Sunday, August 22, 2010

The perfect shirt, template

I pulled out sleeve pattern pieces, and front and back pieces from different patterns, and layered them to see how different they were from each other, and maybe try to figure out why some shirts wouldn't allow me to stretch my arms out in front of me.
I didn't find anything! The sleeves were practically identical in the shirts that didn't work, compared to the shirts that did work. Same with the fronts and backs. I went to the closet and tried on the shirts that don't work (why do I still have them hanging there, you ask? I ask that too.) The only thing I can think of is that all the shirts that work have a little Lycra in the fabric. And I think it is the width of the back that makes the difference, not the type of sleeve. In other words, my problem is that the back isn't wide enough, which means I am too big for the pattern. I can stand to lose 10 to 15 pounds and there it is - a whole pattern size. sigh.

I also looked at the sleeveless shirts I had made (and never worn) from the Vogue pattern 2634 and then I looked at the pattern and slapped myself up-side the head. It was a size 10, even smaller than the 12 with which I was having issues.
I decided to go with the McCall's 5630 "perfect fit" pattern and start to modify it. I pulled out the pattern pieces and discovered that I had already made this pattern!
Again, I used cotton with a little Lycra in it. I wasn't all that happy with how big the collar was but the shirt was a pretty good fit otherwise.
So what I did was cut the collar back at the points, so it would be a bit smaller. I've done this before with good results.
I had it in mind that I would use some plain cream coloured fabric I had, but in the process of looking for it (I have boxes and boxes of fabric), I found some nice striped cotton (no Lycra!). It is a little thicker than the silk but I think it will be okay for a template. My plan is to make the body straight, so it is more like a tunic than a shaped shirt. It won't be as long or as baggy as a tunic, but I want the stripes to be straight, all the way up and down.
When I cut out the front and back pieces, I cut as straight down the stripes in the fabric as I could, eliminating the curve in at the waist. I will still put in the bust darts but I won't put in the vertical front and back shaping darts. It will be interesting to see how boxy and bulky the shirt looks with no vertical shaping.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Perfect Shirt

I appreciate the comments on the gold silk. I really want to make some sort of shirt with it but not an entire "shirt dress". The comment about a tunic length got me to thinking about all the shirt patterns I have used of the years and those that I have bought but never used.
When I started making shirts (as opposed to blouses) for myself, I used one pattern exclusively. It wasn't a true shirt like a tailored man's shirt but it was good enough to make many (dare I say dozens) of shirts over the years. It's the McCall's 8053 on the right. It has a proper two piece collar and nice long shirt tails, for when we used to tuck our shirts into our skirt or pants. It doesn't have a separate band on the front, for both buttons and buttonholes. Instead, it does what many of the women's shirt patterns do and that is, fold over the front into a facing, which flares out at the top and has to be ironed down with each washing. It is also very wide and boxy and goes straight down, with no darts.

On the other side of the photo above is Simplicity 9210. This is what I've been using lately (and for some years) to make what I call the "camp shirt" (or I suppose you could call it a bowling shirt). It has a one piece, spread collar. I like the two piece collar because it looks more formal or dressy and can take a tie (I sometimes, used to - rarely - wear ties). The camp shirt also has the facings. It is square but it does have bust darts to give it a little shape. And the bottom is hemmed straight across with vents at the bottom for ease of movement.
The next pattern on the right is Simplicity 9877. I started making this very fitted shirt when I started leaving my shirt tails untucked. Despite the cowgirl motif in the main photo, I have used this pattern successfully for quite a few cotton/Lycra shirts and I wear them a LOT. It has a one piece collar that has the shape of a two piece. That means when undone, it sort of looks like a two piece but it doesn't do up (at the very top) square enough to wear a tie. It has separate bands on the front that are interfaced and topstitched and look more like a tailored man's shirt. It also, despite it being so fitted, allows my arms to move. (That sounds strange but I went through a couple of patterns which were sized correctly but for some reason, I couldn't stretch my arms out in front of me.) I have made a few of these shirts with vertical stripes and they work, even with the deep darts in front. But for the gold silk, I didn't want the stripes to be interrupted like that.

On the left is McCall's 5630 which I have never used. I bought it because it is billed as "perfect fit" and it has a two piece collar, front bands and a slight shirttail hem. But it has body darts and I am not convinced I want to use those for the gold silk (because of the stripes in the fabric but also, I think the finished look should be a little loose).
Next is Vogue 2634 which I had to have because those women just look so lanky and elegant. I can be elegant (given the right circumstances) but I'll never be lanky. It has a very long, tunic length option, a two piece collar but no front bands.
Finally, we have a pattern that is very 80s but which I love in spite of its shoulder pads, gathered sleeves and tucks. Of course, it is very Vogue and so the photos look so elegant. I only had one shirt made from it and it didn't have the shoulder pads and I never made the cool neck cummerbund and I really got it for the neck detail. Because I like to wear ties. Plus, it has a French cuff option and one of these days, I'm going to wear cufflinks too. [I just like the look of a tie and cufflinks and I can get away with it because I'm pretty small and fairly feminine (how's that for non-commitment and lack of superlatives?)].

What's next for me is to compare pattern pieces to determine why some patterns restrict my arms (I didn't include those patterns above because, in my opinion, they don't work). Then I want to combine the best parts of the patterns that do work, to make a shirt that will be "the perfect shirt". It will have a two piece collar, front bands, hopefully no darts (I'll allow bust darts if I have to) and be loose-ish but not boxy. For the gold silk, I would like a long body but a straight hem, so I can wear it out like a tunic but tuck it in if I want. I will make the first prototype of this perfect shirt using some piece of some fabric I have squirreled away over the years and if it works, the gold silk will be next. I've been mulling over this puzzle for ages. It's very much like the mulling I do when I try to come up with what will be for me, the perfect bicycle. But that's another story.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

New project with silk?

I came down from sewing to blog about sewing and was sitting here (at the computer at 7pm) when suddenly, I thought I was going blind, it got so dark. We have some dense red cells moving through the area and there have been funnel clouds west of here. I thought I'd better post this before I lose power.
I finally finished the red rayon camp shirt. It is such a pretty colour, I am glad I have a new one of these shirts to wear.
I made the buttonholes vertically for a change. It fits loosely so there won't be any straining at the buttonholes or fear of gaping.
Now I have ironed the other piece of silk I got in California a year ago. It is a sort of Dupioni, in that it is stiff-ish with slubs in it but it is fairly thin too. I had thought I would make a dress out of it but I think it is too thin. Then I thought I would make a camp shirt, as the pattern works so well and I could tuck it into a skirt to make it look less caasual. But then I measured it and found out it is 136 cm wide and 190 cm long - almost 2 yards! I can get the shirt out of it but then I will have quite a bit left over and don't know what to do with that. Any ideas? Shirt and something, or something other than a shirt? Or maybe a long sleeved shirt!