Sunday, 17 May 2015

What a Coop! Or How I Rescued What Was Nearly a Clucking Disaster....

Hello hello!

Apologies for the terrible puns. This is my other gift project that I've been working on- delivered a little late for the bf's bday but due to fitting issues rather than poor work ethic.

The shirt is from Great British Sewing Bee Book 2 'Sew Your Own Wardrobe'- I've had this book a while and made a couple things from it (Box-Pleat Skirt x2, Simple T-Shirt) and any issues I've had so far I'd always assumed were due to my beginner status- somehow mucking things up. With the Box-Pleat skirt it was hard to tell whether I had the pleat placements on the back right- they seemed unflattering but as there were no back-view photos or technical drawings it was impossible to tell!

Long story short however is that there are genuinely issues with the patterns, and while it's not produced any major disasters for me previously, with this shirt it was a real headache! It's kind of put me off making some of the other patterns from this book- I had earmarked the Shift Dress and the Summer Dress to make soon and was gearing up to the 1930s Shirt.

So, what were my issues? I made this shirt in size M as my bf's measurements were between S & M (hehe) but he's quite tall so I erred on what I thought was the safe side. However the collar and sleeves came up ridiculously small! When I say ridiculously, he could just about get his arms into the sleeves, but the armscye was cutting right into his armpit with absolutely no ease. The collar I would adjust for next time, as it is a bit choking when fully done up, but looks fine with the top button undone so I left as is for this version.

I did get him to try the shirt on for fit a few times during the making process, but for some reason thought the collar and sleeves would open out when all the pieces were attached. I was very wrong! I wish I'd just basted things in to check, but instead went the whole hog and nicely finished everything before the final try-on. I was on the verge of tears when it became apparent that the sleeves were just not going to work! Plus the cuffs came out weird and lumpy.

After a week of sulking, I finally got to unpicking and seeing what I could do. I didn't have much fabric left to work with so pattern placement on the sleeves was not a consideration I could afford. I found a shirt with a similar style in the bf's closet and as best I could copied the shape of the sleeve, and drew the lower armscye shape directly onto my shirt and scooped it out a little more. I then compared my new sleeve drawing with the original pattern piece and overlaid them so that the head of the sleeve matched the original but included the newly-drafted lower armscye and sleeve shape and drafted a final pattern from that. My new sleeves only just fit on the scrap of fabric I had left- in fact I had to lose about 3cm from the bottom edge but it just about worked!

Annoyingly as I'd finished and trimmed the armholes there was a bit less fabric on the torso to work with, and I didn't have the markers to match with the newly-drafted sleeve when setting in. This time I did baste in and get the bf to try on to make sure it would fit (not that there would have been anything I could have done if it didn't by that point- although a smarter person would have probably cut the new draft sleeve from spare scrap fabric rather than their final remaining piece of fashion fabric in case things did go wrong!). Luckily this time it fit comfortably and looked decent enough. As the cuffs had looked weird the first time around I didn't bother with them this time and just made a 1.5cm hem outward and topstitched a 3cm turn-up to encase this. I also topstitched two lines of stitching around the head of the sleeve to strengthen the join at the armhole. It's not super-neat on the inside as this is something I only thought about afterwards, but it looks good from the outside.

I have bothered to trace my alterations over to the original pattern pieces as I think it's a nice shirt design, but next time I think I would add maybe an inch of width to centre back and front as although the shirt is designed to be slim-fitting it could do with a tiny bit more ease around the hips and shoulders. It could maybe do with a little more length too- if I made again I would go back and compare with one if his shirts again and make a few more tweaks based on that.

It's frustrating and disappointing that the original pattern was so off- those armholes would not have accommodated anyone comfortably, and I think that's a major drafting flaw, especially for a book designed for beginners. It wasn't that easy to know exactly what to do to fix the situation either with my limited experience- most alteration tutorials you can find online are aimed at fitting women. In my search I did find several negative reviews of the book's drafting however- next time I buy a pattern book I will definitely do a bit more research first as badly-drafted patterns are more hassle than they're worth. I think technical drawings so you can see clearly what you're aiming for are a must going forward too, as sometimes when trying new processes you can't clearly see how you're going to end up with the intended result (so it's helpful to know exactly what that's supposed to look like!).

Here ends my tale of woe. I'm happy I managed to rescue this- he's very happy with it and wore it out last night (and he even had to fend off a few interested womenfolk who were complimenting him on it!). I'm glad the chickens from Goldhawk Road ended up looking good- the pattern placement was a bit of a challenge at times but I think I got a nice balance on the front (and check my pocket matching!). The buttons are cute- we went with bright in the end as we had a choice from his grandma's stash but I thought this would make the shirt look more 'fresh'.

Now to make lots of nice things just for me! No more unselfish sewing for a while. Have you ever had a bad experience with an ill-drafted pattern?

Until next time,

NorseOtter xxx


  1. I'm glad it worked out in the end - he looks really pleased with it. I tried the woven t-shirt and the boyfriend shirt from the first book - I got stuck inside the t-shirt while trying it on and had to be rescued, and the shirt is languishing unfinished in a pile. It's a shame, because there are some lovely patterns in those books.

  2. Thank you! It was worth it in the end! Trapped in a t-shirt- what a nightmare! I had the opposite experience making up that pattern because I misread the recommended fabrics and made in jersey- now it's constantly threatening to expose me.... I might still have a go with the rest of the patterns I like but take with a pinch of salt and compare with patterns that I know are well-drafted (thinking of using the By Hand London Elisalex to help out with the Shift and Summer Dress for example).