The upper body of Nina, a dark haired woman, wearing a white blouse with tucks and lace inserts

A romantic Park Lane Blouse... (with a mini tutorial on how to draft and sew tucks)

It's one week into February and there's no getting away from the buckets of red roses, the scarlet lingerie, the pink foil-wrapped chocolates ... The so-called season of romance is upon us, and here in the US it's about as big as it gets, with card racks divided into sub-sections for lovers, friends, galentines, family members, pets and even just plain old 'anyone'. (If you're sending a card to someone not covered by any of the other categories, I'm intrigued ...)

But what really comes to mind when you hear the word 'romantic'? It might be all of the above, it might be something very personal, or it might be ... Bows. Lace. Flounces and ruffles. Cotton lawn; slippery pale silk. Embroidered accents. Flowing skirts and sleeves. Yes, if I had to choose a word to sum up how I'd like to dress, every day, all the time, that word would be romantic. I suppose if I had to define it, I would say it is the opposite of practical.

There is absolutely nothing practical about a pure white blouse with lace inserts and trims and tucks. It is the absolute opposite of NorCal style – where everyone appears dressed ready to hike the hills at a moment's notice. But after a recent spell of 'sensible' sewing, drafting and making this was like writing a little love letter to my sense of style, reconnecting with the way I really want to dress.

And going back to the idea of Valentine's Day – well, what's more romantic than taking the time to create something beautiful, with details that will bring joy time and time again, and then gifting it to someone who will really appreciate it ... you, the maker!

How to draft and sew tucks

Tucks are not just simple to draft, they're a delight to sew. They can be purely decorative – as on my blouse – or only half-sewn and used to constrain and then release volume in a garment. They can go down the body or across, or around sleeves.

First, you must decide how deep you want your tucks to be – I opted for 1/4 inch for ease, and also because I just don't suit teeny tiny detailing. A good way to figure out how you want your tucks to look is to practice with a sheet of paper.

Decide whereabouts your want your tucks to be, drawing them as straight lines down (or across) your pattern. Cut the first line and insert a piece of paper exactly twice the desired depth of your tuck (so in my case, 1/2 inch). Repeat with every tuck line.

When you go to cut out your fabric, notch both edges of each tuck – i.e. the lines on either side of your paper insert.

When you're ready to sew your first tuck, all you need to do is identify the notches on either side and fold the fabric wrong sides together to match those notches. Press. Sew a straight line between the two pairs of matched notches. Now you can decide which way you want your tuck to face, and press it down in that direction. Carry on, making sure that your tucks are nice and evenly spaced. I changed my mind about mine halfway through and decided to have the first column close together, and the second column further apart.

Ta-dah – all tucked up!

A note on the lace inserts

For my lace inserts, I used lace that is just over 1/2 inch wide. So I cut straight lines down the pattern where I wanted to place the inserts, but didn't remove any pattern width. I didn't cut the central bodice panel on the fold, thereby allowing for the central insert. By cutting a line down from the middle of the shoulder just past the point of the bust dart, I was able to eliminate the dart altogether, closing it up to create a gentle princess seam where the bust lace inserts lie.

Once I'd cut my fabric bodice panels, I created narrow 1/8 double-folded hems down those insert edges - thereby removing a total of 1/2 inch (1/4 inch on either side), ready for the lace. I didn't insert the lace into seams (which one could have done), but simply stitched it on top of those narrow hems. I repeated the exact same process for the sleeves, cutting the line down from the shoulder seam notch.

The lace trim around the collar, sleeve cuffs and shoulder ruffles is simply stitched on top.

You can buy the Park Lane Blouse and Dress pattern here for sizes 6–20 and here for sizes 16–28. The cotton lawn was purchased in John Lewis and the lace trims from Needles Studio.

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