Make a Simple Boho BlouseSimple to sew, this fun boho top can be custom-fit to suit your style.
Here’s your go-to top for spring and summer. It’s a classic, relaxed peasant-style blouse that is comfortable to lounge around in when the weather’s warm. It’s easy to design and sew but is also rich in casual bohemian style. An added bonus is that this top has cut-on sleeves and a drawstring closure, so it is super easy to make.
On the following pages, you’ll learn how to draft a pattern for and sew the blouse. Plus, you’ll get great ideas for embellishing the top when it’s finished.
- 1 to 1-1⁄2 yards fabric (depending on pattern measurements and fabric width)
- Thread to match
- Single-fold bias tape (for neck facings)
- 2 yards ribbon, twill tape, or other trim for drawstring
- Embroidery floss and needle
- Fat quarter of contrasting fabric for yoke or bindings
Two body measurements are needed to begin drafting the pattern: your bust and hip circumferences. The remaining measurements will be based on your design choices.
1 Shoulder/sleeve width. The blouse can be sleeveless or have cut-on sleeves. If you want a sleeveless shell, take only the shoulder-width measurement: Hold the tape measure across the top of your shoulders and back of your neck. If you want cut-on sleeves, pull the tape measure to where you want the sleeves to end on each side.
2 Body width. Take your bust and hip circumference measurements, and then add 4 inches to 8 inches ease to the larger measurement. Divide this number by 4. Note: The half-shoulder/sleeve width should be at least an inch longer than the quarter-body width.
3 Body length. Hold the tape at your high shoulder point (where the shoulder meets the neck). Drop it vertically to determine the length you want for your blouse.
4 Armhole depth. A loose fit is necessary with an all-in-one sleeve, so loop the tape measure into a ring and slip your arm through it, near the shoulder where the sleeve joins the body. Decide on a comfortable circumference for the opening.
5 Neck width and drop. Hold the tape measure across the front of your neck, in a straight line, while looking into a mirror, and decide how wide you’d like the neckline. This is the neck width; divide the measurement in half. Then, hold your finger horizontally where you’d like the neckline to dip at center front. With the end at the level of your high shoulder point, let the tape hang straight down at center front. Measure the distance between the end and your finger. This is the neck drop.
Draft the Pattern
It’ll be simple to create a pattern based on the measurements you’ve taken and design choices you’ve made.
1 Prepare the pattern paper. Have paper ready that’s at least 2 inches to 3 inches longer and 2 inches wider than your blouse length and half-shoulder/sleeve width. Label the left side “Center front.”
2 Draft the pattern. About an inch from the paper’s top edge, make a small horizontal mark on center front (a). From this mark, draw the body length (b). From the same top mark, draw a line for the half-shoulder/sleeve width (c). At the bottom level, draw the quarter-body width (d). From the outer point of the shoulder line, draw the half-armhole depth (e). Draw a line from the bottom point of the armhole opening toward center front, about 3 inches long (f). Then, draft a final line from the outer point of the body width (bottom hem) line until it intersects the last line you drew (g). Blend this intersection into a gentle curve at the underarm. This is the side seam.
3 Draft the shirttail hem. To shape the shirttail hem, decide how high you’d like the side slits, and mark this height along the side seam with a notch. Draft a curved line from the hemline to meet the side seam below the notch.
4 Make the neckline. Measuring from the center front, mark your half-neck width along the shoulder/sleeve width line. Measuring down from this same line, mark your neck drop along the center front. Join the two marks with a curve, intersecting the lines at each end at 90 degrees. This is the front neckline. Then, draft a back neckline that’s
2 inches to 4 inches higher than the front, with the necklines meeting on the shoulder/sleeve width line.
5 Add seam allowances. Add 1⁄4 inch to front and back necklines, and 1⁄2 inch to all other edges except center front. Pin a second piece of paper behind the pattern, and cut two patterns following the (higher) back neck. Separate the two pieces, and cut away the front neck on the original pattern. You now have a front and a back pattern. Label the center back.
6 Draft the drawstring casing. Draw a rectangle 2-1⁄2 inches wide (for a 1-1⁄2-inch casing) by your quarter-body width, plus 1⁄2 inch for seam allowances. Measuring from the high shoulder point, determine on your body where you’d like the drawstring to sit, either at the true waist or lower. Wherever you’d like it to sit, add 2 inches to the distance from shoulder to allow for blousing. Mark a line on your pattern for placement of the casing’s top edge. Check that the shirttail hem slits begin below the casing; adjust if necessary.
7 Label the pattern pieces. Label as follows: front and back are “Cut 1 on fold” (center front and center back are placed on the fold); drawstring casing is “Cut 2 on fold.”
Sew the Blouse
Now you’re ready to sew the shirt. Remember to cut the pattern pieces as labeled, mark the notch at the top of the shirttail slits, and save the fabric scraps to make bias tape or drawstrings.
1 Sew the side and shoulder seams. Stitch from the bottom of the armhole opening to the notches, with French seams (for more on French seams, see page 82). Sew the shoulder seams the same way, and press the seam allowances toward the back.
2 Add the drawstring casings. Hem each drawstring casing’s two short edges with 1⁄4-inch turned hems. Press under 1⁄2 inch on the two long edges. Place one casing piece on the front waistline, as indicated on the pattern. Pin and edgestitch in place on the right side, along the two long sides (top and bottom), leaving the short hemmed edges open for the drawstrings. Repeat for the back.
3 Face the neckline. Using premade or self-fabric, single-fold bias tape, pin the tape right side down to the neckline’s right side, starting at one shoulder seam and allowing 1⁄2 inch of tape to hang free. You will be matching the tape’s unfolded raw edge to the neckline’s raw edge. Pin around the neckline, leaving 1⁄2 inch of tape at the other end. Stitch inside the fold 1⁄4 inch from the raw edges. Start and stop at the shoulder seam, and leave the extra 1⁄2-inch
With right sides together, stitch the two tabs together. Trim the tabs to 1⁄4 inch, and angle the edges. Finger-press the seam open. Refold the tape, turn it to the garment wrong side, and pin it in place inside of the neckline. Stitch again around the neckline along the tape’s lower folded edge.
4 Hem the sleeves. Make a 1⁄4-inch-wide double-fold hem at each sleeve opening.
5 Sew the hem. Finish the bottom using a 1⁄4-inch-wide double-fold hem, pinning carefully along the shirttail’s curved edges. Clip the seam allowances at the notches. When stitching the hems: Begin at the top of one slit, work down along the curve, across the bottom, up the other curve; then pivot and stitch 1⁄2 inch across the top of the other slit, pivot, and continue back to the first side.
6 Add the drawstring. Cut two strips four times the desired finished width (for 1⁄2-inch-wide drawstrings, cut 2-inch-wide strips) by the length (your hip circumference). With wrong sides together, fold one strip in half lengthwise and press. Then fold in each long raw edge to meet the center crease and press again. Unfold each end, press under 1⁄2 inch, and refold. Feed one drawstring through each casing. Tie the drawstrings at the side seams.
This simple garment is a perfect canvas for embellishments. Here are a few suggestions:
- Try embroidery to give your blouse flair. Look to Mexican or Indian shirts if you need inspiration, or come up with an original design. Blanket-stitch around the neckline and hems to start, then see where your needle and thread take you.
- Draft a round or square yoke. Trace the neckline, center front, and shoulder seam, and draw your desired yoke shape. You can do this only on the blouse front and finish the back neckline with a bias-tape facing, as on the facing page, or make a back yoke piece, too, and use the yoke to finish the whole neckline with a reverse facing. Use a contrast fabric for the yoke to give your blouse a fresh look.
- Bind the neckline with contrasting colored or printed tape. You can use this tape on the cuff and/or bottom hems, as well as for the drawstrings.
Cal Patch teaches patternmaking and sewing workshops around the country. In addition to sewing, she tends chickens on a farm in New York’s Catskill Mountains.