Finished Object: Seersucker Negroni Shirt

A few weeks ago, Stephen asked me to make him some shirts for summer.  I was startled.  I made him a pair of tough and hardy linen work shirts two years ago and he wears them all the time for field work.  They’re still holding up well, and the linen has softened beautifully- no need to replace them!  He also wears light, short-sleeved cotton shirts to his academic/office days but I never thought to try making one of these tropical-business-casual shirts for him.

It’s tricky to sew for another person, and I’ve learned that to avoid wadders or other sewing disasters I should proceed with caution when accepting commissions (I pretty much only accept commissions for people I really, really like.).  First, I asked him to pick his two favorite shirts from the wardrobe.  One was quite dead, a light green plaid from a mid-range-expensive men’s brand.  The other was an extremely smart pinstriped shirt I bought to go with his graduation suit.

The trick is to find out why he likes the shirts, so I can incorporate those elements in the new shirts.  I noted the fabric (plaid, stripe, blue, green) and he agreed he liked those, and very helpfully added that the striped one was his favorite fit.

Aha!  Out came the measuring tape and I noted the finished chest measurement on his “best fit” shirt.  Then I added a few shirts to a Pinterest board and he told me which ones he hated so I removed them, leaving me with the colors and styles that appeal to him.

I’ve been wanting an excuse to sew Colette’s Negroni shirt pattern since it came out, but I didn’t want to press the “sewing-for-the-husband” thing.  Before he could change his mind about summer shirts, I bought the Negroni pattern and went shopping for shirting.

I was attracted to this seersucker immediately. It’s from Spotlight of all places, and is a really great quality.  I like the exaggerated seersucker texture, it’s at the same time easy to sew, easy to launder (no pressing needed!) and very comfortable to wear.  Besides, I’ve seen several “smart casual” shirts in shop windows made from a similar material lately and wanted to try it out.

His finished chest measurement fell between the S and M sizes on the Negroni pattern, so I cut M.  The shirt he likes so well features shallow double tipped darts in the back, so I thought if he wanted me to take it in, I could make darts.

I doubt I can say much about this pattern that hasn’t already been said!  It’s definitely more of a casual shirt than a “fine” shirt, but I like the shape of the pockets, the collar, and the little button loop is a great detail.  Every time I open a Colette pattern I think to myself “What will Sarai show me this time?”  I always, always pick up something new.

This time I learned a “new” way to set in a camp/convertible collar.  I don’t know how many collars I’ve sewn or how many different methods I’ve tested but this was new to me.  Rather than go off on my own, I stitched it the way the instructions dictated.  It wasn’t bad, but also didn’t change the way I’ll sew collars in the future.

terrible indoor lighting…

I really have no complaints about the pattern at all.   The fabric would not tolerate flat-fell seams, so I finished them with my overlocker and then top-stitched through the seam allowance near the seam for durability.  I left off the pocket flaps, it seemed incompatible with the nature of the fabric.  Can you spot my pockets?

We planned a family outing to Cylinder Beach at Lord Stradbroke Island the weekend I made this shirt.  It’s a gorgeous island off the east coast of Australia, easily accessible via a ferry.  We swam, made sandcastles and had a picnic.  This time of year, the breeze smells of salt and jasmine.  It’s dreamy, I love the beaches here and wish I could live nearer the sea.

I hurried to finish the shirt before we left because- photo-op.  Unfortunately, in my haste I made a mistake in the finishing.

Can you spot my mistake?

Oh that’s right… Women’s buttonholes go on the right, men’s go on the left!  I suppose subconsciously I fell in love with the fabric and wanted it for my own.  After his initial surprise, he decided he doesn’t care and wears the shirt anyway.

Next time, the buttons will go on the left.  I also want to try adding a placket.  I have two more such shirts planned for the summer- one of plain tencel, and another of the finest Italian shirting I can lay my hands on.

In keeping with my personal “Value The Sewing” project, I put together the costings/value for this shirt.   This time I didn’t count my sewing time in the “value” because as many have pointed out, I enjoy sewing.  It was pleasant to sit and turn off my brain and let Sarai tell me how to put this together.  Relaxing.

Factoring in my time would put the “value” of the shirt at around $110, on the more expensive end of his shirt-buying budget.  He spends moderately on shirts because nicer shirts use fabric that lasts and looks nice much longer than cheaper shirts.  They are also better made than the cheapest shirts.  I encourage this.  Each shirt costs a little more, but we buy fewer shirts in the long run.

At ~$38, it’s one of my more expensive makes but the quality is comparable to the type of shirt he might buy (improperly gendered buttons notwithstanding).  I counted the entire price of the pattern in the cost; the fabric and notions cost a snivelling ~$15.

I have enough seersucker left over to make Lila a dress, I may use this new pattern from One Girl Circus:

Click for source

How cute is that?  Also- I know mommy/daughter dressing alike is a “thing,” but what about daddy/girlie dressing?  I think it would be sweet, and they don’t mind…

Exhausted on the ferry home at sunset. We spotted a dolphin in Moreton Bay between the island and the mainland.

Do you like seersucker?  Sometimes I find older people think I’m insane for using it for clothing.  The woman who cut this fabric asked me if I was making tablecloths.  Uhm.  No.

How do you approach sewing for another person?  Do you include them in the “thought” work?  Any tips?

Don’t forget- Frosting Fortnight starts on the 18th, head over to Mari’s blog for a cute little button you can add to your sidebar!

More Reading:

Fine Shirtmaking from Off the Cuff Style

Sewing with Seersucker from Coletterie

Free Downloadable Negroni Shirt Pocket Options

Technical Diagrams illustrating “enclosed seams on the shirt yoke” trickery


59 comments

  1. Fantastic shirt! Great fabric for warm weather, too. I’d never notice the buttons. I love the little girl’s dress pattern, so cute! I like the idea of father/daughter dressing alike. A nice twist on the mommy/daughter mini-me phenomena.

    • Thanks! No, I don’t noticed either. I do like the shirt, I offered to take it off his hands but nothing doing. ;)

      Yeah! Lila is a bit of a daddy’s girl/pet, I think the matching would be cute. They probably wouldn’t wear them at the same time anyway.

  2. Great shirt. The Husband is dropping hints! Love the photo of the two of them. And thanks for the link to the dress pattern. I have a little cutie who will suit that too!

    • Haha! It’s a pretty easy shirt, nothing out of the ordinary or shocking…

      yes! Isn’t it a darling little dress? I can’t wait to make it up..

      • Maybe I need to start my shirt making career with Negroni, then. I’m slightly nervous but the husband wants some fancy shirts and who am I to argue. They are the weekend antidote to the plain white business shirts he wears all week. Although I’ve a bit of time to summon up the nerve as I’m still working on stash and I have a fabulous jersey dress on the horizon too ;-)

  3. That is a GREAT shirt! Seersucker is great for the summer. That looks like a lovely place to spend the day. I think the dress for Lila will be adorable :)

    • It was a nice day… The place was full of naked teenagers, just before they go back to school but it was kind of nice to have them around… ;) They were quiet, almost part of the scenery…

      Yes, love seersucker!

  4. I have seen many versions of the Negroni and this one is great. Your seersucker fabric makes it perfect for summer and not to serious. I had to laugh when you mentioned that the cutter wanted to know if you were making table cloths! Truly, I have never seen a seersucker table cloth, and I collect tablecloths! To me, seersucker is the memory of a blue and white stripe seersucker Easter suit, It is many pairs of summer nighties and shorts with matching top sets worn to family picnics! That fact that he wore this to a family picnic brought back lots of memories. Thanks you ever so much.

    Sewing for other people…shoot me now. At one point I did do that for supplemental income.My temperment is not well suited for it and I applaud anyone who does it. The stories I could tell!

    He looks lovely in his shirt and I think Lila would be perfect in a matching dress!

    • Thanks, Lucy. :) I like it too.

      Yeah, I hear the tablecloth one every single time I buy seersucker, like I’m a special breed of nutcase for using it for apparel.. I still have yet to see a seersucker tablecloth…

      I’m so glad you liked our photos… :) It’s nice to share a little bit of our lives like this.

      No, my temperament is not suited for it either. It just isn’t, but I’m the same as you and really respect those who do sew for others for a living. I just couldn’t do it. :) Stories indeed. Sometimes people who don’t sew imagine that people who sew are special kind of fairy godmothers or something. Ha.

  5. He looks great in the shirt, seersucker is a super fabric for summer wear. That’s why I never make anything in it.(Hardly any hot days to wear it here.) I have made things for my daughter, but it is hit and miss whether she likes them, even if she chooses the pattern and fabric.
    I’d love to see Lila in a matching dress, so long as you promise not to wear anything in the same fabric(that would be too Von Trapp!)

    • Thanks! And I’m sorry, truly, that your climate doesn’t allow seersucker. Mine doesn’t allow the beautiful wool tweeds I love so much… : /

      Well… When I’m sewing with/for Lila, I give her choice, but only a few choices from patterns/fabric I’ve already more or less approved… That makes it a bit easier/less likely to not work…

      Hahaha! I did think a Lonsdale dress made of seersucker would be really cool and delicious to wear, but you’re right we’d be so Von Trap! We don’t even sing!

  6. Seersucker for a table cloth? Odd, I don’t quite get that.

    I think seersucker (or seersucka as it was called in comments when I last used it) is fabulous for times you need to be cool. Pj’s, shirts, little kid clothing. I don’t see a problem with it so long as the fabric matches the pattern (like your Negroni) well.

    • My older relatives all had seersucker tablecloths, it was really common in the UK in the mid 20th century!

  7. Thanks for the information, it’s very helpful as I’m about to dive into making one of these for my guy–seersucker too! He’s also between S and M in a lot of the measurements. I think the biggest adjustment he needs is a sloping shoulder one. Did you end up doing one for this shirt? And thanks for the button lightbulb–I totally would have made that mistake!!!

    • Oh cool! It’ll be fun! :) I didn’t do a sloping shoulder adjustment, sometimes alterations like that make a big difference and sometimes I don’t think its really worth my time. This shirt would be one of the latter… Though if I were venturing into “fine” shirt-making I might bother..?

  8. I love the shirt! Looks so summery and the colour is perfect for the beach :)
    I love seersucker, and have a summer dress and top made from it – it is so comfortable and easy to handle (no ironing, yay!). I just love the structure. Surely it is a great plus that I love plaid and a lot of seersucker is plaid (or at least stripes).
    Such a wonderful summer fabric.
    Using it for tablecloth? Never crossed my mind (bedsheets ok, I’ve seen that).

    The girls pattern is lovely, and I’m sure your daughter would love to have something made from the same fabric. One of the things only people who sew can do… little kids really like this.

    I never sew for anyone beside my close family (meaning my kids and, a lot less often, my husband) – sometimes I know it wouldn’t be appreciated (too “homesewn”) and a lot of the other times I have no clue to what the person would really like. I tend to buy books and not sew for birthdays – it always seems less risky…and it takes away less time of the little precious time I have to sew for myself ;)

    • Thanks, Frisfris! :) I really, really love the texture. Yum.

      She seems pretty excited by the idea of having a dress “like daddy’s shirt,” so I’ll definitely be doing it in the next few weeks… I think I’m putting knit tops for her on hold and she can just wear breezy little girl dresses all summer. She seems to prefer it anyway.

      Yes, me too! I used to sew more gifts for people, but I don’t know… I just stopped. Maybe it was time, no particular reason I suppose. Mostly time. I like to give books, too… And sometimes those little science kits to kids… I like to give grown men lego kits… usually goes over well, who doesn’t like a good lego kit?

  9. Love that shirt! And what a perfect photo-op! The colours are fabulous. And who’s ever heard of seersucker for tablecloths?! I’ve always associated it with casual summer clothing. Funny, eh?

    I do sew for others, and I always ask for their input for style, colour and fabric type. As my daughters grow, they get more say (my eldest has started to sew her own garments now). I’ve sewn a few shirts for my husband, and he’s always popping the buttons with husbandly pride because I made them (!?). I think I sew more for others out of a combination of guilt (do I really need another garment in my closet) or a desire to be economical, or to meet my insatiable creative need.

    • Funny indeed… And thank you!

      I wonder if part of the problem with people “not appreciating” hand made garments is sometimes the sewist doesn’t include the person enough in the process… It’s really really tricky to sew for another person..

      And yes, I did recently start sewing more for Stephen and Lila because I haev quite enough clothes already! :) And they like what I make…

  10. Oh! I do like the shirt–I have been struggling with what to surprise my husband with and this shirt pattern may be just the thing. DH likes Hawaiian style shirts and fabric. He does have a few Hawaiian shirts already. My son would like it also.
    I do sew so for my family, snowpants for my husband, I have to make another pair, he wears them daily in the winter and winter has started where he is. DH teaches in the bush (Alaska–anywhere not connected by road) in a community of 800. I have made him polarfleece tops too.
    I get lots of imput before I start sewing and they select pattern and fabric.
    I wont go into detail on the wedding dress I sewed for my daughter other than I used 3 separate patterns to make the dress and all of the fabric had to be ordered via the web. Did I mention I like in Juneau, Alaska and fabric selection is limited.
    My daughter mentioned to me that because she knows what good fabric feels like and what a well constructed garment looks like and fits that she has a hard time shopping for clothes. She was hinting that I should sew more for her. The more I sew the more she wants now that she is an adult. It doesn’t help that I’m retired so I have all of this free time. I need to use your sewing value sheet LOL.

    • Oooooh! You could maybe find some fine batik and surprise him! :) I may go look and see if I can find a batik I think Stephen would wear…

      Wow- Alaska! It sounds like an adventure! :) And cold. I do like the cold…

      How lovely she appreciates your hard work. :) That’s so cool.

  11. It looks great and perfect for summer! My boyfriend would never wear anything like this, which is sad because I’m itching to make something for him. Good on you for jumping on the opportunity before he changed his mind! lol

    • Thanks, Heather! It’s funny, because I’m still surprised he likes this shirt. I kept putting the project together and would say “ok, do you like this shirt pattern?” *shrug* “Yeah it’s fine.” Ok… “How about this bright blue textured cotton?” “Yeah, I like that, use that.” I’m still a little surprised… And yes, I did jump before he could change his mind… ;)

  12. I love how you balanced the stripes in this shirt. It turned out great.
    I sew for my husband and granddaughter. Hubby likes Aloha-type shirts, so I make those for him. He’s asked for dress slacks- tried once and will never do it again. My granddaughter is 7 and will wear about anything with glitz or a “skirt that goes out” when she twirls. I’ve bought myself a couple of dolls to sew for when she gets to the age of preferring store-bought garments.

    • Thanks, Kathy. :)

      The slacks were bad? Bummer. I’m working on a few pairs of summer shorts for husband, Kwik Sew does some good ones… One is tencel, the other is organic cotton twill…

      She may never prefer store-bought…. Tanit-Isis sews for her tweeny girls, and I think that makes sense… I remember being that age and nothing fitting well in the shops, or the styles were all infantile or too mature… She may well grow up appreciating and valuing your work.. :) Or she may not, who knows what kids will do?

  13. I’m not sure which is more gorgeous, the shirt or the photo-shoot—good job! (Button backwardsness notwithstanding. Don’t you think that gender-specific buttoning is one of those useless holdovers we could do away with?)

    I haven’t done a huge amount of sewing for others except for my kids, but so far—I’m a big fan of including the other in the design, fabric selection, and, if possible, sewing process. My birthday gift to my fifteen-year-old niece was/is “the custom designed and fitted garment of your choice”—fortunately for me she chose jeans, and upon trying on, fits my existing Jalie jeans pattern perfectly, aside from the fact that the legs are about five inches too long. We’ll see how the rest of that process goes. Sewing for my husband can go either way… ;)

    • I do think it’s a weird holdover, but it did throw Stephen when he put the shirt on the first time…

      You do gorgeous and wonderful and inspiring work for others. I love it. :) Your niece is so lucky! All the girls in your life are lucky to have someone like you around. :)

      • A weird hold over? No. It’s brilliant. Think about it. Doing up buttons is second nature. You’ve been doing it the same way since you learned to dress yourself. Swapping hands is like brushing your teeth with your left hand. Doing up your sweethearts buttons (and undoing them…) is infinitely easier in mirror image because it’s the way you’re hands are used to. Most people don’t even notice. I tip my hat to whoever came up with that one. Thanks again for the shirt.

        • I didn’t think about it that way…. ;) But I’ll notice now.

          You’re welcome. Of course. I didn’t even charge myself for the labor. :)

          And I like your sand city in the photos, it’s really nice.

  14. I LOVE seersucker. I think it’s one of the most fantastic fabrics ever. The shirt looks great and I think you should definitely make Lila a matching dress. That pattern is adorable.

    • Me too! :D Thanks, and I think I will.. I may do a bright-light pink contrast… Might be good. Maybe. And yeah, I really really like this dress pattern, it spoke to me right away… ;)

  15. A perfect shirt for the beach. It looks great.
    Seersucker tableclothes were ubiquitous in Australia pre synthetic fabric, because you don’t have to iron it.
    I love seersucker for cool summer clothes.
    I sew for all my immediate family, and they all have a lot of input, because I want them to wear the clothes. Sewing for my husband is the trickiest.
    You can’t see the old buttonholes if you just sew the buttons on top of them (sewing the buttonholes closed as you go) and make new buttonholes on the bloke side. Ask me how I know ;). In my experience, this minor fix increased the wearing occasions of the shirt considerably, despite protestations from my husband that it really didn’t matter. I agree with Tanit-Isis, but I wasn’t the man (not) wearing the shirt.

    • Thanks, K!

      That makes sense… :)

      Ooooh it’s so good isn’t it? Yes, agreed, husbands are tricky…

      I might try that if I notice he’s not wearing it much. Thanks!

  16. Ooh, this looks great! And I LOVE the little girl’s pattern– Lila would look too sweet in that dress! I STILL haven’t sewn anything for my dude, mainly because when I started asking him what he might like shirt-wise, he decided that he wanted a pair of jeans and that is terrifying!

  17. That shirt is great! And the colours match the sky/sea beautifully, too. The buttons, ha! That’s funny.. I made a shirt for my 8yr old for his birthday a few weeks ago, and was so paranoid I would get the buttons the wrong way round that I had one of his shirts next to me the whole time so I could keep comparing it and making sure I didn’t get it wrong.

    • Thanks, Sarah! :) It’s definitely a good idea to look at “finished” examples to make sure the sewing is right. There was no hope for this shirt… The loop is on the correct side, but old habit (women’s blouses) won out when I was in a hurry… Sigh. Haste makes waste…

  18. I love seersucker, maybe it was because I went to school in Texas but one of my favorite professors in undergrad had a blue and white pinstripe seersucker suit he would wear with his “dressy” cowboy boots.

  19. Oh, Straddie. Love that place! This is fantastic Queensland summer shirt and it looks cool and comfy. I never noticed that men’s and women’s shirt button up on different sides. Wow. I need to be more observant… :)

  20. Ive made 4 shirts so far for my husband. My rule is that he has to come to the store and pick out the fabric. He is very particular about what he wears and I won’t spend my precious sewing time on something that won’t be worn. Much to my dismay, he prints he picked :grizzly bears, wolves and farmers market watermelon. Go figure. :)

  21. Steph I worked in a retirement home when I was a student that had seersucker tablecloths. I hated them. They don’t lie flat! The coolest thing I ever made of it was a wedding dress – yellow and white striped seersucker, gorgeous. In a robe a l’anglaise style. Yum.
    I love this shirt and am a little intrigued by M. Negroni. I gave up on shirt patterns 30 years ago when I noticed the huge difference between the pattern and the cut of bought shirts, and have always since drafted shirt patterns off bought shirts instead. It is a pain in the pattooty however and maybe I need to give this one an airing.
    The silliest mistake I ever made on a mans shirt was putting the plackets for the cuffs on different sides of teh sleeve, so one was on teh out and one on the in. It made it very unique and the wearer loved it anyway, and as he was a recidivist sleeve roller upper, it was never an issue :)

    • Yeah, they don’t really seem suited for tablecloths…

      Seersucker wedding dress? Neat!

      The draft is pretty good, not quite as slim cut as he’d like but that’s a personal preference, not a “pattern quirk.” I’d be quite interested to know what you think of the collar construction, or would you just put the collar in your own way? (Nvm, I think I know the answer to that!)

      Oh! Hahah! It’s so easy to do things like that! Lucky it didn’t bother him. :)

  22. I love seersucker, one of my favourite creations is a seersucker skirt, and one of my favourite fabrics in my stash is a flowered seersucker. And I cannot imagine what else but clothes you’d make from it? As MrsC says, seersucker tablecloths would not lie flat!

    It looks like a shirt my father would wear, too, which is about as close as I can come to a compliment on men’s clothes: an area foreign to me, so far. :D

  23. My husband has been asking me to make him a shirt–yikes! I have been sewing for myself and my children for years. You have inspired me to try this pattern one day!

  24. Like it! I also like your method of selecting the pattern and how you could figure out what your husband liked without having to ask straight out, ‘what do you want?’. Beautiful stripe matching too :)

  25. Good for you! What a great summer shirt. I love seersucker–it carries happy memories of summer travel, many summer outfits, and cool shirts for my DH. He loves having custom clothes and wears all that I sew for him, except a gorgeous lambswool Aran sweater that is too warm. I like sewing for him; it seems like menswear shows off careful construction and beautiful stitching, and his pride makes me happy. Thanks for sharing a landscape most of us will never get to see.

  26. I loved hearing about your process for finding out what he likes about shirts – that’s so smart when sewing for another person! I love how the shirt turned out – it’s perfect for summer, and stripes are always fabulous :)


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