As you’ll come to learn, I have a bit of a thing for making garments with collars. Long sleeve shirts for the colder months of the year, short sleeve shirts for the warmer times, and sleeveless shirts and shirt dresses for the summer. A collar is my favourite out of all the neckline options out there, and who doesn’t love a little row of buttons. My stitching queue contains a few variations on the shirt theme: a racer/cut away sleeveless dress, a western shirt with a decorative yoke and piping, and a pin tuck number from the 50’s.
I first saw this Liberty ‘Atlas’ fabric on a ready-to-wear shirt in the Liberty department store last Autumn. It made me think of the joys of packing my bags to go travelling, and on that gloomy day in London reminded me of the time we spent living in Asia. I fell in love with the fabric, but knew it wouldn’t suit me – the only option for me to have this fabric in my life would be to make a shirt for the dear husband. The decision was made – I would buy the fabric and make him a shirt, whether he wanted one or not. I wanted to sew with the fabric and I’m in charge of the sewing machine, so I WIN.
Of the three colourways they had on display, I actually liked all of them, but the chosen one was to be version A in green/gold. The B and C colourways are blue/gold, and beige/blue:
I have used this Vogue shirt pattern many times in the past, and it’s now my go-to template for making shirts. Being slim and 5’5″, dear husband struggles to find shirts that fit – the usual culprits being sleeves that are about five inches too long and twice the size of his arm, with collars that are too big, and the whole thing being the length of a dress. I make size 34 in this pattern, and don’t actually have to adjust the length of the body. I have shortened the sleeves though by a couple inches.
I use this pattern so much that a while back I actually took the time to interface the tissue paper pattern template pieces to strengthen them so that they hold up to multiple uses and don’t tear (this was back in the day when I was still cutting out the tissue templates, rather than tracing them). *Note to self* – I really should trace a spare set. I feel that this pattern definitely is one of the ones where you have to look past the photos on the envelope and envisage your own design – I mean, these images are straight out of a 90’s catalogue…
The back is in four pieces, a centre panel with two side panels, and then a yoke on the top. The pattern actually instructs to cut the yoke and cuffs placed on the fabric with the ‘bottom’ of each piece along the selvedge – however if you do this, the pattern on these pieces will be running sideways rather than the ‘right’ way up. I think they do this to save on fabric as if you cut the cuffs and yoke with the pattern in the same direction as the shirt body pieces (the way I have done it) then they don’t fit together nicely in such a small space on the fabric, and you need a bit more to cut all the pieces out. While their cutting layouts are ok for patterns that can go either way such as checks or stripes, when you’ve got a totally uni-directional pattern it looks a little odd if the pattern on the back yoke is running sideways compared to the rest of the back of the shirt where its running downwards. For this reason I cut my yoke and cuffs in the same direction as the rest of the shirt – yes it used a little more fabric, but it would have just looked downright weird otherwise. I had bought a little extra fabric anyway as I knew that the yardage specified only accounted for you following their cutting layout.
I really tried my hardest to pattern match across the front placket, however I’ve miscalculated somewhere along the line and whilst the pattern is level across both sides (yay – happy dance) the join down the middle isn’t quite as seamless as I’d hoped. The chinese dragons have three bumps in their back instead of two, and the duo of camels has met a friend along the way to make a company of three. Meh.
I like this pattern for the amount of topstitching that it has, as I feel this makes the finished item look uber-profesh, and it also has a proper ‘no cheating’ sleeve placket. You do have to be sure to transfer all of the pattern markings for the placket though, so you know exactly where you’re folding, stitching and cutting. One snip in the wrong place and you might be cutting out a whole new sleeve piece… not cool. The pattern instructs you to put small pleats in the sleeve above the cuff, but I found that this makes the sleeves a bit poofy so I don’t put them in anymore. The arms of the pattern have been slimmed down considerably and also a few centimetres of width taken off the cuff – otherwise a whole hand can be slipped through when the cuff is buttoned.
Red-brown buttons were bought to finish off the shirt – although I have attached the top button to the collar stand I haven’t sewn the top buttonhole as I was told he never bothers doing up the top button anyway and his job isn’t formal enough to warrant a fully buttoned shirt. I went ahead and attached the button regardless because if, in the future, he does want to be able to do up the shirt right the way to the top, you know I wouldn’t be able to find a matching button. This way, I know where it is, and all I have to do is make the buttonhole.
I’ve learned, the hard way, that when inserting the sleeves you really do need to pin, baste, and THEN machine stitch. It gives such a better result with no little accidental pleats in the shoulder, and it’s so much easier to stitch that already-difficult circular seam without fifty pins in the way. I always wondered where all that excess fabric of the sleeve seam was meant to go, and I thought pleats at the top to get rid of all that ease were an unavoidable fact of life. Turns out, if you do it properly and manipulate the fabric you can actually get a smooth seam all the way around. Huh.
The one thing that STILL gets me when I make shirts is getting the collar stand and the collar all in line and central. He still has the very first shirt I made him (using this same pattern) and the collar is totally not central over the placket… it looks like my dog could have done a better job even with their five claw-toes, no thumb and the inability to read the instructions. The second shirt I think was a little better but perfection still eludes me even now. I’m working on it.
Overall though, I loved making this shirt with such beautiful fabric, and I know I’m biased but I do think it looks rather good on him 🙂
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