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!
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