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Category Archives: Work Shirts

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 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


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.


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.


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 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


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


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.

New Clothes for Her and Him

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New Dress Vogue 1224

A New Dress! Such a simple thing and it makes me feel so good.

It’s the oft reviewed Vogue 1224. I cut and sewed most of it yesterday and finished the hems and tie ends this morning.

I just turned the tips of the tie ends inside and took a few stitches to close them. I buried the thread knot inside the long seam, quilting style.


I am a 12 or 14 through the shoulders and upper chest so I cut a 14 and did an FBA, or my version of an FBA, I should say, since I don’t look these things up, I just kind of sew by instinct and who knows, maybe I’ve seen this somewhere, maybe not.

But here’s what I did to accommodate my DD bust and “wider than pattern sizing 14” middle


I added 3/4″ to the length of the front and back bodice and 5/8″ to the underarm side seams. Cut the front and back skirts and extra 5/8″ on the fold, too. I also lengthened the dress and lining by 1″.

Vogue 1224 Back

I have had this fabric in the stash for years and never liked it. Made up it is actually cute. The lining is not the recommended stretch mesh but a nylon lycra in nude from the lingerie stash.

A few thoughts about the pattern:

  • When I do it again I will finish the lining so that the finished side is next to my body, not next to the skirt as the pattern has you do. Or maybe I got that wrong
  • I will add 1/2″ extra width through the back skirt (unless I lose weight again).
  • I will tack the elastic in the bodice neckline so that the shoulder seams will stay on the shoulders and the tie can be untied for the laundry.

A few other musings: Do pattern companies take into consideration the “fun” you have when you sew? Like do they have you take a narrow hem and have you trim off the 5/8″ turn up and think that’s fun? I don’t know, just wondering….

And for HIM: A New Shirt (a mix of Vogue 8759 and the OOP Vogue 8096 (image no longer available). The new version has princess seams down the back but not a full yoke like the old pattern so I started out thinking I wouldn’t use the new pattern at all.

It’s been 3 years since I have made work shirts, in part because I cannot find the denim-look chambray fabric I want to use. So I’ve made one from a new material and we’ll test how well it holds up to weekly washings and the hard work in the shop.

Mr Stitchery seriously likes his new shirt

Seriously Likes

We like how big the pocket is. I have some redesign plans for the pocket in the making. We want things to stay in the pockets but have no time for buttons or snaps. I’ll blog about my trials in a couple of weeks.

But I forgot how far away the pattern places the pocket! Oh DUH, I’ve monogrammed enough pockets to know that they should be about 1.5″ to 2″ away from the edge of the front placket. I had made no notes on the pattern. Gees, Mary Beth, Make Notes! Or at least read your old blog post….


He has an extra long back that requires a shirt longer than any I’ve found in RTW so we add about 4″ to the length. Next time I’ll make the sleeves an inch shorter, and raise the shoulder seam and sleeve cap, too. I’m thinking that there too much width across the upper chest as well. Hmmmmmm.

Full Length

Mr Stitch has not been around very much to take measurements so I had to cut this shirt from a sort of “memory”, maybe you’d call it a physical memory? I knew the collar would be too short for his neck but he doesn’t button the top button ever, so altering for teat seemed a waste of time.

However I did remember the billowing fullness of his last set of shirts and taking an idea from the new Vogue Man’s pattern I cut the back into 3 sections and contoured them like this: (there’s a parralax (if that’s the right term) in this shot, the bottom edge is actually straight)

Contour Back

Somehow that turned out perfectly. I don’t really know how, it was just from visualizing his shape and how much ease I wanted in the shoulders. Yipppeeee!!!

Side Back

I haven’t washed the shirt yet. We do not like work shirts that need ironing when they come out of the dryer. So we’ll see if this fabric is OK for another.

But we DO LOVE the new PRO-WOVEN Shirt Crisp FUSIBLE Interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. I interfaced both sides of the collar and stand and used one strip in the left front button placket. Wonderful stuff. Thanks so much, Pam!

Happy to be sewing!

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 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.


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





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.


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. 🙂

Denim Work Shirts – Vogue Mens 8096

Production sewing, yes, but this time for personal use:

Here’s the pattern I used Vogue men’s pattern 8096. Great pattern (but read on for a warning), well drafted, decent collar shape.

You can cut down the seam allowances where 5/8″ is not needed (collar and stand, pockets top and bottom of yoke and the pieces it joins to) or you’ll be cutting down after you’ve sewn them.

I didn’t bother with fine details like cutting a smaller under collar, the pattern doesn’t have one either. These shirts are meant for working, not standing around looking pretty. But, thanks to good denim, they turned out pretty anyway.


I made the short sleeved version in a heavy weight (for a shirt that is) denim and did mock flat felling: stitched the seam on the sewing machine, serged together the edges of the seam allowance to 3/8″, turned and topstitched at 1/4″. The armscye seam is turned toward the body of the shirt and the side seams are turned toward the back of the shirt. Nothing fancy.

Taking a cue from a RTW shirt I adjusted the width of my automatic buttonhole stitch to a more narrow setting and used a finer thread than I used in the stitching on the band. I didn’t want too much off-white in the shirt’s details, just enough to play nice with the off-white buttons that were available in the stash.


One thing: the pattern’s pocket placement seemed all wrong. It was 10″ down from the forward edge of the yoke, which of course is dropped from the shoulder by 1.25″ or so and 5 or 6 inches away from the center front. I didn’t measure it. But it was almost under the arm. I moved it to 8″ below the point where the yoke meets the collar stand and 4″ from the far edge of the front band. It just looked right in that position.

Why did I do this bit of production sewing? Overlooked ink pens in the laundry. Need I say more? Thanks goodness only the light blue work shirts got hit hard.

So (darn) there goes that denim I had stashed for the Hot Patterns Denim Diva Camden Coat. Oh, the sacrifices that must be made in times of great need and suffering…. Hope I can find some more of this denim, it was a pleasure to sew up and had great body.

It’s good to have a stash!!!