Like many people with curves, I struggle to find button-down shirts that work for my body. If the placket doesn’t gape then it’s a shapeless sack. If it has any shape then the placket gapes.
“Finally, the answer to your prayers: a fitted button-down shirt that doesn’t gape over curves! The Harrison Shirt is designed with double princess seams for a uniquely curve-friendly fit and all the features of a classic shirt, including a two-piece collar, yoke, and placket, separate button bands, and buttoned cuffs. “
I was thrilled to make it to round 3 of the Pattern Review 2021 Sewing Bee and this shirt was my entry. The challenge was to make a garment in a print fabric and have the fabric pattern match across seamlines – to make it look ‘seamless.’ This pattern was not the best choice for this challenge because the double princess seams over the bust are basically impossible to pattern match (or I don’t yet have those skills). Ultimately, I went with this pattern because I wanted this shirt in my wardrobe and I have vowed to only spend time sewing things I will actually wear on a regular basis.
The fabric I used is “Cotton Viscose Fabric Cashmere Blue Ivy Gingham’ from JoAnn. Fabric content is 60% cotton/40% viscose. It’s very soft and drapes really nicely. It also stretches just a bit on the cross grain. That wee bit of stretching meant a lot of pin basting, machine basting, hand basting and some Wonder Tape to align the fabric print over seams.
Before cutting into my fabric I did a quick toile. YES! I DID! I marked the grain lines and everything!
When I entered my measurements into Cashmerette’s website it was suggested that I sew a 14 G/H with a 2″ FBA, 18 waist and 16 hip. For the toile I went the lazy route and cut a straight 18. The thought of an FBA just was so unappealing. After messing around a bit with the toile, I settled on a 16 G/H with slight grading to an 18 for the waist and hip. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have more room over the hips if I’m going to always wear this over jeans or trousers.
Sleeve sizing: The sleeves don’t have a lot of ease below the elbows. My arms are not inordinately large – they are average sized. I would suggest anyone making this measure the sleeve width before cutting the fabric. Next time I use this pattern I will add 1/2″ ease between the elbow and the cuff.
Honestly, I don’t have much experience matching patterns. I knew that everyone else in this round of the Sewing Bee would be doing far more complicated projects (one entrant made a lined jacket, lined skirt, blouse and scarf in a WEEK – and it’s perfection) so I decided to focus on doing a very good job of practicing pattern matching on a relatively simple garment instead of trying to compete with those who sew at an advanced level. My goal was to match the main horizontal line around the bodice. There were a total of 11 seams to match around the bodice, then I also worked to have the sleeves match at the same point. The horizontal line I chose was at my waist.
First, I penciled in all of the seam allowances on the pattern pieces so I could fold them back and see where seams would intersect. I used Frixion pens to mark the fabric design. A couple of pieces were impossible to match because there were no markings (the sleeve plackets). There were also no markings on the sleeves so I did not cut those until after the bodice was completely assembled and then I marked the pattern tissue and cut.
I had one piece in the back that I was never able to align properly so it’s totally wacky at the yoke BUT it matches on the horizontal at the middle!
Once everything is cut out and interfaced, this is a very straightforward pattern. Things that seemed complicated, like doing the button band, would be easy if it was not for the print.
Only one section was very confusing and that was the two piece sleeve placket. In the end, the pieces went in well and it’s very nice looking but I think the instructions could be a bit clearer (or perhaps more detailed).
The methods to attach the cuffs and button bands are very good. For the button bands, the shirt is hemmed first, then the button band is added. So if your finished hem is not precisely 3/4″, you can make the button band the length you need. The collar goes on next and, again, things fit together really nicely. It probably helped that I was being so careful to matching everything but if that’s what attention gets you then I guess I should be sew without distractions more often!
For the buttons, I used Prym self-covered button kits. I used 1/2″ covered buttons and matched the fabric to the button placket as best I could. Lesson learned: the shank portion has to be aligned perfectly with your fabric print if you want to easily match button to button band. I knew I should have bought more button kits than I needed!
For the first time since about the year 2000, I have a button down shirt that fits well! I give a lot of credit to the crew at Cashmerette for designing a great pattern.
In looking at the gallery contest entries for the Sewing Bee I know that I won’t be moving forward and that’s okay because I am really excited to put this shirt into rotation in my wardrobe.
Sewing as an activity in my life right now …
In the last couple of months I have had a lot of success with my sewing. It’s a stupid and clichéd understatement to say that this is a ‘stressful time.’ Although I am ‘okay’, there is massive uncertainty and I would be lying if I said that there aren’t worries that keep pushing their way to the front of my mind.
One of my ways of dealing with stress is to be very present and focus on the task at hand. My earliest memory of this coping mechanism is of when I was 6 and I bonked my head very hard on a porcelain water fountain. While I waited in the classroom for a parent to pick me up, I worked on a colouring book. I recall focusing VERY hard on staying within the lines – and that kept me from freaking out over the massive goose egg that was growing on my forehead. These days I am focusing very hard on whatever it is I’m doing. It’s helping me to get through this time until we get the all clear, and also helping my sewing!