Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Birthday Blue Linen Shirt (Marathon Edition)

About two weeks before my dad's recent 75th birthday, I decided a homemade linen shirt would make a special gift.

I thought I had some men's shirt patterns in my stash, but all I could find was a vintage short sleeved number that I thought would look too old fashioned on him and two copies of a pattern (V2209) that looked like a shirt pattern but was actually a trouser pattern (Vogue, that was a very misleading picture! And why do I have two copies?).

I tried to get something other than a Vogue pattern for a change, but when I rushed in to Lincraft in my lunch break they didn't have the Burda shirt patterns I liked in stock. It's fine though, I like the pattern I got - Vogue 8889 - and it has potential to make many different flavours of shirt.  If I ever have the energy, that is.

What I wanted was a hybrid: the long sleeves of version C (picture below on the left) and the no tucks casual look of version A (picture below on the right). But with a regular button front rather than the plackets shown. And made to fit a 75 year old...

version C, V8889
version A, V8889

tech drawings, V8889

Shirts can be a lot of work even straight out of the pattern envelope, but I knew it would be a better birthday present if it actually fitted him :).  Lincraft only had V8889 in the too small size (34 - 40, whereas I think my dad should start as a 42-44 before adjustments), perfect for learning more about fitting!

My dad's partner measured him and emailed me the numbers, and then I went looking for information on fitting shirts. If you ever make a shirt and want to know how to make it really fit and how to sew all the details beautifully, I found an amazing resource - the shirt making tutorials on Pamela Erny's blog! I used this tutorial to adjust the pattern to fit dad's abdomen, and I read many other tutorials here that I didn't put into practice - sadly I just felt too pressed for time to master new tricks.

Before I go too much further, let me show you the finished shirt on dad:

Some things are good - I love this colour on my dad (behind the glasses there are blue eyes), I'm happy with my fit adjustments over the abdomen and around the neck, and my replacement of the front button placket worked. I'm also really glad that there's no weird crumples or pulling between the buttons on the shirt front - my buttons and button holes seem pretty well aligned. And negatives? Of course, always! The shoulders are a little wide, the sleeves are a LOT long, the collar points aren't pointy enough, and probably there are other fitting issues I'm not even aware of!  My dad was pretty happy with it though, and of course that's the main thing.

Oh and this is how dad's RTW shirts usually seem to fit.  I kind of like that he looks sad here (the "before" picture, of course) then happy in the shirt I made!

And now it's time for the long waffly section about the adjusting and the sewing...

If you'd like to skip the waffle and see a beautiful version of this shirt, head over to kbenco's blog, but otherwise please read on :)

The process started way before I got near the sewing machine, of course. First up I shopped my stash. The fabric I chose  is a recent purchase from The Fabric Store, and it's a medium weight linen. I'd pre-washed it as soon as I'd bought it, so it was ready to go.  

The next step was to review the pattern size against dad's measurements. My results don't always show it (I often run out of time at the end), but I tend to be an over-analyser: 
  • I read Vogue's information on what size to choose for men...
  • I checked the stated measurements on the pattern instructions for the size I was using as a starting point (size 40 - allegedly two sizes too small)
  • I reviewed Vogue's ease chart to understand how loose they meant by "loose-fitting"  (although this is the ease chart for women - I haven't found similar for men)
  • For a more accurate assessment of ease, I measured pattern pieces and added up the numbers to get the actual circumference measurements for the shirt around the chest, waist and hips as well as the neck, and compared these to the measurements in the size chart (15 cm ease in the waist - wow!)
  • I scribbled out a matrix of all these numbers against my dad's measurements so I could work out how much I needed to add where
And then it was time to think about fitting, to think about my dad' shape, and to decide where to adjust the pattern. I drafted new collar (9), collar band (10) and under collar band (11) pieces because I wanted the collar to be 9 cm longer than drafted: 7.5cm extra length and 1.5cm ease. I  widened the back and yoke by 3cm, and in retrospect I shouldn't have made this adjustment as dad doesn't have particularly wide shoulders, and doesn't have a particularly wide back (d'oh).  I modified the side back (7) and side front (8) pieces substantially, adding 2.5cm to each on the side seams at waist level, tapering to 0.5 cm under the arm and 1.5cm at the hem. I  widened and lowered the front neckline to fit the collar, and omitted the button placket (and piece (11)). And then I used this very exciting tutorial  for a 'portly' adjustment :), with the front (1) sliced parallel to the grainline, up to about chest level, then rotated to create about 5cm extra width on the hemline.

Phew! Two weeks had nearly passed - time was running out! So I quickly sewed the shirt together sans collar and sleeves, and dad got to try on this very incomplete, unfinished shirt thing on his birthday. It was a bit snug across the chest, and some of my flat fell seams and top stitching didn't look too good, so it was unpicked and sewn back together with smaller front seams and a new edge stitching sewing machine foot. 

Much better. New deadline? Dad's birthday lunch, 10 days hence.

Off to work, home to play with the kids, suggest homework, make dinner, supervise baths, put them to bed, AND collapse on the sofa... Time flew past and I didn't pick up the shirt until the Thursday night before the Sunday lunch. Everything took longer than expected, and I skipped checking the sleeve lengths :( and just sewed like a sewing maniac. On the morning of the lunch I sewed even more frantically, and learnt how to get the machine to do the buttons for me - placement per one of Mr UpSewLate's business shirts - and yay! I got to the lunch late, but the shirt was finished and even ironed.

And I'll leave you with just a couple of detail pics. The collar, where you can see that a machine sewn button looks alright:

And a sleeve placket and cuff.  I think I last sewed a sleeve placket over 20 years ago!

I'm so tired!

My current sewing project is a pleated pair of pants, and it's not going well at all! I think I chose the wrong fabric to start with - it's thick and has no drape - and I'm not really sure how pleated pants are supposed to fit, though I do suspect that the dropped front crotch, tight back crotch, and puffy hips I've currently achieved are probably not quite right... I might have to morph these pants into something else!

Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope your projects are working well :)

See you soon

- Gabrielle xxx


  1. it looks great - he looks very happy with it anyway! i love the term "portly". i'm going to incorporate it into my everyday life!

  2. Jeez louise - you're Dad's new shirt is awesome. This detailed shots show how good you sew.
    I bet he's going to ask you for another one. I would!

  3. You Dad's shirts looks amazing and you also highlighted what I was looking at when I studied my DH's shirt the other week, now you have made me realise I need to stop my selfish sewing!!

  4. Your Dad looks so pleased! And well he should. Ok the sleeves are a bit long, but you had a sewing deadline! Those tutorial links are fab. I must check them out before I attempt round 2 of Negroni. Good luck with the pants!

  5. Renee //nearestthepin26 February 2014 at 21:14

    I love that you showed your dad on your blog!! It makes a refreshing change seeing men's sewing amongst a sea of women's, so thanks Gabrielle :)

  6. What a lovely shirt and it looks so much nicer on than his rtw! The colour and fit is just perfect

  7. Gabrielle Corbett26 February 2014 at 23:48

    Thanks, he was really chuffed :). Yes it's a very amusing term isn't it, unfortunately I can't think of too many places to use it! Post prandial (sp?) portliness is a possibility...

  8. Gabrielle Corbett26 February 2014 at 23:51

    Thanks Maria, you're very kind. I don't think he will ask for another - but I might try to get another made for next Christmas, even though that feels about 2 years away :)

  9. Gabrielle Corbett26 February 2014 at 23:55

    Thank you Sharon. And now I'm intrigued - what in particular were you noticing in your DH's shirt?

    A bit of unselfish sewing makes you feel OK about doing lots more selfish sewing, that's for sure.

  10. Gabrielle Corbett26 February 2014 at 23:58

    Yes he was pleased, and I was see so relieved to see it on him and no tightness or weirdness going on. If I make another I will definitely get the sleeve length sorted!

    Is your Negroni v2 coming soon? V1 was awesome!

  11. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 00:01

    Thanks Renee, it's a bit unusual isn't it! Dad was happy to pose for heaps of photos, unlike some other people around here, so maybe I should sew more for him!

  12. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 00:07

    Thanks Kirsty, I thought it was nicer than his rtw too even if just for the colour!

  13. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 00:11

    House elves, yes - you have them in Spain too??! I'm very glad to hear you don't finish T-shirt seams either Merche, I feel like I'm in good company!

  14. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 00:14

    I think we should start raising money to buy them an indoor trampoline ! Thank you, it was such a lucky find :)

  15. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 00:16

    Thanks Gail. Yes, given what a friendly lot we sewists are, friendly pattern models might be a good idea!

  16. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 00:17

    Thanks Lexi, it is a great fabric isn't it! Turns out hot pink jeans go with everything - I had no idea!

  17. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 00:21

    Thanks Bernice, and you're right, those heels would be a problem. She'd have to take them off on the new trampoline :).

  18. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 00:26

    I usually try to set in sleeves in the flat, which makes it easier. And this fabric had some stretch which made it more forgiving. For non-stretch wovens I would use a couple of rows of basting either side of the stitch line to distribute the ease and / OR remove some fabric from the top of the sleeve. Hope that's helpful!

  19. You know I think Negroni v2 might very well be coming up next. Oh god, more plaid matching. Can my poor tired mind cope??

  20. Gabrielle Corbett27 February 2014 at 08:18

    Yes, I know it can!!! Just get extra 'in case' fabric and go slowly?

  21. It was the photo of your Dad's black and white shirt, how much excess fabric there is and this is exactly how my hubby's shirt looked, and to see how you fixed that with your shirt for your Dad.

  22. Olé! Gabrielle, you are such a good daughter! I just finished a negroni for my husband and after reading your post now I think it will be great to make another for my father.
    The colour is beautiful, and I just love your dad´s bracelet!
    And the placket is perfect!
    Good luck with those pants...and don´t stay up too late! ;)

  23. Beautiful shirt. Your Dad must have been thrilled. Hope to see you at the meet up tomorrow.

  24. Catherine Daze1 March 2014 at 05:31

    It looks totally professional, and what a great colour!

  25. You made a lovely job and I love the colour. I like seeing men and boys in colour. The fit is perfect.

  26. Gabrielle the shirt looks fab and what a wonderful pressie for your Dad. We're so picky about fit aren't we and then the next time we make something similar we (hopefully) remember! I am rather 'scared' of making a shirt (have had one on my list for AGES) but have bookmarked this post for when I get the courage to make one. Thank you for all the tips and notes and 'waffle' .....

    PS what's new edge stitch foot like?

  27. The blog content is really very informative and I am really thankful to you for providing this unique information about the Mens linen shirts. Please keep sharing more and more information......

  28. I was looking for the high quality information.Thank you so much for providing such helpful information about linen shirts.


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