How often do we buy a T shirt? The answer is “Frequently”. We often do not pay much, don’t expect a wonderful fit and are prepared to throw it out when it pulls out of shape. However, I decided to put those days behind me.
I had been seeing quite a few Concord T shirts appearing on-line and noticed that despite the pattern being for a seemingly ordinary T shirt, the variety of outcomes was endless. Making a T shirt should ensure a great fit and exactly the length you require. Mine are never long enough! What is necessary in any dressmaking is spending time getting the measurements right and often making a toile to tweak things a little.
I decided to dispense with a toile. I wanted to use Art Gallery Fabrics jersey and I knew that a cheap substitute would not behave in the same way as the AGF jersey. So I spent a lot of time measuring and adjusting the pattern before cutting into my fabric.
I have a Janome overlocker and would not be without it and I suspect that making a T shirt would not be as easy as it is if I didn’t have one. But I used it to the max with this top.
I am delighted with the outcome. Being a larger lady, the reality of it is that no T shirt fits well. They are either baggy or too tight. But this is just as I wanted it to be. I love the rounded ends to the front and back and I messed around with the sleeves (again!) and designed my own cuff to put on the sleeve to achieve the look I wanted.
I think my posture needs looking at, The wretched hip has made me a bit lopsided but the shoulder seams do fit exactly despite these pictures!
Would I make another? Of course! The fabric is upstairs waiting to be cut. I would tack the neck band before stitching to be really sure of a good fit but now that my pattern is ready to go, I can see a load more being made in a variety of jerseys and colours.
I wanted to make some more clothes for my holiday and one of the patterns which I had set my sights on was the Stylearc Patricia Rose dress. Apart from the fact that it appeared a very comfortable dress, I am always rather intrigued by some of Stylearc’s approaches to things. They often use a slightly different method of doing things than the traditional way.
Stylearc patterns have very little in the way of instructions and mostly the instructions set out an order of work with detailed instructions only for things done in the “Stylearc manner” or where there is a definitely challenging procedure. The bit I liked about making this dress is that the band under the bust is not a band at all but rather it is a fold in the fabric in the bodice which is stitched in place once the skirt has been attached. The “band” is in fact only on the front part and not all the way round.
The sleeves were a little long on this and I decided to do my own thing and not just roll them up. My fabric was not very attractive on the wrong side and I didn’t want it to show so I took a very large hem up and then folded back the sleeve to make a cuff which was then stitched in place.
All in all I was very happy with it and I can see myself making another one of these in a plain linen which I think would show off the detail of it a little better than the print does.
Here are some photos (taken by my mother!) so please excuse the rather poor quality.
I had always fancied making a man’s shirt and a year or so ago, I saw a lovely shirt being made by Kim, one of my sewing buddies. She pointed me in the direction of the Fairfield Shirt by Thread Theory, a Canadian indie company. The beauty of the Fairfield is that it has a variety of collars, cuffs, sleeve lengths and even patterns for the gentlemen who have a bit of a tum!
I bought at that time some beautiful pink linen and had a real desire to put some details on it such as facings and inside cuffs in Liberty Lawn. There it sat gazing at me for quite some while until I made a decision to just GET ON WITH IT! My task was made easier by the fact that despite the shirt pattern having some excellent instructions, there is also a “sew along” on Thread Theory”s blog with different pictures and advice.
I bought some proper shirt collar stiffening and set to. I did some samples of the sleeve placket to ensure that I had it right and I also played around with buttonholes on my machine.
So here is the finished garment. Photographed on a hanger as the owner is a little camera-shy but it fits beautifully and I am delighted with how the collar has turned out.
Hopefully I shall grab a photo or two of him in it on holiday!
Here is a photo of the placket and cuff.
And the inside.
Both fabrics came from my favourite supplier: Bloomsbury Square Fabrics
Would I make it again? I can’t wait. I love the need for accuracy and the range of different techniques that a shirt asks of you. A challenge but a really enjoyable one!
One of the biggest differences I have noticed since returning to dressmaking, is the vast array of choices of patterns. I sewed frequently and with enthusiasm right up to returning to teaching at the beginning of the 1990s. At that point, the choices were simple: Vogue (much loved by me!), Butterick, McCalls and Style and Simplicity. If you were adventurous you could buy Burda, a German pattern manufacturer, who sold their patterns via magazines with multi-sized centre sheets for use to create their styles. You had to be brave! No seam allowances were included and all the patterns were printed on top of each other so cutting out the pattern pieces was a challenge in itself.
Today, much has changed. Style has disappeared and Burda, having been bought by Simplicity, has gone over to the traditional method of selling patterns through catalogues and using envelope-style packaging. Their magazine still exists for the die-hards! But beware – their pattern block is designed differently and favours those with broader shoulders and upper chest area.
There are now sites where you can get really good discounts on the traditional “Big4” as they are known. The one which I use and find really helpful is Sew Direct. This site really comes into its own if you become a member. Initially it seems like a big cost: £37.50 but this can be spread out with a quarterly direct debit of £8. For this you get:
- Six issues of the magazine “Sew Today” showing the latest pattern releases made up in different fabrics as well as information on yardage etc at the back of the magazine. The magazine is delivered in the post.
- 2 free patterns of your choice worth up to £15 each – when you join
- a minimum of 40% discount on all patterns purchased
- A free Vogue label to sew into finished garments with each Vogue pattern purchased.
As most patterns with Vogue work out at about £15, this is more than worth my investment. I probably buy at least 4 patterns a year which means that I save £6 each time and then of course the magazines technically only cost me about £1.50 each. What’s not to like?
Independent Pattern Designers
And what a range of these there are!
This is the area where there has been the biggest change. Today there are literally hundreds of different designers producing their own range of patterns. Some come in the traditional form: sold packaged in an envelope and offering several sizes in one package. Others come via the medium of the internet. You can buy an on-line pattern which will be sent to you as a pdf for printing (digital format). This has its challenges but they are easily dealt with and also have advantages too.
Over the coming weeks, I would like to introduce you to some of these designers, give you some feedback on the successes or otherwise of their designs and more importantly their instructions and also their fit. I will also give you tips and suggestions for how to manage the printing of pfd files. (I speak from sorry experience in this area so would like to prevent you from experiencing that as well.)
Here are a few of the “big hitters” in this arena:
- Stylearc – an Australian pattern house which supplies patterns through pfd files. They do sizes up to 32 and you can buy them on Amazon who will supply them ready printed but it is worth noting that not all patterns are available through them.
- The Makers Atelier – a designer from Brighton, Frances Tobin, created the brand and designs these classy and classic clothes. They come ready printed on great quality paper and with great instructions. Most of their patterns come in a variety of sizes up to Size 22.
- Oliver and S and Liesl and Co – an American company that designs for men and women but also for children. (I love their designs for kids!) The link I have given you takes you to the children’s page and from their you can navigate to the adult section. They sell in both digital (pfd) format and paper but the packaging from the States and delivery etc is prohibitive and you may have to bit the bullet and go for the digital offering.
I hope that has lifted the lid a little for those who are newish in this area and I will give you more information in the coming weeks.
My first post is about this dress. It is a Very Easy Vogue pattern: Vogue V8784.
The dress was made for my mum who no longer finds it easy to buy clothes. She has arthritic shoulders and despite shopping for a new dress, none could be found to suit her. I decided to make her one which would be able to be fitted to her shape and also address the problem of needing to fasten at the front for ease.
I will post a photo of her wearing it in the fulness of time but it is for a special occasion so will wait until that takes place.
The pattern is a lovely shape. The fitted pleats/darts at the waist give it a beautifully fitting shape.
Mum chose to have the three-quarter length sleeves and collar with the full skirt.
The fabric is John Kaldor from John Lewis and is a linen and cotton mixture. The dress is fully lined (as per the pattern) except for the sleeves. I used the standard John Lewis lining and sewed using Gutermann thread.
What size did I make? I cut a size 16 but added extra to the waist as mum is short waisted and always needs extra added at that point for comfort.
Did I make any major pattern adjustments? Yes. I added an extra 7 cm at the top of the arm. I adjusted the pattern so that the sleeve-head and cuffs remained the same.
Where there any difficult stages in the making of the dress? No. It went together very well and I am pleased with the outcome – as is Mum!!!
Any thoughts for next time? Yes. The pattern can be made in a knit and I shall make it again for her in a knit for the winter.