shirt a month wrap-up

It was last year around this time that I sewed the shirt that led to the resolution to improve my shirtmaking skills.  Otto BoyfriendI was unhappy with my performance in the shirt-y details. The sleeve plackets were clumsy. There were jogs where the collar band attached to the center front, and where the cuffs attached to the sleeves. It’s funny how a little time passing can enable you to overlook faults like that, though, and I’ve worn that shirt quite a bit in spite of my bad workmanship. I didn’t even take its picture at the time. Here it is,  Ottobre’s Boyfriend shirt, #17 in their Spring 2010 issue. There was nothing wrong with the pattern.

So this year I sewed twelve shirts of various styles. I tried different methods for those pesky collar stands, plackets, and cuffs. I also drafted a yoke for the Ottobre basic shirt, rotating the shoulder dart to the horizontal seam at the base of the yoke. I tried to learn to use felling and hemming feet, but still get better results using a regular foot, especially when any curves are involved, like on a shirttail hem. Maybe in future I’ll sew a few nightshirts to practice more with the feet.

shirt a monthHere’s the photo recap of the Shirt A Month. 10 shirts for me (yay!) and two for the Spouse. The Spouse has actually requested me to make him a long-sleeved shirt, and that is proof that my workmanship has improved. The SAM was a very rewarding discipline, more so than last year’s Jacket A Month. The reason: I didn’t do repeats on the jackets; they were all different. With the shirts, I made 4 camp collars and 8 collar bands. I made 4 sets of cuffs and plackets. The repetition really helped. I also discovered that I really like wearing shirts for everyday, more so than knit tops.

Now follows the top to bottom link-o-rama to posts and tutorials that I’ve found especially helpful.

Collars: I now have two ways to get nice, sharp collar points every time.

1. Use the type of collar that Louise Cutting always includes in her patterns, a one-piece collar that is seamed at the center back of the undercollar. This type of collar reduces bulk in the points, puts the undercollar on the bias for a nice roll, and is easy to draft from any standard collar. There’s a tutorial on drafting a collar of this type on Pfaff Follies & Singer Zingers. The resulting pattern piece is an odd shape and eats up a lot of fabric. Sigrid also has a tutorial on this technique: Sigrid’s Collar Tute.

2. So if I’m running short of fabric, or for some other reason decide to use a standard two-piece collar, there is a tip Pam Erny recently shared that works great. A loop of thread is sewn into the collar points that can be pulled to pop out a perfectly sharp point. Pam wrote up her tip on Off The Cuff. It is the entry dated 10/08/2012.

And here’s some interesting information on finessing the shape of camp collars: Fashion Incubator

Collar Bands: The “Debbie & Belinda” method works best for me. Belinda has stopped blogging and her wonderful tutorials are now gone. I hope that this link will stay alive!  Constructing Collars With Stands

Sigrid also has a tutorial for a somewhat similar method: Sigrid’s Collar With Stand. (David Page Coffin is credited in each of these tutorials.)

Sleeve Plackets:

1. When the fabric is lightweight, Gigi’s Magic Placket works great. Very easy, but because a lot of fabric ends up folded in the pointy end of the placket, the fabric really does need to be lightweight. Summerset shows the same technique here: Pins and Needles

2. If the fabric is too heavy for the Magic Placket, Pam Erny comes to the rescue again with the two-piece placket. Classic Sleeve Placket

3. Finally, if you want the experience of making the usual sleeve placket, Mary Beth has an excellent how-to on The Stitchery.

Cuffs: The method shown in a series of posts at Fashion-Incubator is dandy. Don’t nail your sleeve pleats down until you are fitting the sleeve into the cuff. Then if your sleeve doesn’t exactly match the finished cuff, you can make any needed adjustments with the pleats.

Design Inspiration:

I’ve already linked to Off-The-Cuff a few times. Pam’s gallery there features lots of details to include in shirt designs and many more tips than I’ve linked to here.

Cool stitching for a collar that will stay standing up in the back – Margy uses this one: Stand Up Collar Here’s a pic of one of her shirts, combining the one piece collar with the extra stitching in the link she mentioned. Look at those great chevron stripes from the one-piece collar draft. I couldn’t locate her blog post on this, but here’s the detail

Margy’s classy shirt

on the shirt. And here’s a link to Margy’s inspirational blog, Fool 4 Fabric.

I never did make a shirt with contrasting fabrics for details as many of the other SAM sewers did with great results. Places to use contrast: inside and/or outside collar stand, inside/outside front band, sleeve placket, inside/outside cuffs.

Finally, the discussion on Stitcher’s Guild was fun and informative. For photos of the beautiful shirts that the other SAM sewers made, and for a wealth of shirt-related links, visit the two topics there. We had enough posts that the mods cut off the first topic and started another.

Shirt a Month 1

Shirt a Month 2


12 thoughts on “shirt a month wrap-up

  1. Wow, Robyn, I’m so inspired by these shirts. I still think the first one was great. Getting a sharp collar is such a great skill. Thanks for sharing these tips and sites.

  2. Beautiful shirts Robyn. And thank you for this wonderful post with all of your tips and links to great tutorials–very helpful resource!

  3. Wow, Robyn! What a great idea to improve your sewing skills. Packets and collars are not my specialty, either, so I tend to avoid them. I love the idea of facing your fears head on and conquering them in style! Although I don’t wear many tailored shirts, I am going to try a few in the coming months. Maybe I avoid them because I am not sure of my skills.

  4. What a great shirt resource you are!! This is fantastic. If you are going to the PR anniversary in Austin, message me through PR. My pr name is Amanda.claire or through

    • Claire, I’m glad you commented because I thought I’d seen another message from you and lost it! I’ve been away and completely off line, so I didn’t know about the PR party. I hope you all have a fantastic time. Wait, I KNOW you all will have a fantastic time!

  5. Robin
    You already know that I’m a follower, but I bookmarked this particular post. The references you linked to are invaluable especially as I pursue my goal of better shirt-marking and tailoring. Thanks for this post.

  6. Thank you for gathering all this information in one post. I’ve been reading along throughout the year, but this is such a great post, I know I’ll be returning here again and again.

  7. Congratulations on the SAM challenge, and for sticking it out! Your skills in shirtmaking are brilliant. This post with all your tips and tricks is invaluable to us all – a huge THANKS for taking the time to do this…J

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