December 6, 2012
Girl's dress shirt for Violet's Revels show
Violet has been participating in a homeschoolers singing group called Revels, which she has really enjoyed. Last Tuesday they gave a short recital which was wonderful to watch. She needed a white shirt to wear for the show, and didn't have one. So I whipped one up on Sunday and Monday. Violet was very excited about it: "Dad, look it has cuffs and a collar! So fancy!".
I drafted the pattern for the fitted shirt block out of Metric Pattern Cutting for Childrenswear. Ordinarily I would have made a muslin, adjusted the fit, etc., but I didn't have time for that on this project. Besides, the competition for my homemade shirt was for Violet to wear one of Becky's shirts, so the standard on fit was none too exacting. It actually turned out pretty well, and the draft was easy to follow, so I'll surely use the drafts from the book again. The only fitting I did was to do a try on with the pieced together body block and pinned size of the back pleat to adjust the fit to about right. Then I sewed in the pleat, finalized the collar pattern, and went ahead.
Here is my pattern and the pieces cut from some white shirting type fabric I had washed in preparation for making myself a shirt like 8 months ago, and which sat on the shelf since then waiting to realize its shirty destiny:
As far as construction details go, I went with a regular sleeve and french cuffs. I didn't bother to look up how to make a regular sleeve placket, but instead put in one I know how to do quickly for the split in the top of a skirt back in a dress.
My strategy on french cuffs was to have an integral cufflink formed from two buttons attached with a loose thread shank on either side of one of the inner cuff layers. Then the other three cuff link locations have buttonholes like usual. This way we won't be losing cufflinks, which even I have a problem with and I'm not 6 years old.
A peter pan collar. When drafting the collar pattern, I forgot to take some out for the button stand, so it ended up longer than it should have.
And a one piece back with an inverted pleat in the center and darts (more on the darts later) rather than a yoked back.
I made a number of mistakes. In my haste I forgot to put in two shoulder blade darts in the back of the shirt which opened out into the armscye seam. This had the effect of shifting the shoulder top seam forward, making it a little more baggy in back, and taking up some of the ease in the sleeve head. But the darts were small (like 5mm), and I don't think it suffers much from having left them out. I also should have made the shirt a little longer overall, and a little longer in front than in back.
I'm not totally happy with how the placket at the cuffs is so open even with the cuffs closed. I've got to do some thinking about how this should go together when doing french cuffs instead of the barrel cuffs we are all used to.
One thing I didn't fully appreciate was how many buttonholes are needed for french cuffs. On Sunday night my plan was to do the buttonholes, then the buttons on Monday night. Of course having shipped Becky's Kenmore sewing machine to my mom, I'm left with my W&W No.9 treadle straight stitcher as my only functional sewing machine. Needless to say, it doesn't do button holes. My plan has been to just get good at doing them by hand. Up to now I haven't had to do a lot of buttonholes so it's been ok.
On Sunday I started out on the top center buttonhole and used gimp and everything, proceeding according to the directions of Stanley Hostek's book (also discussed here). This buttonhole took me like an hour! So I ditched the gimp for the other three. But between the basting, cutting, overlock stitching, then the buttonhole stitching with twist, it took me a few more hours. By this time it was extremely late, so for the 6 holes I needed on the cuffs I just did baste/cut/overlock and left the twist work for later. This experience has made me think more strongly about getting my Necchi up and running since I have a buttonholer attachment for it. But then again, after I do my 100th hand worked buttonhole, maybe it won't take so long...? Here is probably the best looking one from the front of the shirt. Not a total embarrassment, but boy can it stand to improve on both quality and speed of execution.
I also should have put the collar in a little differently, but its ok as is. Interfacing is sew in type, cut smaller to keep it out of the seams, and applied to the lower layer of both collar and cuffs. The side and shoulder seams are french so no finish required, and the armscye seams are wrapped in hand applied hug snug binding.
I use these metal buttons for absolutely everything since I love them so. I get them out of the huge mixed/used buttons bin at Sew Low, the discount fabric store in Cambridge. Last time Millie went with me and helped me dig through the bin and pick like 50 buttons. I live in fear of when I deplete the stock at Sew Low. Must be some place to get them new, but its not like I live in NYC and can go button shopping in a meaningful way.
Treadling went pretty well, only minimal fooling around with the machine. I still don't have it dialed in perfectly, but when its working well enough I'm usually not inclined to take the time to fine tune it. I think I need to lower the bobbin tension a little.
The customer was very happy with the product, which is always gratifying, and I am pleased with how it turned out as well. Here is Violet on stage with her friends after the performance.