Shirt Story. Chapter 1


Chapter 1: Love Is Blind and So Are My Sewing Choices

It is a truth universally acknowledged that despite obstacles such as relative inexperience, a sewist is both naturally and preternaturally drawn to the challenge of making a shirt. Relative inexperience, however, can be a mighty foe. So stick around, at least for laughs.

I was neither planning on diving into shirt sewing soon nor on buying another Japanese sewing book. And yet here we are and I’ll tell you all about it.

A while ago I talked about some patterns I do have but would probably need to adapt or patterns I don’t have but am also not that eager to buy. The art of putting things off indefinitely — I thought I had mastered it.

But then I went to JoAnn Fabrics with a friend and picked up a Japanese sewing book from the shelf to show my friend the diagrams and the photography… and that was it. The book was She Wears the PantsI dare you to resist those patterns.

Here are the instruments of my undoing:




Japanese sewing book: sparse instructions, small range of, well, small sizes. What was I thinking?

That’s a great question. There’s a laundry list of reasons why I shouldn’t have gotten the book. Let’s see… I’m lazy about tracing patterns; I feel even more lazy at the thought of having to add seam allowances to a pattern all by myself; size-wise I’m at the large end of the spectrum that those Japanese pattern books offer, so if anything needs embiggening I’m on my own; oh, and I’m not a very experienced sewist now, am I?

Whether it was love or insanity you decide for yourself, dear readers. But allow this visual aid to suggest the answer:


That’s one of the three pattern sheets included with the book. And it did indeed almost break me. I don’t know how there are three sheets because I swear all the patterns seem to be crowded onto this one, and on the same page of it. If I found the tippets to be mildly intriguing while looking at the photos, I was cursing each and every element of the four of them while desperately searching for my shirt pieces.

Veteran Burda Magazine sewists might be chuckling right now. There are, after all, only three sizes per pattern here (yes, if you were looking for a tracing advantage married to a sizing drawback, there you go). That doesn’t make things easy because everything’s outlined in the same color (dark green). Hunting for all the elements of the patterns I was trying to trace would have driven me nuts if I wasn’t nuts to begin with, so I guess now you know all you should know.

But, really, it seems to me that so far the pattern sheets are the major disadvantage of an otherwise compelling book. Yes, the instructions are sparse, but the diagrams are clear and beautifully drawn.

To give you a taste of things to come: I’m now in the midst of muslining No. 18, “The Dotted Blouse.” I did indeed put myself through two rounds of pattern tracing — because I didn’t trust myself to add seam allowances on the fly. A more seasoned sewist could have easily skipped that second round.

Here’s where it really gets more interesting: concurrently, I decided to make a muslin for a McCall’s pattern, 7387 view A. All I’m willing to say for now is that the results so far are amusing.





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I write about sewing, knitting, and may sometimes be tempted to talk about books.

2 thoughts on “Shirt Story. Chapter 1”

  1. Those books are beautiful, I see the attraction, I feel the attraction even, but holy moly all those overlapping lines!
    Sewing time is limited by attention span as much as by the actual physical time available, I find. I’d be more inclined to walk the book over to the pattern table and find the closest Big 4 version to approximate. Avoid tracing all together. Arg. But I totally do see the attraction. Gorgeous styling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, tracing… I have a strange fear of cutting into pattern tissue and risking cutting out a size that is too small. PDFs are my optimal medium, even with all the printing, cutting, and taping involved because I get to keep all the sizes to cut out again.

      With these two shirt patterns I think I was in a bit of a trance. I toiled over tracing this mind-boggling puzzle, then I retraced the pieces to add seam allowances, and I didn’t even shed a tear. I have no clue how I achieved that. We’ll see how the muslins go. The one for the “dotted blouse” seems okay so far, with some minor tweaks.


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