Monday 7 October 2019

actual shirt attempt two: Sew Over It Hackney (plus Stitch School experience)

Hey, everyone, look what I did!

The glow up is real. I'm amazed at how much better this is than the first one. I enjoyed the process way more this time and I'm actually happy for him to wear it in public and claim it as my work. It's been a while since I've felt this strong a sense of accomplishment after making something. 

I would never have started on a second shirt so quickly if I hadn't got the no-minimum-period Stitch School membership, but I thought it might be helpful to make a second attempt while I had access to videos of the skills that aren't really in my repertoire yet (and I wasn't going to pay for a second month of access). If I'm honest, the slightly more in-depth written instructions were helpful to me but the videos weren't really. I'll go into a bit more detail on this further down.

I cut an XS in the shoulders and lower sleeve, and an S everywhere else. Patrick tends to wear his shirts very slim fitting and the finished chest measurement of the XS is about the measurement of his normal shirts, but the Hackney pattern isn't specifically slim fit and I was worried it might look weird. These sizes were largely guesswork but fortunately it's spot on. I think the XS would have been too small through the chest, but the S would have been too big in the shoulders. He says it actually fits better than most of his regular shirts because the shoulder seam sits in the right place rather than hanging slightly off the edge of his arm. So yay me!

This fabric was an Abakhan order and it's a really nice cotton lawn. It became clear to me very soon after starting this shirt that my biggest mistake last time was using the viscose. I was only thinking about print and breathability at the time, but I very quickly realised how much more I was enjoying sewing this version because the fabric wasn't being a git. Also, having the extra stability in the fabric means it looks way more like I was expecting a shirt to look. After a full day of sewing I hung up the cuffless, buttonless, unhemmed shirt and had a feeling I can only describe as pride. And then, of course, fear that I'd screw it up.

I'm still not completely sure about the placement of buttons and buttonholes. They do align properly this time (I put the shirt on him after making the buttonholes and poked a pen through each one for placement) but I think the horizontal placement is a tiny bit off. I'm probably hyper-aware of it because I think the rest of the shirt is so good and it won't be a thing most people will notice. BUT I KNOW.

Patrick is very happy with it. So happy with it, in fact, that he refused to take it off after we checked the fit for the final time and promptly spilt curry on it. So if you can see small yellow stains in these pictures, that's why. Running it through the wash didn't help and we're now on a stain remover mission. Sigh.

He's lucky he's cute. 

Here's a couple of detail shots:

I did also watch all the Stitch School videos that accompanied the pattern. Beyond a couple of handy tips I'm not sure I got much out of it. That's probably to be expected given my experience level, but after watching a video over my shoulder Patrick pointed out that they don't use anywhere near enough camera angles of the actual process. He worried I wouldn't be able to do the cuffs properly because the video hadn't really shown the actual cuff-making process (as opposed to Lisa talking about the cuff-making process). The written instructions explain everything in what I think is plenty of detail, but if you couldn't get what you're supposed to be doing from that I really can't imagine the video would have been much help.

(I also watched one of the fitting videos they did with Julie, one of their teachers who I've taken classes with in the past and is a genuinely awesome font of knowledge, and they... didn't make a properly fitting toile in advance? I assumed they'd show the fit of an unaltered bodice first, talk through some adjustments and then show the final version, but instead of making a final version together they got their subject to bring a bodice with an FBA and just recorded Julie telling her she'd done the FBA wrong and probably needed to start again. It was very strange.)

I also have to say that the platform itself isn't fantastic. It's not like Craftsy where the whole tutorial will play through if you let it; each individual step of the construction is its own separate unlisted Vimeo video and you have to click on each one to go through. It's also pretty slow and clunky; it feels like the server is overloaded at all times. It's very new and of course they won't yet know how popular it's going to be, so I hope that if it's profitable for them it can be optimised to be a bit smoother and more user-friendly. £15 for a dozen patterns was an excellent deal for me though, and I definitely plan to have a go at the vast majority of them.

I will share with you the couple of useful shirtmaking tips I got from the videos:

In order to get a neat triangle for topstitching the tower plackets, they advise using Pritt Stick to hold everything in place, so I went out and bought the first Pritt Stick I've owned in 25 years. It does the job and I will probably continue to do this in future. I am astounded at the leap in quality of my tower plackets and the construction makes a LOT more sense to me now.

The other useful thing I learned was to press 5mm of fabric to the right side of the sleeve cap before sewing it to make it easier to flat fell the seam, and it's a really good idea. Once the sleeve is sewn to the armhole the flat fell is basically just ready to go and all you have to do is pin it down. I do love a good flat fell but curved seams are a bit of a pain; this made it so much easier and I'm going to do it forever.

Nothing about this experience has made me want to make any shirts for myself, but I do think I'll continue to make them occasionally for Patrick, most likely using this pattern with double cuffs grafted on sometimes. Not just because he'd appreciate it, but also because it offers me opportunities I don't usually get in making things for myself. For example, it's nice to actually work with cotton. I don't tend to use it because I don't really wear it, but damn is it nice to sew. It just sits there and does what you tell it to do. It's nice to be able to do more precise sewing and produce something that looks the way this does. I'm also interested to start playing around with detailing a bit; Patrick has shirts that use a contrast fabric for the inner collar band or inner cuffs, different colour stitching on one or two buttonholes only, and various other subtle or hidden things that he's really into and would be a great way for me to use up scraps. I think between us we could come up with some really cool stuff.

(Approximate visual representation of me finishing an accomplished piece of sewing without having to deal with body issues once.)

I realise I've posted two men's shirts pretty close together and that's not what people generally come here for, but it's not going to be a regular feature (I will make maybe a couple of shirts per year, depending on how often I stumble across really Patricky fabric) and I was just so proud of how fast my skills improved. Next up will be something for me!

Sew Over It Hackney shirt

Fabric: Cotton lawn from Abakhan
Cost: £12
Pattern details: Classic shirt with collar and collar stand, tower plackets and cuffs, back yoke and box pleat, and chest pocket
Size: S with XS shoulders and forearms
Alterations: Chest pocket omitted
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes


  1. WOOHOO! Ten thousand cheers! This looks super-sharp. I love making shirts for my partner, partly because I can shove him into fabrics I love but don't wear. This shirt is super cool!

  2. Yay! Shirts are fun to make imho, precision sewing in well-behaved fabric... If he likes his shirts very fitted you might want to give the Freesewing Simon shirt a try, it's drafted to . your measurements and meant to be slim-fit! And free. I'm not paid to say this, it's just a project I'm enthusiastic about!

    1. Thanks for the tip, I'll look into it!