Thursday, 18 February 2016

In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, this shirt is a total Monet

It's a full-on Monet!
First off, sorry if this is like the fifteenth pullover-shirt-with-a-placket you've seen this week. It's typical of my bad timing to decide to sew this right when Grainline released a pattern add-on for the popular Archer shirt to make exactly this type of shirt, meaning everyone and her dog is making one right now. Mine is not made to that pattern -- I don't even own the Archer -- but, you know, a pullover shirt is a pullover shirt, and the fact I decided to make it months ago will not reduce your ennui at seeing yet another in a very short period.

Knipmode "Blouse mit polosluiting"
The pattern I used is actually a Knipmode download from January 2013. It's a plus-size pattern in sizes 44-56, and I made a size 44. I actually think that, as written, it's a really nice pattern and a good option for someone looking for a well drafted pullover shirt pattern in this size range with some bust shaping. (The Knipmode size chart is here, btw.). The PDF goes together really easily, it all fitted together well (other than the bits I changed and screwed up) and I think overall it's a good pattern. The problems I had were entirely of my own doing.  Do be aware the instructions are in Dutch. I paid no attention to them beyond the basics because there's nothing revolutionary about this shirt, but Google translate does produce something reasonably comprehensible if you need it.

As you can see, the shirt designed to be tunic length. Originally I thought that if I shortened it and left off the pockets (I loathe pockets over my bust) that would pretty much all the pattern changes I would need to make. Of course, it wasn't at all, and then on top of changing a bunch of design elements I also made several appallingly stupid mistakes. The end result is a shirt that in my opinion looks kind of OK from a distance but, erk, not so much up close, and which is moreover not really much like the original pattern.

First off, when I shortened the paper pattern (by 15cm), I decided that the placket length now looked very odd. So then I had to shorten the placket, which was not a problem at all. I then realized that it didn't use the placket method I like the best, which I had previously used on the Pauline Alice Carme and is described in extensive detail in the Shirtmaking book by David Page Coffin. I decided to use the Carme pattern piece (on the bias for some visual interest) and the instructions in Shirtmaking and do my own thing. This one decision was to prove my undoing.

Shirt as modelled by Flossie. At least the BACK has no glaring errors!

First of all I got very confused which way round to sew the placket on, and realized right when I finished that I'd managed to sew it on backwards for a woman's shirt (left over right rather than the reverse). Not a major problem, but the first of several mistakes! More egregiously, however, I later I realized that although I thought I'd made sure the placket/collar/collar band would still work out properly, er, it didn't. At all. AT ALL. I am not entirely sure where my planning went wrong, but it went VERY VERY WRONG. Luckily, I have never in living memory actually buttoned any top up to the neck so as rubbish as this looks on Flossie with the wide open gap, it doesn't make it an automatic wadder for me.

The biggest and by far the most stupid problem was that, as my fabric is the same on both sides, I accidentally managed to make two left sleeves, meaning that when I set the sleeve into the right armhole, it had to go in backwards (the cuff opening faces forwards). I realized right at the very end, when I'd done all the construction and set the sleeve in and everything, so it was far too late to fix it and I had no fabric left to cut another sleeve. /o\ /o\ /o\ I am SO ANNOYED with myself about this. Again, however, it's not the end of the world as I plan to mainly wear the shirt with the cuffs rolled up and of course I could always make it short-sleeved if it really aggravates me. For now I am going to just live with it. I could have screamed when I realized, though!

The final problem is the fine detail of the shirt. I felt like I was getting better at collars and cuffs and similar details, but ugh, nothing came out really well this time. Overall, it just doesn't look well-made to me even compared to some of the shirts I made last year. This is a bit discouraging but I know it's just a case of practicing more and taking more time over the tricky bits. I'm also going to dig through my various books to see if I can pick up any tips for the parts I find particularly difficult -- surely I can't be the only person to struggle with getting my collar stands the right shape, and surely someone has thought of a way to do it better! 

Shirt as modelled by me.
Having said all that, I have to admit I really quite like how this shirt looks on me! Also, not everything went wrong when I was making it:

- Setting the sleeves in went absolutely perfectly. This used to be a really problematic part of construction for me but I really think I've got the knack of it now.

- Ditto the flat-felled side and sleeve seams -- I really like this seam finishing method on shirts and it's definitely getting easier with practice. I didn't flat fell the armscye seams this time.

- The pattern matching is pretty good in most places where I attempted it, and unexpectedly good across the sleeves and bodice (which was more luck than good judgment, but I'm still calling it a win!)

- I really like how the bias cut placket looks and would do that again even though it makes the sewing harder.

- I made one other tiny pattern change, which was that the original pattern has a single yoke and I did a clean finish double yoke as I think they look nicer. This turned out really well.

- I really like the shape of the shirt-tail hem and of the blouse overall and I'm pleased with the way it fits me and hangs in this drapey fabric. That said, it was hardly a fitting challenge: it's an oversized design, and notionally it is a size too big for me on top of that. (According to Knipmode's size chart I am a size 42 but on this occasion I made the smallest size available in the pattern, which was a size 44, with some fitting changes based on previous patterns I've used).

I guess it remains to be seen how much I'll actually wear this shirt. I'm wearing it today, and so far I like it. It's not a wadder I don't think, but maybe it is kind of a disappointment. A lot of the disappointment is that I had a really clear idea of how I thought this top would look and it doesn't live up to my mental image at all. I'm pretty sure though that the answer to this problem is: less ~~~visualization of perfect garments, more actual sewing to practice the skills I need!


  1. It looks fantastic!!!!! And if it feels good on, you will wear it (vs. something that is expertly, perfectly, flawlessly sewn that you just don't like on your body).

    I have a shirt with the same sleeve mishap. I never notice it while wearing. Doubly so if the sleeves are rolled (which they typically are).

    I didn't know Knipmode had downloads! Thanks...I think ;-)

    1. Thank you! It's definitely grown on me as I've worn it today -- definitely helps that this drapey fabric is a really great match to the style :D I really only noticed the cuff problem when I went to do up the button this morning and not at all since.

      Knipmode uploads, hmm, I would say maybe half the magazine content each month. Definitely a useful place to browse if you're wandering around looking for patterns.