It’s been a while since I made a shirt for my husband. Like, two years. The first three shirts I made him using the Colette Negroni pattern were fine (each an improvement on the preceding one), but when I tried a Simplicity pattern for a Western style shirt, it all went a bit wrong (my fault) and scared me off sewing shirts. It was way too big, and to top it off I accidentally sewed the buttonholes on the wrong side. Ooops.
Finally I felt ready to tackle a shirt again but I wanted a different style this time, more in keeping with what my husband likes wearing – a fitted shirt with a regular collar (not a camp collar like the Negroni) that could be worn with a tie if desired. I found Burda 6931, and was at first put off by the contrast sleeves, collar and pocket of view A, but the line drawing showed potential so I ordered it, along with some really lovely quality cotton poplin which is perfect for making shirts with. My husband chose the colour, Claret, and I think it’s lovely. I neglected to see that the fabric recommendations are for fabrics with elastane, and having made the shirt I can now see why – it is very fitted!
After the disastrously big shirt I made last time, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get it wrong this time. I measured him and after consulting the size charts and the finished garment measurements, I opted to cut a size 36 for the chest but to grade down to a 34 at the waist.
I wanted this shirt to be beautifully finished, so I chose to sew flat fell seams for most of the seams, but when I was attaching one of the sleeves, I accidentally snipped into the seam allowance of the fabric (which when sewing a flat fell seam is on the right side of the garment). I was very, very annoyed with myself and I just couldn’t think what to do to fix it. I left it a whole two days before it suddenly occurred to me that I could unpick the sleeve and sew it the other way around, so that the snipped bit would at least be on the inside of the shirt! So it’s still a flat-fell seam, just that the overlapped part is on the inside – but you still get the second row of stitching showing on the right side parallel to the seam, so it looks good from the outside, too. Phew!
After having made several shirts before, and two shirt dresses, I was mentally prepared for the task of sewing the collar. Good job, too. Burda instructions are a bit sparse, to be honest – there’s none of the hand-holding that you might get in patterns from other companies. I remembered to ensure that the interfaced sides of the collar and collar band would be facing out when the collar is turned down, and when I was attaching the collarband piece to the neck edge, I clipped a scant 1/4″ into the neck edge of the shirt to help with the curve and avoid puckering. Incidentally, this is the first time I’ve ever sewn a shirt without a back yoke!
The sleeve vent instructions were extremely basic, and my previous experience means I’ve only ever made sleeve plackets rather than simple vents, so I had to consult one of my sewing books instead to get my head around what to do. They turned out ok to look at, but my husband did say that the vent seems to want to sit too far to the front, so perhaps the position of the vent needs to be further to the back next time.
I’d pretty much got this shirt all sewn up when I did a fit check. I basted the side seams together and, when husband returned home from the gym, I asked him to try it on. I was mortified to see it was too tight! I measured him again and he did seem to have grown a bit since I first measured, but I couldn’t understand how the ease built into the pattern didn’t cater for this! He claimed that he was bound to be a bit bigger directly after lifting weights, so all I could do was just wait and see if he’d shrunk again by the next day. I was sooooo disappointed – I felt like the shirt was looking perfect, but what good is a shirt that is too tight? He looked as though he’d been vacuum-packed into it!
Between this trying on session and the next, I undid the side seams and sewed them up again with a seam allowance of 1/4″ – which would give an extra 3/4″ width each side. In hindsight, I should have only done this at the side seams and not the underarm seams as well, as the sleeves didn’t need any extra width and now I think they look a bit billowy in comparison with the fit of the rest of the shirt. Decreasing the seam allowance to such an extent meant that I was unable to do flat fell seams at the sides – very disappointing. I didn’t want to overlock it, so I sewed a reinforcing extra line of stitching and then pinked the raw edges.
Because of the extra width in the sleeves, I had to increase the depth of the pleats in order to fit the cuffs. This could perhaps be a contributing factor to the not-quite-perfect fit of the sleeves. I wanted to create as much extra room as possible in the shirt, so the final change I made was to move all of the buttons over so that they were nearer the edge of the centre front. When my husband returned home from work, he tried the shirt on, and due to a magical combination of him shrinking and me making the shirt bigger, it fitted him!
It is very fitted, although I wonder if I’m hyper-sensitive to it because I made it. I think next time I’d like to sew a size larger and see how that turns out. Anyway, my husband likes it and demanded to wear it for an applicant day at work, and he said it was nice to wear and didn’t feel too tight. There isn’t any straining at the buttons, which I think would be the most obvious sign of it being too small.
Overall I really enjoyed making the shirt, despite the problems I encountered. I like the precision of shirt-making, and I take great pride in making something to the best of my ability, and solving problems when they occur. I’ll definitely be using this pattern again! I think I’d sew a size bigger and then I know I’d be fine to use a regular, non-stretch cotton. I’d definitely want to use the same interfacing, too. The woven interfacing from Minerva is THE BEST. Seriously. It’s my favourite. Love it.
Right, I’m off to sew some pretty dresses. It can’t all be selfless sewing around here, after all! ;-)
Here’s for something a bit different! As many of you will know, our fellow sewcialist and spoolette Vicki-Kate is expecting a baby. She’s already started her maternity leave, so there’s not long to go now. However, unbeknownst to her, since the end of September 2014, a group of us have been plotting a surprise for her – an online baby-shower!
We have each made her a gift, and today we’re all revealing them. It took me a while to decide what to make for Vicki-Kate as we didn’t know the baby’s gender, but in the end I settled on baby trousers using a pattern called ‘Mr. Two-Face Pants’ from the book ‘Sewing For Boys’. Despite the pattern’s provenance, these are unisex trousers as the design is basically the same as a pair of pyjama bottoms with an elasticated waist.
The fabric choice will look familiar to anyone who has been reading this blog this month, as it is the same fabric as I used for my Foxy Cambie dress. I looked through my (quite sizeable) fabric stash to find a unisex fabric, and with the exception of plain green, I found nothing that would be suitable for a girl or a boy, except this. But I think this is a brilliant print for kids’ clothing, and I hope Vicki-Kate likes it!
I made these for a 12 month old baby, so they won’t get worn straight away, but the growth rate of the baby starts to slow down a bit after the first year anyway, so that means that when the baby is big enough for them, they will last much longer! Also, having had two kids myself, I noticed that people love giving teeny-tiny baby clothes because they are so cute, which is brilliant of course but it’s good to have some bigger sizes ready and waiting.
The trousers have a patch pocket on the back right, which is a really cute detail. I sewed the inside leg seams with flat-felled seams, which is a hard-wearing finish often used for childrenswear. The crotch seam was too curved for a flat-fell seam so I did a French seam instead.
I really hope you like them, Vicki-Kate, and I wish you all the best with the birth and everything after. I will be posting these to you in the next few days.
Finally, thank you to Ann, who organised this – such a kind and thoughtful thing to do – I’m really pleased I was able to be part of it.
Recently my daughter has started to express a preference for skirts or dresses that ‘spin out’. If they don’t spin out when she twirls around, she’s not interested in wearing them!
Sometime last year I bought the book ‘Sewn With Love’ by Fiona Bell, which is full of vintage-inspired sewing patterns for children’s clothing. There are loads of sweet dress patterns in the book but I was quite taken by the idea of making the ‘Dirndl Skirt’ for my daughter.
I was very disappointed with the quality of the pattern, its markings and its ease of assembly. The patterns come on a CD so you can print them and stick the pages together, but there were no numbers or markings to help you match them up. This skirt pattern was basically a series of longer and longer rectangles, so it was pretty difficult to work out the order. It would have been much more helpful to give the measurements of the rectangles to cut.
Once I had finally assembled the ‘pattern’, I thought I’d be able to whip the skirt up in no time, but I had forgotten just how long gathering can take, and there is a lot of gathering in this skirt! The bottom tier alone was 5.5m long. For the third tier I had to split the gathering into eight sections to help control it and spread it evenly, and the bottom tier I split into sixteen sections. Although it was fiddly and took longer than I planned, I did enjoy making it a lot. I kept on imagining my daughter’s reaction when I showed it to her and imagining her twirling around in it.
The fabric is City Weekend by Liesl Gibson for Oliver+S by Moda. I bought it a couple of years ago so I’m glad to have finally used it up. It lingered in my stash so long because I only bought 1.5m – not quite sure why! I added extra fouff to the skirt (completely unnecessary, but it adds to the fun) by adding in a yellow crystal organza tiered underskirt, which I had made for a previous project but not used. I added it into the second tier so that it would hang a little below the final tier. There’s no point in having it if you can’t see a little peek of it, after all.
I had originally intended to give this to my daughter for her birthday, but I was too impatient to wait and I know she’s got tons of other things to open on her birthday. Of course, she loves it! It’s pretty long on her, and the elastic is pretty tight at the back, so I think this will last a couple of years actually if I added in a bit of extra elastic when it becomes too tight.
I’m not sure I’d use this book again. I love the finished skirt, and I still really like some of the other designs in the book, but assembling paper patterns with no markings or numbers is a big fat pain in the ass. Oh well, at least I got some use out of it!
In November 2014 I made a Coco dress for the White Tree Fabrics blogging network. Before I cut into the fabric they sent me, I made a test version with some other fabric I picked up at Leicester market. The fabric was black, and I think the best way to describe it is as a heavy, textured double-knit jersey. The texture is like a raised fish-net pattern, but it’s all solid black. I wanted 2m, but the seller only had 1.75m. Anyway, I went ahead as I felt sure I could make it work.
I did manage to squeeze the dress out of the 1.75m, but I broke all the rules of fabric cutting! The front is cut on the grain as it should be, but the back is cut cross grain. And I can’t even remember how I squeezed the sleeves out of it, but they had to be cut shorter than prescribed. I did have enough odds and ends of fabric leftover to make the funnel-neck collar, which I was quite pleased about!
Anyway, I sewed it up and when I tried it on, I fell a little bit in-love! I so rarely make garments in a solid colour, and especially not black, but this dress just felt effortlessly chic and flattering.
This dress is one of my most serviceable makes as it probably gets worn weekly. It feels like an easy option to wear because it’s comfy and practical, but with the added bonus that it makes me feel good when I wear it.
Making the purple Coco dress for White Tree Fabrics only increased my love for this pattern. Yes, it’s simple, but I just love the fit, and it’s so easy to make!
I decided to try out the top version with some leftover double-knit jersey. I’ve been wearing jeans a lot more recently, but I always feel as though I am very much lacking in tops, especially tops I actually want to wear! My leftover jersey was just plain brown, but I thought I might as well sew it up into a Coco top rather than leave it languishing in my fabric stash.
I love it! I know it isn’t wildly exciting to anyone else, but it is to me because I really, really like the shape and fit of this top.
It feels odd to dedicate an entire blog post to these two garments, but I’m just revelling in the joy of making of some absolutely basic garments – life isn’t all lace dresses, after all!
Hot on the heels of my Paris Cambie comes a better-fitting Foxy Cambie. This one is cut a size smaller, and I think it’s much better.
My first ever Cambie, the Pirate Cambie, was the version with a gathered skirt. I have now decided gathered skirts can do one. It’s taken me 5 years to realise they add bulk to the waist that isn’t always very flattering, not to mention they use a ton of fabric. So I’m looking to avoid gathered waistlines for the moment.
For some reason, I had it in my head that the other skirt option on the Cambie pattern was A-line. Clearly I didn’t pay too much attention to the line drawing! The skirt shape isn’t great for me. There’s a bit of excess fabric around the hips, and because of the pockets, it sort of stands out away from my hips and exaggerates their size somewhat! What I would like to do the next time I make a Cambie, is to use the skirt pattern from the Deer and Doe Belladone dress, which is a very similar design but is definitely A-line.
The fabric for this dress is totally awesome and was a birthday gift from my friend Martha. As well as foxes, it has little white rabbits! I always love a good novelty print and this is no exception. It also goes brilliantly with an orange cardigan I had already, and my bag. The only thing I really need to complete the look is orange shoes.
Both this Cambie and the Paris Cambie are only partially lined. I didn’t line the skirts because I didn’t have enough lining fabric, but I usually wear a slip or half slip anyway so it doesn’t make much difference to me. The Paris Cambie is lined with crepe-backed satin, which feels lovely against the skin. This one is lined with some bog standard poly slippery stuff, which does the job.
The skirt looks more A-line side-on, strangely…
Anyway, even though I’ve complained a lot about the skirt, I still really love this dress. The fit is much better than the last one and the fabric is brilliant. It’s going to get a lot of wear! I’m especially looking forward to wearing it when my son wears his amazing Foxy Coat: