Some time ago, I was bemoaning the lack of smart button-up shirts in interesting colours, and my mother, wonderful as she is, offered to make me one up if I brought her the fabric. I hied me to Samuel Taylor and duly presented her with two and a half metres of black cotton with little red skulls on it. This was the result:
And here’s a close-up of the pattern:
Excuse the fluff in that second picture. Ahem. Anyway, when it was finished, she gifted me the pattern so I could go home and make more. Thus I acquired Vogue 8772, the very first sewing pattern I ever owned. More than a little intimidated by what seemed to me incredibly fragile tissue and the prospect of sewing things with actual shaping (at the time I’d only ever made very basic things) I tucked it back in its envelope and proceeded to do nothing about it for the best part of two years, during much of which I wasn’t sewing much at all. (Because of stuff.)
Earlier this year, I got it out determined to actually make myself some damn shirts, as this was the point of the whole exercise in the first place. I work in an office, and prefer to follow the gents’ dress code rather than the ladies’, which stipulates a proper shirt and sensible trousers (unless you’re in IT.) However, the shirt options on the gents’ side of the shopping aisle are generally deplorably uninteresting – the apparent unthinkability of men wearing bright colours is both incomprehensible and kind of sad – and also notably not the same shape as I am. Hence attempting a slightly more woman-shaped pattern.
Mum had done the pattern grading and cutting for me, grading up from a 16 at the bust to an 18 at the hip and making a couple of other tweaks. All I had to do was cut the fabric out and follow the instructions ….
Version #1: Cherry Meet and Cherry Part
My first version was fully intended to be a trial run only; I expected to mess up all over the place. Even making the short-sleeved version and so avoiding having to do cuffs, there was still plenty of scary involved in the shape of the buttonholes and collar. I squeezed it into a not-quite-big-enough remnant of black cherry-patterned cotton (I’m pretty sure it’s the same stuff as this eBay listing; I got mine from the Samuel Taylor scraps bin) and had to piece the collar to manage that.
I managed to match the pattern on the inner collar piece near-perfectly by complete accident. I don’t think I could pattern-match that accurately if I tried.
Much to my surprise, it came together like a dream. The collar instructions are straightforward and the process not actually that difficult, just fiddly in a couple of places. Ditto buttonholes – though my machine has a buttonhole function that appears to be pretty good, if basic, so I didn’t really need to think about those all that hard.
The bit that did get me was putting in the sleeves. Ye gods and little boarlets, that was difficult. It took me three goes to get them in without gaps or really obvious puckering and I’m still not sure whether they’re in back to front or not. I couldn’t do them on the machine at all, so ended up hand-stitching them, and very messily at that. They’re on, and I refuse to touch them again. The top of the sleeve is slightly puffy on the finished article, but not so much that it’s glaring, I don’t think.
Here’s the final product.
I’ve worn this one a lot and it’s received a lot of compliments. The first time I wore it to work, four separate people asked me where I’d gotten it before I’d been at my desk an hour. And that’s where I learned that there’s nothing quite like the warm glow of self-satisfaction (smugness, if you’re being cynical) that comes with being able to say “I made it myself”.
The success of version 1 paved the way for ….
Version #2: Electric Blue-galoo
On the hunt for interesting new fabrics to turn into shirts, I found some bright blue quilting cotton in Samuel Taylors reduced to £5/m – it’s F211-28 from Fabric Freedom’s Fire and Ice range. The photos of this one don’t do it justice – the whitish streaks are actually silver, and lend the whole thing a distinctly shiny texture.
The cotton is a touch stiffer than is ideal for this pattern, but it appears to be only me who notices. It’s not uncomfortable, just crinkles a little oddly. (I think the stiffness is produced by the top layer of print, the one incorporating the silver, as opposed to being innate to the fabric, which might contribute to the odd effect.) It also does not like being pressed, at all. You can just about make out the wrinkles on the button placket, which I could not get rid of for love nor money; they’re less obvious when it’s on.
This is bright, bright shiny blue, and is dramatic, to say the least. It goes well with the bright red Butterick shorts, not least because they have the same buttons – the contrast buttons on the shorts pockets were the leftover ones from here:
They’re gorgeous, translucent except for that top white accent, and sculptured – the light side of the button (on the right in the photo) is about twice the thickness of the top left edge.
The sleeves on this one went in by hand as well, possibly even more messily than on version #1.
Version #3: Lady in Red
This one is also quilting cotton, and yet drapes nicely and is as light as #1 – which just goes to show the immense variation between quilting cottons, I suppose. This is also Fabric Freedom, F627-23 from their Red Rouge set. I found mine on eBay. It’s bright.
Another set of hand-stitched sleeves, and I think I ate up a trifle too much fabric in seam allowance here; the sleeves are a wee bit tight at the shoulder. Fine for office work, but I have to think if I want to put my arms over my head.
I love this shirt. It’ s so incredibly loud, and yet still manages to sort of have pretensions to smartness. For maximum eye-popping colour, I’ve worn it paired up with a cropped red New Look jacket I found on eBay, and my beloved red trilby:
Loud doesn’t even cover this combination. When I say “worn” that doesn’t mean actually in public. One day I’ll work up the nerve. Honest.
I took this one a bit quicker than I should have, and consequently did something inexplicable to one end of the collar stand. I was left with a mysterious hole that I ended up patching with a teeny tiny rectangle, which is thankfully completely invisible until pointed out. Here it is:
After three structurally identical versions, I felt more confident about attempting something slightly different. Enter …
Version #4: Liberty Belle
You can’t knock over a bobbin in the sewing blogosphere without hitting someone raving about Liberty lawn and how awesometastic it is. A lot of their prints are florals, which do nothing for me, but when I spotted a gorgeous 120x30cm remnant of their “Gilliam” print – all Art Deco/sci-fi goodness – on eBay for three quid I did some quick measurements, had an idea and snapped it up.
Vogue #4 has one front piece, the opposite sleeve, and the inner collar stand cut from the Gilliam, and the remainder in plain black. (This shirt is a triumph of recycling – someone else’s remnant, the nice bits of an elderly bedsheet, and some buttons off a long-deceased pair of pants.) The button placket on the Liberty-print side is also black, just a strip cut to the length of the front, folded in on itself like extra-wide bias binding, and topstitched down. Here it is in all its glory:
I’m really proud of this one. Everything came together like a dream. The contrasting fabrics look great together, and I think that the really big white buttons match visually with the circles in the print whilst standing out nicely against the black.
It’s beautifully lightweight and very soft. The bedsheet fabric has been used and washed into submission over years, and the Liberty lawn is just that good to start with.
Here it is with another of my collection of loud jackets, this one a white H&M number found in a charity shop:
The narrow stripes on the jacket are gold thread, and properly glittery. I’d love to wear this combination out for some sort of special occasion.
The sleeves sit much better on this one! I think so, anyway. I learned my lesson from the Harlequin jacket, and put them in flat. So much easier. It’s unreal.
* I always make the seam allowance too narrow on the collar pieces, because this gives me a huge floopy collar that I rather like.
* After wearing them a bit, I ended up partly unpicking the right-front dart on versions #1-3 and resewing it to have the top an inch lower. Fits much better; evidently I have an asymmetric bust. On #4 I made that alteration when marking out the darts in the first place, and it looks lovely and neat.
* All four of these have varying number and placement of buttons, dictated by how many matching ones I had. After some unfortunate gapiness with the blue version, I worked out the button placement on #3 and #4 by marking a definite button spot over the bust, where it’s really needed, and then counting up and down from there. I’m sure the pattern came with a button placement guide but I certainly don’t have it >.<
[Post title with apologies to Steeleye Span’s Parcel of Rogues.]