Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Honey's Shirt

Buckle your seatbelts, kids. This is going to be a long one! If you're not into the minutiae of sewing, you might want to skip this post entirely! Once again, I'm mostly writing this for myself as an aid to memory, but I'm also hoping the content might prove useful to some folks. And there will be a little request for help at the end :-)

I wrote a month ago that I'm joining in Karen's Sewlutions, and like several others, my goal is to make well-fitting shirts for my Hubby.  And although I haven't mentioned it since, I've been slowly working away at developing a pattern that fits him just the way he wants.

Just in case this may be useful to someone, here are the challenges I face when buying (and now, making) shirts for my boy:

* thick (muscular) neck
* broad shoulders and upper back
* proportionally narrower torso and waist
* short arms

So, he's shaped like an inverted triangle.  My original thought was that I could just get a pattern with a slimmer fit and make the neck/shoulder size to fit him and maybe taper in the sides below the armhole if necessary.  I also knew that I wanted:

* a collar with separate stand
* a one-piece sleeve with placket
* a yoke, preferably with shoulder pleats
* curved hemline

After looking around at the few patterns available, I decided to try out Burda 7767.  It didn't have everything I wanted, but it had most of it.  I ended up adding 1" at the center back to add in the shoulder pleats (which are not included on the pattern) and changing the straight hemline to a curved one.

Before I chose which size to trace, I took some measurements from a shirt he has with a nicely fitting collar, as suggested by David Coffin in his Shirtmaking book.  While the envelope would have had me choose a size 40 because it's based on the chest measurement under the arms, going by the collar stand and yoke measurements on his existing shirt lead me to trace a 42.  I got myself some gingham fabric and made up Muslin #1:


Results were mixed.  The good news was that the collar and yoke fit really well.  The body was a little wider than I'd originally wanted, but I later decided I didn't want to create too close a fit.  But the armholes - OY!  Horrible!  The armscyes on this pattern were so small that the armhole was kind of jammed up under his arm - uncomfortable to wear, and unflattering too!

This kind of stopped me in my tracks for a while.  I wasn't quite sure how to fix it.  Luckily, Hubby is really into the idea of having custom-fit shirts, so we both spent some time analyzing what it is we like and dislike about the shirts he has.  We settled on one that we both thought had a pretty good fit, and then I did a complete rub-off of it.

Once I'd essentially made a new pattern from the existing shirt, I compared it to the Burda pattern pieces.  Interestingly, the collar, collar stand and yoke were almost exactly the same.  But the sleeves on the RTW shirt were much wider at the cap, the cap shallower, and the armscye much deeper.  I'd originally thought that I could simply trace the armscye and sleeve cap from the RTW shirt onto the Burda pattern, but the differences were just too great.

Now I was really scratching my head!  Finally, I decided to assemble and compare all the information I had.  I got out the traced RTW pattern, the Burda pattern, McCall's 6044 (which I made him last year) and Simplicity 2741, purchased a few days before for the sake of comparison.  I folded back the seam allowances on the shoulders and yoke and taped them all together so I could see the shapes and sizes of the armholes as if the shirt had been sewn together.  I also compared the flat pattern pieces. 

After literally 2 hours of comparing and measuring, I decided that the armscye of the McCall's pattern would be the best one to transfer to the Burda pattern, because the shoulder points and side seams matched up.  I ended up scooping out the front and back armscyes to about 3/4" down the side seam.

The pieces I removed.

Then I had to figure out which sleeve cap to use.  My original thought was that the McCall's sleeve should be used with the McCall's armscye.  However, I wasn't too crazy about the design of that sleeve:  not only is it a two-piece sleeve, but the fit is very slim.  I wanted a looser fitting sleeve so that Hubby wouldn't feel restricted while typing on the computer at work.  Finally, I got out a flexible ruler and measured the armscye and the caps of the various sleeves.  And here's the really interesting bit:  the Burda sleeve cap fit perfectly into my new armscye!

At that point, I unpicked one sleeve of my muslin, transferred all my changes to the fabric and sewed it back up.  And the fit was almost there.  There was some excess fabric pooling at the back of the armhole, so I scooped out an extra quarter inch along that edge.  Finally, I was getting somewhere!  (I'm sorry I don't have pictures of all these fitting challenges - he's not that into the process!)

Pattern Mash-Up!

Last weekend I was able to begin my second muslin.  This time I decided to try out some new techniques.  I played around with learning to use my new felling foot and the rolled hem foot, and took notes once I'd found a good stitch length:


I played around with the stitch length for the buttonholes til I found one I liked:


I tried out David Coffin's cuff and collar construction, as well as his placket pattern: 


I really liked the method for the cuffs, but I think when I do the final shirt, I'll use my old collar method.  Doing it Coffin's way seemed to change the fit of the collar slightly for the worse.

When I made the collar, I added in stay channels, and I also tried out the "Pam's Perfect Points" tutorial for turning out the collar.  I have to admit, it didn't really work for me. 


I played around with my edge-stitching foot and the blind hem foot, and decided that the blind hem foot works much better for me.  But I need a lot of practice!

That's the better of the two!

I feel I still have a fair amount of research I want to do on construction, but at least I finally have a pattern I can work with.  When I asked Hubby to try on Muslin #2 today, he was disappointed that it wasn't a "real" shirt.  "You mean I can't wear it?"  he asked.  "You can wear it," I said.  "But you'll look like a fool - it has writing all over it!"  "I don't care!"  he said.  So sweet!


One thing I'm not so sure about - and here's the request for help - is what kind of interfacing to use for the collar stand, collar and cuffs.  I've so far tried lightweight non-woven fusible (too flimsy) and Pellon Shape Flex, which was OK, but still not as stiff as I'd like.  I'm wondering if there's something better?  Has anybody made it to the end of this post?  Do you make shirts?  What do you use?

28 comments:

  1. I made it. Fascinating :)
    Nope, have never made a men's shirt but I'm guessing a stiff interfacing might be better?
    Watching with interest :)

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    1. Wow! What fortitude! Did you have to take a coffee break half way through? LOL!

      Yes, I'm looking for something stiff, but still flexible. I bought a different one that's supposed to be for collars, but haven't tried it yet.

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  2. Have you tried SewMamaSew.com , they have a specific weight for shirts (shirt interfacing) that's where I purchased mine. (Still not a shirt to show for it )

    ; )
    elise

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    1. Uh oh! I had NO idea about that site! Can of worms, LOL!

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  3. Pellon 950F Shirt-Tailor Firm Fusible Interfacing

    Pellon 950F Shirt-Tailor Firm Fusible Interfacinghttp://www.sewmamasew.com/store/interfacing--1INTERFACING.html

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    1. Cool! Thanks, Elise! (don't know why I'm replying to you in two separate comments?!) That's the one I bought this week but haven't tried yet!

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  4. Phew, what a project! I'm looking forward to seeing the finished shirt. It's great that he's excited about the shirt - it can really be fun to sew for someone when they appreciate it!

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    1. For sure! I really wasn't expecting it to be this much work - I've made shirts for myself before and they're not that hard. But since I want to learn "real" shirtmaking techniques along with getting a great fit for him, I'm really going the extra mile.

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  5. wow you are dedicated! you might have been best off just drafting a whole shirt from scratch! as far as collar interfacing, i used a pellon something... it was actual woven cotton with fusible. it was more in the $5/yd range from joanns. seemed to work fine, but i want to try out some of the fusibles from pam's website.

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    1. I thought about doing it that way, but decided to try out the pattern first and use drafting as a last ditch effort. I bought the gingham with the idea of doing the draping David Coffin describes, and did try it on the back, but it seemed a little beyond my skills at the moment.

      I think you might be describing the Shape Flex (SF101, I think), which is the one I used on the second muslin and on my coat. It worked great for the soft drape of the coat facings, but I want a little more crispness to the collar. Of course, I want to stay in that $5 range! But if this new one (Pellon 950F) doesn't give me a result I like, I'll probably go higher-end too.

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  6. Whew, you are right, this post went right over my head. But I can certainly say that what you show in the last photo is very shirt-like!

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  7. Well, I suddently don't feel bad about being single and not having a guy to sew for. ;)

    Anyways, I think taking a rub-off of that shirt was a good idea. Pattern manipulation and making mock-ups is one of my least favorite parts of the sewing process, so I admire your perserverance here!

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    1. I have to say, it was hard to stick with it and I'm really glad that I've finished that part of the process so I can move on to making something wearable!

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  8. That is hardcore and high tech sewing there! And geez, what an amazing muslin! No way could I put all that effort in, lol. Amazing!

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    1. I think I made it harder than it needed to be, due to my lack of experience! But I'm one of those people who doesn't really understand something until I have it physically in my hands.

      I'm usually very selfish about my knitting and sewing, but my honey deserves something nice :-)

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  9. Gail my darling girl, NO, I don't make shirts! But you do it beautifully and your hubby should absolutely wear the sample to work and impress everyone that his wife makes shirts for him! I am in awe!

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    1. Hahaha! That would be a good dare for him - wear this shirt with writing all over it and bright orange thread to work! But no - I couldn't do that to the poor guy!

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  10. I'm actually making my husband a shirt right now! Luckily the McCall's 6044 pattern fit him pretty well in the past so I'm trying out a short-sleeved version with a couple of modifications (addition of a back yoke, reducing ease in the waist). Good for you for putting in all that pattern work!

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    1. Cool! I like the McCall's 6044 for my guy too as a casual shirt. He wears the two I've made him often. But it has a much slimmer fit than a normal business shirt. I don't want all the ladies at work checking him out, LOL!

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  11. Wow, what a process! This is so interesting to read about! Do you think that the Coffin book is worth buying/reading? I've got a couple of project deadlines, then I'm trying to clear the slate and make hubs a shirt, but I'm feeling a little nervous!

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    1. I do think it's worth buying AND reading. I still haven't finished reading the whole thing, but I definitely plan to.

      Hubby was just describing to me this morning a new weight-lifting routine he wants to do, and I wanted to scream, "NO! I don't want to have to do this all over again if you get bulky!"

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  12. I just finished a plaid flannel version of McCall's 6044 for my husband last week. Unfortunately, I don't know what interfacing I used because I actually cut everything in December 2011! Great job sticking with it and putting in the time and effort to handcraft the shirt. If you do end up going with a different interfacing, please let us know!

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    1. LOL, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who does that kind of thing! I will certainly let you all know what interfacing I decide on.

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  13. This is so cool how you made your husband a shirt. They can be so expensive. Rock on girl!

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    1. Well, the fabric I bought for the real thing was more than I usually pay for a RTW one! And if you consider the two trial runs plus all the tools I bought, it's going to be something like a $150 shirt! But my honey is worth it :-)

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  14. When I bought fabric with the intent of making a shirt I also bought interfacing, after asking for advice from the staff in the shop. They recommended a light weight woven fusible interfacing. It was a bit like a less fine voile with the glue stuff on it. However, that was for a women's shirt, rather than a man's, so I don't know if it would be different for what you're making. Are there any good shops around you that you could ask for advice?

    I nearly always use woven interfacing these days though, I prefer how it turns out and wears over the non-woven stuff.

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    1. Wow, that interfacing sounds lovely! I want some for my blouses!

      I did ask for interfacing at the "fancy" fabric shop where I bought the fabric for his real shirt last week. They gave me something called "Shirt Interfacing" - it's a woven fusible, but heavier than the Pellon Shape Flex (SF101).

      My plan is to make 2 collars and 4 cuffs - one set with this new interfacing, and one set with the Shape Flex. Will report!

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