Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Sewlution on the way! And resources for learning shirtmaking =)

It's been awfully quiet over here, but it's been a busy beehive behind the scene =) So much going on, but not a lot to show for it as it's a project that has turned out to be just as tricky as I feared. So what am I up to? It's really all about this:



Karen from Did you make that? posted an idea past January: A jar with sewing-resolutions. Anyone could put their name and resolution in the jar, and at the end of the year everyone would be asked to answer: had they fulfilled their chosen task? I took this as an opportunity to give myself a kick in the derriere about facing a project I’ve long wanted to tackle but has been a little bit afraid of: drafting and sewing a menswear dresshirt.

In fact, my exact words were:
During 2013 I will draft and sew a men’s shirt.
Oh dear, cuffs, collarstands, buttonplackets… Not to mention fitting a man! I know about FBAs and hips, but fitting guys is a whole other page. This will be a real challenge for me! Time to order those books and get reading.”

Still a bit afraid of the project, I managed to procastinate all spring – always saying “I’ll just make this first, then I’ll have plenty of time to start the shirt-project after that”. Did I start? Of course not! ;)
Then summer was all of a sudden over and I knew that it was now or never or I would have to confess to the mistress of the jar that I had fled my promise. I’m certain there would have been an easier way to do this: buy a pattern and follow the instructions. I never do it the easy way, it’s a curse…

In sewing there’s always a hundred ways to do something. I’m indecisive when it comes to choosing ice-cream flavors at a store, and choosing a sewing method is a lot more complicated. I’ve also found that one source almost never provides me with all the details and options I’d like. So my prefered method is to read up on the subject in different ways, books, blogs, on-line classes, pattern instructions (if I have any nearby), studying existing garments etc. Ask mom is always high on the list as well =) Then I look at all the (often conflicting) information and puzzle together the pieces that makes the most sense to me, my available tools and materials, and the vision I have in mind of the finished garment.

In this case I found the following resources the most valuable:


Metric pattern cutting for Menswear – Excellent drafting book, pattern came out looking good and needing just minor adjustments (mostly style issues, a few fitting issues but less than RTW poses). However, I wouldn’t recommend this as your first pattern drafting book, it skips steps and is at places pretty hard to keep track of. Personally, I felt the included seam allowance made it harder for me to make alterations, but that might be ‘cause I’m used to working with “net”-patterns (no SA included). If you’ve dabbled a little bit in drafting before, this book is a winner. Just make sure you get the latest edition! The earlier one's apparently have a distinct 80s feel to the cut...


Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin – The standard book on shirt sewing. This book would require a review-post on it’s own. Let’s just say mr Coffin writes an extensive guide to sewing your own shirt. I found many things to love about this book, but I also have some issues with it.

Peter from Male Pattern Boldness shirt-sewalong – great for browsing and getting a first idea of how it all goes together. Peter works from a pattern and partly just refers to the pattern instructions, so lot’s of steps are missing (unless you choose to sew from the same pattern), but it was a huge help to me to see more detailed step-by-step photos of the trickier parts.


Craftsy class The classic tailored shirt – Class led by Pam Howard. Pam works from a Kwick sew pattern, but the class is set up so you don’t need the pattern. Excellent and thorough, it does take some hours to view all the lessons. Totally worth it, in my book. I’d do a few things differently from how the class suggests (like not working with an all-around 1,5 cm SA, amongst other things), but seeing it done on video is for me the best way to learn (after IRL-classes). For instance, both Coffin and Peter explains the yoke-trick with words and images, but it wasn’t until I saw Pam do it that I finally got it.

Pam from Off the cuff’s collar-tutorial – cool way of turning the collar points.

Andrea from Four square wall’s post on sewing shirt-stands – always like different takes on the same detail.

Coletterie has two great tutorials on sewing flat felled seams – without a special fellingfoot and with one.


So where am I in the process? I’ve drafted the pattern, made a toile and fit it, made my adjustments on the draft, and traced the pattern to fresh tracing paper, adjusting the SA from the overall 1 cm given by the drafting instructions to the SA's that will actually be needed. The shirt has been cut out from a tea-dyed linen and I'm halfway through the assembly process. It's still a long way to go, and I already know details that needs to be altered or sewn differently. My boyfriend very sweetly says that of course he'll wear this shirt, but I'm not sure it will be wearable. Still, when learning a new skill, something has to be the first attempt!

Second half of November and still a way to go... Wish me luck! I so very much don’t want to have to explain myself to the mistress of the jar… ; )
Love, Erika

3 comments:

Lady D said...

I don't have a bloke to make shirts for but I have tried making a traditionally male style shirt for myself and feminizing it.
I'm totally converted now to having collarless shirts with different collars I can switch in. Means I can be adaptable...without having to make a new shirt every time I want to change the style.

joellestlaurent said...

Has it already been a year since the jar was invented?!!
Time flies... Anyways, so brave of you to draft the pattern! Although I still haven't come across a modern sewing pattern that offers all the details I want. I used mc calls 6044 as a base and modified a few things when a sewed a shirt for my boyfriend. I believe shirt making is very much about practise and confidence in your top stitching skills. You know what they say, that you have to make the same thing 20 times before you get good at it.... Keep up the good work! You'll get there! And I'm pretty sure this first shirt is not at all as bad as you think it is ... :)

Erika said...

Lady D; I would love to make a shirt with exchangeble collars! So neat to be able to change style according to the mood of the day =) A future project, hopefully!

Joelle; I know, the year has gone by so fast! Did you also put you name in the jar? Thank you for the encouragement on the shirtmaking! I'm gonna keep on trying until I get it right! =)