The English Country Garden Shirt

Yes, another shirt. At this rate I’ll soon be catching up to the global production output of Ted Baker.

Shirts are one of my favourite items to make, because I get more day-to-day wear out of them – I can wear them for work. As much as I love making Alexander Henry dresses, they are not really your everyday outfit. The only downside to wearing shirts is that you can’t (usually) get away without ironing them… and I HATE ironing. Strangely though, I don’t mind pressing garments in progress at all – weird huh?

This is another Vogue/DKNY 1462 make, the same pattern as I used for my Liberty Rocks shirt. And I’ve used Liberty fabric *again* because I scored an eBay bargain of three metres for £18 – in store this fabric retails at £22 per metre and you don’t need to work in finance to know that this equals mental savings. I still have just over a metre left, which I haven’t yet decided what I’ll do with.

This fabric is the classic William Morris Strawberry Thief print, which is one of his most popular designs for textiles. It’s available in all sorts of fabrics and homewares including wallpaper, which I’m so desperate to buy some just so that I can stand in front of it in my shirt and recreate that famous image of Zach Braff in Garden State:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On wearing this shirt to work for the first time, I was told by a colleague of mine (who is known for his insults-disguised-as-compliments) that I looked like I was wearing a garden. I took it as a compliment anyway, and it inspired the name of this post, so I think I’ve got the last laugh.

This shirt does come close to violating my ‘no flowers’ rule, so I’ve taken the girly edge off by pairing the shirt with my favourite pair of studded brogues.

 

 

I had the bright idea that it would be good to take pictures of a garden shirt in a garden, so I headed to Regent’s Park in London. Trouble is, it was a rare day of sunshine and the park was rammed with what seemed like every office worker in the City of London. They had all fled the artificial lighting of their desks and ventured into the outside world for some natural light and vitamin D while it lasted because in England, you blink and summer is over and you’re putting your hats and scarves on again.

Sadly, the bees were also out in force buzzing around all the flowers I wanted to take pictures in front of. My bee-dar was on red alert as these fuzzy venom-carriers buzzed threateningly around my head. After risking my life standing in between the bees and their pollen, it appears that my English Country Garden shirt is indeed blending in to the real-life English country garden behind me, and perhaps this wasn’t such a good background to take pictures against. Sigh.

 

 

Vogue/DKNY 1462 is a loose-fitting ladies shirt, and in the pattern envelope you get three variations plus a cami to wear underneath as sheer, lightweight fabrics are suggested – however this pattern works equally well in cotton, and cotton is definitely much easier to work with than slippery silk chiffon.

To make any of the shirts you need around 2 metres of 115cm wide fabric, plus a little bit extra for the contrast panels if you’ve chosen view C. The cami vest takes around 1 metre of fabric.

I would usually buy a size UK10 in a shirt, and I’ve cut the size 10 from the pattern and it’s a good fit – perhaps due to the slightly looser style. It’s all finished nicely on the inside with french seams, apart from the armscye which for some reason they leave the raw edges exposed. I have set myself the challenge of figuring out how to sew these as flat fell seams to keep everything enclosed and looking all posh. I’m not actually sure why they haven’t incorporated this into the pattern instructions, as I’m guessing that this wouldn’t be how DKNY sells these shirts in their shops.. and these Vogue designer patterns are meant to be the same quality and construction as their ready-to-wear items.

 

 

After finishing the previous shirt from this pattern I decided a couple of alterations were needed, and for this time around I slimmed the sleeves just a little and also made the cuffs a little shorter. I feel that because the body isn’t ‘fitted’ as such (there are no darts, it’s kind of boyfriend fit), I wanted to have the sleeves more fitted than the pattern suggested so it didn’t look like I’d just made the shirt two sizes too big by accident. I took 1.5cm width out of the bottom half of the sleeves and the cuffs, and also took 1cm of height out of the cuff. I’m happy with how this has come out so will use this same alterations on any future makes from this pattern (which, let’s face it, you know there will be lots of).

 

 

I had one single button which I bought a little while back but had not yet found the perfect use for – it’s found it’s forever home here as the centrepiece top button. It’s a little round glass bead that catches the light and reflects all different colours depending on how you look at it… oooh sparkly 🙂 The rest of the buttons are 11mm burgundy plastic shirt buttons. I think I like choosing buttons as much as I like choosing fabric – I feel like a kid in a sweet shop looking at all the different tubes of colours, shapes, and varying degrees of shiny-shiny-ness.

 

 

The collar actually went pretty well on this shirt, if you’ve read other blog posts of mine where I’ve made shirts you’ll know that it can be touch-and-go for me on whether everything turns out as it should. I’ve found that it really does help to transfer ALL the markings given on the pattern pieces, even the ones that you might think seem pretty pointless (centre front, I’m looking at you here). I learned the hard way that they are not pointless, and will actually help. On this shirt, the two edges of the collar actually touch each other above the top button – I’m not sure whether this is how it’s meant to be (sometimes there’s a gap) but this is the first time it’s happened… so I’ve either finally got something right or I’ve just done yet another thing wrong.

Usually it’s the little corner seam where the collar stand joins the button placket that seems to get me – when I look at ready-to-wear shirts they are able to get it all perfect so I’m not sure why mine looks such a state sometimes. Practice makes perfect I guess.

 

 

 

I’d love to actually get to grips with the rolled hem foot on my sewing machine – currently with shirts I turn the hem in once, press it, then turn it in again (to conceal the raw edge) and press it once more. Only then does it go in the machine and get stitched. But lurking at the bottom of my sewing box is a small piece of metal that lured me in with false promises of perfect hems with no pressing required – needless to say the whole affair was an absolutes shambles and in no way did my hem resemble the one in the picture below as promised by the packaging. The foot was then sent to the dark depths of the sewing box as punishment for its shortcomings.

 

 

I’m not actually sure whether a rolled hem foot can do curved hems – which might explain why it all went wrong – and I imagine it’s best with fabrics that behave themselves rather than thin, slippery fabrics. Perhaps one day I will dig it out again, and watch a YouTube video of a responsible adult using it properly and see if I can make a better effort. For now though, I’ll continue with my tried-and-testing-but-LONG method of folding and pressing.

 

 

So it seems that Spring has now finally arrived here in the UK, and slowly but surely the mornings and evenings are getting lighter. I’m happy that this means I can photograph items outside without freezing to death, but it does suggest to me that perhaps I should be more ‘seasonally appropriate’ with my projects – near to the top of my to-do list is finishing off a 1960’s winter coat, making two wool jackets (all pieces already cut out) and two fur coats – one of which I don’t even have a pattern for yet. Hmm.

On that note, I’m off to get myself a sewing planner to bring order to this chaos – or you’ll see me sweating away modelling fur coats in August.

Happy long weekend everyone 🙂

 

 

Photos by InMyHandsTheyCrumble

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3 Comments

  1. April 16, 2017 / 8:59 am

    Very nice- and I think the background is bang on, all the colours [including your lovely hair] harmonise well.
    Tips: forget the rolled hem foot, they only work on some fabrics unless you want to devote your life to them. For curved hems, take a few extra minutes, and hand baste it, rolling as you sew. Forget the double pressing, you’re likely to stretch the wrong bits. Roll, baste, stitch, THEN press. It will amaze you.
    For the collar, stay stitch the neck edge, clip carefully to the stitching to release the curve, then pin and baste the collar in place before machining. Again, taking the time to hand baste some stages will be well worth it for the finish. It took me thirty years sewing to accept this, after rejecting everything else our crappy school teacher taught us!

    • Sarah
      April 16, 2017 / 2:56 pm

      Thanks for your comments 🙂
      Awesome tips on the rolled hem, thank you so much! I will definitely be trying this next time. In fact, I finished the hem on a shirt just yesterday and it looks a little bit… rubbish. I will unpick and follow your advice! The rolled hem foot can stay at the bottom of the sewing box.
      I do hand baste a few bits here and there… sleeves mainly (and I’m amazed at the difference it makes), but I will admit that I don’t do this for collars. Perhaps that’s where it’s all going wrong – I’ll give it a go next time.
      Wow you had a sewing teacher in school? We had nothing like that! It really should be a skill that’s taught in schools. I mean, everyone needs clothing right?!

      • April 16, 2017 / 3:34 pm

        Hope the tips work for you! Yes, we were ‘taught’ cookery and sewing at school, but that was back in the 1970s, way before you were born! [And it was a girls’ grammar school, even more archaic] Most of what we were ‘taught’ in sewing was just a means of slowing us down so that one project would last the entire school year, so we spent most of our time unpicking. I started again when I was about 18, no teachers, no Internet of course, no books…I just bought patterns, and followed the instructions. I over-reached many times [three piece tailored suit anyone?] but it’s amazing what you pick up, or work out for yourself, eventually. I like to pass along tips and hints via FB, blog posts and various fora, it’s very satisfying to help others to progress. I keep learning too!

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