If you follow me on instagram (which, incidentally, I only really got into a few months ago – I’m so behind the times but enjoying it!) you’ll have seen that I’ve spent most of my free time over the last couple of weeks working on one project.
Rhinebeck and VKlive were a lot of fun, but the one thing I missed while I was away was sewing and there wasn’t really ever a break between finishing the book and prepping for my trip. I did squeeze in a visit to the lovely Gather Here in Cambridge with Jess, and we spent a little bit of time sewing, but I was itching to do a big project with lots of finicky details. At some point I think I mentioned my determination to take part in Me Made May next year, and I’ll definitely need to add to my diy wardrobe for that to work. Especially if I want to wear more basic items along with the clownish dresses.
I wear button up shirts all the time, they go so perfectly with another of my obsessions – Fair Isle vests. The classic menswear style shirt seemed like an ideal project, and just to make things more interesting I decided to draft my own pattern.
It took a lot of fussing, and multiple toiles but the fit is, if not perfect, at least the best fitting shirt I’ve ever worn.
Useful shirtmaking resources
This isn’t the first time I’ve ever made a shirt, although I think it’s the first time I’ve done all the details like a collar with a stand and sleeve plackets on one garment, and part of the fun was the research. I found a few resources particularly useful.
The blog Male Pattern Boldness hosted a men’s shirt sewalong a while back with lots of useful tips. The buritto method for joining the yoke that he shares here works really well, my goal throughout this project was to avoid things like slip-stitching.
David Coffin’s book Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing reads as though it was written just to stoke this particular interest of mine, I love that he shares my opinion on the silly things that commercial sewing patterns often do.
This might be my new favourite blog http://off-the-cuff-style.blogspot.co.uk/ It’s written by a custom shirtmaker with years of experience and is full of inspiration and technique tutorials. Her method for turning collar points is absolutely genius. Although I did it perfectly once and then cut through the thread on the second point. In case you share my affliction of only being able to learn from my own mistakes and do that you can carefully rethread it through the point with a sewing needle.
I followed David Coffin’s advice and joined the stand before the collar (rather than joining the collar to the stand and then joining them to the neck of the shirt as one). I do think it made a difference to centering the collar perfectly.
I thought it was done at the weekend, but I decided the hem was a little too messy to be acceptable and that I’d overcompensated for the fact that shirts are always too tight at the hips. That’s often something that comes up when I teach sweater fitting – we often over-exaggerate how anomalous our proportions are and overshape for that area, but apparently knowing something in theory doesn’t stop me from doing it.
This morning I painstakingly picked out the tiny stitches of the flat felled side seams and re-shaped them and re-did the hem. In fact I sewed the hem twice, because the first time I turned it towards the right side. Oops. Is there ever a point when you become experienced enough to not make silly mistakes? I’ve also just re-knit a sweater back that was three inches too narrow because apparently I can’t count. At all.
I threw it on without ironing in a rush to get to the post office depot before it closed (where another book on pattern drafting awaited me) but I’m wearing it. We even managed to take some super grainy photos before the last of the light faded.
These shorts were also a very simple project, scissors and a needle and thread turned rarely worn wide-legged trousers into shorts that have become one my most worn items this autumn. I might even need to make some more from scratch. Apologies for laughing at the shorts and tights trend in the past, I’ve totally come around – basically with the same delay with which I got into instagram. They’re ideal for damp cities (we wore jeans in high school that we called ‘puddle-soakers’) and cycling.
Somehow I suspect this is just the beginning.
A new subscription option – via email. A couple of people have asked about subscribing to the blog via email and it was easy to add so I did, if you prefer you can still use the RSS feed, although support for RSS readers seems to be vanishing. I’m still sad I didn’t get around to exporting my google reader list before it died – it’s been so long that I’ve really managed to keep up with blogs and so many of them had gone anyway but still. I feel so behind, do you have any current favourites I should check out?