Wednesday, January 6, 2010

3 Shirts in 3 Days

After having my blog hijacked by the boss-lady, I decided it was time for a new post! I spent a moment in heavy contemplation before I realized that I could kill two birds with one stone; I could manage to beef up my wardrobe and find a way to work on my Christmas vacation. Because I’m just that dedicated. Once the Christmas feast was made and consumed and I was sure I would explode from all the gluttony, I decided to step into the sweatshop and put myself to the test.  Thus was born my new post: 3 Shirts in 3 Days.
I know what you must be thinking, you’re thinking I’m crazy and you’re certainly right, but now that the craziness is finished I have three lovely additions to my increasingly jaunty wardrobe. I ended up using Kwik Sew pattern #3422 in a size small. This particular pattern is actually the one used for our button down shirt class, so for those of you that took the class before can use this as a refresher. Those of you who think the class would be too hard for them (I know you’re out there) hopefully this will in some way relieve your trepidation.
I chose to make the short sleeve version because that’s really all I wear, and the only change I made was to shorten the sleeve within an inch of it's life. This pattern's version of a “short” sleeve comes to my elbow, and I spent so much money on all these tattoos that I may as well show them off.

Day1 – In which our hero was almost defeated.

Defeat in stage one? I don’t know about the rest of you, but pinning and cutting is my least favorite part of sewing, and because of my increasingly meticulous approach it always seems to take me longer than any other part of a project. So, if you are anything like me you’d rather cut yourself than your fabric, but please suppress the urge. It is well known amongst those in the know that killing yourself under such conditions will ultimately doom you to an eternity of cutting in the bowels of the fiery deep.  Instead, put on some soothing music and have a glass of something. My something is almost always bourbon, but you may, of course, have whatever you choose.  Anyhow, this is what many long hours of cutting and a glass of something looks like.

By the time I finished cutting on the first day I’d already had one too many glasses of something and decided to hold off on further work until the following day.

Day 2 – In which our hero left out the booze

It has been my experience that one should never undertake a complicated sewing project whilst under the influence, so on day two I waited until the sewing was done before I had that glass of something. It was a rather relaxing day: Christmas feast leftovers and the near completion of two of the shirts. I’ve found that one of the most important processes in a successful shirt is the very first step; so if you’re making one yourself, don’t screw this part up. The pattern allows extra fabric on both sides of the front piece for a self-facing (where your buttons and button holes will end up). If the folded piece ends up smaller or larger than it is supposed to be, fitting the collar on will require an uncomfortable, or even impossible, amount of easing. It’s a simple two folds and a press to make your facing three layers of fabric. Again, don’t screw this part up!

After that ever-so-exacting step comes a bit of fun. A POCKET! Pockets are like little bits of origami, and one should, as a rule, always have a good time while making them.     
• Step 1: Fuse, or in my case sew in, the pocket facing.  
• Step 2: Just like the front facings, fold the facing on the line provided by the pattern and again to enclose the raw edge of the top of the pocket.  
• Step 3: Turn your folded bits around so that right sides are facing and stitch close to both the sides. Make sure to clip the corners.   

• Step 4: Flip the pocket facing right side out and stitch along the bottom to close up the hole.
• Step 5: Turn and press the raw edges to the inside of the pocket.

 • Step 6: Pin and stitch to the left shirt front.  
• Step 7: Admire its beauty.

The next step is without a doubt my favorite. It’s one of those things that won’t make any sense until about the eighteenth time you read it, but once the light comes on, you’ll chuckle to yourself and say “that’s so cool.” It’s the attachment of the yoke, which starts and ends with something I lovingly refer to as a yoke sandwich. The first part of the sandwich is really simple: the bottoms of the two yoke pieces are placed right sides together at the top of the shirt back and stitched, turned, pressed, and topstitched no more than ¼” away from the original seam.


Yoke sandwich number two is the good one. It starts by putting the shirt front and shirt back right sides together at the shoulder seam.

Next, turn all the layers inside out so that everything is shoved in between the two layers of yoke, thus creating a yoke sandwich or wrap or burrito or whatever you please.  The wrong side of the shirt front will be attached to the right side of the inside yoke piece. Confused yet? Stitch all four layers together, pull them right side out, and topstitch the shoulder seams.

The next step is the dreaded collar, but with a little patience and a lot of pins you’ll find that it’s not as difficult as you might imagine. This particular pattern gives two collar options: one with a collar stand and one without. A little bird once told me I would be shamefully cast out of the sewing world for ever considering the latter option, so naturally I chose the former. When a bird talks, you better listen! I always mark the wrong sides when making a collar, so not only do I know which is the right side, but which is the upper and which is the under collar. After you’ve fused or sewn in your interfacing take the two collar pieces and pin them right sides together.  Stitch them together leaving the bottom side open. Clip corners, turn and press, and topstitch as close to the edge as your nerves and your machine will permit.

Next attach the collar stand to the collar by pinning it upside down (use your notches) along the bottom of the collar (that part that was left open). Clip the corners, turn, press, and you have a collar!


The moment of truth! Remember at the beginning when I said not to screw up the first step. This is the step in which that becomes important. Pin and sew the non-interfaced side out the collar stand to the inside of the shirt at the neck seam. Next, turn under the remaining edge and, while using LOTS of pins, carefully sew the collar shut. The shirt is done! Well, the hard part is done anyway. The rest is cake, so go have a piece to congratulate yourself on a gorgeous collar.

The rest is literally too easy to explain. The sleeves are not set in, and hems and buttonholes are something the most basic beginner should be able to do. So all you get are some pretty pictures.

Day 3 – In which our hero was sick of sewing on buttons!

On day two I got as far as two shirts completed minus buttonholes and buttons, and on day three I was kicking myself for not having done them. Twenty-four buttons in one sitting! Keep in mind this was after completing the entire third shirt and buttonholes on all three, and this was a day that I actually had to work. I had my work cut out for me, but I got it done and probably had an entire bottle of wine in the button sewing process. Overall, I am happy to have issued this challenge to myself, but, rather needless to say, it won’t be happening again. One shirt at a time is enough in my book.

Unfortunately, the sewing world doesn’t offer many options for the male sewer, especially one with a rather traditional viewpoint on what is most flattering on a man, but it’s always nice to have such a strong staple to come back to. It can be dressed up or down, paired with vests, blazers, suspenders and/or ties. I quite like wearing them all at the same time!  

Either way, if you subscribe to simple elegance and classic gentlemanly style you can’t go wrong with one of these, or three for that matter.

posted by Daniel


abdavis said...

Great work, Daniel! It's great to see menswear on the site, but where's the rick rack embellishments? ;)

Shaerie said...

Shhh! I'm making Daniel a shirt entirely out of rick rack for his birthday... he'll love it.

Hollye said...

These are great! My fave is the Indigo. Mmm... Indigo!

Daniel said...

I'm wearing that one right now!

sirikaur said...

Daniel this is so so great! you've inspired me.... and i'm gonna make the collar stand too.

Daniel said...

...remember what that little bird said.