Monday 9 September 2019

actual shirt attempt: Vogue 9220

I said when I started sewing, and for the three years following, that I would never make a shirt. I haven't worn a single item of clothing with buttons on it since I took my school uniform off for the last time and I don't intend to ever do so again (I fully recognise that this is really weird, but I've hated buttons since I was a small child and my vibe is not the button-up vibe anyway), so I didn't really ever expect to revisit the point.

Last year, however, Patrick made a couple of pouty comments about my resolve to never make him a shirt. He may have been kidding - he would certainly say now that he was - but I do feel a bit bad that I don't make much for him, and the kinds of shirts that he likes seem to have been completely out of production recently. At first I said I'd make him a shirt if he paid for me to do a shirtmaking class, but then nobody seemed to be running them. When I thought about it in a bit more detail, I realised that it wasn't actually that many new techniques - I've sewn collars before, I know how to flat-fell a seam - and it probably wasn't worth paying a couple of hundred quid to get someone to show me how to make sleeve plackets and then talk me down from my buttonhole anxiety. So I resolved to give it a try on my own.

Look at it! It's a shirt!

The pattern we went for was Vogue 9220. Patrick is very particular about his shirts and didn't want front pockets or floppy collars or fake anything anywhere, which narrowed it down considerably, and this pattern had both fit options and cuff options. I haven't seen another pattern for double cuffs, and it's one of his favourite things. I initially said I would start off with regular cuffs and work up to the fancier ones, but decided as I was cutting it out that these weren't appreciably more difficult so I may as well just dive in head first. The shirt comes in standard, tailored, or slim fit, and this is (allegedly) the latter.

The main reason Patrick hasn't been able to find shirts lately is that the prints have been wrong. Again, he's got very particular taste - he likes loud prints, but stylish loud. He wouldn't look twice at a novelty shirt. He's very into Liberty prints, mostly florals and paisleys, and his colour palette is quite specific. While I could find several fabrics that fit the criteria, they were all £16 per metre and up, and I wasn't prepared to spend that on something that was an experiment and could very well be unwearable. I also didn't want to just buy a plain cotton and make him a work shirt, because that's no fun at all (also they're covered by a suit jacket all day and it would feel like a giant waste of effort). I searched for a little while before coming across this viscose at my favourite stall in Walthamstow. Seriously, they have everything. While orange is not one of Patrick's colours, it's sparing enough to work, and though it isn't cotton it also doesn't have any polyester in it, so shouldn't be too sweaty. And at £6 for two metres, I wouldn't cry if (when???) I messed it up. Viscose is very much not the ideal fabric for this kind of shirt, structure-wise, but it was good enough for a trial run.

I got everything cut out and interfaced, then it sat around for a couple of months while I had nerves at it. Finally, in mid-June, I decided enough was enough and got the shirt finished up to the point of making holes in it in a few sessions over the course of a week. And really? It wasn't that hard. The only place I really had difficulty was making the plackets, which was totally new to me and not the easiest thing to comprehend from the brief instructions. With the help of a couple of tutorials I got them to be functional if not especially pretty, and I'll now have a better idea of what I'm doing when I try again. What I should have done was poked about on the inside of one of the many shirts already in the house, but I didn't. Next time. But the yoke, the collar, the sleeves, the flat felling, and the double cuffs all went pretty smoothly. Even my topstitching wasn't too hideous.

At this point I got him to try it on. We decided it was too big in the shoulders and WAY too long in both the body and the arms ("oh, by the way" said Patrick as we were doing this, "I have incredibly short arms"), but that it was still wearable so I should carry on and finish it. You can see the huge folds of fabric on the sleeves in all the photos above, and witness the utter ridiculousness that is the back length:

Look how long that is. It's practically down to his knees. I think it's partly that this pattern runs long and partly that we're using a dress shirt pattern to make a regular shirt because there's no such thing as a regular shirt pattern with double cuffs. Sigh. The shirt then sat almost finished for AGES while I panicked about the whole button/buttonhole situation. I was pretty sure that I'd get the alignment of buttons to buttonholes wrong (spoiler: yep) and that would make the whole thing look like shit. It was well over a month, if not two, before I leapt on a random trailing thread of motivation and got everything finished.

In terms of my first attempt at buttons and buttonholes, it's not hideous, but I did mess up the alignment on the top and bottom buttons. The bottom one I was able to cut off and redo, the top one not so much. We decided it wasn't that big a deal as he never uses the top button on his non-work shirts anyway. I also bought a pack of bog-standard buttons and I really don't like them. Solid white next time.

Me: I mean, you're probably not going to wear this one so I -
Him: [affronted] I will.
Me: But it's way too big.
Him: I will wear it and I will look styling.
Me: But...
Him: I. Will look. Styling.

Once I realised he wasn't budging on this point, I insisted we shorten the shirt to a less ridiculous length. I didn't want to force him into two separate photo sessions, so what you see above is the shirt pinned into place (I have since hemmed it properly, don't worry). Though the sleeves are still obviously too long, it's much better like this.  Look how much less ridiculous the back is now:

This did not go as badly as I feared for a first attempt, but there's a lot of work to be done here. For a start, while this isn't necessarily a bad fit for a shirt to have, it's not how Patrick wears his shirts. This is supposed to be the slim fit cut but there's still a LOT of ease in here. Patrick has narrow shoulders so I always thought there might be a need to go down a size in the shoulders, but a smaller size overall will probably get us closer to the fit he likes. Having done some measuring of his normal shirts compared to this one, I think a decent chunk of the sleeve problem would be resolved if the shoulder seam sat in the right place, but I would still take a couple of centimetres off the sleeve length next time. Patrick also thinks the double cuffs are a bit skimpy and would like more length taken out of the sleeve then added back in at the cuff. I think for this I'm just going to measure the cuffs on his regular shirts and make them that size.

My guess is we'd be adding an extra centimetre to these. Also, say hi to either Alphonse or Ernie (I'm not sure who lives on which side), the massive bejewelled lizard cufflinks I got him for Christmas last year. 

For my own ease of reference, the adjustments I'll make next time:

- size down to a 38, possibly even a 36
- shorten the sleeves by 2cm
- reduce size of dip in back of shirt
- shorten hem by 2cm at the front, 5cm at the back
- increase the size of the cuff by 1cm
- ignore the bit where it asks for different sizes of button for no real reason
- burrito the yoke instead of slipstitching then topstitching and wasting a lot of time

He's pleased, though, so it's okay. 

As I mentioned in my autumn plans, before I make another one of these I want to have a go at the Sew Over It Hackney shirt (sans front pocket, because Patrick thinks shirt pockets are for dweebs). Partly because I downloaded the pattern in my mass Stitch School harvesting session and it would be nice to use it, but also because - unusually for Sew Over It - they provide a full range of finished measurements upfront. Chest, waist, hem, collar, shoulder width, back length, sleeve length, underarm seam. I think that will be really useful in trying to get the fit right. My hope is that eventually I can merge the two into some kind of Patrick Frankenpattern and be able to create the perfect Liberty print shirt by his 40th birthday in March. Which might be a bit of a tall order as Liberty is not looking especially Patricky at the moment. We've had a bit of back and forth over whether a shirt in the same print as my Minoru would work, and he has concluded that he just won't know until there's a shirt of it in front of him. This is not a risk I am prepared to take. For now I've got a navy and white cotton lawn with stripy background and floral foreground (which has now arrived and is eminently shirtable) from Abakhan, and we're going to see how that goes.

Up next: either Pietra trousers or B6621 dress, depending on what I finish first!

Vogue 9220 shirt attempt

Fabric: Japanese viscose from Walthamstow
Cost: £6
Pattern details: Men's formal shirt in standard, tailored or slim fit, with collar and collar stand, sleeve plackets, and regular or double cuff options.
Size: 40
Alterations: None for the first try
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

1 comment: