Monday, January 20, 2014

Shirtmaking Part 1

I just completed a Craftsy class, Classic Tailored Shirt, with Pam Howard as the teacher. This was my first class, and I must say I'm pleased, mostly, but I'll explain more later. This is a shot of the finished shirt. Normally I blog as I progress through the project, but I was so into this that I just kept forgetting. The fabric is a white poly cotton, 65/45 that is an Oxford style fabric. This is fine for a wearable muslin, which is what this shirt is, but not much else. I also used a 100% cotton woven fusible Pellon interfacing, SF101 Shapeflex, for the collar, collar band, cuffs and front bands. DO NOT USE THIS STUFF! It bubbled after the first wash. I was able to iron it smooth again, but this is not a good thing.

The shirt is for my son, who has some severe fitting problems. He has a 18 3/4 inch neck but a 45 inch chest. So if he buys a shirt that fits him in the neck it's like a tent on him. With Pam's advice, I grafted the size 52 chest collar and collar band to the size 46 yoke and front. I didn't get the pattern dots quite right, but it did work and the shirt fits reasonably well.

I used Simplicity 1544, not the recommended Kwick Sew 3555, but only because KS 3555 is a women's pattern and I didn't want to have to order the men's pattern again. So off I went to Joann's to buy the Simplicity. They didn't have the KS. Don't worry, I didn't pay that price, I got it in the 5/$5.00 sale.

Once you start actually looking at shirts you'll be amazed at the differences in them. I used a square pocket instead of one with a point, as on the recommended pattern. This shirt also had a separate band for both fronts. The KS pattern folds over for both fronts. I looked at my husband's shirts and found that while most have separate bands, many have a separate band for only the buttonholes, and have a fold over band for the buttons. A few have fold over bands for both. The Simplicity pattern also had a tower sleeve packet, which you can see in the first picture. The KS pattern has a continuous bias strip for the placket, which I think is fine for children's clothes or maybe adult back neckline openings, but not in a tailored shirt.

All the seams are flat felled, which turned out to be much easier than I thought. The hem was super easy. Forget about the instructions in the patterns, which have you fold up the raw edge twice and sew, and it always seems to look sloppy. The course instructions have you sew a guideline 5/8 inch away from the hem (using a long stitch length), fold and press on the stitching line, then tuck under the raw edge with your fingers right at the machine and sew it down. You could press it first, but I found I didn't need to.  Then remove the guideline, and it's a perfect hem. I didn't use a rolled hem foot as the one I have is much too small for this particular fabric.

I received this book for Christmas in 2012 and it has so much great information about shirtmaking. I'll be using this for inspiration and techniques as I make more shirts.

As I mentioned, I was going through my husband's shirts and found a few things to show you. Here are two tower plackets, one pointed and the other squared off. But look at how badly they are matched. Now, these are just department store shirts from Macy's, not at all pricey, but really, couldn't they have a bit of quality control?

This shirt pocket doesn't even match to the shirt.

This pocket matched, but it could have been centered with the stripes better. But that's one of the reasons we sew, to make our garments look good!

So what's next? My son requested a few alterations to this shirt. I had to make the sleeves and cuffs much narrower, but I did that while fitting, so now the cuffs fit perfectly. The sleeves are a bit too long, and the torso a bit too short. I'll make those changes in the next shirt. He is pleased that he now has a shirt that actually fits both in the neck and chest.  But first, I may make a shirt for my other son, the one in Connecticut, who, now having graduated, is starting to need dress shirts. His fitting problem is that he is fairly small, so has a very hard time finding shirts that are small enough for him. Soon several of us will be driving to the LA garment district, where I hope to find some good shirting fabrics, with buttons to match. And some decent interfacing. I have German interfacing which always works beautifully, but it isn't stiff enough for what my son wants.

I mentioned a problem with the Craftsy class. What is happening is that the text boxes on the screen have increased in size, while the video portion is very small. If you set it to full screen it works, but then you can't see the comments or scroll through the various portions of the class. I've written to them, so we'll see. It looks to me like the platform just isn't very robust.


  1. The shirt looks tailor made. Your sons and husband are very fortunate that they have such a gifted in-house "couturière". (I send my husband to the tailor down the street!)

  2. I agree, getting the details right is one reason for making your own - or finding a really good shirtmaker locally, if you can't find the time!

  3. Looks like your sons have some wonderful custom shirts in their future, Cynthia. DPC's book is wonderful, isn't it?

  4. I am incredibly impressed! Making shirts must be one of the most difficult dress making skills there is and you've done such a professional job! It's something on my bucket list, I'd definitely have to be checking for matching cuffs and square pockets etc as my husband is a stickler for neatness in his clothes. I also like quirky details, like the bottom buttonhole being stitched in a different colour and little details like that.

  5. Wow, Cynthia, a shirt! That's pretty good :-)

  6. Cynthia, Great job on the shirt. As far as interfacing woes, this is a blog I found a long time ago and had forgotten about until you mentioned the troubles with the interfacing. Hope it helps.

  7. Shirtmaking! That could keep you busy for quite a while. :) When I used to make my own clothes, it was mainly to get a good fit, so I'm sure your sons will appreciate your work too. It will be nice to try out some good shirtings, I know you will do a beautiful job!

  8. Bespoke shirting making, Cynthia! Colour me impressed. BTW has some excellent tutorials on factory processes for the sleeve towers and the collars - she is a professional pattern maker and I've always found her tutorials top notch. And in the small world category, today she's reviewing a book on patternmaking for menswear


I love to hear from readers! Please let me know what you think of my posts. If you ask a question, I will reply here on the blog, so others can see the answer.