Faces

When I’m busy with a difficult project, I sometimes take a little break to make something easy and familiar. This was the case with my winter coat project too. I felt that I had done enough pad stitching and basting, and needed to finish something. With plenty of fabric in my stash, it’s easy to just start a quick shirt.

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I’ve had this fabric for a while now, and even found some contrasting versions of it too. So I figured I’d make a quick shirt, with a contrasting collar. Maybe a contrasting front placket too.

img_1443I cut out the fronts, making sure I would match the pattern in the front. Then cut out the contrasting placket, and matching that to the underlying front pieces too. To make sure I had everything lined up correctly, I laid it out on my cutting table. And then it happened; my brain started going off the deep end again.

“This looks really nice and symmetrical. Why shouldn’t I do that to the back too?”

“Surely the back of a shirt can have a placket!”

“That would create even more symmetry in the shirt!”

That didn’t seem too bad. I got the rest of the pattern pieces out of my envelope and started unfolding them. And then looked at the sleeve and sleeve placket pieces…

“Another placket! That should be contrasting too!”

“If we’re splitting the shirt into two halves along the front and back, shouldn’t we do that along the sides too?”

“Can I make a placket all the way along the sleeve?”

And thus another challenge was born. My mind seems to have this quality to make life difficult for itself. I had to figure out how I would make a placket in the sleeve that would run all the way up. Since the normal place for the placket is not in the middle of the sleeve piece, and I wanted the placket to run all the way up to, and beyond, the shoulder, it would have to be at a slight angle. And only the first 8 or so inches would have to be open, the rest would just lay on top of the sleeve fabric. I figured this would be best with a two-piece sleeve placket.

img_1448Of course, all of this would have to match the fabric pattern. So the challenge began of getting each piece out of the limited amount of contrasting fabric. With the placket on the sleeves being at a slight angle, that was not as easy as it initially sounded. I had to change how to cut the sleeves from the main fabric to accommodate what contrasting fabric I had left. And even then, trying to get the collar and collar band to fit in the remaining fabric almost didn’t work.

The construction of the shirt was relatively easy. The ‘placket’ in the back and yoke is just a strip of fabric that is top-stitched onto each piece. The part of the side plackets that’s on the shoulder is sewn into the shoulder seam on one side, and top-stitched on the other side. Getting the pattern-matching correct here took a little effort, but not too bad.

The sleeves were more involved. I first cut out a strip of fabric that would match where it would end up. The bottom part of this had an extension on one side to accommodate the opening part.

A sleeve placket is sewn on the wrong side of the fabric, and then folded into place. This placket had to then exactly match the underlying pattern of the sleeve. To accomplish that, I basted it first. This gave me the opportunity to check the vertical alignment. The horizontal alignment doesn’t have to be too precise, because you can adjust that with where you make the fold by the initial seam. Sew a little inside the intended line and you have some playing room. Top stitching needs to be done in two phases, one above and one below the opening of the placket.

I really like the contrasting ‘stripe’ on the back and the sides. It is not something I would do on all my shirts, but I think it works well on this one. A little splash of colour in the monochrome theme brightens it up some.

One pocket from the contrasting fabric was all that I could do, there just wasn’t a matching piece left for the other pocket. And I think that looks fine.

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Thanks for reading!

NY shirt

Earlier this year I went with the family to New York for some relaxation. Talking about relaxing and New York in the same sentence seems rather contradictory, but I’ve never been a guy who can lay on the beach and do nothing for more than a minute. Anyway, it got me away from my normal busy work and I got to see some Broadway musicals.

Of course, I arranged to have a whole morning by myself to visit the garment district and do some serious fabric shopping. No shopping trip should miss out on B&J Fabrics, and I made it my last stop. The two times I’ve been there I’ve always felt overwhelmed by the amount of nice fabrics I want to bring home. 2018-11-21_08h28_42While looking at the wall of rolls with samples, trying to find an interesting pattern, I saw this little piece of cloth that looked like a cityscape. It was a really small print, but I thought it could make an interesting pattern. Much to my surprise it was a complete border print. And when I saw it I knew I wanted it. Vibrant colours, interesting pattern.

Now I had a different problem. I know I need about 3 yards of 46″ wide fabric for a shirt. But that is if I cut it out with the pattern pieces oriented to the warp of the fabric. With this print, I would have to orient them to the weft, 90 degrees rotated. I had never done this and had no clue what this would mean for the amount of fabric I would need. I did know that I would never forgive myself if I left the fabric here, or if I didn’t get enough. Chest circumference is 40 inches, a little over a yard. That would be the front and back pieces. Two sleeves can be cut from a 45 inch wide fabric, so another yard or so. Then I need space to manoeuvre the pattern pieces around to align them the way I want. So let’s double that to four yards. I’m probably making a mistake here, so let’s add another yard. Before I could talk some sense into myself or look at the price, I told them I wanted 5 and a half yards of it. I think I suppressed the memory of what they said the total cost was, I honestly cannot recollect.

After months of gathering enough courage, I washed it and cleared the kitchen island to get a good look at how I could position the pattern pieces on the fabric.

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To make absolutely sure, I traced another front pattern piece. The cityscape pattern would have to flow from one side to the other, and figuring that out would be easier if I could just lay the pieces on the fabric. Now I had to decide which parts I wanted to make sure I would include on the front, what should be the middle of the shirt, and how high the black parts would have to be. I normally wear my shirts tucked into my pants, and I would want some of the monochrome parts to be visible. The sleeves would have to be adjusted to that decision, so that they would match horizontally.

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Although you can see the back yoke piece situated on the fabric in the photo above, in the end the layout I chose didn’t allow me to use that part for it. The yoke had to match the back piece, and the colour difference between that part and the top of the back was enough to have me look for a different solution. None was readily available, and I opted to go for a different solution; make the yoke out of separate pieces. It is made out of three pieces, allowing the colours to blend as well as I could arrange them. The inside yoke is just a piece of white cotton.

Then came the collar. I wanted the vertical orientation of the pattern to be reflected in the collar too, both in the front and in the back. That meant that the collar needed to be a three piece solution too. The dress form was a great tool to construct this. The seams were positioned as extensions of the shoulder seam, so they would be less noticeable.

I also changed the shape of the points a bit to make them more dramatic. Just before I started on the collar I read a blog post from Duane. In it, he referenced this video that has changed how I’m doing collars now. I’m still working on getting this technique as perfect as the guy in the video, but every one I made since has been a lot better than any I made before seeing that. It was a bit scary to try a new technique on something I was so invested in. Seeing how well the collar points came out took away all hesitation.

The rest of the shirt construction went smoothly. Just the standard adding sleeves, making flat-felled seams, add cuffs, and hem it.

And then; buttons. Oops. No buttons I had looked right. And I have a lot of different coloured shirt buttons. It occurred to me that no matter how long I would look, I would never be happy with a button on the front. I should have anticipated this. I should have created a hidden button placket. Too late now. I felt really down, having made such a stupid mistake. I felt like I couldn’t finish the shirt to my satisfaction.

Then I realised that there are other options. Ones I hadn’t tried yet; snaps! Some Google research led me to Snapsource, who had so many colours, there should be something I could use. The Color Sampler helped with finding the right ones. I was a bit worried about placing them and aligning the pattern. With buttons I just put the buttonhole in the right place, align the fabric and stick a needle and thread through the hole. Now the button will be exactly in the right spot. You can’t do that with a snap. Or so I thought. Turns out that since I used ring snaps, I can just push a pin through and then mark where the bottom part needs to go.

This worked really well on the test piece, and all the snaps on the shirt came together easily. Definitely something I need to remember next time I’m using snaps. I did use buttons for the collar and cuffs. Those being on a monochrome background made it easy to find appropriate ones.

And with that, the shirt had been completed. I’m tickled how well the project turned out. I’m not going to call it an art shirt, since I didn’t design the fabric, or did anything really special with the construction. Yet it will go to the special area of my closet, only to be taken out on special occasions.

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Thanks for reading!

 

Dogs

Time for another art shirt

It started at a dinner party last year. I was wearing my Singing Butler shirt and people were asking questions about it. My partner’s boss made a remark along the lines of “if I’d ever get a shirt like that, I’m sure it would be of the Dogs Playing Poker.” And so a challenge was started.

You see, this boss is a very conservative guy when it comes to clothes. Slack and sports jacket, maybe jeans and a sports jacket on Friday. My partner and I decided that this would be a great practical joke.

I didn’t really think this would be a art shirt, that painting is not something you think of when discussing art. Then I started to research it a bit and found out that it is actually a series of paintings, and some of them have recently been sold for well over half a million dollars. So I’m going to keep referring to this as an art shirt, even though it really was started as a prank.

I wasn’t going to spend too much time on making this a perfectly executed shirt, since it probably wouldn’t be worn very much. And it had to be a surprise. So with the help of his wife we took one of his shirts while he was on a business trip and took some measurements. With those I adapted a pattern a bit and started the design of the fabric.

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We decided that there wasn’t really anything smart and funny we could do with the arms. So those would be made of a different, solid coloured fabric.

That just left the back and the front to be made out of panels cut of the painting. To get a better distribution, I compressed it horizontally somewhat.

I did want to do something fun with the collar. So I found some photos of cards, tweaked, mirrored and shaped them somewhat. It could work, or I could use the fabric for the sleeves if it didn’t.

And after some weeks of waiting, the fabric came.

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The construction of the shirt itself was rather easy. No strange construction needed, just a basic shirt.

I was going to take more photos of the shirt by the person actually wearing it. But when my partner gave it to him for his birthday, he actually took the packet home and didn’t open it until there. Apparently, he has worn it for his wife and she liked it. I haven’t seen it other than on a bad mobile phone picture. So here is the only photo I have of the completed shirt (sans burttons):

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The Singing Butler

After my first Art Shirt worked out so well, I needed to make another one. I knew this even before I finished making the first. This is in stark contrast with the first shirt. I don’t really recall when I decided to try to make that one. It started probably with seeing the Great Wave painting and then slowly figuring out that I could make a shirt with that.

Since I already knew I wanted to make another Art Shirt, I had to find a subject. This turned out a lot harder than the the process of starting with a painting and moving towards a shirt. Obvious classics like Starry Night and The Scream didn’t appeal to me. Those have been used for too many things by too many people.

Then one night while browsing through classic paintings I came across The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano, and I knew I had a good one. Nice composition with the subjects in the middle, and enough flexibility for me to do things with.

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Just like with The Wave, there were items I could use for the collar; the umbrellas in this case. But where I could use a mirror image of The Wave for the back of the shirt, I didn’t think that would work well here. I didn’t want to have two couples on a beach. That meant that I would have to create an empty beach. This would add significantly to the required Photoshop work.

backAfter measuring I realized that if I would tuck the shirt in my pants, I would cut off the couples’ legs. More Photoshop work to add more beach at the bottom of the painting, including new shadows and reflections for everyone. The maid and the butler would be moved to the sleeves, and the umbrellas to the collar.

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Full 3 yards of fabric design

With those general decisions made, I could start with the design of the fabric. This phase went pretty well, and the way it is painted made tweaking it not all that hard.

Then I had to make a decision on what to do with the front closure. I considered having the two sides split between the dancers, with the lady on the right and the gentleman on the left. The way their arms were held made that too difficult. I figured I would put both the dancers on the left front of the shirt and have the closure follow the outline of the lady. Then how to close then shirt? Showing buttons on the front would ruin the image. Using something like velcro would never sit right. Hidden buttons it would have to be. But I also didn’t want to have any top stitching show.

After researching this and even asking for ideas on The Cutter and Tailor forum, I decided on making a double-layered front with buttonholes in the hidden layer. I tested this first with a muslin and it worked pretty well. Making the whole front a double layer keeps the buttons from pulling the fabric into strange twists.

Now I would have to wait a good three weeks for the fabric to be printed and arrive at my doorstep.

Since the button placket is basically the whole dancing figures, I interfaced that, and the band above and below it.

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Applying the interfacing to the right front. The additional inner layer is on the left.

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Joining both layers of the right front so I can treat them as one.

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Stitches within the seam allowance. This will be cut off once the shirt has been constructed.

For the left front I first had to make the inner layer, complete with the button holes in strategic places. This inner layer is partly made of a mirror image of the front. Once this was done, I could join both along the couple’s left side. Basting the layers together by hand first while checking the position of the layers, and going ever so slow on the machine made for a good result.

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Basting the layers together. Button holes are already made

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Small stitches and lots of patience.

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Draped the fronts on the dressform

Next task was the collar. Although this one was more elaborate than your average collar, it was still a lot easier than making the one for The Big Wave. One umbrella on each side and hopefully I had designed the distance between them correctly. This brings up an interesting tidbit; when you design the fabric for something like this, you have to keep in mind that the fabric will shrink before you get to sew with it. Knowing that your collar needs to be 19″ long, tip-to-tip means that you have to create the design to be 19″ times shrink-factor. Turning the collar was relatively easy.

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Cutting the interfacing

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Collar ready. Just over 19″, good enough.

And this is where the smooth sailing hit the cliffs. After attaching the collar to the stand and then to the shirt, I didn’t like the small, minimalistic collar stand I had envisioned. And the angle of the umbrellas didn’t look quite the way I wanted them. I was so upset with the result, the seamripper came out immediately and I took it off before taking a photo. Here is the offending item:

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Wrong, wrong, wrong.

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Two more yards of fabric

After putting that aside, I focused my attention to the sleeves. And found another set of cliffs. I had swapped the width and height measurements for the sleeve parts and designed the fabric wrong! The parts were wider than high, while the opposite is required. Now I knew I had to redesign the fabric and order some more. Things like this is why these projects always turn out to be rather expensive. I did make sure to include two new versions of the collar, some extra cuffs and collar stands.

Of course, this gave me some weeks to focus on other things before I could continue with the project.

When the new fabric arrived, was washed three times and ready for use, I had to decide how to mount the sleeves. Since I had to order two yards of fabric, I had designed the patterns for the sleeves with a lot of extra space around them. This way I could change where the maid and the butler would end up on the sleeve. To figure out the final placement, I basted the sleeves to the body without cutting the fabric out first. It seemed an easy idea at first, and turned into more work than I anticipated. Sewing without seam allowances to line up is harder than I thought.

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Following a hardly visible chalk line.

It took a couple of tries to get them lined up the way I wanted them. The rest of the sleeve construction went without a flaw. As you may have noticed, I forgot to include plackets in the fabric design. Luckily I could use the incorrectly designed sleeves to cut the plackets from.

Now that I had the sleeves in place, I had to decide on how to make the umbrella shafts. While going through the creation of the fabric, I had deliberately photoshopped them out of it. This so I could later add them when the placement of the sleeves and collar were finalized. While researching this, I came across a technique called ‘couching‘. One site I found said you could replace the bottom thread with the decorative thread, adjust some tensions, and sew it upside down. Never too shy to experiment, I tried this. First tries were not so great, but after playing with the settings some, I really liked the effect.

Since the decorative thread is on the bobbin, you cannot see the right side of the fabric while you’re sewing. I had to draw the line I wanted to follow on the inside of the shirt by poking pins in at regular intervals and connecting these. Then put it under the machine and hope for the best.

With the shirt construction completed, all that was left was adding the buttons in the right place. This is where my pattern matching obsession really helped out. I just had to look where in the pattern the button hole was and then just add the button in the corresponding spot on the other front.

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Closing the buttons is something to get used to. The buttonhole only goes through the first layer of the front, not through the second one. So you cannot manipulate the button once it is partly through the hole. Not extremely practical, but it looks the way I wanted it.

Here are some photos of the completed shirt.

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Happy shirt maker

Thanks for reading. Reactions are appreciated.