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


SAM 11 & 12

Ah, the shirt a month discipline is over! Not that I’m happy to see it go, it’s just nice to complete a long-term project. Reflections and re-cap will be the subject for another post. This one is just to record the final two shirts.

#11 – Kwik Sew 2935   This is the third shirt I’ve sewn for the Spouse from this Kwik Sew camp/aloha shirt pattern. This time I finally remembered to increase the seam allowances so I could make flat felled seams. Lots of people like the skinny KS seam allowances, but I really prefer either no SA, for easy alteration, or a full 5/8 inch that I can spot reduce if I want to.

Because the side seams were felled, I used little appliqued triangles on the inside to cover and reinforce the transition between the felled side seams (all pressed to one side) and the side vents. The seam allowances needed to be pressed away from each other, as if pressed open, to form the vents.

Full disclosure: I tried to match the pattern across the front but goofed in my thinking, because the match, she ain’t happening.

I loved the fabric used for this shirt – a hefty cotton dobby that came from Hawaiian Fabric. It was so easy to sew, and came out of the dryer looking great. With the busy print you can’t really see much detail, but all I did to prepare it for the photo was to press the collar points. The rest of the shirt didn’t even need a touch-up.

Since the fabric was heavier than usual for a shirting, it was a good test of Pam Erny’s latest tip on her Off The Cuff blog. You’ll have to scroll down to see the tip, I don’t know how to link to a single entry on Pam’s blog. Anyway, that technique worked superbly. Even with the thick fabric, I didn’t have to trim the corners down excessively. Thank you, Pam! P.S. I used her sew-in standard weight interfacing for both shirts in this post. Sew-in interfacing rules.

Coconut buttons from a forgotten source. Wish I could remember, because I had a big bag and am running out. I like aloha shirts and coconut buttons are of course perfect for the laid-back island vibe.

The final shirt: Ottobre 5-2012, #7 AKA Gardener. This is a longer shirt with a little shape and a raised waistline seam on the front. In the sample garment in the magazine, they did some color/texture blocking with co-ordinating fabrics. The upper fronts, collar, and sleeves were made from a plaid. The original had the front bands and breast pockets cut on the bias. I eliminated the collar and the pockets, and used the separate upper fronts to showcase some pintucking. The original had continuous binding where the sleeve meets the edge of the cuff. I replaced that with a real placket. Thanks to SAM I am confident now with making plackets and that’s nice because I like the look of them better.

Fabric for this one was cotton “Sunwashed Chambray” from Farmhouse Fabrics in a pearl gray.  Farmhouse describes it as “soft as butter”. I disagree with that description, unless your butter has body and is a little crisp.  I liked it very much, and am thinking of ordering a length in another color — just wouldn’t call it soft.

Shell Buttons from Pam Erny’s Fashion Sewing Supply.

I’ve read reviews of this shirt on PR that describe it as oversized. I don’t think it’s particularly roomy, just a little loose. I might make it even looser the next time, because it just seems like a long shirt shouldn’t hug you too closely. The fit was pretty good with my usual Ottobre alterations. My only quibble is that there is less “driving room” than I usually have with the Ottobre draft. Before I make it again I’ll compare to my other Ottobre shirt patterns and see what the difference is.

There you have it. A shirt a month in 2012, complete!

duh! (shirt a month 9 & 10)

You are supposed to make your muslin first.

The second top/jacket for my little evening capsule was to be made from the latest Cutting Line pattern, called Take Me Anywhere. Since I’ve made many of the designs in this line I confidently went straight to my lovely black/gray dupioni, made my usual adjustments (forward shoulder, add length) and stitched. After the sleeves were in I wasn’t quite sure what to do – there was some bunching right under the arm that I had never had before, and I solicited Louise’s (the designer) help over on Stitcher’s Guild. Louise suggested a shoulder pad, and she is right, the pad helps.

It looked best with a big shoulder pad, but the big pad look is sooooo 80’s. Since a big pad seemed to be the solution, it made sense that the problem would be sloping shoulders. The trusty Singer book The Perfect Fit had some guidelines for altering kimono/dolman sleeves, so I grabbed some linen and decided to give it a try.

Here’s the basic alteration: 1. Cut out the sleeve/shoulder area with the vertical cut parallel to the grainline. 2. Slide the whole shoulder/sleeve straight down the amount needed for your shoulders. I used 3/4 inch. 3. Connect the neckline to the shoulder. The Singer book used a dressmaker’s curve for the connection. Since Louise herself has used a curved shoulder line like that on Your Everyday Drifter, I used it for the front. For the back, I just used a straight line.

The result – much better look, and more comfortable, too.

You can see that the sleeves are narrower than some of the other patterns in this line. This seems like a good place to mention that I did overlay some other CLD patterns on top of this one, with the idea of borrowing a shoulder and a sleeve from another pattern. Let me tell you, each pattern really is different. Many of them are shirt-like in nature and appear somewhat similar because of that, but they really are cut differently from one another.

I really liked the linen version (which I made without the hidden button placket and double collar band for speedy testing), so I bit the bullet, unpicked the dupioni one at the shoulder and sleeve seams, recut it, and re-stitched. Better! It’s improved even more with a small shoulder pad, and I can live with that. Small pads will be permanently installed.

I’m doing my Betty Rubble hands in these photos so you can see the width of the sleeve. The drafted sleeve length is long enough that I can turn up little cuffs and still have them wrist length – and the instructions have that sleeve seam finished so you can turn up a good 3 inches or so and they are attractive on the inside.

Lesson learned. Make the muslin first, not second. Now that the little shoulder issue is sorted out, I think this will be one of my favorite casual shirt patterns. And, I get to add two to the  Shirt-A-Month tally!

Sam #8 and Vogue 8810

The shirt for August is one for the spouse – hence the hanger shot instead of one on the dressform. This is Kwik Sew 2935, a short-sleeved sport shirt with convertible collar and back pleats.  Also included is a pattern for an “On Golden Pond bucket hat. This is the second shirt I’ve made from this pattern. The first one was an experiment…I made something I was pretty sure he never would have picked out (I used fabric with -gasp- a stripe in it!), but he actually wore it. Maybe he is just sucking up? But since the first one has actually appeared in public more than once, I made a second, in a fabric that is much more like what he would choose from a rack in a store. It has a stripe, too, but it is just a self-colored woven textured stripe, and I made a few other changes at Spouse’s request. The original design has a little button loop sewn at the top of the center front, to use if buttoning the very top button. Spouse found that fussy. He also did not liked the buttons on the chest pockets.

So for this iteration, there is a single pocket with no button, and no little loop. I actually liked the little loop, so I will use it on some shirts for myself. This new one has also been worn a few times, which has emboldened me to make more. Annie-Oh on PatternReview mentioned that she had been happy with the cottons she has ordered from Before you could say “aloha”, there were a few pieces on the way to my place. One piece earmarked for another one of these KS2935 shirts is a lovely barkcloth with an oriental print. It looks kind of purplish in the photo but is actually navy & eggshell. 

I also ordered another print for him, and one for myself, too…just to amortize the shipping costs. Yeah, that’s the ticket…

I have tried a few KS patterns for myself and they haven’t really worked for me, but this one is a winner.

Another recent project was from Vogue 8810.When this pattern came out, I thought it would adapt to make a nice top (no dresses for me) from a stashed lightweight cotton with a depression-era type print. The pattern bodice has a vintage vibe to me and just seemed right.

There were lots of changes made to make it work for that soft voile. Both bodice and back were enlarged below the bust so that it would not cling on the hip. The pattern has the skirt cut separately, so the bodice ends at the waist and had to be lengthened to be a top. I was not going to use the casing/drawstring, but decided to tame the fullness I had added with some pintucks at the waist. There are a total of 16 1/8 inch tucks, 4 on each side of both the front and back.

You get a nice bathroom mirror shot to show that it has a little shape – not too much. I’ve learned that I really need a forward shoulder & neck adjustment on just about every pattern, no matter who it comes from. The result is that now nothing ever sits right on the dressform, because old Red Sonja has better posture than I. What a difference that adjustment makes in the wearing of the clothes!

Now for a gripe on the Vogue pattern. YOU CANNOT MAKE A SLEEVELESS GARMENT JUST BY LEAVING OFF THE SLEEVES! I raised the bottom of the armhole 5/8 of an inch and it was not enough.  All the big 4 issue patterns where they show a sleeveless view, but there’s only one bodice. It just doesn’t work like that. I can still wear my cool little blouse, because I always wear a jacket when I’m in public, but this time I think the lesson is learned. In future I will always copy from a TNT sleeveless when they haven’t provided a bodice specifically for the sleeveless view.

Lastly, an update on the Vogue 8804 epic project. I have bought charmeuse lining in a tealy-steely blue and some yarns to crochet the trim. However. Turns out there is an error on one of the pieces of the three-piece sleeve. Vogue only included one size. I seem to recall that the last time Vogue issued a CS pattern with a 3-piece sleeve, they got that one wrong the first time, too. Word is that the pattern has been re-issued. I’ve e-mailed Vogue for a replacement, and got a response that something was wrong with their mailbox. I’m hoping that they can send me a replacement soon…if not, I’m deciding between forging ahead and trusting in my muslin, or switching to another similar pattern that I’ve made before and drawing on CS’s directions and the wonderful picture tutorial Ann Rowley has done on this jacket for construction details.

Anyone interested in this jacket, there’s a thread over on Stitcher’s Guild devoted to it. Links to Ann’s tutorial are sprinkled throughout the thread.

Happy sewing to you!

SAM #7 and other things

Shirt #7, with no sleeves or associated cuffs and plackets, was a much quicker sew and also just right for hot summer weather. This is that Ottobre shirt from the 02-06 issue, this time in the #4 incarnation, which is sleeveless.

The fabric is a Liberty lawn. This pattern is called “Pepper”, and is probably the ittiest, bittiest  print they make. Since the fabric was so nice, I wanted to be sure to make something classic. I also took care to sew the narrowest french seams I could, and the bias binding for the armholes was also the very skinniest I could manage. I also wanted to use my old-time Singer buttonholer to make the best possible buttonholes, but could not get it to work with this lightweight fabric. When I slipped something stouter under the foot, it worked fine. I did mess with the foot pressure and tension, but to no avail. Does anyone have any suggestions for the future? So the buttonholes were done on the Janome, which makes pretty darn nice ones, just not with as many variations as the  cams in the Singer attachment allow.

Made a few more tweaks with dart placement and think the tweaking of this pattern is finally finished. One thing I’ve noted with Ottobre patterns is that the bust point is much closer to the side than mine. So the vertical darts were moved toward the center; the horizontal dart was adjusted just a bit, too.

If I ever buy another dressform, I’ll get one with a cotton cover. This one has some kind of grabby velour on it that makes it so hard to take a nice photo. Everything clings everywhere.

The shirt is part of my summer 6-pack, and there are pants to go with it. These are the pants in the same Ottobre issue as the shirt, 02-06. Photographing pants is always a problem for me. Here’s a fuzzy mirror shot that at least shows the two pieces together. I modified the pants by replacing the slash pockets (don’t like the gaping) with pockets with a horizontal opening. Which doesn’t show, because I don’t tuck my tops.

When the last Ottobre Woman issue came, I really wanted to make style #10, the cute crossover top. Ordered the perfect striped knit to make it from, and got the thing nearly completed. Unfortunately, my usual Ottobre size was too small! Not only that, but it was too short! I was really put out, because the back waist length on Ottobre has always been just right in my usual size. I may still try the crossover top again.

That effort left me with some good-size scraps. The navy and chartreuse stripe was all peppy and energizing, so I really wanted to use it. There was just barely enough to squeeze out the Linnea top, from Ottobre 02-10, style #1. This is such a simple pattern, and I’ve wanted to try it for quite awhile, but didn’t have appropriate material. That lightweight rayon knit was just perfect. It went together in about 2 hours (probably faster for you if you have more facility with knits) and gave me no headaches! Changes from the pattern: bound the armholes instead of the turn and stitch finish in the instructions. For the hem, I decided to cut a band and serge it to the bottom. I wasn’t sure I could sew a twin-needle hem very well on such a light-weight knit. I love wearing this simple top with its easy neckline, and want to find some other knits that work for it.

Whether you’re sewing or not, I hope you’re having the summer you want!

SAM #6

Another outing for the Cutting Line’s The Blouse Perfected. This one has the standard sleeve treatment, with placket and cuffs, and the shirttail hem.

The fabric came from Fabric Mart when they had a nice sale on Egyptian cottons earlier this year. I got two pieces and they are both very, very nice. They still have some of them. Farmhouse Fabrics has some of the same fabrics, too.

I used Pam Erny’s relatively new Shirt-Crisp interfacing for the collar, stand, and cuffs. Crisp is the word! Recommended if you’re making dress shirts or something like this one that is meant to evoke the idea of a dress shirt. For rumpled and casual, you might choose a little more easy-going interfacing. On this shirt I liked it very much.

I used the the church-and-steeple sleeve placket included in the pattern. When the fabric is lightweight, I like to use the “magic placket” technique because it is easier. But this fabric is a little beefy, and the magic placket would have been too bulky where all the layers overlap in the point. So I took some deep breaths to slow down, cut and marked carefully, and followed the very complete instructions in the pattern. They came out very nice, and I won’t be afraid to use the traditional method again if the easy way doesn’t seem like the way to go.

The only design change on this one was cutting the outside yoke in two pieces, so that the front of the yoke is exactly on a stripe, and then the center back automatically makes a chevron. This is supposed to be a mark of quality among the bespoke shirts crowd. When you do this, you can cut the inner yoke in a single piece if there isn’t any show-through. Otherwise, you’ll want to have 4 yoke pieces with the stripes aligned.

To make a pattern piece for a two-piece yoke like this, just trace your pattern’s yoke piece (just one half) and add a seam allowance at center back. Example of the pattern placement (it is helpful to mark your seamlines so that you can place the seamline, not the cutting line, along a prominent stripe):

Cutting single layer gives the greatest accuracy – be sure to flip the pattern piece for the other side. When you sew the two pieces together, this is what you get:

Of course, yours will look better because you will be sure to do a nice press job before you take pictures or wear your spiffy shirt.

More Paco Peralta and SAM #5

So this is the knit that all the fuss is about. See how useful it is? It’s got a great geometric print that I think is kinda sophisticated. It has all the neutrals – gray, black, taupe and can go with just about anything. I got this in Austin on PR day and we bought every inch in the store, so I don’t want to waste it on an unproven pattern, or one beyond my skill.

I believe the pattern has been found, and it is Paco Peralta’s drape front top. Here’s my trial version, made up without any changes or alterations except cutting the hip a little wider. The pattern is sized S-M-L, and based on the sizing measurements, I debated about grading up to an XL. The pattern can be made either with knits or wovens, with the only change being that the drape piece is cut on the bias for wovens. Since I was thinking knits, I decided to go ahead and try the large. That turned out just fine. In fact, if I try this pattern in a woven, I think I will still use the L and add some extra to the side seam allowances for fitting.

The pattern went together beautifully and quickly. I haven’t sewn any of the other cowl/drape tops that are very popular right now, but the difference with this one is that the V inset for the cowl piece is very deep, almost at waist level, and the legs of the V extend into the armscyes, not the shoulder seam. I love the little cap sleeves and think they do a lot to make this a flattering style for me. That said, when I use the special fabric, I plan to add sleeves.

There are no directions with the pattern, but this one is pretty easy to figure out. I serged the portion of the cowl that acts as the facing, but you could leave it unfinished as long as your fabric doesn’t run. For the back neck and armscye edges, I used a very narrow binding in self fabric.

The finished top doesn’t slip around on my shoulders, or splay open to show bra straps like some knit tops do, so I’m very pleased. I’ll be making it in the special fabric, but right now I’m a little frustrated with knits and am having a bit of a time out.  The very cute “Martina” crossover top in the last Ottobre Woman just barely missed the wearable mark. I want to make it again, with alterations, but knowing myself it is a good time to walk away from the knits for a little bit.

So I made up a CLD pattern that has been waiting patiently – The Blouse Perfected – and even though it says it’s a blouse, for my purposes it is Shirt #5. There are several views in the envelope – the one here, with no cuff and cute little side vents at the hem, a full-on shirt with cuff and sleeve plackets and shirt tails, optional vertical darts (with special instructions on placing your darts), and an artsy draped-front style for you adventuresome types. I started with the quickest version just to get an idea of the fit. The shirts are loose-fitting. If you want more shape, add the darts. But if you’re looking for a very fitted shirt, this is not your pattern. Other features: cut on facings. Separate R and L fronts allow for a clever and very neat front band treatment. Collar and stand.

Alterations – as drafted, this shirt actually tapers at the hem – the hip is smaller than the bust. Yes, I was glad I read the finished garment measurements before cutting!! No way can I handle that kind of shape. I altered so that the sides fall straight down, and made the 1/2 inch forward shoulder adjustment I now do on all of the CLD patterns. Did not alter the length and I like where it happened to fall. The result is very nice casual shirt. No surprise there, that’s exactly what I expect and always get from Cutting Line Designs.

Fabric: all cotton shirting in a fine black & white stripe – so it looks gray in the photo.

For those of you who can wear fitted capri pants, this version with the straight hem would be a cute pairing. Another thing I noticed, when trying this one on before the sleeves were added, is that it looks great sleeveless with that somewhat extended shoulder. There is definately one of those coming up in the future. And I will be trying the vertical darts, too.

BTW, this shirt is the first one that I used Pam Erny’s Shirt-Crisp interfacing on. Yes, it is juuuuust right for shirts! Thank you, Pam!