Friday, 26 July 2013

How to make a button-back Alma

As mentioned, here's my how-to on altering the Sewaholic Alma pattern to a button-back.  I'm no expert on this, a lot of this is  reading up, winging it, trial and error, and good luck!  I'm putting this here as a reminder to myself of how I did it, but hopefully it will be of help to someone else.  
Re-drafting the collar pieces
The collar on the Alma pattern is two front pieces and one back piece, sewn together at the shoulders, and attached to the blouse in one piece.  As you can see in the above right photo, my collar is attached in two separate pieces to allow for the back of the blouse to open completely.  I used the directions for drafting a Peter Pan Collar on p104 of Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing.  There is a three part tutorial on Gertie's blog with videos on how to do this.  Here are the links, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Altering the Back pattern piece to create a button placket

Take the back pattern piece and tape it to your cutting board, table etc.  Tape a piece of tracing paper over the top, leaving at least 2 inches of paper to the left of the centre back edge.  Re-trace the pattern piece, adding 1 3/8" inches to the left of the centre back edge.  Trace the line for the original centre back, as this is now where the buttons and buttonholes will go.  The 1 3/8" inches breaks down to:

5/8" in from edge is the seam allowance

3/4" between seam allowance and old centre back is half of the button placket.  The other half of the placket is the first 3/4" inch to the right of the centre back, it's already there, so there's no need to think about it.

Creating the facing
Tape down the new back pattern piece  and tape a piece of tracing paper over the top of the button placket.  This piece of paper should be at least 3" wide.

Trace the original centre back line, and the new button placket.  This is on the left of the centre back line in the photo below.  Then draw a line 1 3/8" to the right of the original centre back line, and this is the facing piece.
Now, I appreciate that there are a lot of numbers in the photo below, so I'm going to try and explain them.  Everything to the left of the original centre back line is exactly the same as explained in creating the button placket above.
3/4" to the right of the centre back line is the other half of the button placket, so the whole placket measures 1 1/2" inches. 
5/8" from the right edge in, is the inside edge of the facing.  This will be folded and stitched later on.
The whole facing measures 2 3/4" inches.

Place the facing on top of the back piece, matching up the seam allowance edges (the edge of the left of the above photo), and mark two notches in the same place on each piece.  This is so you know which is the seam allowance edge of the facing when the fabric is cut out.
Cut out the back pieces, and two facing pieces.  The edge of the facing piece will be the grainline.  Cut two pieces of interfacing using the facing pattern piece.  Iron the interfacing to the wrong sides of the facing.  Mark the original centre back lines on the back pieces with some chalk, these are the lines to use for the buttons and buttonholes.
1.  Fold and press the un-notched edge over by 1/4".
2.  Fold and press again by 1/4".
3.  Stitch.
This is the right edge in the photo above, and refers to the bit I have marked "5/8" fold under".  Now, I know that 1/4" plus 1/4" equals 1/2" (4/8"), I added the 1/8" in to allow for the fold.
The following instructions are a combination of the instructions on the Sewaholic Alma pattern, and the instructions for sewing the Peter Pan Blouse version of The Bow-Tied Blouse on p160 of Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing.
Follow the instructions on the Alma pattern up to, and including, step 4.  So the two back pieces are attached to the front piece at the shoulders, and the collar is completed.



Baste the collar to the neckline, matching the shoulder seams and the centre front.  I appreciate this is very hard to see in the below photo, but the edges of the back of the collar won't meet the edges of the back of the blouse.  But this is ok!  It's supposed to be like that.  I have marked where the collar edges finish with the arrows.  I hand-stitched the collar in place inside the seam allowance, unfortunately I used purple thread, so it's very hard to see.  This is step 5 on the Alma pattern instructions.

Now I'm moving to the instructions on p160 of Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing.  This is step 4.  Place the facing pieces on top of the edges of the blouse back, right sides to right sides.  Match the notches, and pin in place.
I am using bias tape as facing.  Pin the bias tape around the neckline and on top of the collar, slightly overlapping the back facing.  The bias tape should go past the edge of the back of the collar pieces.  Hand-stitch in place.  (Gertie's book, step 5.)
Here's a closer look at the edge of the back of the neck.
Using a 5/8" inch seam allowance, stitch all the way from the bottom edge of the back facings, up the back opening edges, and around the entire neckline, stitching through all layers.  (Gertie's book, step 6).  In the photo below the little pencil crosses at the back neck edges are my pivot marks.
Trim and grade the seam allowances, and  clip the corners to reduce bulk.  Turn back the facings right side out, pushing out corners.  (Gertie's book, step 7).  Press the bias tape to the inside.  Hand sew, or machine sew the bias tape down. 

I machined mine as the row of stitching will be hidden by the collar, but I left a little gap at the centre front were the stitching would be seen.
Sew up the side seams, and insert the sleeves as on the Alma pattern instructions.  I made my buttonholes before hemming, so I could make sure the hem would be even.  I didn't mark my buttonholes on the pattern pieces because I didn't have any buttons for it at that stage!  Once I got my buttons, I spaced them out evenly, marked the buttonholes, and sewed them.  Then I sewed on the buttons and hemmed it.
This photo was taken before I ironed the collar properly, and now it sits a lot better!
I know this is a lot of information, and I certainly didn't expect it to be so long!  As I've said, this is really for my own benefit so I'll remember how on earth I ever worked this out, but if anybody has any questions, please leave a comment and I'll try and clarify, because I know I'm very good at over-explaining things!


  1. Ooh its good to see how you did this. It's only slightly different to how I altered NL6808 for a button back. Great tutorial!

    1. Thank you! I'm glad it is understandable!

  2. You make it all look so easy! Thanks for all the details.

  3. Thanks! I'm just glad it makes sense!

  4. Really good directions, and nice job on your very pretty blouse. I'll never, ever do this because I cannot imagine having a blouse that one has to button up the back. I can barely manage buttons up the front, but nonetheless, a job very well done.

  5. This is a fabulous tutorial and I'm adding Gerties book to my want list. Such clear photos too. I love how your collar pattern matches so beautifully - truly wonderful

    1. Thank you! Gertie's book is fantastic. There are so many great tips in it.

  6. Ooh, I love the buttons up the back! I can imagine this dress in a cream lace with pearl buttons :)

    1. Thank you! Cream lace with pearl buttons sounds fab!

  7. impeccable pattern matching! *keels over*

  8. Oh my goodness, your Alma looks wonderful! I can only dream of being able to match a pattern this beautifully. I'm definitely adding the pattern to my (ever growing) wish list...

    Ps Where's the fabric from? It's really unusual and I've not seen anything like it before.

  9. Thank you! Matching the fabric wasn't as hard as I thought it would be; honestly, if I can do it, anybody can! On the back I marked the fold lines on the pattern. When I was placing my pattern pieces on the fabric I made sure the print matched up on where the two edges would meet. On the collar I put the collar pattern piece on the cut-out front bodice, lining it up with the neckline. Then I drew some of the shapes on the print onto the collar pattern piece. I was then able to line the drawing up with the fabric print to cut out the collar pieces. I use greaseproof paper as pattern paper, and it's quite see-through which helps a lot. I hope that makes sense! The fabric is Liberty Mauverina Tana Lawn, I got it here -

  10. Fantastic tutorial! I'm thinking of trying something like this in a Laurel. Beautiful fabric!

  11. Fantastic tutorial, thank you so much for sharing it! I'm definitely going to try this on my Alma. Beautiful blouse.:-)


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