Antique clothes, like antique furniture, become more valuable with age, turn back the clock to that romatic era of lavender and roses, stand-up collars and high-button boots, and make your own Victorian blouse that will never go out of style.
One of the most suitable patterns is Butterick No. 3560. It is designed with a set-in front panel, ideal for showing off your stiches, white embroidery or frothy white lace. Begin by cutting out the pattern in muslin and fitting it carefully -- who wants to spend all those hours stiching only to find your creation is too tight in the sleeves or too short in the waist? Alternatively, you might cut out and fit blouse in soft batiste to serve as a lining for the transparent lace. For this under-blouse, cut the sleeves less full and leave out ruffles, trims and cuffs; they will come later. Dip the finished lining in coffee or tea to give an antique shadowy effect. This semi-sheer look neatly does away with the one drawback of see-through blouses: having to search for just the right slip or camisole to go underneath.
Now you're ready for the blouse itself. Make it of tulle, net or organdy. Cut out each pattern piece and pin and baste it down on vinyl shelf paper. On top, pin and baste you lace. The paper holds everything firmly in place for your final stitching by hand or machine. As to the design, a single strip of lace down the center panel and one on each sleeve can be simple but pretty. Later you could add a row of tiny pearl buttons and a velvet bow at the neck. Or you could buy insertion lace (bands designed to be set in with lace on either side). This often has slots through which you can weave narrow ribbons. You could change them to correspond with your skirt, or simply contrast the brilliant sheen of white satin with the creamy softness of the white lace. Or for a really elegant blouse, baste the strips of lace closer together, so that the whole net ground is covered. Alternatively, make a V-shape of lace down the center panel, following it with ribbon and then lace again.
Now you can machine-stitch the lace and net together, sewing right through the vinyl shelf paper. You can tear the paper away later, but in the meantime it keeps everything firmly inplace as you work.
If you want a real heirloom your great-granddaughter will be proud to wear, use pin stich or point de Paris to hand-stich the lace to the net. As its name suggests, this is the traditional French way of attaching lace to another fabric. Using a blunt needle and a fine thread, take a small stitch just below the lace, then take a second one over the first, pulling it tightly. jAs you take the second stitch, slide the needle up into the lace to catch it like a hem.
Continue, always going into the hole made by the previous stitch as you take each new one. The open-work-effect looks delicate, but it will hold lace firmly forever. Stitching the lace and net together is easy on the vinyl paper, since your needle "skates" off the shiny surface of the backing.
Your last step will be to slip your linng into place and catch the lace and underblouse together at the shoulders. A stand-up ruff collar of gathered lace could be the perfect final touch.
Q. I want to make a geometric rug on a fine mesh canvas to use up all my leftover knitting and needlepoint yarns, but my friends tell me it won't wear well. Can you recommend a stitch?
A. The answer is rice stitch, which is really a crossed cross-stitch. Since there are two layers to the stitch, it's the most hard wearing of any.