Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Shirt Maker's Express

The Man's birthday is September 4, and here is his birthday present. Finally done. Better late than never, right?

The Man had been kind of wanting a flannel shirt ever since I made my flannel Archer last January. Once again, I had a heck of a time finding some flannel that didn't look like kids pajamas. Plus, The Man had some color constraints I had to consider. When I found this plaid at Hart's he gave it the thumbs up, saying, "Black and gray, just like my soul."

Instead of trying to hack up the Archer, I used the Shirt Maker's Express #228 from Islander Sewing Systems. I'm really glad I did! The Man likes a trim fit and this pattern delivers on that. The sides have a bit of shaping to them, and there are optional back darts. We went for them.

Back view with darts and smooth yoke
Also, while the Archer has a pleat at the yoke to add extra ease, this pattern is smooth.

I got this pattern as part of the Craftsy class; "Sew Better, Sew Faster: Shirtmaking," with Janet Pray.

I've bought a lot of Craftsy classes. Like: a lot. I have 45 in my library. Some have suggested I have a little problem with late night Craftsy jags. In my defense, I wait to get them on sale and I do watch all of them. The two I've done with Janet Pray are some of my favorites. She sets a comfortable pace, she's clear and organized and she talks like she's in the room with you.

She also includes a lot of great information, based on her years of experience in the garment industry. My favorite techniques from this class were:

  • sewing without pins (still not a convert, but I'll keep trying)
  • the burrito method for shoulder seams, cuffs and collar. Her method results in the cleanest collar and cuffs I've ever achieved
  • hemming a curved shirt tail. She has you hem the fronts and back before sewing the side seams, and shows you how to crimp the curves to ease in the extra fullness. Worked a treat!

She uses a different construction order, like they do in the garment factories. She also has you work with quite narrow seam allowances; generally 1/4 inch but sometimes even less. This makes it much easier to ease in collar stands and so forth, but if you're using a beefier fabric, like flannel, it can feel like you're forcing a watermelon into a milk bottle. A little sweating and cussing were involved, but it's totally doable.

Side view: under that sleeve the plaid is matched!
I made up the shirt just exactly like Janet Pray told me to, except when I screwed up. Each time, once I ripped my errors out and did things her way, I had to confess that she is 100 percent right.

The one mod I made was to deepen the pocket by one inch. The Man likes vintage fountain pens and one of his requirements is that the pocket accommodate an oversize Mont Blanc number 8 safety pen.

The oversize #8 and a bonus Rouge et Noir
I really recommend both the pattern and the class. I'm busy trying to talk The Man into wearing dress shirts, just so I can make one of these in a nice, pliable shirting. The pattern comes in a bajillion sizes, from an XS (28 inch chest) to a 4XL (60 inch chest). Maybe I can find some other guys to sew shirts for? My nephews are not dress shirt guys either, and my son would be caught dead before he wore a shirt sewn by his mother. Maybe I'll have to wait until the grandson is in high school.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.