That feeling you get when:
- You walk into a shop that’s selling off its excess Christmas chocolates at 80% off
- You had a long day in the office and you realise it’s Two For Tuesdays at Dominos Pizza, or
- You finally bring to life the garment you’ve had in your head for a couple of years
I love all of these things (especially the food-related ones, can you tell the fat girl in me still lives?! ?) but this week we’re talking about that last one – guys, the shirt that’s been a vision for so long is now an actual real thing ?
I’ve had the fabric set aside for a western shirt ever since I bought it – it’s ‘Deadwood Saloon’ by Alexander Henry and I knew I’d make an outrageously loud cowboy shirt for the husbeast with it ? I managed to score the last almost-two-metres (181cm, to be precise) from modes4u.com – in February 2017 ? Two years ago!
I looked around at the western shirt patterns that were available, and wasn’t really taken by any of them. They just weren’t… outrageous enough. This Simplicity 1327 one (shown above, with the v. boring shaped yoke) was the main contender until I stumbled across the pièce de résistance – the Folkwear range of patterns. Up until my discovery, I wasn’t aware that the brand ‘Folkwear Patterns’ even existed. Having a little look on their website, they produce sewing patterns for all manner of traditional clothing – ranging from things you might get away with in everyday life to totally outrageous outfits:
Japanese Kimono, anyone?
No? How about a Bolivian Milkmaid’s jacket?
Or, the pattern I’ve used – the Frontier Shirts:
We started to discuss initial plans for the garment – it was, after all, a shirt for the husbeast, so I wanted his input.
I see now that this was a mistake.
The husbeast got a little *too* excited over the whole thing – he got talking progressively faster and more crazily about suede, metal poppers, fringing, embroidery, and all sorts before I finally had to shush him so he didn’t start hyperventilating and/or having twitch-eye.
I let him have the suede, and the poppers that he wanted, but I drew the line at fringing. Though I doubt he’s going to forget about it so I’m sure I’ll be making some sort of fringed jacket at some point in the future ??♀️
We settled on the pattern in the bottom left corner, minus the fancy bits on the yoke. NO FRINGING.
The husbeast experimented with drafting his own suede shapes for the front and back yoke, but we never quite came up with anything we were totally happy with. In the end, we copied the shape of the original front yoke but made it a bit shallower as we didn’t want it to cover up too much of the cowboy print.
Then came the decisions on the colour of suede and piping to use – the initial plan was to use a dark brown suede with a cornflower blue piping (to match the blue in the shirt). I tried really hard to source the right shade of blue satin fabric to make the piping (the husbeast specifically said he wanted shiny piping rather than matte piping ?) but sadly I was defeated. I did find some velvet ribbon that was the right shade of blue, but the pile made it so thick that I didn’t think it would work underneath the already-thick suede (and I would have been correct). So in the end I went with dark brown ready-made satin bias tape, and made some piping from that. It actually looks pretty good – I’m happy with the colour and think it works really well with the overall colour scheme of the shirt.
The (faux) suede took a couple of attempts to find the right shade of brown (which we changed from ‘dark brown’ to more ‘medium tan’ after we decided on dark brown for the piping) and also the right ‘feel’ – we originally bought a metre of what we thought we had in mind from Minerva Crafts, but when it arrived it wasn’t quite the right colour and also it felt more ‘faux’ than we wanted it to. In the end, we bought a metre from Mood Fabrics – described as ‘copper’ – and had it shipped to the UK (with other fabrics, obvs, to share the shipping costs ??). When it arrived, it was perfect ?? The perfect colour and the perfect hand feel. Almost as good as the real thing. Mood actually do a really good job of photographing and describing their fabrics online – I like that you can see a close up of the fabric and also a photo of the entire length and width of it too. It really gives you an idea of scale.
They are out of stock of the suede now, but in case it helps anyone – here’s the fabric I bought:
With all the fabrics bought, it was time to get started on bringing this bad boy to life.
The Folkwear pattern is the first one I’ve discovered that lets you choose your collar size and your body size (mind = blown ?). I’d also heard really good things about the sleeve placket – and I can confirm that it’s a good’un.
I was quite short on fabric, having just under 2, so pattern matching was going to be tough. The sewn-on placket breaks up the front anyway, so you can get away with a bit more slack on the matchy-matchy-ness than you could if it was a fold-over placket. This is the first shirt I’ve made where the placket is sewn on rather than simply a folded extension of the shirt front, and although it’s a bit more effort it does open the door for a contrast placket/cuff combo even with regular cotton fabrics.
A teflon roller foot comes in bloody handy when sewing with suede – a teflon foot without those rollers does naff all (I speak from experience), you need those rollers to help reduce the drag on the bottom of the foot. Scotch tape on the underside of the foot – which is frequently recommended to help with sticky fabrics like leather and suede – also does naff all. Don’t even bother wasting your time, as I did, trying to trim the tape to the exact size you need to fit the bottom of the foot. You may as well spend your time chanting to the teflon fairies, it’ll do the same amount of good.
Teflon. Roller. Foot.
That is all.
Cutting the suede was quite interesting – it’s proper thick! The rotary cutter was just about up the challenge, but you need a fair amount of elbow grease behind it. As for sewing it, I’d recommend using a leather needle – but if you don’t have a leather needle at least use a decent heavy one. A leather needle has a sort of knife-blade edge rather than a ‘point’ to help cut a hole through the thicker fabric, like this:
Not as scary as it sounds, but be sensible and mind yo’ fingers.
I found it easier to attach the piping to the suede pieces before attaching the suede to the shirt body – first I basted the piping in place on the right side of the suede, then turned it to the reverse side so that just the piped edge shows from the right side. Then, I placed the suede piece (with piping attached) on top of the shirt, and topstitched just inside the suede edge. This meant, however, that there was a little ‘flappy edge’ formed – the area from my topstitching line to the very edge of the piping wasn’t secured. To combat this, I then stitched in the ditch around the edge again. This second row of stitching was in the ‘ditch’ where the piping met the suede – so it’s invisible from the right side (apart from where I’ve gone a little wibbly and strayed off the line ?) but means you can see it on the inside of the shirt. The suede pieces just felt a little more secure on the shirt with that extra line of stitching, and there wasn’t so much of a flap around each piece (okay so the ‘flap’ was only a few mm, but it was annoying).
Unlike the Republique Du Chiffon Joliane shirt I made for myself, where I painfully sewed together the curved yoke and shirt front, the Folkwear pattern simply cuts the shirt front as a whole and the yoke is overlaid. SO. MUCH. SIMPLER. I wish that the Jolaine shirt had been constructed this way. You just attach the piping to the suede pieces, and then topstitch the yoke onto the shirt.
CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THESE SLEEVE PLACKETS FOR A MOMENT ?
You could choose from plain plackets (as in the same as a regular formal shirt), or plackets with a suede piece behind them. I knew – just knew – that the suede ones would be the plackets the husbeast wanted, because they are just so extra. They are massive, and legit come up to his elbow. I’ll admit that they do look pretty damn cool, though. The tower placket construction itself was actually neat and easy to get a good finish on – I will be stealing this to use on other shirts for sure ?
The cuffs, collar and front placket are suede on the outside, but fabric on the underside because I didn’t want to create too much thickness – a double layer of suede might be a *touch* too much.
Underneath the suede yoke on the back, there is actually a cotton yoke too – the suede covers the join between the back piece and the yoke though so you don’t know that it’s there ? One change (and I think the only change ?) I made to the instructions was to add an inner yoke facing – I cut the yoke piece twice instead of once, and used one on the inside to enclose the join between outer yoke and body. Because I was oh-so short on fabric already, even before cutting the extra yoke piece, I had to cut the facings of the collar and collar stand horizontal on the fabric rather than vertical – but the pieces are so small you can’t tell anyway (and the husbeast hasn’t noticed so shhhhh ??).
After all the faff of finding the right suede – checking colours, trying to gauge the weight and feel of it – the one thing I forgot to check was whether it was actually washable ??♀️ It wasn’t until I’d almost finished making the shirt that the thought dawned on me… and I figured that I’d just chuck it in the wash when the time came and see what happened. I’ll be honest – I don’t dry clean anything. Wool coats get washed in cold water in the bath. Silk goes in the machine on a cold delicates wash with silk detergent. Wool jumpers also go in the machine on a cold, no-spin cycle. Yes, even the ones that say DO NOT WASH (why do manufacturers even make things you can’t wash?! ??♀️). I’ve only ever shrunk one jumper in my time – and even that was many years ago – because I forgot to set it on a cold cycle and the combination of heat and spin didn’t end well.
So after the photo shoot, and after he’d worn it to work to show it off to everyone, in the wash it went. Cold cycle ? And it turned out fine ?? The same way that it’s turned out after every wash since. Dry-clean shmy-clean ?
I wanted antique brass snaps, rather than shiny gold, but it seems they were not to be found. Now that they are on there though, the gold actually looks alright.
I used these hemline snaps from Minerva Crafts – the same as the ones I used on my Joliane shirt, but without the pearly bit – and they’re pretty good. Just make sure you line up your fronts before you start installing them – and by that I mean check yo’ piping is level on either side of the placket. Because it’ll look a bastard if it’s uneven.
The snaps are easy-ish to install (you need a hammer) and none of them have failed yet. I used the plastic installation tool but found that I couldn’t quite get enough force with it, so I’d use that to anchor the snaps in place, give it a smack and then remove the tool – and then give the snaps another final whack directly to set them in. I didn’t put a snap right at the top on the collar stand, because the husband never wears his shirt collars closed, although I suspect that’s because he finds shirt collars tight on RTW items. I cut the 15 inch collar size, so for the next shirt I might try the 16 inch collar and see if that’s more comfortable for him.
I’d say compared to the Vogue shirts that I have made for the husbeast, this one is a more casual fit – the sleeves are one-piece, and the back is just in two pieces (yoke and main body). The Vogue shirts have two piece sleeves – which means that you end up with exposed edges of fabric on the inside because you can’t french seam the edge which turns into the placket – and the back is divided into four: centre back, two side backs and the yoke. Which obviously makes pattern matching impossible.
Mission Impossible, you might even say.
The husbeast doesn’t really have a need for ‘formal’ shirts in his workplace – although we both work in the oh-so-sensible world of finance, we work in creative agencies where jeans and trainers are the order of the day so I think I might try making this Folkwear pattern from some Liberty lawn and see how it turns out. It’s also looking like the top contender for the Liberty silk that I managed to snaffle a couple of metres of, which I’ve been holding on to until I found the right pattern. I wanted a looser-fit non-fuss shirt without too many seams, so that the silk can flow and show off its pattern, and the Frontier Shirt just *might* be the one.
Overall, I’m actually pretty damn pleased with this shirt – both in looks and the actual sewing. Not to blow my own trumpet (but actually that’s exactly what I’m gonna do ?), but it looks frickin’ amazing, and it’s defo my most favourite shirt I’ve made ever and one of my fave creations to date. Looks aside, the tower placket turned out pretty well, the fit through the body is good, and it’s finished well on the inside, so actually it seems as though you can have both looks and personality ??♀️
Once I’d made the shirt, the dilemma of where to photograph it became apparent. Where the hell do you find a western backdrop in London? What I pictured was something out of Westworld… but of course that’s nowhere to be found ?
So our upcoming trip to New York became my next option, and I started researching where I might find a suitable location. We were planning on visiting Philadelphia and Washington DC, so I held out hope that between the three cities, I’d find somewhere.
I stumbled across Alexandria Old Town, in Virginia. It wasn’t quite as ‘old’ a town as I was looking for, but it would do. And, we could get a train there from where we were staying in Washington DC.
On the way back from Alexandria, there was a spot called Gravelly Point where you could watch the planes come in to land at Ronald Reagan airport. The husbeast is a plane geek so I knew he’d love this, and it made the train journey and day out about something more than just about taking a few photos. The runway is SO close to where you can stand, and as we were walking to find a viewing spot, a plane was making its descent and I legit genuinely panicked for a moment that it was lower than it should have been and that it was going to land on us. I even ducked. Possibly shrieked a little. Anyone that saw me probably thought I was a right moron ?
But srsly guys, look how low this plane is, flying over the traffic on the road:
For context, that time I panicked, we were walking right under the path of the plane. I had no idea that planes took that path on to the runway.
Imagine you’re taking a leisurely walk, and something catches your attention off to the side. You turn your head, and you see a dog running, happy as anything, and it warms your heart. But then you realise that the dog has massive fangs that are dripping with blood. And it’s heading your way. And it’s not a dog but a MASSIVE METAL SKY-VEHICLE APPROACHING YOU AT INCREDIBLE SPEED. That’s exactly how this went down.
The husbeast enjoyed the time we spent watching the planes come in (from a much safer spot), so it was worth it. And the photos we got of the shirt are awesome, don’t you think?
As we were taking the photos, one of the local trams made an appearance along the road behind – I panic-pressed the shutter to try to get a picture as I thought it would add to the ‘olde-towne-vibe’, and it was mildly successful if you look at the tram and not at the squinty face the husbeast is sporting ? (still love ya tho ?)
Because it’s just *so* awesome, here’s many, many photos of the shirt from every angle imaginable.
For your viewing pleasure.
You’re welcome ✌?
Next week on the blog is the first knitting project – hats made for both me and the Handsome Husbeast ??
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