Although this is the first shirt I am blogging about, this is actually the fifth (or maybe sixth?) shirt I have made. They are tricky garments, these shirts, with lots of bits and pieces that you need to match up *really* well in order for the finished item to look like it should. Wonky button plackets, off-centre collars, and matching patterns across the two front pieces are all death traps that are just waiting to lure you in.
The hardest part for me is definitely the collar stand – the bit that runs around the neckline, between the actual collar and the body of the shirt (the bit with the very top buttonhole on it). I seem to have a really hard time getting this one just right. When I first attempted to make shirts, before I knew any different, I would follow the instructions on the pattern for getting the collar attached to the collar stand, then attach this complete piece to the body – and then get frustrated that the whole thing wasn’t central and therefore looked a complete shambles. Hello seam ripper. Then I discovered that there’s a very handy book called “Shirtmaking” (surprise, haha) by David Page Coffin which tells you to abandon this method and go about it a different way. This revolutionised my life. All of a sudden it was easier to line everything up and get the collar central to the button placket. Hurrah! Lesson learned – just because the pattern instructions tell you to do it that way, doesn’t mean you have to.
For this shirt I used the Vogue/DKNY pattern V1462. The envelope calls for light floaty fabrics like chiffon and silk but I instead used a Liberty print cotton lawn, which is my favourite fabric for making shirts out of. It’s expensive (full retail price is just over £20 a metre – so I try and find sales/ends of rolls), but the quality and feel of it is amazing and there is literally hundreds of different prints. This fabric is part of the ‘Liberty Rocks’ AW11 collection which collaborated with various musicians to design their own prints. This one was taken from original drawings by Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, and is called ‘A Boy Dreams’. If you look closely, you can see the pattern is actually a boy and girl kissing.
This is the first time I have sewn a hidden placket on a shirt – but it’s actually super easy. Much easier than I thought it would be! I like the fact that with the rest of the buttons hidden, you can draw attention to the single button that you can see on the collar stand – so of course I had to choose something ornate and sparkly 🙂 I do like buttons though, and feel sort of sad that the rest of them are hidden underneath fabric. Maybe next time I will go back to sewing regular plackets.
I recently bought myself a new sewing machine (I had my previous one for 16 years), and I was absolutely shocked to discover that it would sew on buttons for me. This is something that I had always previously done by hand, and I had no idea modern machines could actually do this. Previously, sewing on a complete set of shirt buttons would have taken me about an hour, and usually involved me stabbing my finger with the needle at least once. And sometimes there was blood involved, if I really misjudged where the needle was coming through the fabric. Digging the machine manual out, I dubiously followed the instructions for sewing the buttons: attach weird-looking button foot, slide button into hole, adjust stitch width to distance between holes in button, and go. I watched in amazement as the needle did it’s thing and sewed the button on to the fabric in about five seconds. All I had to do was knot together the ends of the thread, and cut. I inspected the work, and genuinely can’t remember the last time I was this amazed. The whole set of buttons took less than ten minutes. I’m trying not to think about how many hours of my life I have spent sewing buttons on by hand.
The sleeves are a little looser than I would perhaps like, but given that the pattern states ‘loose fitting shirt’ on the packet I guess I can’t complain. I do like the style of placket on the cuff though, even though it took more time than some other styles and was a bit fiddly I definitely prefer this to the more-simple-but-cheating-fake-cuffs that appear on some patterns.
Usually I would use iron-on interfacing for the cuffs and collar, because, well, it’s quicker and easier to melt it to the fabric than it is to stitch it. However for this shirt, I used some of the leftover sew-in interfacing that I bought for my red jacket, and – WOW – the difference is quite considerable. Unless you get the ironing absolutely spot on, sometimes you can get little creases when you apply iron on interfacing, which you then can’t re-do because the fabrics are now glued together. Also, after several washes, you can get bubbles and a rippled surface appear on the fabric that has the interfacing behind it, where it has come a little unstuck. Using sew-in, the feel of the cuff and collar is a lot softer and smoother, probably because there isn’t a layer of melted glue behind it. Yes it takes a little more time to sew it to the fabric rather than iron it, but this is definitely the way forward for me on this. No more iron-on interfacing here.
If I sewed this again I would take the sleeves in just a smidge – but other than that the fit is good. It’s quite quick to sew too, as there aren’t any darts in either the front or back. The topsticthing around the armhole took me three attempts of stitching, unpicking and wondering what I was doing wrong before I figured out that if I clipped the sleeve seam allowance, the whole thing would lay much flatter and look 100% better. Thanks, Vogue-pattern-instruction-writers, for omitting this little helpful tip.
Photography credits: Photos by Hmexus