Sunday, 29 April 2018

Freesewing Simon Shirt - A Fun Experiment in Vlisco Leftovers

Sites like (and, of course, the lovely online sewing community) are what makes the internet magic. If you haven't already come across, it's an open source pattern drafting site for (mainly) men's patterns, each custom-sized to the measurements you upload.

I dove straight in with the Simon shirt as the base for the popover shirt that Angus requested for Christmas after I dismissed the Negroni as too much hard work to adapt. There are many, many measurements you have to upload to, so worth blocking out a bit of time and patience to get this bit right, but you can select to only upload the measurements you need for the pattern you're working on at the time, and there are thorough (and often witty!) instructions to guide you through. Once you enter all the info, then customise all the elements you wish, the pattern is created for you with a helpful comparison image so you can check whether you've accidentally gone off-piste anywhere before printing. I definitely had to double-check a couple of my measurements after referring to this, so it's a really useful feature.

Another great feature, if a bit over my head for my current level of shirtmaking ability, is the minute level to which you can customise your design. There is a lot of information to help guide you through every choice you make – e.g. the style of cuff, hem, how ease in each area etc. The only thing I would criticise is that you can't save step-by-step as you're building your pattern (which you can when entering your measurements) and so if you accidentally click off the page you have to go back and enter all the details again from scratch (and there are a lot!). I speak from experience as I did this a couple of times and somehow ended up selecting a tiny 6.25mm seam allowance which I definitely didn't intend to do! However, after getting over my panic when I realised (after cutting of course) it hasn't actually been that much of an issue, and has even saved time that would have been spent trimming seams otherwise.

The only thing I had to do for myself is draft the popover placket, which I did following this Craftsy tutorial. It has turned out alright, but I think I put it in back to front and so have a tiny seam allowance where I've caught the bottom edge of the placket. I didn't find the sewing instructions very clear in the tutorial, so switched to the Kalle instructions (which I got for my birthday but haven't made yet) but as the approach to the placket in each is a little different, and both intended for female shirts, I think I got confused.

You may recognise this fabric from the Negroni I made Angus a couple of years back. I always wanted to make myself something from the remnants of this 6-yard piece of Vlisco wax print, but felt like it was too much of a statement print and too strongly associated with being Angus's birthday fabric. Hooray for finally using it and #sewingleftovers! This time I didn't worry about pattern matching at all, but I did have a few issues here and there remembering which was the right and wrong side of the fabric (which I'm sure contributed to my placket confusion).

While I had fun making this shirt, trying to adapt it further did end up proving to be a bit of a headache and I think actually this style of shirt is too form-fitting for a popover. I also accidentally ended up choosing doubled-over cuffs by mistake (which I’ve secured with a button to go through both layers here rather than using cufflinks) which add an unintentional flamboyance to the look. The popover shirt ended up a bit tight at the neck and shoulders too, but this may have been a result of the changes I made in that area. What with the collar needing to be permanently open, statement cuffs and tight fit this has ended up looking like a 70s tunic. Not a bad look, but not quite what I was going for! I did end up going with another pattern to create the shirt that Angus requested, but that will be for another post.

I would however definitely recommend giving the Simon shirt a go - I think next time I’ll go with the basic version though and not incorporate any of my own design elements to make my life a bit simpler! What do you think? Have you tried freesewing or any other custom-draft pattern platforms before?

NorseOtter xx

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