A blooming Bloomsbury

This week, we have a guest blogger with us! Alice from The Polka Dot Palace has shared her experience of making the Nina Lee Bloomsbury Blouse.


A few months ago, it occurred to me that floaty fabrics don’t suit me. The easy-breezy yet glamorous style that looks great on others just feels frumpy on me, so I wrote off viscose. However, there comes a time that a fabric is too beautiful to ignore, and this floral rayon from Rifle Paper Co. is one of those times.

I’ve been a fan of Rifle Paper Co. for a long time. Their bold yet whimsical shapes and strong use of colour make for iconic prints. And the quality is always top notch. 

The quandary lay in what to make; a floaty top wouldn’t look right, so I looked through my pattern stash for a design that would work with the fabric but still suit me. Cue: one of my favourite shirt patterns: the Bloomsbury blouse from Nina Lee. 

The Bloomsbury is a semi-fitted shirt that buttons up at the back, with a stand-up collar. It features a gorgeous ruffle detail that goes right across the front and back, and there are options to go all-out with extra ruffles on the cuffs and collar. 

I wanted the fabric to do the talking, so opted to omit the additional ruffles and keep the design more pared back. The print and colours are beautifully summery, so I decided to make the shirt sleeveless so I can wear it when the weather (finally!) warms up. 

The fabric was so good to work with! I’ve sewn with viscose before that slipped all over the place when cutting, but this has a bit more weight to it, so it just behaved and was a dream to cut. This weight also makes the fabric opaque, so although it’s a light colour, it would be great for dresses and skirts. The pattern requires one v-e-r-y l-o-n-g ruffle across the front, and this fabric is on the narrow side so I had to cut against the grain for this part, so that’s worth checking in case you have plans for a pattern that requires wide pieces. There are two ruffle widths for the Bloomsbury; the larger is very much a statement, while the small one is cute and compact. I was dithering about which to go with until Sarah recommended going in the middle, as per her previous Bloomsbury, and it’s the perfect in-between width! 

Ruffles aren’t my strongest suit, but this rayon worked wonderfully, gliding up into neat gathers all the way round. I love how the slightly weightier rayon means the ruffle hangs really nicely – it doesn’t stick out, but it also doesn’t float all over the place. 

To make the shirt sleeveless, I sewed the whole thing so I could try it on and see if the armscye needed altering at all. It felt fine, but it was sitting quite high under my pits, which isn’t going to be great come the hot weather! I cut back one centimetre at the side seam and eased this up to blend it into the existing armscye. A subtle alteration, but one that should make the shirt more comfortable to wear. I finished with white bias binding that I already had; there isn’t much space at the shoulder seam next to the ruffle, so if you’re going to do this method stick to 1cm wide binding.  

I love how versatile this pattern is. You can wear it casually with jeans or dress it up for work or even nights out (remember them?). You’re spoilt for choice with fabric, too, as it would work brilliantly in printed lawn, like this Lady McElroy, or you could try more drape with this amazing floral striped rayon. You could also go classic with a white cotton like this; the possibilities are endless! 



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