Further adventures in shirtmaking

It’s good to be talking shirts again. The last one I finished was over a year ago! The inspiration for this one was certainly the fabric, a plaid cotton-linen blend I bought this summer with every intention of making something for myself. I was holding the fabric up to my face, using the mirror in Nathan’s office, and pondering what I should make when his eyes lit up and he complimented… the fabric. There is a world of difference between “that’s an awesome fabric” and “that fabric looks awesome on you.” Begrudgingly, I held the fabric up to his face and it looked so much better on him that the decision was made.

crabandbee.com | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

(The plaids match because I spent what felt like hours making sure – looks like they’re a bit askew in this pic!)

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about plaid placement, spending a little bit of time each day over a week. I drew lines on my pattern where I wanted the dark horizontal stripes to land, pondered the benefits of a yoke on the grain vs. on the bias, sorted out how to continue the line across the sleeve… all efforts that paid off in the end. You can’t just cut into a plaid without a plan, especially when you work with it as infrequently as I do. I believe the last time I touched a plaid was in 2011, on a shirt for myself that has long since been donated to the Goodwill.

I also used this shirt as an opportunity to make the following changes to the McCall’s 6044 pattern:

  • Reduced the sleeve fullness at the bottom by slashing and closing
  • Made what I understand to be a modified French placket
  • Widened the placket to 1.25″
  • Removed 1/8″ from the undercollar and inner collar band seam allowance
  • Added a back yoke (same as black shirt)
  • Graded from a large in the shoulders/arm scye to a medium through the waist (same as both previous versions)

crabandbee.com | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

Semi-scientific sleeve fullness comparison.

crabandbee.com | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

I decided to use a French placket with stitching – is there a proper name for this? – because I thought it would both look nicer and be easier to sew. Instead of using the placket piece included in the pattern, I extended the shirt front and folded it over twice and edge- and top-stitched. I love it – how often does “easier” and “better-looking” intersect? Both of the other shirts look puckered where the shirt front and placket were stitched together after going through the wash.

I also used Andrea’s order of operations for sewing on a collar – highly recommended. Instead of fusible interfacing, I used a stiff cotton lawn for my collar and collar band; with the smaller undercollar and inner collar band, the collar curves ever so slightly and is really well-behaved. Still working on the perfect points, though – they’re not as sharp as they look in the image above.

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I forgot for a second time that I need to reduce the upper back width; I hackily removed 3/8″ from the back arm scye, grading to nothing at the shoulder, but I think there’s about 3/4″ or more of excess on either side. Unlike me, I think Nathan is broader in the front and may not need the larger size in the back. A pattern-making puzzle to consider; what does that do to the sleeve pattern?

crabandbee.com | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

This shirt has quickly overtaken the other two as Nathan’s favorite. How gratifying is that? While I’d like to claim that using this gorgeous fabric on something for Nathan is selfless, I really can’t – I get to see him wearing it all the time.

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I started the shirt after a post-Scraptember dress break and have since started a jacket I’ve meant to sew since May! If you could see the instructions, you’d know why it never sounded good to start. Why yes, it is a Burda pattern – how did you guess? But it’s almost finished and I’m loving the results. Even if my welt pocket has a pucker in the corner…

crabandbee.com | Burda collarless jacket

Western birthday blues

The shirt I made my monsieur in February has been worn constantly, so I decided to make another for his birthday. I wanted to keep it a secret, and assumed that Nathan wouldn’t ask what I was making. I started cutting out the pieces when we were both home, and less than 2 minutes into it, he popped around the corner.

“Whatcha making!” he said.

Instead of coming up with a lie, I stammered “nothing!” He looked kind of confused and a little hurt, so I caved and told him everything.  “You could have just lied to me!” he said, after we’d had a laugh. (Nathan has picked up a good bit of sewing knowledge and in my moment of panic I feared he could tell I was making a men’s shirt based on the pattern pieces. Apparently, not so!)

On to the shirt! I’ve used McCall’s 6044 for every shirt I’ve made Nathan, but wanted to try the Western-style yokes this time.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6044 western shirt

The fit of this pattern is pretty great on him. One of Nathan’s issues with RTW shirts is that they’re too wide through the waist if they fit him in the shoulders. I used a larger size through the chest and grade down to one size smaller for the waist.The only other change I made to the pattern was shortening the sleeves by about 1″.

After making the black shirt, I had meant to take a look at what may be excess fabric in the back shoulder seam. I totally forgot! I plan to do this on the next shirt and welcome suggestions. I’m thinking of taking a wedge out of the area between the shoulder and neckline.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6044 western shirt

This is another project where I would have been working much harder without my walking foot. Top-stitching (especially on light fabric) is much easier.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6044 western shirt

I was kind of stumped on what color of buttons to use, but my sis picked these out for me (without even a swatch to go by) and I love them!

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6044 western shirt

So far, Nathan’s worn the shirt four times since I finished it last Saturday.  This is a case where flattery will get one everywhere – there’s no better motivation for me to sew for others than seeing my creations worn to bits.

For the next shirt, I’d like to attempt something long-sleeved and dressier. One of the downfalls of this pattern is that it’s pretty scant; the long sleeve is two pieces and no sleeve placket. I want to add a sleeve placket as well as try a folded button placket (not sure if that’s the right term) instead of a separate placket piece. I’ve been cruising Lisa G.’s posts on men’s shirts again, and she inspired me to purchase a used copy of David Coffin’s book on shirtmaking with which to educate myself.

As always, I can’t promise when I’ll be attempting another shirt because planned sewing makes me defiant (against myself…) but I’ve got two fabrics to choose from! One is probably the oldest piece of fabric in my stash, and the other is a dressier light blue cotton (see the photo below)  I found this weekend on a field trip with awesome fellow Seattle bloggers Sanae and Meris.

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We went to an AMAZING store in Seattle where individuals can put their stashed fabric for sale on consignment. It’s called Our Fabric Stash, and there are deals to be had. They have all kinds of fabric, from a scrap bin to big bolts, patterns, notions, and books. I walked out of there with 18+ yards of cotton and linen fabrics and three bags of metal buttons for under 100 USD. I felt so great about buying used fabric from a cool business that I lost my usual restraint. That said, aside from a piece of linen knit and pattern twill I want to buy for specific projects, I think I’m all set for my fall/winter sewing!

Black shirt for Nathan

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I finished Nathan’s shirt in the middle of last week! He wore it to work the next day and again this weekend, so I call it a success. We managed to get some pictures today, and I tried to impart my best and only modeling advice: look off to the side dreamily and un-focus your eyes.

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I could see shirt-making getting addicting. No one step in the process (perhaps aside from edge-stitching the collar stand) was crazy difficult but each one builds on the last. It’s a like a sewing crescendo.

I made a few changes to the pattern (McCall’s 6044) since the last time I used it. I was already using a large through the arm holes and tapering down to a medium through the waist. This time I added 1/4″ back into the bottom of the side seams for a little more ease. I also drafted a back yoke (inspired by Lisa) to add a bit of visual interest to the plain near-black fabric.

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Speaking of the fabric… I’m still a little bit rankled because it was listed as 100% cotton but the second I put an iron to it, I smelled polyester. I’d already washed it and hadn’t done a burn test but I’m starting to think I might need to every time I get a fabric.  This is the second time in a month I’ve received synthetic fibers in a so-called cotton. The first was from Girl Charlee, and this one was from Mood. Reputable retailers, both of them! All the more shocking as internet research leads me to believe it’s illegal to sell fabric or garments and not declare fiber content accurately. Explaining why I was upset to Girl Charlee was a draining process that took place over a couple of days and I didn’t have the gumption to repeat it. I also had my heart set on starting this project for Nathan.

Has anyone else bought fabric online that was misrepresented?

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Look at that stink eye

Fiber content drama aside, I’m super proud of this shirt! I learned a lot of new techniques from Pam Howard’s Craftsy class like how to make sure you’re cutting on-grain, tailor’s tacks, flat-felling seams, and the proper way to line up buttons to the placket. I even have ideas for what I’d like to tackle next time, like better collar points, better edge-stitching, a slightly wider button placket and exploring what looks like excessive ease in the top back area of the sleeve and upper back.

With this project complete, my head is now spinning even more about what to make next, aside from the blazer my mom and I are making in our lessons (we’re using Simplicity 2250). We had another lesson this weekend fitting our muslins. I’ve always known that my shoulders and upper back are broad but it really hit home when we added 7/8″ to the center back seam! No wonder I had a hard time finding RTW button shirts and jackets.

Weekend sewings-on

Like quite a few sewing bloggers, I’m working on a men’s shirt right now! I’m using this as an opportunity to improve my precision sewing skills. I’ve also been taking Pam Howard’s Crafty class on shirtmaking and have picked up a few tips. I’m using McCall’s 6044, which I used on Nathan’s gingham shirt, with only a few modifications (the addition of a yoke and slimming down the waist a bit.) I’m also trying flat-felled seams for the first time, which you can see on the armhole seam in pic below! I never really understood the technique before and had been faking it with French seams that I top-stitched down.

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I also made a bit of a splurge this weekend…. say hello to my walking foot! I’ve been dreaming about one of these babies for a long time, and it works like magic. Like Andrea before me, I’m wondering if it’s wrong to use it on everything? I’m definitely using it on the side seams and button placket for the shirt.

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On Sunday, my mom and I took a sewing lesson (really a pattern adjustment lesson) from my friend Casey. Casey (who made my wedding dress), is getting his degree from a fashion school in Seattle. I learned a ton and it was only the first class! Here, he’s showing us how to walk in a pattern that we traced to make sure that our seamlines and markings are aligned.

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Finally, my mom had been cleaning out my great-aunt’s fabric collection and I ended up with two beautiful pieces of Japanese fabric (the black and white is cotton, the striped is a stiff linen). They’re less than 15″ wide, however! Does anybody know what they might have been intended for, or what I might be able to use them on? I’m guess they might have been made with some traditional Japanese clothing style in mind?

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Gingham

I found a fantastic piece of navy blue gingham at the Goodwill and was all ready to make myself some sort of tunic when, in a fit of selflessness, held the fabric up to my husband and decided it would suit him better. I turned to McCall’s 6044, which I’d used twice before for him.

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(Good grief, I’m realizing as I write this post that my last three projects have been button-down shirts. I did take note of how easily I was able to do the button placket this time around!)

The only real challenge with this shirt was how much the fabric puckered after washing. I think the blue threads in the shirt shrunk a lot more than the white parts of the shirt, and I had do to a lot of fabric manipulation to get it right.

Anyway, our trip to Maui afforded N lots of occasions to wear a short-sleeved gingham shirt, unlike the inclement weather of Seattle, so I snapped a few photos of him in it.

I think I might be out of my button-down shirt-making fit
for now, but when the urge inevitably strikes me again, I’m considering challenging myself by adding some interesting details.

Epaulets, anyone?
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