A Tale of Two Shirts

Lately, my sewing projects seem to start from RTW clothing that I’ve outgrown (perils of mom-dom plus a deskjob) instead of from patterns. Being part of a stupendous Stashbusting group on (suckyour)Face(rightoff)book, has helped me to ease past the fear of not knowing how to do something or having many IRL sewing friends to turn to for my help! moments. 

 In fact, I’m not sure why, but when I began sewing items for my wardrobe I completely skipped over using patterns from “the big guys.” Sure, I used the for kids clothes, but the women’s designs rarely appealed to me. I opted to attempt duplicating my once favorite boutique items that no longer fit since I had kids. I attempt this only because they are styles that I prefer and I know how they should fit and where I need to make adjustments. 

 Enter a lengthy post about two such shirts. 

 Last month I copied two shirts from older RTW items in my closet. The projects went quickly once I made up my mind on what I was going to do and I only used fabric from my stash!

Boxy, dressier and cute! Inspired by a boutique purchase from 2007/2008. 

This blouse is a silk overlaid above a cotton lining. It has a boxy fit, bust darts and inverted pleats with topstitching at both the front and back neckline. For my copy I chose to use a knit for the back and a Leah Duncan voile. I left it unlined because I didn’t have anything suitable in my stash for a lining, and I wanted to make it one night and wear it the next day to QuiltCon. HA! 

 This RTW had been sitting unworn in my closet because I needed a few more inches across the bust. So as I took measurements I added in my estimated 7” extra. Because of the pleating across the neckline this made it look like I was cutting a plus-sized pattern. At this point I made the choice not to add the bust darts to save time. I took a deep breath and went back to my detailed notes about the pleats. 

 These were truly the most nerve racking part of this shirt. I spent time on the voile front at the ironing board with my seam ruler and pins. I went back to baste it on the machine. The spacing was trying. So I took a break to work on adding them to the knit. This was much easier, but as I sat down to sew the topstitching my machine pulled the fabric under the plate toward the bobbin. Frustration, removal of plate, a break to sip some wine, and time lost, but I overcame the technical issue. The neckline however, had a small hole which I was willing to overlook because it would be unnoticed on the inside of the shirt.

I forged ahead and returned to my fussing over the pleats on the voile. I could not get it right. I searched other resources and saw that pleats work best on heavier, thicker fabrics. I shook my head at my design choice and kept going. About three tries in and shoulders and sides basted together for a test fit, I gave up. I felt like Goldilocks, one fit had too many pleats and it was tight across the bust, another was simply uneven and unflattering. I finished my wine and went to bed. In the morning I could make this work.

 I did manage to nail down some of the pleats in the front neckline. I tacked them down before trying it on. Oops, some gaping along the neckline. I should have added one more pleat. Oh well, I must have this shirt today. It’s a day away from the office and I get to enjoy QuiltCon. I added some twill tape to finish the neckline and did not finish the sleeves or the bottom.

This will inevitably be deconstructed. I’ll try starch before I work on the pleats. 

 The Limited Tee 

This is a dressed up knit tee with a front shoulder panel and slightly draped neckline. I like the squared cut of the neckline and the fit. It has been on my list of shirts to copy for at least a few years. Last year when I began sewing with knits, I knew I would mimic this top, but was intimidated by the front shoulder panel.

Making my pattern.

I always take careful measurements of the both the garment and my body when I copy an RTW. That way I can make better fit adjustments based on where I know I need more space. 

For this top I began by taking the folded width measurements for the front and back. The piece of fabric I was using for the copy was a precut from a Girl Charlee sale, but I had two identical pieces. The first challenge was determining the orientation that gave the most similar stretch qualities to the RTW. After I settled on that I carefully measured the top to bottom length on the shirt and luckily the fabric was a very close fit. 

 I set out my handy freezer paper and traced the shirt, then checked the sketch against the measurements. Then I double checked my measurements against the shirt. I have a longer torso, so I wanted to adjust the pattern so the smallest width matched my smallest width. I am so glad that I did this! Then I added a seam allowance of 1” or so, since I knew I needed to size the shirt up slightly and include a seam allowance. 

The finished product.

I had a total of four pattern pieces: front, back, sleeves (x2), front shoulder (x4)

Here’s my step-by-step for the remainder of the project.

  1. Cut pattern pieces
  2. Finish edges on front inside neckfold, also finish the back neckline (I cut a bias strip and faced it.)
  3. Fold front neckfold and press to inside, then baste in place
  4. Gather sides of front neckfold from top 3”
  5. Take front shoulder pieces and make a sandwich with the shirt front in the middle, pin the gathers in place, then baste & turn open to check, then finish the seam of all three layers with an overlocking zig-zag – do the same for the other shoulder
  6. Turn and press
  7. Lay front and back pieces RST and sew shoulder seams
  8. Take a moment to hem the sleeves
  9. Then stitch sleeves to shoulders by pinning the middle of sleeve to the shoulder seam, leaving bottom edges of sleeve unstitched\
  10. Sew from the sleeve down to the waist to join front and back sides in one swoop.
  11. Try on the shirt for fit before finishing the bottom
  12. At this point I realized that my sleeves would not be the same as the RTW. They would be flutter sleeves. I am ok with that, but don’t know where I went wrong. Further exploration will be required. When I tried the shirt on, I realized I would want to add some kind of extension to the bottom hem, otherwise it would be too short, and I would have “gaposis,” as my mother would say. I used the bottom band method I learned from sewing the Renfrew and added a few inches.

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