Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Autumn Leaf Shirt With Greek Keys

This shirt was a try-out for copying my favorite winter button-down shirt.  Essentially a working toile, it has a lot of mistakes as I tried out working with satin ribbon, flat-lining, flat-felling seams, plackets, and generally putting a basic collared shirt together.  But I like it a lot.

The goal: basic button-down shirt, loose enough to go easily over t-shirt and undershirt, but not so baggy it gets in the way of housework.  I did a quick-and-dirty combination of measuring and laying out and tracing my favorite shirt onto some unpleasantly rough and plastic-y black fabric (exact fiber unknown, I inherited it from my Grandmama's stash) that was designated to become a pattern.  I tried to err on the side of too- large, as I can always cut the pattern down later.
old favorite shirt
My first error was the amount of fabric.  I usually buy 56 or 60 inch wide fabric, and 1 yard of that is a goodly quantity.  1 yard of 44 inch wide printed cotton is not enough for a loose, sleeved shirt, even for a small person.  So I had to run back out to the store and buy another yard--thank Russell's teapot they still had that print in stock!  (I might have finagled short sleeves by using only rectangular pieces and triangular gores, but I wanted a very loose, modern curved sleevehead, which is not an efficient use of fabric.)  2 yards did very nicely: only small pieces left over.    

I flat-lined fronts, back, and sleeves with unbleached cotton (aka muslin).  The goal was extra warmth, and the result is easily as warm as good cotton flannel.  After one wash, the lining is starting to show the slight brushed effect of flannel anyway.  (I should maybe wash it inside a pillowcase.)  I didn't try to be very precise with the lining, just basted outer and lining pieces together and worked with them as one piece for the rest of the construction.  As part of being miserly with fabric, I pieced part of one sleeve lining:
just turned over an edge of scrap and tacked it down with a zig-zag stitch; raw edges will be safe between the inner and outer layers.  (So much easier than my usual fretting about raw edges.)

I added some decoration in the form of red satin ribbon on the collar, sleeves, and back yoke:
I used my new 60/8 machine needles (a Christmas present!) on the ribbon, and they worked beautifully: so much less disruption in the weave of the ribbon!  I can definitely tell a difference between the 60/8 vs the 70/10 size needles.  I'm very pleased with the Greek keys as a result, but they were a major headache.  I think in future I need to cut a stencil out of carboard, trace the stencil, and then pin and sew following the tracing.  Trying to measure and pin without markings was just too long and prone to error.  Especially if I am doing any more than 5 keys.  My admiration for the Dreamstress' greek key dress just went up by 2 orders of magnitude.  

Obviously I had some problems getting a smooth continuation of the ribbon down the sleeve, a consequence of learning flat-felling by doing it.
 I tried flat-felling starting with right sides together (shoulder seams) and wrong-sides together (sleeve heads).
sleeve seam folded toward sleeve (preferred)
sleeve seam folded toward shoulder (to hide white selvage edge in seam allowance)
Starting right sides together is easier (don't have to worry about a tidy finish) but doesn't look as cool as starting wrong sides together.  On the other hand, if I want to start wrong sides together I can't use different colored selvage edges in the seam allowance with my usual happy abandon.  (I generally use selvage edges wherever I can.  Especially with costume satins: anything to help stop the merry fare-thee-well shredding of polyester satin fabric at any raw edges!)  Future note: for 5/8 flat-fell seams, cut 6/8 in seam allowance, same as french seams (unlike in textbook math problems, the fold is not perfectly flat).  Further, flat-felling is harder to keep neat if you have lining layers.  I gave up and french-seamed the side and underarm seams. 

Verdict: flat-felling looks cooler and is stronger, but french seams are easier.  Also there's that one corner under the arm where I was trying to trim one seam allowance, got impatient, and accidentally hacked off both allowances...liquid fray check time!

But I did really truly shirt sleeve (wide, pointed end) plackets!  Internet tutorials for the win!
I did them in two pieces, as I could visualize that much more easily.  They're a little bit messy, but only if you look closely.  Going into this project, the plackets were the most intimidating part, but after doing two I scoff at them.  Shirt plackets are easy!  Easier than continuous lapped plackets, for me: I have never managed to get the corner of those right.    

There are some minor fit issues (collar band too short for a top button, cuffs a little too wide, sleeves not tapered quite to my liking, etc.) but I expected that considering the small amount of work I put into the pattern, and I have good notes for future incarnations of this shirt.  And the shirt is what I want it to be: a pretty, comfy, warm thing that I will wear regularly all winter.    

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