The Struggles of Sewing a Shirt with Sewn on The Tyne
When I was offered the opportunity to work on this blog, I browsed the website to start to think of possible projects. There is an amazing range of fabrics to choose from, so the possibilities were endless! When I saw this Pigeon Wishes viscose lawn, I was immediately drawn to it. I loved the shape and the boldness of the white petals against the black background. I thought it would make a beautiful version of a recent pattern release; the I Am Patterns Irma shirt.
Irma is a dress and shirt pattern featuring a concealed button placket, shirt collar, high-low hem, back yoke and box pleat. There are two sleeve options: classic shirt sleeves or bishop sleeves. I loved the drama of the statement sleeves and I thought they’d work perfectly in my chosen fabric, so that’s the option I went for. The pattern is available in paper format in sizes 36-46 and PDF format in sizes 34-52.
When the fabric arrived, I was impressed by how soft and silky it felt. It’s described on the website as being ‘light and floaty with lots of drape’ – a perfect description! I thought it would be ideal for the big billowy sleeves of the Irma shirt.
So strap yourselves in and let’s get on to the rollercoaster that was the making of this shirt (I should pre-empt this by saying I’ve only made one shirt prior to this).
The pattern instructions start you off with constructing the button placket; this is where it started to go wrong! The instructions baffled me a little. Perhaps because I’ve never sewn a concealed button placket before. Anyway, I messaged a sewing friend (Mel @stitch_make_bake) on Instagram as she had recently made an Irma. She sent me a super useful video to explain where to topstitch, which I was so grateful for. I would definitely recommend doing the same if you get stuck on an aspect of a pattern. People in the sewing community are usually more than willing to offer help and advice.
The next few stages of the construction went really smoothly as the pattern instructions were nice and clear. I constructed the bodice and inserted the sleeves; now it was time to gather the huge bishop sleeves into the cuffs. In fairness to the pattern, the problems I had with this step were probably my doing. After gathering my first sleeve and attaching it to the cuff, I had to unpick and re-sew it several times due to catching the raw edges of the sleeve in the stitching line in various places. On the second sleeve, I hand basted the cuff on before sewing it on my machine. This meant that I could correct any little errors without all of the unpicking. I would definitely recommend doing this to save quite a lot of frustration! I’m actually surprised the pattern instructions don’t advise doing this, as I’m sure I can’t be the only one that had this problem.
So, I was on to attaching the collar. Surely this would go smoothly? Well, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that it didn’t! The instructions are quite clear for this step, but I just couldn’t get a neat finish, particularly on the rounded edge of the collar stand. My fabric choice also hindered me here I think, as it was so lightweight and started to fray quite a lot when I was unpicking. Again, I turned to the online sewing community for help and messaged an Instagram friend who is well-known for her shirt making prowess – Patsy Poo Makes. She gave me some helpful advice as well as directing me to a blog post of hers which gives step by step instructions for inserting a collar using an alternative method. This worked brilliantly first time – what a relief! I’ll definitely be returning to that blog post for all future collared makes and I would recommend you do too.
My next step was to do button holes and sew on buttons (I chose to do this at the end rather than at the beginning like the instructions said to). My machine (Brother Innovis F420) sewed the button holes like a dream and I used my Clover buttonhole chisel to cut them open. This is such a useful tool and gives a really neat finish. It always worries me when I see people using a seam ripper! I had ordered some beautiful buttons from Ethel and Joan for this shirt. Even though they would be hidden by the concealed button placket, I would still see them and I thought they worked perfectly with my fabric choice. The Rag Shop actually have lots of lovely buttons in stock, both from Ethel and Joan and Pigeon Wishes. The sewing on of the buttons caused further problems for me – I ended up unpicking and resewing them three times! I think that was just human error though – I blame sewing late in the evening when tired!
The final step was to hem the garment. I was a bit nervous about this step, as the pattern instructs you to turn over by 5mm and then 5mm again before top stitching or to finish on the overlocker before hemming. I wasn’t confident that the delicate fabric would cope with such a small hem or going through the overlocker without stretching out, so I actually decided to hem using bias binding. Laura, The Specky Seamstress, had recently launched a business selling lots of fun designs of bias tape and I had received a custom design in my Sew Hayley Jane subscription box. I thought it would add a lovely pop of colour when it peeped through. This method of finishing the hem was really satisfying to sew and gave such a neat finish. I’m really happy I went for it.
So there we have it – the rollercoaster ride of my Irma shirt. I am actually really happy with the finished garment – the fit is great and I love the shape. I’ll definitely get plenty of wear out of it. It’s also satisfying to know that I worked really hard on this make and persevered, even when I felt like giving up!
I would recommend the pattern, however if you haven’t sewn a shirt before, I would proceed with caution. The pattern instructions definitely assume some knowledge of shirt making techniques.
Thank you for reading my blog today. I hope it may have inspired you or at least reassured you that everyone makes mistakes when sewing and projects don’t always go as smoothly as Instagram might have you believe!
And finally, a big thank you to Steph for giving me the opportunity to blog for The Rag Shop.
If you enjoyed Tamlyn's blog post you can see more from her on Instagram here, or or catch her regular YouTube videos here! We love this shirt by Tamlyn and would love to see your shirt makes- tag us on Instagram @the_rag_shop so we can see! If you want to make a floaty shirt like this one we recommend using our Dotty About Dots or the Alexandra Virgina in Cerise, both would give you a soft floaty shirt like Tamlyn's! View all our Viscose fabrics here!