To celebrate my new laptop actually talking to my proper camera (thereby solving my hardware issues) I thought I’d tell you a little more about my Christmas shirt make.
When I decided to make a party dress for my daughter, I wanted to make something for my son too. Now he’s a very dapper young man who likes wearing shirts, so I thought I’d make him a new one. After I made his pirate shirt I’d contemplated making another in some red checked seersucker I’d seen in a local fabric shop, but when I went back to buy it, it was gone and the shopkeeper told me there was none left.
Several months later it was there again, so I bought some and then left it on “the pile” so this is what I used. But what pattern to make? The Sew Chic Kids book has a shirt with a proper collar that could be worn with a tie (a certain young man is quite keen on ties), but the sleeves are short and turning short cuffless sleeves into long cuffed ones is beyond my capabilities.
(This is the shirt shown on the cover. I should point out that the other boys shirt in the book, also shorted sleeved but with a granddad style collar, does have different pattern pieces from this one (I’d assumed not before, I was wrong).)
On the other hand Simplicity shirt that I’d made before has a long sleeved option with cuffs, but not a proper collar. So I decided to mix and match, brave or what?
The shirt fronts, back, yoke, collar stand and collar are from Sew Chic Kids, but with 2 inches length added to the shirt fronts and back as he always grows out of things upwards way before they’re too tight. For the sleeve pattern I traced around the head of the sleeve pattern from Sew Chic Kids, guestimated the right length from an existing shirt that fits and traced the medium sleeve end from the Simplicity pattern (not the large, as the shirt in the summer was a bit on the baggy side) and then drew a straight line in between. This took a couple of goes as I had to remember to add seam allowance to the Japanese pattern but not the other and also I had to get the head and the cuff end of the sleeve the same way around (which took some working out as I didn’t know if the sleeve opening went at the front or the back not having made one before and being at my mum’s flat at the time which has no men’s shirts in. Also the Japanese pattern had front and back marked on it but only one notch each side on the sleeve head, whereas the simplicity pattern used two notches at the back on the seam head and one at the front but I needed to check the rest of the pattern to work out which notch went where). Finally I cut the medium cuff of the simplicity pattern and two of their pockets.
So, apart from exciting pattern merging alterations, how was the make? Well, basically ok, apart from some stupid errors. First up, what’s wrong with these two pictures?
Somebody put their first collar and stand together perfectly following the oh so clear Sew Chic Kids instructions only to realise that they had not added seam allowance when tracing these two pattern pieces, so they were a little on the narrow side. I basted it on anyway, to cheer myself up, note how well the pattern matches at the back.
Which brings me on to silly error number two. I thought really hard about my pattern matching. I wanted to line up the pattern at the side seams. I got a 50 % success, see…
The shirt is shown sideways, top on the left, bottom on the right and the side seam is matched at that blue stripe, nice yes. However, the other side is not so pretty….
I couldn’t understand where I’d gone wrong as I’d thought about it so carefully and it was so out on one side but perfect on the other. I thought I’d have to cut a new front left piece and replace it, which meant undoing the yoke I was so pleased that I’d done. Luckily I first took the part made shirt to the shop to buy some buttons (it definitely needed yellow buttons and there were none in my stash) and the assistant pointed out that the pattern matched at the centre front. The problem was not the front piece at all, but the fact that despite my best efforts the back piece wasn’t quite cut straight. I cut it on the fold and the top half was straight but the bottom section was off a little. I should’ve read Jennifer’s tutorial for cutting plaid fabric which recommends always cutting plaid/check in a single layer. (I should also have at least ironed the fabric pre cutting if not pre washed it as well, but shush don’t tell). Anyway, I left the shirt as it was, redoing the back was too much effort at that stage and small boys don’t keep still long enough for you to examine the seam under their arm.
The rest of the pattern matching went ok. I placed the strong yellow and blue lines in the centre back. I decided not to cut the yoke on the diagonal in case it stretched, but I did match the yellow and blue lines in the centre pretty well. If I was doing that again I’d cut the yoke at 90 degrees to the grain, like I now realise one of my husbands checked shirts is. And I wasn’t sure how to pattern match the sleeves so just went for a yellow line down the centre. Again I should’ve read Jennifer’s hints. I did cut the pockets on the diagonal and thought carefully about the yellow line placement and which way they faced and it worked out pretty well. All in all I give myself 7/10 for pattern matching, it certainly looks ok on.
My final niggle was the cuffs. I cut 4 cuff pieces, two for each side. Then when I came to make them up I realised that I only needed one piece for each cuff as it’s folded double, so I obviously wasn’t paying attention too well when cutting. However, once I had made the cuffs up they looked silly, far too narrow. I wondered if I should’ve used a smaller seam allowance (the seam allowance on the cuffs was the larger Simplicity 5/8″ / 1.5cm seam allowance rather than the 3/8″ / 1cm Japanese one), but there was nothing in the simplicity instructions about this. Then I checked it against my guide sleeve length shirt and realised that the narrow cuffs meant the sleeves were too short. So I undid them and made them as I had assumed they should be made, with 2 pieces for each one, maybe I had had my head screwed on right when cutting after all. They looked much better this way and the overall sleeve length was better too.
So, I make that two mistakes of my own making and one strange cuff design. Apart from that it was pretty straight forward. I still love the clear and simple Japanese diagrammatic instructions (but I could see that they wouldn’t be for everyone). Mixing the two patterns worked pretty well, but I had only just remembered as I was sewing that the bottom of my sleeve had a different seam allowance to the top so I kind of started off at one seam allowance and merged ad hoc into the other as I went.
Apart from cutting better and matching the checks differently the only thing I would do different if I made it again is to increase the seam allowance on the button/buttonhole bands. These are just folded over, with the interface on the behind portion, leaving a raw edge. It doesn’t fray, due to the interfacing, but it doesn’t look good either. I’d add an extra half an inch and fold that inside so the edge doesn’t show.
All in all a pretty successful make. I realised half way through just how far I’d come in just over half a year. I hadn’t wanted to make him the first shirt, it seemed too difficult, and I went for short sleeves as managing cuffs seemed to scary. Now I was making long sleeves, mixing patterns and tackling checks (although I hadn’t really thought about the implications of the latter when choosing the fabric).
So did he like it? Well, he wasn’t as enthusiastic as I might have liked, but then he did have a stomach bug on Christmas day poor mite and was pacing himself. But it fits and he’s worn it several times and I think it suits him. So now for the gratuitous shots of cute people…..