Unselfish Sewing + Dude Sewing: Simplicity 8427 Men’s Shirt Pattern Review

FACT: I am a selfish seamstress.

I hate sewing for other people. I love being able to pick and choose where to cut corners, where to fudge things, what details to add or omit, and all that. When I sew for someone else, I feel obligated to sew in a textbook fashion, lest they think the item is too obviously homemade. Also: too much pressure.

Still, since I’ve had a bit more sewing time (shockingly to me, having a baby eats up less free time than a long-ass commute), I’ve found it in my cold, dead heart to make a couple of things for others. And I literally mean a couple — just a sleepsack for JuJu (unblogged and unworn at this point), and this shirt for my husband. Oh wait, and a couple of pairs of boxers, but those are so easy that I’ve already forgotten about them.

Another reason why I hate unselfish sewing? Because other people always want details or features that are actually a huge pain in the ass, and they have no way of knowing this when they make the request. They’re not actually trying to torture you, it just kind of turns out that way. For me, men’s shirts epitomize this. Oh, you want me to whip you up a quick garment with a bunch of pieces, fiddly details AND a need for exactitude and perfection in order to look good? Sure thing.

I decided to switch from McCall’s 6613, which is a little boxy, to Simplicity 8427 on a whim, and it was the right decision! (Anecdote: I hate unselfish sewing so much that I made a version of 6613 for my husband YEARS ago — like, before we were married — and I still haven’t sewn the buttons on to give it to him!) Thankfully, this pattern solves my shirt problems and I’m in love!

I am not one to fangirl, but Mimi G has been hitting it out of the park for me lately!

Note 1: This version is kind of a wearable muslin, since the fabric is not ideal shirt fabric — quilting cotton, and not super high-quality at that — so I’m going to focus on the pattern here instead.

Not the most wearable, but definitely the foxiest fabric around!

Note 2: Part of this being “selfless” involves me not even hinting to the recipient that I would want to take a modeled photo. So you’re stuck with me instead, because I have no shame.

Here’s the quick and dirty: this is a men’s shirt pattern that turns out a quality shirt while using modern methods to make the process easier and more fun. There might be other patterns out there like this, but it was new to me to see these methods included as the main instructions in a Big 4 pattern. What am I talking about?

  1. Yoke constructed using the burrito method (which I have never been able to really *get* from tutorials before this)
  2. Sleeves set in the flat
  3. Buttonholes marked on separate pattern piece to be marked after construction
  4. Self-fabric facing and interfacing for the front button/buttonhole zones — simple as fold and fold!
  5. Itty bitty loops that don’t require turning (loop-turning is my current nemesis)
  6. Minimal hand-stitching and mostly optional top-stitching

The first loop I’ve made in months that didn’t make me swear!

There’s nothing revolutionary here, but put together, it made for an awesome sewing experience. So much of the fiddliness was taken out! There was also a tower placket that came together relatively easily. I’ve never done a tower placket before, so I can’t compare if the method was typical or streamlined in any way. But the fact that I made it correctly (and pretty damn neatly) on the first try is a good sign!

Loving the placket — even if he usually cuffs his shirts.

And while fit is personal and YMMV, I cut a straight size and it fits my husband much better than I hoped. I was worried it would be too form-fitting and that the sleeves would be too wide and long, but nope! It’s a really nice fit. (My above-average-height husband typically wears a shirt size small because he’s super lean, and I cut a straight 38.)

The only thing I might change is to add collar buttonholes to make this a true “button-down” shirt. Most of my husband’s favorite shirts have this feature, and it goes an extra step to keep things from looking homemade. Also, I might consider adding a sleeve tab if I made this in a casual fabric that was yarn-dyed instead of printed.

Totally goes with the vest I made him! He looks way better in this than I do…

Bottom line? I totally recommend this pattern. If you loathe sewing men’s shirts, but feel bad that you never make anything for a dude in your life (or you are a dude in your life or just like this style), consider trying this one. Yes, you’ll spend a bunch of time cutting out a million pattern pieces compared to making a cute something for yourself, but because this is well-drafted and the instructions are clear, you might be surprised at enjoyable it can be.

Welcome to… someone else’s closet, my Foxy Fabric Selfless Shirt!

Obligatory Me Made May Reflection Post: 2018 Edition

Phew! We did it! Whether you made a pledge or not, we’re all Me Made May 2018 survivors!

Me Made May is about cultivating thoughtfulness and reflection on our wardrobes and sewing choices, and that’s really my favorite aspect of it. Each of the last three years has been wildly different for me, and brought up different challenges: office-appropriate makes, maternity makes, and now full-time-mom style.

I pledged to attempt 100% me-made garments (excluding pjs and underthings), but promised myself I’d go easy and let myself cheat as much as needed. It was surprisingly simple to go nearly 100% me-made, but a few early cheats (before the jeans were finished) really helped me keep my momentum going. I didn’t feel trapped by too many dressy garments, and I just wore what I wanted on most days.

Takeaway: Cheating is good. I wholeheartedly endorse participating with cheating (on your pledge) rather than eschewing the whole thing out of fear (not enough garments, clothes aren’t gram-worthy, etc).

I did end up wearing more dresses and skirts than I normally would. Naturally, jeans and stretchy pants are easier, but dresses were surprisingly not that hard. I loved wearing my basic black M6886 dress (with modified hem and sleeves), and could totally see that being my uniform once I’m done nursing. I did end up changing into pants at some point in most days, usually for our evening park trips. I don’t need to be flashing my neighbors while rolling around and playing with JuJu.

Takeaway: I can wear more skirts and dresses in my everyday life. Also, wearing a couple of different outfits each day is kind of fun, and another way to keep rotating in my favorite me-made garments more often.

I also found myself reaching for some surprising garments pretty often. I wore my brocade coat almost every weekend for bleary-eyed Sunday morning coffee runs. I loved wearing super comfy sweatshirts and leggings with my fancy jacket, and it put a spring in my step. I also wore my new Butterick caftan tee a few times (plus as pjs). I never would’ve guessed that I’d wear a shirt as both daywear and nightwear, but it was a delicious treat to roll around in, essentially, pajamas.

Takeaway: I dunno. Make all the fancy jackets? Make all the pj tops? How about this: make what you moves you, and let your wardrobe surprise you. Sometimes having all your outfits planned and perfect doesn’t leave enough room for surprise favorites.

Like in previous years, the optional “sharing selfies on Instagram” part of the month — which I really enjoy — hammers home that most sewers on Insta are using indie patterns. Like, I could scroll through dozens of posts before coming across a Big 4 project. While it doesn’t feel isolating or anything, it’s always a quirk that gets amplified so much in May that it’s impossible to ignore. I’ve foregone indie patterns for the most part because I have zero problems with Big 4, but I’m wondering if it’s time to branch out a bit. I don’t want to do something just because the cool kids are doing it, but I’m curious as to whether, as a Big 4 fan, I’d find the features other sewers rave about to be noticeable or worthwhile.

Takeaway: If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, maybe see what’s down there.

Instead of trying to sew anything to fill holes (besides the yet-to-be-posted 8222 jeans, which were a last-minute whim anyway), I focused on mending and refashioning. It wasn’t the most fun sewing — starting from scratch is always the most exciting to me! — but it was still satisfying trying to find ways to give old garments new life. Some attempts were busts, and that’s fine — I feel better giving a garment a second (or third) try before giving up on it and sending it to the scrap pile. Also, wearing some older makes helped me look at them with fresh eyes, and a few unexpected garments are now in the “refashion” section of the closet. I hope to continue with this exercise next year, and have May become a “Make Do and Mend” month for me.’

Takeaway: It’s pretty satisfying to put some love into your wardrobe. It’s not as much fun as creating, but it’s a key part of having a handmade wardrobe that really functions.

This year, rather than big takeaways, the whole experience for me was more about having fun and celebrating the sewing community. Wearing 31 days of me-made was not a challenge, and it didn’t feel much different than other months. It was fun to encourage myself to wear different garments instead of my regular defaults, and I do love ending up with a photo record of my wardrobe that updates from year to year.

All in all, a great experience, and I’m definitely “in” for next year already!

Crown Jewels Dress: Butterick 5850 Pattern Review

Oy, this dress, you guys.

When the Royal Wedding Sewalong was announced, I thought it would be totally fun to participate. I had been sewing a ton, and tossing a fun project in the queue, even if I didn’t need a party dress, wouldn’t be a problem. Then I spent half of April torturing myself sewing this dress, only to realize at the end that I’d made a lot (like, a lot a lot) of stupid mistakes. This dress is so lucky it turned out cute, because I was ready to chuck it out the window a number of times.

I’m just going to put it out there: I hate sewing grown-on/shawl collars. I need to not do it for, like, at least another year. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but they never come out crisp and clean for me. They come out kind of sloppy and forced and ugly on the inside. (That’s the nickname for this dress: Ugly on the Inside.)

Because I went into this project all gung-ho, I ended up making three muslins of the bodice. Three. You guys. The funny part is that the joke’s on me. I ended up making a bunch of edits and unneccessary tweaking because I didn’t fully read the instructions. And after having a lovely time marking up my muslin with Crayola washable marker (not joking, it really was fun), I totally disregarded some important marks and didn’t fit the damn thing(s) properly at all. I ignored the directions regarding gathering part of the bodice and just hacked the pieces down because I thought they were too big.

Then, when I went to sew the final garment, it was too small to sew as intended because sometimes I am SO SO DUMB. It sort of works, but there really should be more overlap between the two bodice fronts. I mostly lost the high front neckline, and ended up with a much lower front v-neckline. It’s not bad at all, just not intentional. If I had just made the dress like usual, without muslining, it probably would’ve fit reasonably well. Alas, no.

Sidenote: I seriously debated being all, “I made a bunch of intentional edits because I’m awesome,” but I just can’t. There’s enough smugness on the internet without me pretending I have skills I really don’t. So embarrassing honesty it is.

This is more like what it *should* look like….

There were some edits that were valuable that didn’t totally jack up the fit, so that’s a plus. I slashed out some fullness across the back, which I should always do. That was an easy adjustment to make on the pattern and resulted in a smoother fit across the shoulders. I also cut in the shoulders a bit. I’d read a few reviews that note the finished dress doesn’t have the cut-in shoulders that the cover illustrations show, and I’m happy with that update. In all honesty, I’m really, really trying not to have my takeaway on this project be “don’t muslin, ever,” but it’ll be awhile before the sting goes away. (The real lesson is: don’t sew like a damn idiot, Self.)

Another update includes lining the skirt because my fashion fabric is pretty thin, but I didn’t think through the process. So instead of having a lovely clean finish inside, I have double the mess because I made a lined bodice and lined skirt, and then put them together. (Shaking my head.)

Okay, now that I have all that off my chest, there’s actually a lot to like here.

Aww, I really like this dress in spite of everything!

I love my fabric. It’s just polyester, but the colors are so vibrant and the print is a blast. So blingy! It’s walking the edge of “super tacky and cheesy” and “mildly ironic but in a refreshingly earnest way.” So happy I have more of this fabric, so I can make a cute everyday blouse and/or a slinky nightgown and robe. I’m also thinking it might make a fun lining for a coat project I’m planning for the fall.

Love this fabric, and that pattern placement on the back is totally intentional. For once.

I love that this fabric is lightweight, which ended up working really well for this skirt. The skirt is enormous! Huge! Tremendous! It’s four panels wide, and I can’t imagine gathering that much yardage in a fabric like shantung, which is what I would’ve picked if I didn’t have this fabric in the stash. It’s wonderfully floaty and light and swishy to wear, with the lining (a silky poly-ish of unknown origin) providing some extra body.

I did cut the lining down by half after seeing how much bulk the full gathered skirt had. Thank goodness! My lining would barely gather up in the halved size — I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I’d tried to gather the full four panels together!

I also love the length — long enough to seem a bit formal, but short enough to be playful. It’s just right for me, but of course, it all depends on your height.

Okay, some final notes if you’re interested in making this dress:

  1. If you muslin, make sure to gather at the bottom of the bodice (as clearly laid out in the instructions).
  2. Make sure your fabric can be gathered a lot. While stiff fabric will give you a lovely shape in the skirt, you’ll end up with a bulkier waistline. If you’re fine with that, go for it!
  3. Consider altering the shoulders to be a bit more cut-in if you love the envelope cover.
  4. Consider doubling up on the tie bow (instead of edge finishing both humongous pieces with a narrow hem). I cut double the number of pieces so I could just sew them right sides together, turn the whole shebang, and be done with it, and also so that the fabric underside wouldn’t show. If you have enough fabric, I’d recommend this option.
  5. Also on the ties, consider adding some interfacing or fabric with more body. My bow is really floppy and it kind of takes away from the whole look.

On the whole, this is a really wearable dress. It offers coverage without being boring. The faux wrap front with a side zipper lets you move freely without worrying about moving parts. I just didn’t enjoy making it nearly as much as I enjoyed wearing it.

So, welcome to the closet, my Gem of a Party Dress!