Tag Archives: menswear

shirts for ryan

There’s something very satisfying about making menswear–well, men’s button-down shirts, anyway, as that’s the only menswear I’ve made. The fitting is easier (or maybe I’ve just been lucky), and the styles tend to be looser and not have any darts, which allows you to get right down to the actual construction, which has lots of lovely precise-but-not-too-fiddly details to work on getting perfect.

…Like pleats…

pleat

…and plackets…

cuff 1

…and seams flat-felled and french…

seams

I have made Ryan (my boyfriend, for those not in the know) two shirts over the last year. The first one was sewn up last summer out of a length of pink chambray found at a yard sale. At the time he owned a nice pale blue oxford that he wore all the time, so I took a pattern off that, narrowed the body slightly, and lengthened the sleeves.

front 1

back 1

The first shirt was made pre-buttonhole-machine, so I hand-stitched every buttonhole, which is not very nice-looking if you are looking close… I also put three buttons on each cuff, one on each collar point, and one on the back of the collar, which is Way Too Many Buttons, especially when you’re doing your buttonholes by hand.

collar 1

(I also embroidered a little tag, which is that blue scrap you see in the back of the collar.)

There were other fiddly bits, like my first ever collar stand, which didn’t turn out too great, and I insisted on skipping the interfacing because that’s what I do. It does make a difference though, having interfaced pieces. You get a much crisper look.

Overall I was really pleased with it as my first proper shirt, and Ryan’s worn it a fair bit so I’d count it as a success!

front 2

Shirt number two was made this summer. I’d been wanting to make him another shirt, but never seemed to have suitable fabric, until I dug up this lovely un-dyed linen. I had plans to dye half of it blue to replicate the (now lost) original blue button-up, and also to make an undyed, more casual version for Ryan’s trip to Italy to excavate a Roman villa (jealous? I am).

buttons

(I still haven’t got around to dying the other half of the linen, and to tell the truth, it is very narrow fabric so I’m not sure I can get another shirt out of it, but we’ll see, eventually.)

back 2

Back to the shirt! The only alteration was to add an inch and a half to the center back and pleat it in with the rest, as Ryan has got quite a bit broader in the back over the last year due to constant parkour training, and the pink shirt was getting too tight. It was a little baffling to try and remember all my pattern-drafting logic from a year ago, such as the fact that one side of the shirt has an extra quarter inch added to the front. This is supposed to help with the placket, somehow, but it’s just folded a couple of times, pressed, turned, and topstitched, and there are no tucks of any sort–so I have no idea why that extra quarter-inch is helpful. I don’t even remember if I included it in this iteration, to be honest.

cuff 2

tacking

Speaking of tucks. On the last shirt, something went wrong with the sleeve placket drafting and I had to make a tuck in the underside of the placket. I didn’t like it, and didn’t feel like messing with my anciently-drafted piece, so I just did a continuous loop. I justified it because it’s a casual shirt (I also didn’t put interfacing in the collar or cuffs), but then I had to tack it down because it was sticking out, and it puckers in places, so I am not doing that again!

collar 2

Other notes: The collar and collar stand were too long for the neckline, again! I have no idea why. It wasn’t a problem in the first shirt. Luckily, it’s a casual shirt (my motto, apparently), so why would anyone button it all the way up to the top? I didn’t even bother cutting open the buttonhole.

I cried about the buttons. I wanted off-white or brown buttons, and the only ones I had enough of were white shirting buttons, which were way too white for the linen and the dark topstitching. I got very upset and shed real tears, much to the annoyance of everybody, and then I picked out all the best buttons and sewed them on even though they didn’t match. It doesn’t really matter, but in the future I may start buying buttons specifically for certain projects, because there is nothing like having the wrong buttons to kill your enthusiasm.

Both shirts have their ups and downs. The linen one is better fitted and better constructed, but far from perfect. Still, it’s a learning curve, and I’m getting better. And most importantly, it’s fun! I love not having to sew any darts…

dragonskin parka

Over winter break, I made a brief foray into the World of Practical Sewing, and sewed an actual, functional, waterproof garment. Not for me, of course, I have far more waterproof garments than I ever wear in my indoors-y lifestyle.

My dad bought several parkas a couple of years ago, made of canvas. I think they were Swedish army surplus or something, effective windbreakers but not terribly useful in the rainy Pacific Northwest. He took one of them apart to make a pattern, and bought a great deal of Goretex. I sewed it up, with some alterations of course, and finished it mere minutes before I returned to school.

The Goretex didn’t iron very well, even on low heat with a towel, and all the seams were flat-felled, which would have been a lot easier if I’d been able to press it without melting it. I had to use a 100 needle and change it regularly, especially when I got to the point where seams began to intersect and the fabric dulled the needle really fast. I pretended that I was sewing out of dragon skin, in order to make the fabric’s idiosyncracies less frustrating. It worked pretty well to imagine myself as an apprentice dragon-skin-tailor, who had finally earned enough skill to try making something out of real dragon skin (I spent most of my formative years reading fantasy novels, if you couldn’t guess). Because I was flat-felling my seams and working with such an unusual fabric, I could look past my slightly wobbly seams and see the beginnings of a ready-to-wear garment–except not ready-to-wear, made by me! It was really exciting to be making something so practical and ordinary-looking (weird…).

This sort of excitement really only lasted up until I had to put the underarm gussets in. I’d never done gussets, and in a stiff fabric with flat-felled seams–well, it wasn’t too pretty. Everything really started to disintegrate around there. Gone were my clean, straight (ish) seams and smooth surfaces, now all was wrinkling and puckering and weird gathers. I managed to set in the sleeves, though I had to re-do one of them and probably should have re-done them both, if it wasn’t for the holes that the needle made in the fabric. I knew they would leak forever, and in a parka specifically made to keep water out, I decided that a wrinkly sleeve was better than one that let the rain in.

Because of the nature of the pattern, there were no instructions whatsoever, so I sort of had to make up the order of construction and how the pieces fit together. That was most troublesome with the hood, which had be far the most pieces, but it the end it looked better than the sleeves.

Here is the parka, as seen already in Mother’s post of a few days ago:

parka front

And here is the back:

parka back

I have a few conclusions from this whole adventure:

Goretex is a pain to work with.
Flat-felled seams are now a piece of cake.
Practical sewing is kind of fun! My dad has swatches of super lightweight waterproof synthetic something-or-other that you can use to make backpacking tents/tarps. It’s super cool and comes in all kind of bright crazy colors, so there may be a neon tent in my future…