"" The girl who makes things: Shirtmaking

Monday, 8 September 2014

Shirtmaking

Readers, I present to you a first for this blog and for me: my first ever handmade shirt.


I've become a bit obsessed with shirt making techniques recently. Rather like reading a long novel, I find that long, complex sewing projects are immensely satisfying. I like the number of pieces that go into a shirt: the collar, the plackets, the cuffs and pockets... when it comes together, it really feels amazing. I've been promising my boyfriend for over a year now that I'd make him a shirt. To be fair, he has a lot to put up with. I'm not the tidiest sewer in the world. I frequently leave my stuff lying around the flat, I take up most of the floor space in our small living room to cut out my pattern pieces and I've even been known to drop pins in the bed. I think it's high time I owed him one.


The pattern is Mccalls 6044. Unfortunately there's not a huge amount of choice out there for men folk when it comes to sewing patterns, but this shirt seemed like the best of a bad bunch. Plus I've seen a number of good versions in the bloggesphere, especially this one on Crab & Bee, which swayed me into it. I decided to go the whole hog and choose View E - I love the yokes and pockets which give a kind of cowboy look. The fabric is a nice and sturdy 100% cotton from Samuel Taylors in Leeds. It did the job.


The pattern was easy enough to follow although I did make a mistake which was entirely my own fault. I've come to a point now where I tend to use my intuition more than the pattern instructions, which led me to make a pretty big blunder early on the process. To explain, as I said, I opted for View E of the pattern which includes a yoke at the front and the back of the shirt. Having made a couple of shirt dresses before I assumed that I'd need to cut out the yoke and bodice pieces separately and then reattach them. Also, being the lazy person I am, I decided to forgo tracing the pieces and snipped straight into the pattern tissue and threw away the excess paper.


Of course, on second glance at the instructions, I realised that the yokes had to be appliqued on to the main body of the shirt. Slightly annoyed at my self, I attached the yokes back on to the bodice pieces, but due to fiddling around with the cutting lines I had to use a lot of guess work. Sewing is like the butterfly affect, if you change something small, it has a knock on affect on everything else, as is the case with this shirt. My early blunder meant that the armscye and neck opening were too small, so the collar stand didn't fit comfortably and the sleeve heads are puckered. By the time I came across these problems, it was too late to change anything so I just soldiered on. I would change the sleeve heads but I've overlocked and topstitched the seams so carefully that it'd break my heart to unpick them. I'll possibly make another stab at this pattern again so if anyone has any tips on how to redraft a shirt sleeve so that it sits properly in the armscye, I'd be more than grateful!


I might have tripped myself up in the pattern cutting, but there are other things about this shirt which I'm quite proud of. For a start, I made a big effort to imitate all the sewing techniques of a RTW shirt, including flat felling all the seams. There's a lot that goes into a man's shirt which is rather worrying when you think about how cheap they are to buy from certain retailers. I'm glad that I was able to make this one and it give it so much time and love.


So there, you've witnessed my first ever shirt. Roll on the next one...




12 comments:

  1. Nicely sewn! That cutting mistake is a real bummer, but at least you still finished the shirt, and all your top-stitching is impressive.

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    1. Thanks Charity, well I put a lot of effort in! :)

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  2. It looks good despite the mistake. I've made a few men's shirts and I think they're pretty tricky to sew, so well done! Love the colour, too.

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    1. Thanks Louise, that was one of only three colours he let me use. It was either dark green, navy blue or dark red. So I've got a maximum of two shirts left to make!

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  3. What a great shirt! Pants to the pattern cutting though. It looks really great, and good luck with the next one!

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  4. Is the sleeve set in like a dress? When I've made shirts the sleeve has been done by attaching the sleeve to the front/yoke/back first, then sewing the whole side seam from waist to wrist as one. This makes it easier to cope with a mismatch in lengths in a more controlled way and hide the excess under the arm if you want to.

    For redrafting I've found this French curve extremely useful - you just measure the piece you want to match to then it's very easy to draw a smooth curve the same length on the other piece. It's also very handy when drafting anything with compound curves.

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    1. Hi Richard, thanks for the tip, that's super useful! I did attach the sleeve the same way you do as I find it the easiest way. I think the problem arose from the sleeve and armscye being the wrong shape so I'll give the French curve link a go!

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    2. Oh I see, it's a two-piece sleeve - I thought the seam that's visible in the pictures, the one that more or less lines up with the back yoke seam, was the main sleeve seam.

      I know everyone says this, but a fantastically useful book for making shirts is David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking, especially for the details on how to get collars, cuffs, and sleeve plackets right.

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  5. Your boyfriend must be very proud of his new shirt :) Pattern drafting and sewing are tricky - if you change something there's SO much you have to think about. Don't worry about the mistakes, you're the only one who can see them :)

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    1. Thanks Nilla, I agree, I'm always my own worst critic!

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  6. Well done! Have you thought of trying a Negroni from Collette? I made that one up for my hubs and it was very easy to follow, very well done.

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