Things have been a little heavy around here lately, what with the depression, the diabetes and the rest of the “motherhood is not a bundle of laughs” posts. I have some more instalments planned for the series, but I wanted to break things up a little: with this in mind, here’s the first sewing project I’ve managed to complete since my fractured foot healed enough to allow me to operate the foot pedal on my sewing machine.
Last week, Eoin’s nursery held an “Eco Week” in which they thought a lot about different ways they could reduce, reuse and recycle, culminating in a fashion show featuring outfits made from recycled materials. Predictably, some parents had amazing skills with cardboard and glue: one dad even fabricated a giant, 3D Thomas the Tank Engine costume for his son out of old boxes. I, unfortunately, am utterly ham-fisted when it comes to this sort of thing. There was only one possible course of action: root through my scraps, offcuts and odd buttons, and see if I can make anything wearable out of them. Eoin, as you might imagine, helped vigorously, frequently by picking out an impractically small remnant and asking me to make an entire garment out of it. Eventually, though, we managed to come up with a pile of material which was both usable for me and, crucially, Eoin-approved. I toyed with the idea of buying a new pattern for the purpose, but, in the spirit of recycling, I ended up pulling out my copy of Heather Ross’s Weekend Sewing, and tracing off the pattern for Kai’s Shirt.
I’d like to begin by noting that the book really is lovely to look at: I initially bought it for the lovely picture of the Yard Sale skirt on the cover, and I spent a great deal of time drooling over such eye-candy as the adorable mint-green Singer Featherweight which appears in many of the internal illustrations. The patterns cover a good range, from garments for both children and adults to a number of different accessories. I was, however, aware that reviews of the book had been mixed, and many readers had had issues with sizing, instructions, and the making-up process. As more of a newbie, I had let this put me off trying any of the patterns, but, this time, I considered myself up to the challenge. It’s a simple-enough pattern, and the cutting was straightforward. As you can see from the picture above, I even attempted a bit of a hack on the back of the shirt and pieced it together from three fabrics. Things were going so well. There were flat-felled seams: it was beautiful. The shirt itself is pretty boxy, but it began by going together easily enough. Later on, though, I ran into some issues: the sleeves sit somewhat awkwardly in the armscyes, and the collar was, bluntly, a beast to assemble. Admittedly, I haven’t made a collared shirt before, but it seemed to me that the length of the collar itself did not match up to the dimensions of the neck opening. I ended up having to fudge the back of the neck quite badly: there are some pleats on the inside of the collar from where I just couldn’t make the fit work any better (you can see them in the picture on the left if you embiggen it). Judging by the reviews, I’m not the only person to have had these issue, and I have to admit I’d be reluctant to make the shirt up again for a more formal occasion. It was fine for my purposes, though, and it’s certain that using a neglected pattern from my stash was much more in the spirit of the exercise than buying a new, potentially better-fitting pattern would have been.
While I may not have been blown away by the pattern itself, I’m really rather pleased with the way the shirt as a whole worked out. Together, Eoin and I managed to come up a reasonably decent colour scheme, and, although the whole thing does somewhat resemble a Shite Shirt, I don’t think it’s overly crazy. You may recognise the brown polka-dot fabric on the back yoke from my Simplicity 2226 skirt, and the blue dot on the collar from the central piece of my Quilt That Almost Wasn’t. The sleeves are from a scrap of Ikea cotton (it’s the Cecilia print, which is, unfortunately, discontinued), and the main body panels are, variously, a pin-print fat quarter from Busy Bee Fabrics (blogged here) and the leftovers of a tape measure design which I had previously used for a cushion cover.
Eoin spent a great deal of time poring over the contents of my button jars (a certain amount of pouring went on in addition to the poring, as I’m sure you can imagine). After we had cleared up the mess, and I had retrieved some of my more precious buttons from Eoin’s pockets, we had a set of seven buttons in a rainbow of colours. Aside from simply being cheerful, this fits well with the nursery’s theme for the term, in which each week is dedicated to a particular colour (eco-week, naturally, was green). Given half a chance, Eoin would probably have covered the shirt with bias binding, zips and pom poms in addition to the buttons, but I cherished a fond hope that he might wear it again after the fashion show, and, with that in mind, tried to urge him to be moderate in this respect.
After a somewhat fraught couple of evenings spent wrestling with the collar and facings, the shirt was finished in time for Eoin’s fashion show, and he wore it proudly in among the tinfoil robots, bubble-wrap fairies, and cardboard box tank engines. I may not be able to make a convincing costume out of papier-mâché, but I hope I managed to come up with something reasonably cute. The wearer, naturally, is adorable.