The other white shirt

Dear readers,

It looks like the new blog format is working for me so far, I hope it is for you too. However it’s too soon to tell if I will be able to keep it up. It wouldn’t be the first time that I manage to maintain decent activity levels on the blog, only to let it completely go a month later… One thing I forgot to mention though is that I don’t currently plan on posting on other platforms than here and Instagram. No more PR, Kollabora (which never seemed to foster interactions or traffic anyway), Burdastyle or Thread and Needle. Traffic was never high on this blog and will certainly drop now but I kind of like the idea of a narrower little corner of the Internet, mostly with regular readers.

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But let’s talk about today’s topic, another big square white shirt. Whenever I sew a white top, I kick myself for not making more. It’s so easy to be seduced by colors and prints in pretty fabric, but there are not many garments as versatile as white tops and blouses.

When I made the Ralph Pink pattern I mentioned last week, I already had in mind a crisp poplin version. Probably because of this Burda pattern (coincidentally Mokosha just posted about it, and it’s reminding me that it would probably fit my current needs) and this Everlane number :

I decided to start with my silk-blend version so that the drape would help with the extra-volume. I really like my previous version, but decided to take in the sides even more (total of 5″ on each side seam, as opposed to 3″ last time) and shorten the sleeves (3″) to account for the stiffer fabric. Unfortunately this required redrafting almost completely the front since I was reaching the sleeve cuffs in a straight line. While I was redrafting, I took the opportunity to modify the curved seam line you can see in the front. On the original pattern the front seam is purely decorative, with no shaping. But since I was going with a shape closer to the body, I included a sort of bust dart.

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I’m not sure you can see very well above but the dotted paper is my modified front pattern and the white one the original pattern. I also modified the top collar pattern to create a smaller/more current collar.

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The fabric is the most beautiful Japanese 100% cotton shirting. I found it at Mood’s and I have just no word to describe how smooth and perfect it is. It sewed well but I had a little bit of puckering that I could not completely iron out, for which I have no explanation. There is also the always tricky curved underarm seam, which was made extra difficult by the use of French seams. For this shirt, I finally  remembered to make my buttonholes and sew the buttons BEFORE hemming. No one will believe but I swear that the CF matched exactly in length before, but I am no Beth of SunnyGal Studio and I cannot explain how the lower picture happened!

Some of you may have a serious eye twitch already and believe me I do too! Let me explain how ironic the situation is. Being French (I know it’s a lame lame excuse), I’m a very critical blog reader. Lately, I kept noticing garments with the traditional closure for womenswear (right over left, ALWAYS right over left) had been avoided/omitted. It’s quite disturbing to the eye in my opinion. Well guess what happened next… I marked my buttonholes actively thinking:”Ha! You are not going to catch me making THAT dumb mistake!!” [Smirk face]. I sewed all the buttonholes , all the buttons, hemmed the shirt only to realize that I had just done it! I inverted the closure!!! Oh well…. *Shameful Face*

I really love the final garment. It fits my current needs perfectly and has been through several wash and wear cycles. I hope not to outgrow it too fast because it’s a very office friendly option in my shrinking wardrobe. I don’t have a definite word on Ralph Pink’s Sahara Shirt Pattern, like most patterns it did require a certain level modifications to match the idea that I had in mind. I did appreciate that the pattern pieces were relatively simple and went together easily.

As you can see in the inspiration pictures, a crucial aspect to modeling a square shirt is to pretend you’re about to casually perform a set of crunches.  I will comply as long as I’m not required to do the actual crunches!

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That’s it for today! Hopefully I will be back soon with more pictures of recent makes. This post is proof that I CAN take pictures inside my apartment, even if they are on the boring side… Oooh tropical background of Haiti, how I miss you!! Any tips for indoor pictures you would like to share?

Ralph Pink Sahara shirt by Sewing Tidbits

What is going on with all the big shirts?

Dear readers,

From the reactions to my last post, I gather that you are still around and ready to engage and that’s pretty good news! So first I would like to thank all the commenters, I think there was a great conversations going on!

One of the reasons for my lack of posting is the fact that I sewed several items I ended up disliking. In my opinion, that’s the most discouraging thing that can happen to a seamstress. You have an idea, get excited, find the fabric, the pattern, spend hours making it, try it on and….. Meh. How anti climatic is that? It doesn’t help that once I reach  construction stage, I don’t like to interrupt myself.I finish all the seams and stop to try on items only just before hemming/adding closures. I usually can get away with it because I know what shapes work on me and I spend time adjusting patterns before cutting fabric. Except these days, I have no idea of how to fit myself because….

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I’m growing a little human!! That’s another reason the blog hiatus, I really really didn’t feel like being in front of a camera and all my clothes feel weird.

I used to wear fairly fitted clothes, most of the time in the smallest size available, with a defined waist. Obviously all that is gone already and I’m not sure of what’s left… I don’t really feel like wearing a lot of those tight jersey dresses that seem to be screaming “LOOK AT MY BELLY” but I’m also not use to see myself hidden in voluminous shapes. Tricky time! So I thought about big shirts:

After seeing the version made by Paprika Patterns, I decided to try Ralph Pink’s Sahara Shirt pattern. I’ve been tempted several times by his patterns, on the basis that they look “different” from most other Indies, but the sizing seemed too big for me and I struggled finding a pattern I really liked. It probably doesn’t help that not a lot of other bloggers have made his garments (with notable exception by Inna and Oona) so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I printed the pattern, found suitable cotton-silk in the stash (same as a Vogue 1247 skirt sewn in 2014), cut the smallest size (US 0), sewed and sewed and sewed. It’s a relatively quick make, without many seams (although I used french seams everywhere), and they matched well enough. I would recommend checking the length of the front button plackets (I think they were too long) and the side seams but there was nothing truly catastrophic… Until I tried on the shirt. I could not picture myself going around the city is what looked like A GIGANTIC TENT!!


I put it away my sewing friend from the Pattern Line came over and convinced me that all it needed was taking in the sides a little. By a little, I mean 3″ on each side seams… The total reduction is 12″ (!!) tapered to nothing at the underarm. I also removed some of the extra length at the back to soften the curved hem effect. But you know what? Now, I actually really like it!

 As you can see, I didn’t lie when I previously said that blog posts would have less pretty pictures… Next time I will tell you about my iteration in white poplin (in the first picture).

In the mean time, I would love to hear your thoughts on those pattern companies that seem less popular among sewing bloggers, does it stop you from trying them out?

 

 

Moooaaar Shirts – Sewaholic Granville, a review

Dear readers,

I am showing you 3 shirts in a row. For the sake of diversity, I probably should have broken it up with something else  but it’s not like I’m posting every day (haha, posting everyday !!) so bear with me!

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So yes, third shirt. I thought I was done with them, especially after sewing what I considered my TNT and then Sewaholic released the Granville shirt. Nice pockets + fitted lines + indie pattern company I meant to try = download the very day of the release. Let’s jump right in the review.

First, the PDF. Everything lined up well and I had the impression that efforts were made to spread each piece on a limited number of pages. Nice. I needed size 0 and since this pattern goes up to size 20 (which is awesome), I felt I was using a lot more paper that I would need for my size. I guess you can’t really have it all but maybe it could be an option to spread the size range from 0 to 12 and from 8 to 20 (so that people can still blend between sizes).

My second concern is regarding the V notches, they look too thick/messy on the PDF. The issue is actually more general. Sewaholic patterns are very close to the standards of the Big 4. It makes them an easy entry in the Indie pattern world if you come from a Big 4 sewing background but I haven’t sewn Big 4 in a while. 5/8″ seam allowances and V notches annoy me. A. LOT.

Granville Shirt-5I wanted to try the fit of the pattern out of the printer so I made only one substantial change. I measured my last shirt and shortened the sleeve pattern accordingly… BY 3 1/2 INCHES !! Now, I mentioned several times being aware of my short arms situation. But all the reviews of the Granville pattern I read so far mentioned shortening the sleeves as an alteration. Sewaholic: patterns for pear-shaped ladies with Gibbon arms? (Gibbons are cute though).

I did not use the instructions for the construction. I read them, they were standard and I think that the series of post written by Tasia provides great information if you are into the Coffin’s method. I’m not. If sewing was like being part of a sect, my shirtmaking guru would be Shimazaki. Therefore, I HAD to change ALL the seam allowances : a mixture of 1/4, 3/8 and occasionally 1/2. I could get into details but I don’t know how interesting it is for you, is it? I will say thought that IMO, sewing a collar + stand with 5/8″ makes no sense. Call me clumsy, but I don’t see how you can be precise (without a template, which is a good idea). 1/4″ forever!!

Lastly, the hem allowance is way too big: 3/4″ is hard to fold twice and a final hem of 3/8″looks too wide IMO. I went with the Grainline approach: 1/2 folded twice.

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The construction was smooth and without major challenges. I read other reviews finding the instructions unclear for the sleeve placket but I followed them and I was fine. The amount of ease in the sleeve cap is limited and I managed to set them in flat and sew the side seam afterwards.

Now let’s talk about the final product: I like the shirt, I really do. The small collar is adorable and very modern. The pockets are perfect (size and placement). The shoulders are where they should. However, I probably won’t wear it much, which is a shame considering all the flat-felling and topstitching that went into it. Why? Because the arms are OMG so tight!!! See below for an illustration:

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Yes, that tight. I feel like I’m about to incredible-hulk my shirt every time I brush my hair, put eyeliner or drive… I don’t believe that I have particularly muscular arms for my frame. I do work out but I wear (mostly RTW) shirts probably 6 day/week and this has never been an issue. As much as I would like to tell you that this is my new favorite shirt I can’t, it’s too restrictive. I’m not against some tight clothing but not for woven shirts… Rolling up the sleeves does help a little. Which is good because The Old Man LOVES the shirt.

You may recognize the fabric from my Lekala/Michael Kors dress, it’s the same lightweight denim that looks like linen. Interfacing and buttons are from stash.

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Final verdict: I still like my shirt and I think with some tweaking I could have 2 TNT patterns. One unfitted from the Archer and this one if I want a closer fit. Next version would include : using the sleeves and armholes from size 2, shortening the body above the waist and reducing the flare at the hips. What do you think, would you recommend additional alterations?

Ryuchiro Shimazaki – a linen shirt for The Old Man

Dear readers,

I have a long-distance/one way love affair with Japan. it all started 10 years ago, reading mangas and buying Gosu Rori magazines (fashion and sewing magazines about the Gothic Lolita). Yes…. Later, I spent 2 years studying converational Japanese with the plan to do internship in Japan. Other job opportunities came, I never went to Japan and I forgot the limited number of words that I managed to memorize. In the mean time I fell in I love Japanese sewing. What is Japanese sewing ? I don’t know, but I never encountered a Japanese/japan-based sewing blogger, pattern company, sewing instructions, pattern making book or actual Japanese fellow student at FIT that I did not find fascinating. Yes, I sound creepy… Unfortunately, the styles of the patterns rarely suit me, but I cannot help but marvel at the quality of the drafting, the clarity of the instructions and the consistency of the garments produced.

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Junku in Paris and Kinokuniya in New York enabled my weakness for Japanese sewing books. Living in Midtown East in Manhattan meant that 1/ I could walk to the Garment District (which I did almost every weekend) and stop by Kinokuniya on my way back. Over the years, I have been accumulating books: the Pattern Magic serie, Drape Drape, Bunka drafting books, etc. One of them is THE shirt book by  Ryuichiro Shimazaki. For shirts, I know that to many people David Coffin’s book is the reference. I own that book too. I read it. And I dislike it soooo much. I just do. I find everything unclear, wordy and not well presented. I have no idea if Ryuchiro Shimazaki’s book is wordy, because I can’t read any word in it but what is for sure is that you can make a shirt from that book without the words. You cannot make a shirt from David Coffin’s book without the words. I realize that I’m being unfair, since it’s a book and you can be expected to read it on order to access the information…

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I would not recommend this book for your first attempt at shirt making (at least, if you don’t read Japanese), because the construction is unusual. I found that having 2 nice RTW shirts by your side and taking your time help a lot. For the pattern itself, I used model 3, with the pocket of model 11. I picked size M after measuring The Old Man’s favorite shirt and comparing with the pattern measurements. At customer’s request, I redrew the collar points to match the favorite shirt. I’m so nice. I shortened the front and back A LOT since he wants to wear it untucked. The construction relies varying seam allowances: anywhere between 1/4″ to 3/4″ depending on the seam.. To make that easier, the book recommends to create some pressing templates: pocket, sleeve head and a pressing gauge.

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For an idea of how different the construction is, the front and back are hemmed first, before the side seam is sewn. It’s  confusing at first, but it works quite well. A lot of pre-pressing is required, for instance pressing the wider SA of the flat-felled seams in half before attaching tot the narrow side of the side seam. The one thing that I was totally unable to do was the hem, I could not fold and press 7mm and then refold for a final hem of 4mm. I burnt myself and I blame it on my thick European fingers! I ended up folding 1/4 twice, as for my Archers. The hem is finished at the sides with the little triangles that you often find on RTW’s shirt.

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The collar construction worked fairly well too. I still prefer to do what Nancy Ziemann call a “wrapped corner”, or described at Fashion Incubator. Meaning you sew the long edge of the collar, fold the SA towards the non-interfaced collar and sew the short edges. The seam will roll naturally on the undercollar side. The collar stand attachement to the shirt was also a little unusual and I believe that with some practice it can come out very nicely.

Man Linen Shirt-3For the cuffs, I am entirely converted to Fashion-Incubator’s attachment in one pass. It worked perfectly well since my very first try and I guess it will be hard to convince me to do it any other way now… The tower placket is 2-piece and made following the book’s instructions. I could have used Off-the-Cuff’s tutorial which may be a little less fiddly.

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The fabric is a delicious navy linen, purchased in Paris, at Sacré Coupons, during my June trip. It was picked by The Old Man himself and I remember paying 22 euros for 3 meters. Not too bad. Buttons are from stash, as well as interfacing. The only thing I am not totally happy with is the button placement. Since I had to shorten the shirt a lot compared to the pattern, I think I should have repositioned all the buttons starting at the bottom. The last one is awkwardly low. Of course, The Old Man does not care at all but it bothers me… Also, I realized after cutting that I was out of Navy thread, so I used black everywhere. David Coffin must be choking out of disgust right now! (Sorry David, I’ll do better next time!)

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OK,  now we can also discuss the obvious, the good looks of The Old Man! By the way, please refrain from questioning his nickname. For the record, he IS substantially older than me and it does NOT make me feel good when people say we look like we are the same age. We are not, he just happens to have better genes… But of course, he enjoys those comments a lot so I will allow them exceptionally. This is not the first time I’ve sewn for him, I also made two pairs of pajamas/boxer shorts (all flat-felled seams and everything) and I even have pictures but I don’t want to risk breaking the Internet with all this handsomeness. I don’t think they will make it on the blog, sorry…. Now I go back to my Granville selfish sewing!

Classic white shirt – From Archer to TNT

Dear Readers,

First things first: Happy New Year! I won’t do a review of my year because I only posted 23 times, so there would not be much to say… My goal for 2015 is to double this number! Now, without any transition, let’s look at my new favorite shirt! The shirt was finished at least 3 weeks ago but I hate making buttonholes so much that it waited in a dusty corner until I made another shirt, for The Old Man this time, and then did all the buttonholes at once.

wpid1008-White-cotton-shirt-9.jpgI wanted this shirt to be as close as possible to a man classic Oxford shirt but with an appropriate fit. I believe that I achieved my goal.The initial pattern for this shirt is my modified Archer. Additional changes included using the collar and stand of my white shirtdress (from the Japanese book Blouse, Skirts, Pants), adding back darts, removing the CB box pleat and shortening sleeves AGAIN by 2″. They look embarrassingly short on the hanger but just right when worn. #Creepybabyarms, again.

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I can now officially say that no pattern piece is the same as the original Archer and that I am very close to a TNT pattern. Why, not a TNT yet? Because of some pooling in the upper back. I tried to pin out a horizontal take of 1″ just under the yoke and it looked so much better. However, I have not figured out how to remove it without completely killing my armhole… I’m waiting for an Eureka moment that may or may not come!

wpid996-White-cotton-shirt-3.jpgThe fabric is cotton I bought in Panajachel, Guatemala (by the beautiful lake Atitlán). It was cheap, has some texture and looks like washed cotton. I’m not sure if it has a name but it can get almost a paper feeling. I think it works well for this shirt but I would not recommend it for any project.

wpid1000-White-cotton-shirt-5.jpgMy shirtmaking skills are work in progress but they are improving each time. Compared to my last shirt, I went back to a classic collar construction order and I used different seam allowances for the flat-felled seams. Everything came together painlessly EXCEPT when I prepared, attached and topstitched BOTH sleeves to the body, only to realize that the wrong sides were on the outside. A lot of seam ripping/self cursing. Not fun.

wpid1004-White-cotton-shirt-7.jpgThe shirt is definitely filling a gap in my wardrobe. I cannot remember for how long I’ve wanted a 100% cotton white shirt. They seem to have become a rare commodity and I hate the blends that are sold currently from H&M to Ann Taylor. In addition to yellowing and aging badly, they also tend to be see-through, which is puzzling to me since their primary use is for the office.

wpid1006-White-cotton-shirt-8.jpgFinally, the pictures were all taken with my new camera, in full manual mode! I know it seems normal to a lot of you but I’m very happy about it. Also I quit on trying to keep the dog out of the pictures. He loves being in the middle of things…

After this shirt, I decided I was comfortable enough to go up one step: a man’s shirt. I will be back in a few days with pictures of The Old Man in his fancy linen shirt! I thought I would be done with those 2 shirts for a while, but then I saw the beautiful one Sasha just posted and Sewaholic released the Granville pattern. So… Granville is already printed and taped, I guess I will be back with more shirts soon! What about you? Are you getting closer to your TNT patterns in 2015?

Anachronistic sewing – still stuck on Archer shirt

Dear readers,

I rarely manage to make-up the “trendy” sewing pattern at its trendy time. While you all finished your Alder shirt dresses, I still sew Archers. In addition, when Alder first came out, I could not wait to make it up, but now I am having second thoughts. A-line may not be that flattering on me after all.

Also, unrelated to this post, I wanted to thank all of you who shared their thoughts on my last post. It is definitely something I could talk about all day but I will spare you and only add 2 things :

  • Can you get more disappointing than this? This dress is in any big 4 catalogue, burda magazine and you can get a customized pattern by Lekala. What are you bringing to the cutting table? Apart from pulling at the bust. No, I’m not nice, I  know.
  • Hope for collaborative sewing exists. Lovely reader Miranda emailed me about this PR conversation that I had missed. Seeing how the community can engage in a project all together is heartwarming . I would not make that pattern because it’s not my style but it seems to appeal to many. My only regret is that the result of this awesome collaboration is yet another simple knit pattern for sale… BUT it should not detract from how great it is to witness all the contributions.

Now back to the shirt! Pictures are still from my Iphone, but for once the location is NOT my garden, YAY! My dog is therefore NOT in the background, (NAY?). I spent a week by Lake Atitlán in Guatemala (highly recommended) in August and I packed some garments to photograph on the beautiful terrace of the house we rented.

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Please note that this is not the pattern straight out of the printer. I was happy with my first version of the shirt (see my shirtdress version) but I want to create a TNT pattern for boyfriend shirts and I am glad to report that it is almost a success. To guide my fit alterations, I used a Banana Republic shirt I love. I measured elements like shoulder length, waist shaping, pocket placement, final length, etc. Beth’s post on Craftsy is timely as it is exactly what I did!

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Main fit alterations:

  • adding 3″ of overall length, and note that I am only 5’3″. But I like my shirts tucked in and I want to raise my arms without exposing skin.
  • Shortening the shoulder length by and adjusting the yoke accordingly

Archer alteration

  • Removing most of the sleeve ease at the underarm seam and reshaping the sleeve head a little (for an idea of how, you can check this post at Fashion-Incubator)
  • Further shaping the waist at the side seam
  • Shortening the sleeves

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I also tried to use more advanced sewing techniques, and I will do a detailed post. Some worked (tower placket, button placket, cuff construction) and some did not work at all (ouch, collar+stand). Sometimes, a “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach is best. I never had a problem with  stand collar construction before so why did I try to find a better way to do it? Don’t know… Some of my techniques required pattern alteration or drafting of extra pieces. Look out for the post next week soon!

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I am planning my next shirt with further alterations. The final pattern may have little to do with the original Archer but I still believe that it was a great start. It produces wearable garments from the first trial and can be altered easily. Next time, I want to tackle the collar & stand: the collar could be wider and the stand should close at a 90 degree angle (this is what I mean). I will also start adding darts to the back so it remains relaxed but more fitted. Finally, further shortening of the sleeves is necessary (creepy baby length arms, again), sad…

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I almost forgot to tell you that the fabric is one of the pieces I brought back from Paris last June. I found it at the cotton stand of Marché St Pierre. However, looking at the drape I guess some rayon is thrown in.

While I prepare my post on shirt construction, I would love to hear from you your favorite shirt making tutorials. I am familiar with the Archer Sew-along, Fashion-Incubator, Off the Cuff, Male Pattern Boldness and Sewing Square Walls but I may be missing on important ones! Please, fill me in!