Notes on Re-Fashioning

“Tutorial” might be a little grand, but I did take some photos during construction to help illustrate the process.  Prior shirt-making experience helps.  Making a shirt from another shirt requires reverse engineering. 

I used a new-to-me blouse pattern, “Smooth Sailing,” and Frankensteined in some sleeves I like from Advance 2599.  I decided to use the original collar, cuffs, and button placket.  I managed to position the cuffs backwards on my finished shirt so I took them off after I photographing. 

The Cutting:

Cut the collar from the shirt right at the seam to preserve the original collar intact, or unpick it.   Then cut off the sleeves, leaving the seam allowances on the main body of the shirt- or unpick it.  Finally, I cut off the back yoke.  Unpicking leaves more room for positioning the pattern.

Lay the back of the shirt pattern on the back of the shirt, folded in half. 

Fronts on the front.  I lined up the edges of the shirt to the fold line on the shirt pattern.  My shirt closes left over right, big deal.  I thought about turning the pattern pieces upside down, so I could use the button placket and my shirt would close right over left, but found I did not have enough fabric.  As it was, my front crossed the original side seams and had a little chunk cut out of the seam allowance.

Back yoke on one layer of back yoke.  I discovered I needed more room, so I whipped out my seam ripper.  I marked the seam line on the pattern and lined it up with the unpicked and pressed seam line.

Front yoke went on one layer of the back yoke (most nice shirts have a double layered back yoke).  I couldn’t cut the original yoke as the pattern intended, so I improvised.  Basically,  I cut 1/2″ (general seam allowance) from the fold line on the front yoke which worked just fine.

Sleeves from the sleeve.  Unpicked the french seam to the cuff.  I used the sleeve pattern from 2599, pinned, and cut the sleeve cap.  I thought to keep the original shirt sleeves, but they were grossly under shaped.

Miraculously, I managed to cut a pair of matching pockets.  I cut them from odd bits, so I decided to face them with pink cotton voile.  Since I could cut the voile perfectly for both pockets, it would insure pocket shape uniformity.  Any weird edges would be caught in the seam allowances.

I also cut yoke facings from the pink voile, as I prefer enclosing seams whenever possible.

The Sewing:

Sewed all darts and tucks.  Tucks are like pleats that release fullness where you need.  I like them because they make tucking in the shirt easier, and they also provide a pleasing close fit over the waist.

Gathered shirt pieces to yoke exterior, and attached the facings as per the usual in shirt making.  That could be a whole tutorial in itself.

Sewed side seams.

Unpicked seam at bottom of collar stand, found CB (still marked in the collar stand seamline from the first shirt maker with a graphite pencil) and realized the collar was much too long.  No problem, I trimmed about 1/2″ from the neck edge of the yoke.  Then I clipped the curves until I could make the collar stand fit the neck.  It took about an hour between the unpicking, trimming and easing to fit.

Once pinned, I sewed only the exterior collar stand to the neck edge, following the original seam line.  I still had to ease considerably, which is why my collar wants to stand open.

I pressed the seam into the collar stand, and let the interior collar stand cover the seam.  Press, stitch, press.

Sleeves.  When I tried on the shirt, I knew the sleeve holes cut too much into my flesh to be comfortable.  I also know the Advance 2599 sleeve fits perfectly.  I pinned the sleeve cap to the top of the shoulder, and tried to pin it the way a sleeve ought to go.  I had far too much sleeve.  All wrong.

I solved this by sliding the sleeve underarm seam down the shirt side seam until everything laid smoothly.  I scooped about 1″ from the top of the side seam on the shirt to make the sleeve fit.  It works, it’s comfortable.  I’m sure most of the armscythe related weirdness comes from me messing with the pattern. 

After that, nothing but the hem.  It felt weird to finish the sleeve and have a mostly-finished shirt.

I’m itching to try another one but I don’t have any shirts at the moment and I’m picky.  I have my list of tweaks to try when I find another lovely shirt.  If I left any ambiguity, please let me know.  I like helping. 


  1. Hi Steph,I am surprised I didn't find your blog before either! Re-fashion looks far harder than starting a pattern afresh. Thanks for all the helpful "in-process" photos.

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