Tiny Blouse




Introduction: Tiny Blouse

Every now and then, I pick up some little thing I have lying around and take a good look at it.  Literally everything I pick up indicates it was made in China.  For instance, this doll shirt (the white one in the photos) which I picked up on ebay for around $2.00.  Brand new, made in China.  It's perfect.  Look at the top stitching.  It amazes me.  Its perfection.

And then I begin to think, how on earth do they do it?  I have heard that their cost of living is much lower than ours and therefore, they can be paid pennies for top rate performance crafting like this which is then turned around and sold to other countries at a profit for them that still seems like pennies to us. 

China makes *everything*.  I cannot turn over any object in my house and find an indication of origin anywhere other than China.  I'm sure that, the people who make things factor all their costs into the final price of the item.  Someone had to design the item, if there was R&D involved, that is factored in, distribution, shipping costs, all that gets added up and then divided up over the number of items produced and a price per item is computed.

I have also heard that the life of a Chinese factory worker is nightmarish.  But then again, most jobs I've had were nightmarish too.  But now that I've taken an interest in learning to make things myself, I find myself wondering more and more about life for a factory worker in China.  Yes, work sucks.  But you've got to admit, they probably learn to make things really really well.  Do they then acquire skills that would make some of us Instructables users envious?  I would think so.  Do they find it at all fun?  Do they get to do different things.  Painting faces on plastic ducks this week.  Sewing itty bitty shirts for a doll the next?  I wonder about it.

I'm sure it's all top secret, how they produce all the toys and electronics and fun things we love to consume.  Still, I think it would be interesting to just visit the Guangzhou district of China or a similar place and just see what its like.  Maybe Instructables could have this as a contest prize.  Just an idle thought.

I wish I had a better understanding of macroeconomics.  I wonder if somewhere on the internet, there is a gigantic information graphic that shows the real "food" chain, the supply chain of the entire world.  Who buys what from whom and who sells what to whom.  And how does this flow of money keep everyone housed and happy?  Where is the money flowing to?  Well, we know that a great percentage of it goes into the pockets of CEOs, rather like modern day Pharoahs.  Why do we allow that?  That's another question I have.  We are so much like ants.  Hooray for our super cool CEO, look he's on the cover of a magazine this month,  isn't he cute.  Let's give him a golden parachute containing multiple millions of dollars while we all lose our jobs.

Then my thoughts turn to the subject of open sourcing, crowd sourcing and outsourcing.  Of which, I am, sitting here before you, just another happy participant.  I love learning to make things.  And I love finding free things on the internet.  So it only makes sense that if I can go out and find a bunch of free software, and free patterns and free this and free that on the internet, it's only fair that I share with you for free the various tidbits and things I've learned in hopes that it would better you, or society or someone.  But I am only one of a vast host of new workers, turkers, I guess you'd say, doing it all for free.  Where is this all heading?  If people like me, and you, will do work simply for recognition or points or tshirts or whatever it is.  I suppose it ultimately devalues the efforts of people who are trying to do it for a living.  But, me stopping, or someone else stopping isn't going to change it.  Someone else will step up and do it, just to see if they can and share their results.  I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I just truly wonder how the economy will work in the future.  That's all.

At times I pause and count on my fingers the number of businesses and fields of work that are becoming rapidly obsolete.  Anything that required printing on paper:  books, libraries, newspapers, phone books, paper things supported by paper advertisements.  Anything that can be reproduced convincingly by electrons:  movies, music.  And soon to come: anything that can be printed on a 3d printer at home.  I truly wonder where is this all going to go.  If we can all manufacture our own stuff, what is left then that we cannot?  Utilities: electricity, water, sewer, internet, gas for the car, house.  Groceries, staples.  3d printing will bring manufacturing back to our shores, they say, because it won't rely on expensive human labor so much.   So, maybe it will all balance out, it usually does. 


I want to see if I can make a tiny little blouse anywhere near as good as this one from China I picked up.    So, better get on with it then...


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Step 1: Materials

free online pattern for the "classic" blouse:  http://m-sewing.com/patterns-catalog/women/blouses/classic-blouse.html
I modified this pattern slightly because at doll scale, the little collar is too hard to sew as there's no realistic seam allowance as is.  My modified version is attached.  Print it out on 81/2"x11" paper.

a small amount of material.  Try to find something that doesn't fray much.  Silky blouse-type fabrics tend to fray like crazy, so if you want to use that, get some sort of fray stopping solution.

fray block:  smelly stuff that you paint onto the fabric which cuts down on its tendency to unravel as you're working on it.  However, it makes the material stiffer, and therefore it won't drape the same way it did before, so that's a reason to avoid it, besides the headache it will give you if you smell the vapours for too long.

sewing machine

seam ripper
sharp scissors

Step 2: Cut Out the Pieces

cut out the pattern pieces and lay them on the fabric
trace around their edges with chalk
carefully cut out the pieces from the fabric
apply fray-block if necessary and let that dry somewhere outside ideally so the vapors dont get to you.

mark darts on the back of the fabric, that will make it easier when it comes time to sew
on the shirt fronts, don't cut the triangle out, just draw it in on the back side to guide you.

mark the tops of the sleeves with chalk as shown
mark the center of the collars

Step 3: Sew the Darts First

sew the darts in the front and back pieces

Step 4: Sew Front to Back at Shoulders

 right sides together, stitch front to back at shoulders

Step 5: Baste Tops of Sleeves

baste along the tops of the sleeves, leave a bit of thread hanging.

pull the thread to gather up the tops of the sleeves a bit.

Step 6: Painful Part #1: Stitch Sleeves to Armholes

I don't know why this is so difficult or why it has to be this way, but I'm told it's just the way it is. 

Anyway, you have to tighten up the basting you made in the last step which forces the sleeve into a certain necessary shape.  Then you have to by some magic attach it to the arm hole and get it to fit.  I find this one of the most frustrating things to do in the world. 

Right sides together, starting at the top, match up the sleeve with the arm hole and then somehow, while stitching it on, worry it around so that the edges line up.  You want it to fit perfectly around the armhole, lining up all the way around.

Its crazy difficult.  Many many frustrated words were expressed by me before the two sleeves were on.

I'm certain at this point that I would have been fired by the Chinese factory, if not taken out back and shot.  (haha)

Step 7: Sew Side Seams

If you got the sleeves on okay, at this point, if you are going to add cuffs, you would sew them on here before proceeding.  And then you would hem them here too, top stitch those, etc.  But I didn't bother with cuffs this time.

This part is one of the few easy parts, giving you a fresh boost of confidence before the next, really most difficult part comes.

Right sides together, starting at the underarm, sew the arms and sides together

Step 8: The Collar

Right sides together, sew the top and bottom part of the collar together as shown.

Step 9: The Collar: Part Two

Right sides together, sew the two collar pieces you just created in step 8 together.

Sew them together along the outside edge, leaving the bottom open.

Turn it inside out and use a safety pin or something to poke the points of the collar out.

Step 10: Attach Collar to Shirt Around Neckline

Now the collar begins to get hard.

Where the unsewn opening is, right sides together, sew that to the neckline of the shirt.  This is another fussy thing that is even harder than the sleeves are.  You only sew one layer of the collar rough edge to the neckline, leaving the other layer free for now.

Step 11: Topstitch the Collar

hahahah, right.  What?  You want what?  I know, its so hard.  I have still no idea how to pull this off.

Top stitch along the edge of the collar, just like in a regular shirt.  This will help the collar flatten out a bit as it's getting pretty bulky and fat looking now.

Step 12: Sew Down the Open Side of the Collar

So, if you were paying attention, you should still have a little open flap on the inside of the shirt where the collar still isn't connected.  You've got to somehow sew that down, concealing all the seam along the neckline, and then if you're really good, you topstitch that.  I am not really good, as you can see.

Step 13: Hem the Bottom of the Shirt

Congratulations, the worst part is over...  I hope you made it through that.  If you did, good for you, you are a survivor.

Hem the bottom of the shirt.

Step 14: Finish Front Edges

iron down about a quarter inch on each side of the front and top stitch that so it stays down.

Step 15: Attach Closures

Most of these little tops have snap closures, so you can use that here.  You can just hand sew those in.  Usually there is a little fake button sewn in on top.  I have no idea where to get buttons so small.  I looked.  Maybe they could be fabricated with shrinky dinks though.

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    4 Discussions

    First off your completed project is very cool! Thanks for posting :0)
    I have a dear friend in China, and he has explained that employment is very much an exploitation of human life. It is heart-breaking to hear his stories. I have also been told that the Chinese government will not allow their orphaned children to be adopted by foreigners, even though there are adults in other countries who would love them dearly and take care of them. Instead, the little children remain is crowded ophanages. Here is information about a book I would like to read, the info is quoted by an Amazon description titled, "A Year Without "Made in China"..." provides you with a thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining account of how the most populous nation on Earth influences almost every aspect of our daily lives. Drawing on her years as an award-winning journalist, author Sara Bongiorni fills this book with engaging stories and anecdotes of her family's attempt to outrun China's reach–by boycotting Chinese made products–and does a remarkable job of taking a decidedly big-picture issue and breaking it down to a personal level"


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you, I've been looking for a book that explores the situation in detail, that sounds like a good one. In a sense, I've always secretly felt we haven't entirely left the days of slave labor, i.e., the Civil War and all that. I've had a latent fear that we're still relying on slave labor to support our lavish lifestyles, but it's far enough removed from our immediate eyesight that we can sort of not think about it.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    @ Foobear - Your comment is from 1 year ago, but I absolutely think this is true: "we're still relying on slave labor to support our lavish lifestyles, but
    it's far enough removed from our immediate eyesight that we can sort of
    not think about it." :-(


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, the thing is we're so dependent on it that I don't see it ever ending. Until the robots come, that is. Just making one small thing takes me the better part of the day and I can't do it anywhere near as well as China can. I guess I can try to compensate by buying local, buying less. It runs counter to our capitalist principles, but I'm okay with that. I think capitalism has almost played itself out. We'll have to think up a new system for the future.