Simplicity 1327: Plaid on request

I’ve noticed something about my husband’s wardrobe and it has a lot to do with who he sees each day and where we live. When he first started working with veterinarians and farmers in Australia, I noticed plaid shirts creep into his wardrobe for the first time ever. Rodd and Gunn took over from Hugo Boss and Ermenegildo Zegna as his brand of choice. 

 
 
So it stands to reason that there would also be some wardrobe updates after moving to the Midwest. It began with cowboy boots. Not just ordinary cowboy boots. They had to be the real deal, genuine caiman.
 
 
They go surprisingly well with the Drizabone he’s been wearing for the past 18mths. So why would I be surprised that he would put in an order in for a “western-style” plaid shirt. He was quite specific on this one. Plaid was not enough. It needed to have the Western yokes and pockets too. *Sigh*. I’m really not into sewing costumes or matching plaid.

 

 

I wasn’t planning on rushing into this make, but I somehow managed to stumble across the most amazing brushed cotton, Italian shirting  during a recent trip away, when I was lucky enough to visit Britex Fabrics in San Fransisco, in person. The fabric is beautifully smooth on one side and brushed soft on the underside. I wasn’t very excited about sewing a “Western” shirt until I found this fabric. Fabric makes all the difference.

 
 

The pattern I used was Simplicity 1327. The sizing on this pattern is more general than other shirt patterns, which makes for less precise sizing. I cut this shirt in a size L, which was specified for a 42-44″ chest. My husband is a 42″ (or possibly a smidgen more after Christmas) which made me wary of ending up with an unattractively oversized shirt. To accomodate my laziness in lack of muslin making, I made the shirt up according to the instructions but only basted the side seams together initially. This enabled me to check the fit around the torso. It was a little roomy to begin with so I graded the seam allowance from 5/8″ at the cuff (which was already a good fit) to 1″ at the shirt hem. This brought the side and underarm seams in by just the right amount.

All the yokes, placket, cuffs, and pockets were cut on the bias. Apart from the yokes, which were stitched on the shirt as overlays, I fused interfacing to all of the other bias cut pieces to avoid them stretching out of shape while I worked with them. I used very light interfacing for the pockets and prepared them in the same way as this tutorial. I also used a little bit of Liberty of London as contrast in the collar band. And I came so close to matching up those bias stripes on the cuffs.


Despite my extreme lack of excitement in this project, I quite like the outcome. The bias cut plaid made for lovely contrast details in the shirt and I’m pleased with how the sizing worked out in the end. But more importantly, the shirt looks great with those cowboy boots!

McCalls 8082: a denim shirt

So, this shirt is another version of the oversized white man-shirt I made last year. I made it in an attempt to replace my beloved Anna Sui Chambray shirt, that has now been retired, but it opened my eyes to the fact that chambray and denim literally goes with everything.
 

I’ve been loving the look of oversized, drop shoulder shirts this season. I’ve also been craving the look of denim on denim. Since my complete denim on denim outfit is still in the design stages, I had to content with my much loved leather trousers for these photos. 

 
The fabric I used for this shirt is a very soft and lightweight denim. It is blue, but so very dark that it almost looks black. I was hoping for a paler denim colour when I purchased it online, but I’ve grown to love the darker hue.

The pattern I used was McCalls 8082, with just one modification. I took a small step away from the very 80’s look of this pattern by narrowing the top of the sleeves and raising the armscye each by just over an inch. This helps to slim down some of the excess fabric under the arm and through the bust for me.



I love how this shirt turned out. Denim really does go with everything, so you’ll probably also see me pairing it with my maxi skirt when the weather warms.
 
 

 
 


TNT Simplicity 6138 for hubby

So here is the original version of the shirt you saw in my last post. The birthday boy was extremely happy with his new shirt, and very amused with my copycat version. Catching him for a photograph is near impossible, but I promise to try and get a shot of us both together in out matching shirts at some point in the future. Although I suspect that photo is going to require a great deal of stealth on my part.

Otherwise, there isn’t much more to say on this shirt. White collar, white cuffs and some nice clean stripes. You really don’t get much better than that for business attire. This pattern is a TNT for hubby with makes my life easy. If you are after some more details, be sure to check out my earlier makes (here and here).

 

 


Simpicity 6138 and fabric envy

I’ve made this shirt so many times now that it’s getting ridiculous. I love that I’ve got a TNT business shirt pattern for husband. It certainly makes birthdays and Christmas easy. The fit is very good on him, even if he looks quite rumpled and uncomfortable in the photos. I did try to straighten him up a bit, but I have to call it a plus if I can simply get him in front of the camera.

 
 
Like in my last versions, my only modification was to add back darts. I still need to press them better, but somebody hastily donned his new shirt, literally before I could finish it. 
 

This was the fabric I’d originally chosen for his shirt, but it sold out in lightning speed. I might have been a day too late but my disappointment didn’t last long because because I discovered an equally gorgeous and unique shirt fabric that I think I like even more now. It’s call Blue Striped Unknown from Tessuti Fabrics. I’m wondering if I should get myself some more before it sells out. Or I could just steal the shirt for myself.


Kwik Sew 3883: GANRYU COMME des GARCON vs Charlie Harper

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard me say this before, but I don’t particularly love sewing men’s shirts. I think it’s the degree of perfection required with those collars and cuffs. It could also be because it’s selfless sewing and the kind of sewing that doesn’t really allow me to experiment much. I’m not allowed to deviate much from a standard pattern. Well, in hubby’s case I do. He’s a fan of classic.

So after doing my nice-wifely duty of sewing him a proper business shirt for his birthday (that post will come later), I decided to experiment with a casual ,short sleeve shirt. I was inspired by a GANRYU COMME des GARCON shirt that I saw on Pinterest. My plan was to keep the pleats but colour block the bottom instead of the curved pocket details. I chose some Anna Sui chambray for the top and some white linen for the bottom.

GANRYU COMME des GARCONS 2015 Spring/Summer Collection | Hypebeast

The patten I used was Kwik Sew 3883. I’ve sewn this pattern before (here and here). It’s taken me until now to finally admit that it isn’t a great fit. The shirt is just too wide in the torso, and perhaps a little wide on the shoulders too. The seam allowance of 6mm is also impractical. I usually start out sewing the shirt with the wrong seam allowance. But even when I get it right, 6mm is way to fiddly for nice felled seams.


Overall, I don’t mind how this shirt turned out. I wanted to bring the sides in by about an inch to slim down the fit for hubby, but he opted to forgo my alterations and send it to his Dad (who is a little bigger than him) instead. His initial reasoning was that it was a Summer shirt and we were headed into Winter. But I delved a little deeper and the truth came out. The fact of the matter is that the chambray reminds him of his old school uniform and the colour blocking makes him feel like Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men. I guess colour blocked shirts are off the cards for hubby in the future then. What do you think? Have I made a Charlie Harper shirt?


Corduroy culottes: another Esther shorts hack

I’m here to convince you that culottes really are the new skirt. And I’m not talking about the cute little flippy variety that could be mistaken for a skirt. I’m talking about the hard-core, wide leg, knee length type, or the sharp, A-line, midi silhouettes that are probably giving some of you unpleasant flashbacks right now. I admit, I get the flashbacks too. My high school sports uniform was a pair of bottle green, knee-length culottes (that memory came flooding back to me when my ‘blue’ corduroy arrived in the mail). But don’t worry, I’m quite determined to sway all you doubters out there, and to do so, I’ve put together not one, not two, but four different looks with the same pair of fabulous winter weight culottes.

For Autumn, I’ve paired them with my Nani Iro top and a pair of open booties. A long pair of tan leather boots would look fabulous right now, but I don’t own any and I spend all my spare cash on fabric instead of shoes. Can anyone else relate? 

The fabric I used in my culottes is utterly divine. It’s a cotton corduroy by Thread, with the most beautiful velvety sheen I’ve ever seen. It’s called ‘blue’ but it is most definitely a bottle green. I knew what I was getting though. It’s nothing like the dull kiddie quality cord that I’ve sewn with in the past. I should have paid more attention.


I do all my fabric cutting and sewing in the evenings in poorer light than I would like, but that’s just the way it has to be. I don’t have time to sew during the day. So I happily cut into my gorgeous fabric, positioning the legs in opposite directions and paying complete disregard for the nap. I merrily sewed away at the project until I tried my culottes on to decide on the hem length. The lightbulb suddenly went on in my head. Nap! Why did I not consider this first? I thought I’d made a total blooper of these pants. One leg was clearly a different shade to the other.

I think the difference in nap looks more pronounced in artificial light, and from my persepective as the wearer, looking down at an acute angle. It is such a silly mistake to make that I still feel like giving myself a slap. Anyway, they are so comfortable and warm that I’m just going to wear them anyway. I think it’s pushing it a bit far to call it a design feature so I’m just going to feign ignorance. What, my legs are different shades of bottle green? No way! It’s a shadow. Go get your eyes checked!

For view two, I opted for a more vintage feel. I’m wearing my Liberty of London Kanerva with them this time.

 


The pattern I used to make these culottes was based on the Esther shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. My modifications were pretty simple. I added a 10cm pleat to the front legs. I also widened and lengthened the legs. I really like how they turned out but next time I will definitely add in-seam pockets.

I also tried my culottes out with my new favourite shirt. I like chambray with cord. Hubby isn’t too sure about this combination. He can’t decide whether I look like Anne of Green Gables, a school mistress, or Brethren. 

 
 
 

And finally, I paired the culottes with my black ponte and leather top for a slightly more edgy look. I like the silhouette of a cropped top over high waist pants. 

 

Here’s a summary of the four looks. Which one do you like best? And more importantly, when are you going to make a pair!
 
 

Simplicity 5047: Anna Sui herringbone chambray man-shirt

I’d originally intended to sew this shirt up as an Archer. I even purchased the pattern (the PDF version because that’s all there was TWO weeks ago). The problem is that we don’t have a printer at home. Like a land-line phone, it’s one of those things we haven’t really felt an urgency to purchase since setting up from scratch over here.

Hubby was going to get it printed for me, but then he balked at the 60 pages and promptly left for a week long business trip. Honestly, it wasn’t me! I had my gloriously soft Anna Sui chambray on standby and it was giving me the eye so I was forced to come up with some alternate arrangements.


Introducing Simplicity 5047, a vintage men’s shirt pattern that I picked up for a 25c steal at a recent garage sale. The pattern is for a 36″ chest. My bust measurement is 35″, but without much bust to speak of. I also have quite broad shoulders, so my logic told me that perhaps a small men’s shirt pattern would be more likely to fit, where other’s have failed before.

Anna Sui button up and my leather circle skirt

I was right! I am so happy with the fit. The shoulders are wide enough. No broad back adjustment was necessary. I wasn’t aiming for a slim fit, but I didn’t want it to be too boxy or roomy through the torso either. It feels just right. I didn’t have to add fish eye darts in the back like I thought I would. The arm length works, but next time I will lengthen them a smidgen. I figured the arms would be longer than usual to cater for long, man arms. As it turns out, my alien arms are a little longer than that of mankind. The only change I made to the pattern was to flick one side of the cuff placket around so that I could have French cuffs instead of regular.



 



 
I like the look of chambray paired with my leather circle skirt. But when I was looking at the photos, I realised for the first time that a little peep had been drawing on my leg. Leg is clearly a far more creative medium than paper. I like that she matched my skirt though.
 
  

The best thing about this pattern is the collar. In fact, if I’m perfectly honest, it was the collar that swayed me more towards getting started on the vintage pattern instead of waiting for my Archer. But unfortunately it is another one of those all in one collar band and collars. It works well enough, but I just feel that it isn’t the proper way of doing things.The neck width feels great though. I love it done up to the top button. But it also works well undone and paired with my favourite maxi skirt.

I love the fit of this shirt, but there are a few construction details that I will change next time I sew this pattern. There is no proper front button placket. It’s more of a self-facing that is folded inwards, but not stitched down. Next time I will add a proper front placket as well as a collar band for a more professional finish. I will also shave a bit off the sleeve cap. There was a ridiculous amount of unnecessary ease in those sleeve caps.

It’s so nice to sew a shirt that fits well right off the bat. I’ve always had trouble finding RTW shirts that fit, due to my long arms and broad shoulders (comparatively speaking to other females). Perhaps I should have been looking in the menswear section instead!

 




Simplicity 6138 and Liberty of London: A business shirt for hubby

I’m slowly getting better at making business shirts. I’m proud to say that this is my best shirt ever. It’s still not perfect, but I’m heading in the right direction. The last couple (here and here) of Kwik Sew shirts I made seemed okay at the time, but the fit wasn’t as good as it could be, and my experimental flat felled seams fell a little short of the mark. This one is much improved.

 

I didn’t make the tie, but hubby felt it was necessary to include it in the photos, not because my stripes weren’t perfectly lined up down the front (they were!) but probably because this is the first shirt that actually fits his neck perfectly. He was a wee bit excited! Too excited to don trouser pants in fact.

The shirt is a slimmer fit due to the two fish eye darts I added to the back. The darts weren’t in the original pattern, but they were easy to add. I like the collar shape better as well. Hubby went on a bit of a RTW shirt buying spree after we landed in the US (he was desperate!). As much as this pained me, he did bring home a couple of beautifully made shirts which I have been able to compare and analyse to improve my own shirt making.


The pattern I used is Simplicity 6138. It’s a Henry Grethel pattern. Since I hadn’t sewn this pattern before, I compared the pieces to his very new and very favourite RTW shirt. I also used the RTW shirt to figure out how to make the contrast part of the inner cuff placket. It wasn’t difficult, but of course I didn’t photograph how I did it. It’s not that I forget to take the photographs. I usually just lack the confidence that my experiments will work out in the first place! I shouldn’t doubt myself so much.

I’ve never been completely happy with the interfacing of my collars and cuffs. Hubby’s best shirts only have interfacing on the outside fabric piece of the collar, not on the inside. I realise now, that this allows the collar corners to be made so much sharper than I’ve been able to do in the past. The interfacing they use in the RTW shirt is also so incredibly stiff, like nothing I’ve ever encountered before. I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it, but then it dawned on me that I could double up my usual interfacing and fuse them together as one to the one collar piece. I used Prowoven shirt-crisp fusible interfacing, doubled up, from Fashion Sewing Supply. It worked beautifully. It is my stiffest, sharpest collar yet.


I only used one layer of the same interfacing for the collar stand so it was much less stiff. Next time I would use two here as well, or possibly one layer of shirt-crisp and another ever so slightly less stiff one. I think the collar stand needs to be very close in stiffness to the collar or the collar doesn’t roll back quite as nicely as it could.

For the first time ever, the pattern actually included French cuff pieces. I usually draft my own for other shirt patterns because this is what hubby prefers. I only fused one layer of the same interfacing to the outer cuff, but because a French cuff is folded over, this was firm enough. I’m not sure those cuff links match hubby!

But that’s enough of my technical musings. Do you love the sneaky Liberty of London on the inside of the cuffs and plackets? I should also mention that both the shirting and the Liberty were chosen by hubby on his recent NY trip, specifically for this combo. I’m impressed!



The completed birthday shirt

 
I finally finished the birthday shirt. My ever present assistant was not entirely pleased with my handiwork. It could have been the lack of ruffles, big buttons, or tulle that failed to meet her expectations.

I was pleased with the way the contrasting floral Liberty of London looked on the inner collar stand and plackets. It may be my best collar yet in terms of neatness, but on comparing with the other shirts in hubby’s cupboard, I did notice that this collar is a little narrower. I may have to draft my own collar next time.

 
I am especially pleased with my button choice and in the way I was able to line up the stripes perfectly down the front. I always feel rather chuffed if the patterns end up matching as planned. I purchased these little buttons from the Button shop on King Street in Newtown. I wasn’t sure about them at the time as they have a slight grey/mauve tint (not at all like the standard pearlescent white buttons you see on absolutely every business shirt). But I bought them just in case and in the end they looked perfect!

 

I am not super happy with my buttonholes or edge stitching. Because of the dark contrasting fabric on the underside of the shirt, I decided to use a dark thread in my bobbin and it showed through to the top stitching slightly. I am not sure if this is a tension/stitching problem with my machine or just something that happens. Next time I would stick to all white thread and just deal with seeing the stitching on the underside.

Here’s to the completion of another shirt for hubby. I might not get excited about sewing him shirts anymore, but it is always so satisfying to complete such a technical project well, and the joy it gives my hubby to receive them is well worth every minute spent lining up stripes. My next challenge is going to be holding out until December to hand over the shirt!

Birthday shirt cuff comparison

The birthday shirt is coming along pretty well, although I am going to reserve my judgement on this project until the very end. I made a modification to the front placket, switching it to the inside so I could use a floral contrast instead of self-fabric. But, I now realise that the width of my modified placket won’t match perfectly with the other front side. At the moment, I am still hopeful that this mistake won’t be too noticeable (at least by hubby).

What has worked out nicely so far is the cuff plackets. I am using a nice white shirting to contrast with the stripes for the collar and cuffs. And check out the difference between the cuff plackets in this pattern compared to the vintage shirt pattern I had been using before. The vintage piece is on the left.

So, to make the cuff placket, I first made a slit, then stitched a narrow hem on one side of the slit, before stitching the placket piece to the other side.

I then folded it through to the right side (folding all the raw edges under neatly with the use of my iron), and stitched around the edges. Super simple and not fiddly at all.

I know the inside doesn’t look as professional (to me anyway!), but how can I not be happy with these results on the outside!