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McCalls M4518 – Does it really only take 2 hours?

November 11, 2010

I have a friend – let’s call him Randolph Bacon – who is very fond of Hawaiian shirts, so I thought it would be a good idea to make him one for his birthday.  I have never made a shirt before, never even sewn sleeves or a collar before, so I picked what looked like a simple pattern – McCalls M4518 (which can also be used for women or teenage boys).  On the front of the packet it said it was a ‘2 hour shirt*’, with the asterisk in small print at the bottom stating ‘sewing machine time only’.

I put this claim to the test, and timed my sewing.  The time spent actually sewing on my machine was less than two hours (about 1hr50).  However, after having traced the pattern, cut it out, cut the fabric and the interfacing, and transferred all the markings (which I spaced out over a couple of days), I also timed how long it took me to complete each step, including the pinning, basting, pressing and so on, and it actually took around four hours – that is four hours of solid work, not including time between each step trying to work out what to do next, or unpick where you’ve gone wrong, wind bobbins etc.  I think if you could work uninterrupted (a luxury not many of us have!), and you knew exactly what you were doing, you could probably get this shirt made in a day, including the cutting of the fabric.

The pattern was easy to follow, and it was only my own inexperience of sewing collars that got me stuck at one point, and resulted in an unintentional, pretty awful gathering of fabric under the collar, which I am ashamed to point out, but too truthful to pretend that it turned out perfectly.

Eek! So embarrassed...

You may notice that this fabric is not your average Hawaiian print.  I am on the lookout for some lovely Hawaiian fabric (am thinking maybe an Alexander Henry print or Michael Miller) so that I can make the shirt again, but in the meantime I saw this at my local fabric store for £2.99 per metre, so I decided to use it as a test.  It means Randolph gets 2 shirts, and if this first one doesn’t fit as well as he’d like, I can alter the pattern for next time.  This also means that I don’t have to worry too much about the horrid gathering, as it’s only a test shirt after all!

Here’s the finished garment:


The finishing touch - a label!

I’m looking forward to making this again in a Hawaiian print for Randolph, and I will no doubt make it for Mr Tweedie as well!

Just one point: it is impossible to complete step 2 without a loop turner.  I did not have one, and had to make the loop by pressing the raw edges inwards and topstitching instead.  A loop turner is on my shopping list for next time…

  1. November 12, 2010 12:35 am

    What a great point made, especially the warts and all dodgy gathering – all sewing-istas appreciate a ‘humble dressmaker’ and besides it’s what makes it unique! The shirt is fab, that would be great for my 7 year old son! Thanks for sharing. 😉

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      November 12, 2010 5:21 pm

      Ah thanks for the compliment! 🙂

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