Category Archives: For the Fellas

Two New BC Pattern Companies!

I was so thrilled this past week to discover two brand new sewing pattern companies from my home province of British Columbia! Thread Theory, out of Victoria, focuses exclusively on patterns for menswear. YES! Fine Motor Skills offers (genuinely) fashionable, casual separates for women.

I’m all for indie pattern companies, though I don’t sew from them exclusively. If they release something that I really like, and that I think I’ll sew soon, then I’ll definitely grab their pattern. But I also sew from Burda as well as the Big 4.

Thread Theory and Fine Motor Skills are both releasing patterns that fill major holes in my pattern collection – patterns I’ve been looking for for ages.

Thread Theory's Goldstream Peacoat
Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat

I cannot tell you how happy I am about this pattern (to be released in June 2013). Ever since I started sewing three years ago, my wonderful bf has wanted me to make him a peacoat. I have hunted everywhere for a man’s peacoat pattern. Contemporary, Vintage… no luck. It’s amazing to me how ubiquitous peacoats are in men’s ready to wear, and how uncommon they are in sewing patterns. Thank you, Thread Theory!

Same thing with breezy fashion forward knit tops.

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I expect that there are a few tops kind of similar to this in back issues of Burdastyle, but I’ve had too much on my plate to hunt through their archive. I suppose you can sometimes find something similar in Big 4 ‘coordinates’ pattern collections, but not really. They’re more fitted. This looks like something I’d buy (and own) from Aritzia, and is perfect for a loose gauzy just-the-right-shade-of-turquoise knit I’ve got stashed away. I’m looking forward to giving this a quick sew – plus it’s free! woo! Thank you Thank you Fine Motor Skills!

And as a last word – the women starting these companies have both gone through fashion school, which we can’t say for all indie pattern company designers. It gives me a lot of confidence that their patterns are well drafted.


Shortening an already-cut sleeve (Colette Negroni) plus upcoming works

About a month ago, while my sweetheart was off on a boat doing research in the middle of the Pacific, I tasked myself with batch sewing two Colette Negronis. Since both are white – one has red and other stripes, while the other has a camel check – I had the rare pleasure of sewing both up at once with the same thread. I’m not sure how much time I’ve saved so far, but I’ve put in about 20 hours work – 10 hours each – including cutting. I had sewed them up to the point of fitting the sides/sleeves and buttons; his field research involves a lot of physical labour, and he always returns home noticeably trimmer than he went out.

There are my third and fourth Negronis, and more akin to dress shirts than the plaid casual shirts I’d previously made with the pattern. Since he always wears his sleeves rolled up, I never paid too much attention to the sleeve length; besides, I thought I had shortened them appropriately from the pattern (which has super long sleeves). But when I… finally… fit the shirts on him a couple of days ago, it was apparent that the sleeves were crazy long – I was going to have to take off about two inches. And they were already cut and stitched on – all but the cuffs, which I always leave til last. It took me a while to figure out how I was going to trim the length off these sleeves… re-cutting them isn’t really an option because I don’t have enough fabric.

My first thought was to chop the length off of the bottom – I was trying to avoid ripping the sleeve right out – but I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work. On one hand, the whole sleeve shape would be messed up… the angle from the cuff to the existing armscye would end up being pretty stark. But also, I don’t have the heart to cut out and move the placket. (I know that I didn’t quite line up the stripes… it’s tough with those plackets and it’s otherwise nicely sewn!… and I’m not quite sure I could simply move the placket due to how it’s constructed. I think I’d have to sew it all over again.)

Solution two – the one I went with – was to take the length off the shoulder.

To do so, I went back to my pattern piece, and folded out two inches at the shorten/lengthen line. My pattern piece is clearly not that which came with the pattern… When altering this pattern, I first traced it onto tissue, did a mountain of work on it (including re-drawing the entire sleeve cap; it’s shorter than Colette’s to provide more room for muh man’s sizable biceps) and traced it again onto craft paper. (The piece is clearly pretty crinkled; yes I know I should iron it, but I should do all kinds of things, don’t do them, and things still work out okay.)

I lined up the bottom of the pattern piece with the cuffs in order to save my sleeve placket work, and simply marked how much should come off the top.

The sleeve cap ends up narrower – in my case – for good reason… When I first cut the sleeves, I had to extend beyond the pattern pieces so that the sleeve cap length would be the same length as the armscye.  As it turns out, the whole thing was a little too big, and so the now narrower sleeve cap works, and fits, perfectly.

The alteration – taking the sleeve off, cutting it, and re-stitching it – took about three hours including figuring-this-out time, though I think I’m a slow sewist.

This alteration should also work for RTW shirts with too-long sleeves; you’d just have to trace the pattern piece from the RTW sleeve.

I’m looking forward to finishing these shirts and getting on with some new projects. My Macaron is nearing completion – I took a week off of it, and just ripped off the sleeves and ripped out the midriff last night, discovering in the process the joys of ripping serged seams. Ah well!  Next is *the* dress I’ve been waiting a year to sew… Vogue 1174.

I remember seeing this pattern for the first time – when it first came out (and when I first started sewing) – and saying, I want that dress. (Funny how I haven’t had a lot of those experiences with sewing patterns since then…). I bought it as soon as it went on crazy $4 sale – not because I could have handled it at the time, but because I wanted to build my skills up to working on it. I think I’m there now, though the covered boning still terrifies me, just a little.

I’m sewing it for a late October wedding; I’d been planning on sewing it for this wedding for months. Choosing fabric was difficult… lightweight brocade and damask are recommended. I have two brocades in my stash that an ex bought me in the middle east years ago, but they’re black and red… the two colours I’m not wearing to a wedding. There aren’t a lot of non-Asian brocades around here (not that they aren’t nice… just not my thing…). I thought of emerald silk dupioni, but then… again with dupioni, feel I should love it, but… don’t.

And what do you know, just when I’m not looking for it, I find this beautiful off-white and midnight blue non-prissy floral jacquard at Fabricana with a geometric raised weave. I’ve got some matching off-white bemberg for the lining. I’ll be muslining the bodice – I know that other sewists have found it to be quite big – and hopefully finishing it in time. I feel as though I should have already started; sewing on deadline = brutal. (time to get to work!)

Colette Negroni – Big body, slim cut

Months ago – at the beginning of February – I embarked on the Colette Negroni as part of the inimitable Peter of Male Pattern Boldness’ sewalong. When Negroni was first released, I was definitely pretty stoked about it, but I was unsure. Can a ‘slim-cut’ shirt – and on Colette’s website we see it modeled by a guy with a rather reed-like figure (see esp pics where he’s next to the bicycle for scale) – simply be graded up for those men whose bodies were designed to pull ploughs, whose physiques are more bear-like in proportion? (men who dwarf the fixie bicycle Colette shows for scale?)

I was wary, having remembered conversation with my dear friend Bonnie, a scholar/model who has done modeling and other work for several local designers who make clothes for the full range of sizes (2-24). From what she’s learned from them, it’s not the case that you can just grade up patterns from a size 8 for sizes 14, 16 and up … and that’s the reason so much RTW plus sized clothing is such crap. A size 18 body is simply differently proportioned than a size 8. Patterns need to be based on different slopers.

I didn’t know at first how this was going to play out with a man’s shirt. The sewalong was really quite heavily directed towards fit (as I guess most sewalongs are), and as I learned, a *lot* of fitting was required. Ultimately, I learned that at least with the pattern, sizing is determined through chest and waist measurements (neck less so here since the camp collar is worn nearly always as an open collar shirt). And yet, according to David Page Coffin’s essential text shirtmaking, the shoulder/yoke is what is really fundamental to a man’s shirt fit.

I made some fitting changes to the pattern straight out of the envelope; I had to do what I affectionately term an FBA (here, full belly adjustment) to get enough ease through the waist. But as you can see on my first muslin (below), the XXL with the FBA, while fitting nicely in the chest/waist, was far too big in the shoulders.


















The back view shows a need for a sloped shoulder adjustment as well.

In hindsight, I might have gone back and done a smaller size, with more adjustment through the body. I began the fitting process by raising the shoulders by 3/4″. This changed the front, back and yoke pieces. It also required changes to the sleeve, since the armhole had changed size and shape. Once I worked out – on a muslinette (a non-full size muslin that stops at the chest) where the shoulder hits, I took on the sloped shoulder adjustment, which involves curving the top of the back piece to get rid of those diagonal folds of fabric around the shoulder. Which changes the armscye, which changes the sleeve cap again. Then the sleeve was too tight, and so I had to play around with the sleeve cap shape to add some extra space. And after changing up the shoulders/yoke, the body fit a bit differently. So I kept playing with the FBA (which my Vogue 1976 sewing book so endearingly calls a “bay window” adjustment… because apparently the strain caused by buttons trying to close over a tummy looks like a bay window), and added “bulging hips” adjustments to the front and back for the ‘excess flesh on top of the hips’. which changed the hemline.

The result… and the changes are, I know, subtle from the Muslin.

On the front, the shoulder seam hits higher, and there is no longer excess pooling of fabric around the shoulder. I also repositioned the buttons – as per Coffin’s suggestion – and waited until the shirt was complete to add the pockets, so that the placement is in the most flattering place for his body. And here’s the back view:

In sum, from the initial pattern I changed…

  • front piece (shoulders, armscye, two body adjustments – FBA and hips)
  • back piece (shoulders, armscye, sloped shoulder, hips)
  • yoke (shoulders)
  • sleeve (just completely re-drew it, and took out length)
  • cuffs
  • and to make a version with a collar stand (not shown), I drew a collar, collar stand, button placket and front facing

In terms of the directions, I switched up the order a little bit – holding off on the pockets until I was certain of their best placement, and did the cuffs differently; I found the results from the Colette method a little messy, while David Page Coffin’s method ensures a clean result every time.

But I think it’s a pretty good pattern, overall. You can really tell that Sarai, the designer, has a background in user experience because the booklet the pattern comes in is so nice, and thoughtfully laid out. The directions and diagrams are clear as a bell. It’s a true pleasure to work with, and I’m looking forward to diving into the Macaron.