs in the Far North of New Zealand signed it.  And quite a few Far North chiefs refused to sign it.

See that bit up the top called 'Bay of Islands'? See how far it is from the rest of NZ?

And after the initial signing of the Treaty, copies of it (many of which said different things than the original Treaty) were taken around New Zealand for other chiefs to sign.  But many, many chiefs didn’t sign it, and the initial problem with the translations not agreeing was compounded.

And despite the Treaty recognising that the Maori owned the land, much of it was still bought at unfair prices, or flat-out stolen, over the next few decades.

So today Waitangi Day is not a celebration.  Depending on where you stand, it is source of anger, or grief, or guilt, or frustration, or (at the best) indifference.  Very few people appreciate Waitingi Day as anything more than a day off work.

An annual commemoration is held at the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi where the Treaty was signed.  As often as not the Prime Minister is harrassed, shouted at, and has to be rushed away from the event by security.  Sometimes members of the Royal Family, as representatives of the Commonwealth, attend and experience the same sentiments.  In one particularly memorable event, the Queen attended Waitangi Day and was treated to the ultimate traditional Maori insult by a protestor: the whakapohane.


The Queen got mooned.

There are also commemorations in Wellington at the Beehive (the government offices) and the Parliament buildings next door.  They are just as fraught.

GE protestors camping outside the Beehive

The new parliament buildings in Wellington

So today, everyone will be off work, but no one will really be celebrating.  Instead we’ll be wondering: did we get it right?  Can we do better?  Where to now?

Dawn over Wellington

Hawaii & The Descendants

I don’t usually blog about movies, but last evening I saw The Descendants, and thought I would say a bit about it.


1) It’s a very good film.  You don’t need me to say it, or to review it.  All the critics have done that.  Why I thought it was interesting enough to mention is because of 2:

2) It’s the only remotely mainstream film that I have ever seen that actually captures Hawaii in any capacity.  Forget Blue Crush and 50 First Dates and all the other crap that pretends to be Hawaii and is really some weird fantasy land that only exists in the minds of movie directors and the gullible public, The Descendants actually looks like Hawaii.

Granted, the Hawaii it shows is a rarefied version: I knew old Missionary families: the elite ‘Cousins’ who had been their for generations but never quite assimilated.  And I knew kids who went to Punahou School and HPI.  And the world they lived in was far, far from my world.

But the neighborhoods?  And the wet, dripping greenness of the valleys?  And the dry west sides of the islands?  And the red dirt roads?  Those I knew.  Those were my world.

Dawn over the tip of Molokai

Flying above Honolulu

A bay on Molokai

Lahaina from the sea

Molokai - Ho'olehua


Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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