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Category Archives: Shirtmaking

On the Cutting Table

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Cutting Table

Things are progressing very slowly on the cutting table. This table is too short, it’s an old dining table and 29.75″ high. I should be cutting at 36″ high. My old table at The Stitchery was 39.5″. The one table that was the correct height was my embroidery work table and now it is our dining table. And, remember, I’m cutting 5 workshirts from a denim cambric

Ouch, I need a break, lots of them!

Lately it’s almost impossible to cut more than 1 piece before my back is in spasms. I cut, I go sit. Over and over. I don’t remember having this happen before, usually I can push on through, not right now.

Ever had a project become bogged down from surprising circumstances?

Well, the mind is willing, even if the body is not. I decided to make the job even worse by pulling the fine shirtings that have been waiting for years upon the shelves.

I always like to cut as much as possible from the pattern before me, it makes more sense than cutting one garment and searching for another pattern, ’cause I can take for—ever to decide what’s next. It’s bad. And old production habits die hard.

I have these lovely fabrics that have been waiting for shirts for the husband. This new piece just came in from Acorn.com in
Acorn 2013, from Acorn, UK

I didn’t know the source of the blue stripped fabric, purchased from The Wool House, until I went to Acorn’s website

The Blue Stripe is from Acorn, The Wool House 2008

This top fabric has the lightest hand of all

Lightest hand of all, not sure if I will cut it

and while I bought it for him, I may cut it into a shirtdress for me. It suggests “feminine”

Purchased 2006? Source possibly Michael's Fabrics

This last piece is the most unbelievably silky hand, the finest denim I’ve ever seen. It may be too good for this pattern. Maybe I should wait to cut this when I find or draft the most amazing shirt ever? Yeah, probably.

Fine Denim Shirting, Italy, The Wool House 2011

I bought it from The Wool House in Toronto when I went to meet Els and Lorna in 2011. This is seriously fine cloth and most likely from Italy, since that’s where their fabrics are supposedly sourced.

So, I’m cutting slowly and wondering how to get this table raised when I really don’t have the bricks or vegetable cans to put under the legs. Oh OK, I should go buy the 5″ tall cans and insist that my husband help me get them under the table legs.

A woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do. Well, if he wants the shirts, right?

Mom's Graduation Project, Traphagen School of Fashion 1936

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Vogue 8759 Man’s Shirt

Back of man's shirt

I cut the original pattern with no adjustments in size 46 in a light blue cambric pinpoint and we had a try on.  I hated it!  It looked like a school boy’s shirt but maybe that was because of the traditional fabric. And it was not appealing because it didn’t look like a proper “work shirt”,  I could see this style  cut with the mandarin collar but not with the collar and stand as I need to make.

V8759

The yoke is drafted to seam at .5″ below the shoulder point, not dropped like a proper yoke, the sleeve has enough ease in it that there might be gathers when inserted.  But oddly enough the collar might just fit my husband’s 18.25 inch neck.  I wish Vogue would print the collar length on the pattern somewhere so that those of us who are serious about making a fitted man’s shirt could chose the proper size.  But they don’t.

I don’t trust my measuring ability to accurately tell me just exactly how long that collar is. Between the pattern’s tissue paper that is inaccurate by it’s very nature, and the exact placement of a measuring tape, millimeters can be lost or gained.  Ah, well.  No shirts are built by stressing over the small details, right?  But I did have my day of pouting.

I lowered the shoulder seam line and by like subtraction I extended the shoulder yoke, shortened the shoulder seam, cut the armscye lower and wider, added fabric over the torso, and added 3″ to the length of the garment. I did not alter the sleeve pattern. And I did not alter for my husbands dropped shoulder and leaning stature. These details of sewing for him have completely stopped my suit making. One day I will overcome. Pray for me.

adjustments

I cut the cloth and basted the shell together.
front of man's shirt

Button Stand left open

Side of man's shirt

It looks like the sleeve could be rotated in the armscye a touch towards the back. How odd. This sleeve has a high cap, again that’s odd considering that most men’s shirt patterns have a flat sleeve cap.

But that’s why I like this patten: it has a taste of side shaping, and high and tight armscye, a long collar band and some shape and finesse to the sleeve.

So Onward I go, now to cut 4 more shirts as accurately as possible from a tissue. I don’t know of a garment that needs the most accurate and nuanced cutting as a man’s shirt. And for a picky man, the bottom line is how comfortable it feels, who can blame them?

A Hard Denim Is Good to Find

Oops, did I really say that? Well, yeah, I did. So now that I’ve gotten that off my chest here’s the facts, Ma’m.

Finding good denim is tough! I have been looking for the last 5 years, through all the fabrics stores I’ve hit during business travels across the country, and by ordering swatches from Mood (thanks for the suggestion, Becki!) as well as other sites. I have bought denim for commercial and other uses so I’ve been around, loosely, er, loosely speaking, tasting all the denim I could.

The problem is that almost all vendors don’t know how the denim will perform over the years. They may not know the source of it in the first place. I tend to hang with my good friend Ann at GorgeousFabrics.com. She’ll know her source if she can and she sews the fabrics she buys. So I’ve made 3 to 5 yard denim purchases over the years from everywhere, and even bought out the last bolt of very dark wash, heavy shirt weight, denim from Textile Fabrics in Nashville. It was the closest thing they had to what I needed.

Textile Fabrics is an excellent store, BTW, should you ever get to Nashville. And if you don’t ever get to Nashville, you’ve blown your chance to visit one of the best fabric stores in US. Just my opinion and I’ve spent a lot of time and money gaining that opinion. LOL

A binding, seemingly insurmountable problem has been that Mr Stitch turns out to be very picky in his choice of colors.  He couldn’t use the light blue that has recently come back into fashion nor was he remotely interested in black. Oh, no. He has a total thing for blues. The color, not the music (darn it all) and he’d probably like the blue used in this paragraph.  Strong like Bull, stubborn like Ox.

So my 13 yards of very dark wash, slightly brushed for softness, yet close weave chambray (AKA Cambric) denim from Textile Fabrics has languished on the shelf, awaiting inspiration.

Desperation inspiration struck yesterday and 5 ripped sections of 60″ wide, 50″ in length yardage have been washed, dried and ironed.  The left over 6 yards is washed and folded.

Then I found my packet of patterns and notations and OLD SCRAPES from the years of shirt making for Mr Stitch.

Moving a work room is something that curses you for years afterward.  No matter how hard you try.  Remember this.

So late last night, I learned that my favorite pattern (I’d even forgotten I had numerous patterns, commercial and custom drafted) (I blame it on the chemo, so much got wiped out) calls for 1/2 yard more than the 5 segments I’d ripped.

Yeah, well, I might be bummed. I’ll have to do the layout with his alterations incorporated to see what I shall see. That’s on the menu for today.

The good news is that I have in my greedy little paws a whole ** load of ProWOVEN Super-Crisp Fusible Interfacing that I am really anxious to use in the collars ’cause that ironing last night and coming up during construction is probably the last iron these shirts will see.

And SCRAPES.  Gosh darn it where have these been hiding?  I could have sent  one off to Ressy, as Elaine Good suggested yesterday, many years ago and saved myself a ton of fabulous denim research.  Or not.

Que será, será

Work Shirt Sewing Ahead

I had a shock this morning as Mr Stitchery was leaving for work. Shredded fabric was hanging from his worn sleeves and button placket. We did a quick snip with the scissors and off he went to his heavy boards of raw oak and maple wood and big, loud machines and piles of sawdust.

I went to his closet to explore the state of the rest of his short sleeved work shirts and this is what I found. The worst of the lot had just walked out the door.

Made Jan 2008, 5.75 yrs ago, washed and worn avg 40 times a year

Between the rough work and the paint booth these shirts are falling apart and almost destroyed

threadbarewear and fading

We have fond memories of how they looked in the beginning

WSS

This shot was taken after 8 months of wash and wear weekly. He loves his custom made shirts.

2008

I have looked for a denim to match this first 20 yards but can’t find anything comparable. I think I bought it through the Fabrics and Notions coop and know nothing technical about the weight or source.

In 2011 I did a quick test shirt of a candidate fabric and it turned out to be a total fabric fail

It looked good enough in the first few wearings

New Shirt 2011

but wear showed after the first wash on the all parts where the fabric was folded. This shirt is now only 2 years old and it doesn’t look much better than the shirts that are almost 6 years old.

Newer shirt, wear showed after the first wash

It is worn very little, only for those days when he might have to look presentable outside of the factory.

2011 shirt

but see how it’s already to shred and needs to be replaced soon too.

I will simply have to use what is in the stash and plan on making new shirts more often. Maybe I’ll eventually luck out and find a good quality, medium weight 100% cotton denim. Anyone have any suggestions???

I can hardly believe this is the first button I will have had to replace. After all these years. They were originally sewn on by machine, using a 1967 all metal White that I inherited from his Mother. Here it is in production in 2003.

commercial sewing with 1967 White machine

I used it in commercial sewing for years before I had to sell The Stitchery 2 years ago. I miss that machine. The foot lifted high enough that I could make thread shanks even as I machine sewed on the buttons. It sewed through Naugahyde and upholstery ultrasuede accurately and with ease. The feed was amazing.

But things change all the time and even though Mr Stitch says it will be time for long sleeves soon, I doubt these shirts will last until December when the temperatures get seriously cold.

Move over Fall Fashion plans, it is time to cut at new short sleeved shirts.

Shirt Makers, Your Attention, Please!

Blog Banner_OTC_ShirtmakingThis is important: Pam Erny, Custom Shirt Maker, has started a new blog. An extraordinary, tutorial and tip blog on shirt making. This is something many who know her have prayed would happen over the past online sewing years.

It’s here:

Off The Cuff…from a Shirt-Maker’s Studio

Bookmark, follow, subscribe, like, read, enjoy, try out the techniques and thank Pam.

Garment Making in Bangladesh

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Today someone in Dhaka, Bangladesh, searched The Stitchery for “shirtmaking” posts. It reminded me that yet another disaster has befallen the largely female work force in the garment factories there.

According to Reuters, Bangladesh is number 2 in the world in apparel exports.

Yesterday, April 24 2013, an 8 story building that housed an indoor market, a bank and 5 garment factories collapsed 20 miles outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The numbers vary: 250 dead, 2000 pulled from the rubble alive, 1500 injured, 1000’s unaccounted for.

bangladesh-ps4.photoblog900

The 9th floor of the building was still under construction and had been certified as safe only the day before when large cracks developed. The owner of the building has been arrested and locals are calling for him to be sentenced to death. Some of the garment factory owners are also being arrested.

bangladesh-building-collapse

My heart is breaking for these low-paid employees. Shirtmaking shouldn’t be this dangerous!

Edited April 28 The building owner has finally been detained, he was not arrested immediately because he could not be found after Tuesday. And he said the building had been inspected but the police report that they advised the building was unsafe. There are also reports that 2 of the factory owners forced their employees to go to work. Politics and avoidance of responsibility make reporting almost impossible.

Shirt Making

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Last week I finished a blouse for me. I posted about it over at The Sewing Divas and at PatternReview.com where thankfully it was well received. I hesitate to post at PatternReview because I have to do all my own photography and it’s not always Pretty! But I took the plunge and it worked out OK this time.

One of the commentors at PatternReview was curious to see a photo of the button spacing because I wrote about it but didn’t not originally publish a photo of the button spacing.

buttonfront

The first button down the front is 1 1/4″ from the collar band so that it can be buttoned with a nice and modest spread to the collar. The second and third buttons are 3 1/4″ apart so that the third is exactly placed horizontally between the bust points, preventing the dreaded gaposis. The rest of the buttons down the front are 3 9/16″ apart and end 2″ above the hemline so that the blouse can be worn untucked and neat. Unfortunately I didn’t pay much attention and took the photo before I had ironed in the hem. Details, details!

Shirt making is all about details. I love to make shirts

WSS

5

cuff

front

But I don’t always review the patterns I use or post photos of each and every project. I have many more that are unpublished.

However…

I also love to read about fine shirt making and see others work. So that brings me to my two favorite shirt makers in the whole world: David Page Coffin and Pam Erny’s blog Off The Cuff ~Sewing Style~.

Pam posted a wonderful tutorial on making fast and perfect flat felled seams on her blog Off The Cuff ~Sewing Style~ yesterday.

If you like to make one-of-a-kind shirts you’ll appreciate Pam’s work. She posts clear tutorials, professional results and innovative styles.

If you have missed checking out this great blog, go see!

Oh, and no, I have no affiliation with her beyond being an unabashed fan. 🙂