Monday, June 2, 2008

We interrupt our regularly scheduled sewing

To make a shirt. The Liberty dress is on the back burner for the moment because I'm having a few issues and I'd rather let it simmer than risk messing it up by rushing for no reason. Rather than do nothing and really let the dress bug me, I started in on Mario's new shirt from one of the fabrics he picked out in Paris. This wasn't my favorite of the two, but it turns out to be the one that will work best with the project I had planned.

He has this striped Kenneth Cole shirt that he absolutely loves. It's a stretch knit, and it's aging. Enough said? (Aside from the fact that if you're not built like a Greek god, there's a good chance you shouldn't be wearing button-front stretch knit shirts, but again, enough said.) I've always liked the way the shirt is constructed: the left side is done in a 3-panel chevron effect, the right side is just cut on the bias and meets the stripes on the left side. I've wanted to duplicate this shirt in a woven ever since he brought the original home from the thrift shop. Until now, I hadn't found the right kind of stripage.

Enter the Parisian lin mélange. Hot pink, orange, red, yellow, blue, purple, enough stripes and in a range of shades and widths that would make the chevron construction interesting. .It was supposed to be a few projects down the line, but when I got stalled on the dress, I decided to start cutting, thinking maybe that would clear my head. It hasn't, not yet.

He bought 3 meters of the fabric, which is normally more than enough for a man's shirt. I wasn't so sure this time, due to all the bias cut fabric - not only is the front on the bias, but so is the entire back! On the original shirt, the sleeves were also bias cut, but the original shirt also had short sleeves, which made it less annoying, though the sleeves were always my least favorite part. Once I had the front pinned together I laid a bias swatch of fabric next to it as a sleeve and it was just too much. So the sleeves are cut on the straight grain, but that gives me license to make bias cuffs, and sleeve plackets on the crossgrain. Wahoo, stripey circus!

I used the standard KwikSew man's shirt pattern that I've used for him many times before. Why mess with a good thing? For the left front, I traced the pattern piece onto poster board, then measured off the chevron sections, cut them apart and made notes on the pieces to remind myself where to add seam allowances on the "new" edges. I also marked several stripes on the pattern piece that I could follow on the fabric.

It would have been easier simply to cut 3 strips of fabricand sew them together in the chevron pattern, only worrying about the width of the middle strip, and then cut out the left front, but did I? No, because I was afraid of wasting fabric so I did it the insane way, laying the pieces out one at a time, crawling around on the living room floor following the shifting stripes. It worked, after much sweating and swearing, and pins every ½" to keep the fabric from shifting. By the time dinner rolled around I was sorely in need of a glass of wine, let me tell you.

Once the left front was cut and pinned, I cut out the right side, taking care that the stripes would line up with the left side after the center fronts were folded back and stitched. Before I cut, I had to move the pattern piece because I forgot that men's shirts button on the reverse from ours. I'm not actually sure it would have made any difference in the overlap, but I was obsessing and not about to cut out something that I'd have to recut later. I briefly considered a separate button placket but decided it wasn't worth it - if the placket was just going to continue the existing bias stripe, what was the point? And if it was going to be vertical or bias in other direction, it again might be too much.

One thing I just couldn't decide on was the back yoke. The yoke on the original was cut with horizontal stripes, probably to balance the diagonal on the back. I cut one yoke that way and one on a reverse bias, just for kicks. I figured I could always use that one on the inside and make him flinch every time took the shirt off the hanger. Of course, when I did the old sandwich construction of yoke-back-flip-the-inside-yoke-to-the-outside-and-sew, I did what I somehow always manage to do and sewed it backward so that the bias yoke was facing outward. It was only attached on one side at that point, so I took it out to the living room for comments. "Do you like this, or do you think it looks better like that?" with me as the dress form. Surprisingly enough, the response was, "Unless it's too hard, I really like the diagonals together. It's kind of trippy."

Trippy? Well, okay. I would have picked out the shoulder seam if he didn't like it, really I would have. But if he actually prefers it that way, then so be it. I went back into the workroom and sewed the other shoulder seam backward as well, and it really does look fun. Because there was no way I was ever going to get the bias stripes on the back to match up with the bias stripes on the fronts (even Kenneth Cole couldn't manage it), I made the back on the reverse bias and actually achieved a decent "V" down each side. Better in my eyes than mismatched stripes, which really irritate me.

For the topstitching, I used red thread. I didn't have any bright pink, and my other first choice, a light yellow to match one of the most visible stripes, was actually too trippy. He didn't even get to consider that option when I realized how awful it looked. The red blends in nicely but is visible enough for me to pick out, if I have to. (After making him a black shirt the other year, thread visibility is a major consideration.)

In the time it took me not to figure out the top-to-bottom attachment issue on my dress, I sewed the chevron stripes, the back to the yoke, the yoke to the fronts, did all the topstitching on the constructed part of the shirt, and cut out the rest. Tonight I'll work on the sleeves, plackets and cuffs and pin the side seams (I want to try it on him for final fit before sewing the side seams because I'd like to achieve something similar to the "slim fit" that all the Parisian stores were offering).

As far as the collar goes, I have to work up to collars on the best of days, and being's that it's a Monday, it's not going to be the best day.


Paula Gardner said...

Wow! Look at how well those stripe line up! I am completely impressed. Very nicely done.

AllisonC said...

What a brilliant design! You've done a great job copying it - your seam matching is amazing.

CraftRage said...

Oh, well done!

Melissa Fehr Trade said...

wow that chevron creation and stripe matching is immaculate!

Dawn said...

Wow, I love that fabric. That's going to be a great shirt! I love chevroning stripes too.

Claire said...

You're doing a fantastic job on that shirt. The dress almost seems like a cakewalk compared to crawling around on the floor, pins every 1/2" and matching those stripes. I can't wait to see the finished product and I'll be looking for dress updates also. ;o)

Cennetta said...

The sweating and swearing paid off. The chevron affect turn out beautiful. Can you say, "beautiful when referring to a man's shirt?" lol. I'm sure you are greatly appreciated for the hard work. Love your technique. I've got to try it.