Ryuchiro Shimazaki – a linen shirt for The Old Man

Dear readers,

I have a long-distance/one way love affair with Japan. it all started 10 years ago, reading mangas and buying Gosu Rori magazines (fashion and sewing magazines about the Gothic Lolita). Yes…. Later, I spent 2 years studying converational Japanese with the plan to do internship in Japan. Other job opportunities came, I never went to Japan and I forgot the limited number of words that I managed to memorize. In the mean time I fell in I love Japanese sewing. What is Japanese sewing ? I don’t know, but I never encountered a Japanese/japan-based sewing blogger, pattern company, sewing instructions, pattern making book or actual Japanese fellow student at FIT that I did not find fascinating. Yes, I sound creepy… Unfortunately, the styles of the patterns rarely suit me, but I cannot help but marvel at the quality of the drafting, the clarity of the instructions and the consistency of the garments produced.

Man Linen Shirt-1

Junku in Paris and Kinokuniya in New York enabled my weakness for Japanese sewing books. Living in Midtown East in Manhattan meant that 1/ I could walk to the Garment District (which I did almost every weekend) and stop by Kinokuniya on my way back. Over the years, I have been accumulating books: the Pattern Magic serie, Drape Drape, Bunka drafting books, etc. One of them is THE shirt book by  Ryuichiro Shimazaki. For shirts, I know that to many people David Coffin’s book is the reference. I own that book too. I read it. And I dislike it soooo much. I just do. I find everything unclear, wordy and not well presented. I have no idea if Ryuchiro Shimazaki’s book is wordy, because I can’t read any word in it but what is for sure is that you can make a shirt from that book without the words. You cannot make a shirt from David Coffin’s book without the words. I realize that I’m being unfair, since it’s a book and you can be expected to read it on order to access the information…

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I would not recommend this book for your first attempt at shirt making (at least, if you don’t read Japanese), because the construction is unusual. I found that having 2 nice RTW shirts by your side and taking your time help a lot. For the pattern itself, I used model 3, with the pocket of model 11. I picked size M after measuring The Old Man’s favorite shirt and comparing with the pattern measurements. At customer’s request, I redrew the collar points to match the favorite shirt. I’m so nice. I shortened the front and back A LOT since he wants to wear it untucked. The construction relies varying seam allowances: anywhere between 1/4″ to 3/4″ depending on the seam.. To make that easier, the book recommends to create some pressing templates: pocket, sleeve head and a pressing gauge.

Man Linen Shirt-1

For an idea of how different the construction is, the front and back are hemmed first, before the side seam is sewn. It’s  confusing at first, but it works quite well. A lot of pre-pressing is required, for instance pressing the wider SA of the flat-felled seams in half before attaching tot the narrow side of the side seam. The one thing that I was totally unable to do was the hem, I could not fold and press 7mm and then refold for a final hem of 4mm. I burnt myself and I blame it on my thick European fingers! I ended up folding 1/4 twice, as for my Archers. The hem is finished at the sides with the little triangles that you often find on RTW’s shirt.

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The collar construction worked fairly well too. I still prefer to do what Nancy Ziemann call a “wrapped corner”, or described at Fashion Incubator. Meaning you sew the long edge of the collar, fold the SA towards the non-interfaced collar and sew the short edges. The seam will roll naturally on the undercollar side. The collar stand attachement to the shirt was also a little unusual and I believe that with some practice it can come out very nicely.

Man Linen Shirt-3For the cuffs, I am entirely converted to Fashion-Incubator’s attachment in one pass. It worked perfectly well since my very first try and I guess it will be hard to convince me to do it any other way now… The tower placket is 2-piece and made following the book’s instructions. I could have used Off-the-Cuff’s tutorial which may be a little less fiddly.

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The fabric is a delicious navy linen, purchased in Paris, at Sacré Coupons, during my June trip. It was picked by The Old Man himself and I remember paying 22 euros for 3 meters. Not too bad. Buttons are from stash, as well as interfacing. The only thing I am not totally happy with is the button placement. Since I had to shorten the shirt a lot compared to the pattern, I think I should have repositioned all the buttons starting at the bottom. The last one is awkwardly low. Of course, The Old Man does not care at all but it bothers me… Also, I realized after cutting that I was out of Navy thread, so I used black everywhere. David Coffin must be choking out of disgust right now! (Sorry David, I’ll do better next time!)

Man Linen Shirt-2

OK,  now we can also discuss the obvious, the good looks of The Old Man! By the way, please refrain from questioning his nickname. For the record, he IS substantially older than me and it does NOT make me feel good when people say we look like we are the same age. We are not, he just happens to have better genes… But of course, he enjoys those comments a lot so I will allow them exceptionally. This is not the first time I’ve sewn for him, I also made two pairs of pajamas/boxer shorts (all flat-felled seams and everything) and I even have pictures but I don’t want to risk breaking the Internet with all this handsomeness. I don’t think they will make it on the blog, sorry…. Now I go back to my Granville selfish sewing!

Linen dresses Part II

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Ok, so now that I confessed that I let The Old Man design one dress and that I realized that I’m not the only one after reading your comments on my last post, I can go further in my confessions. In addition to cooking for me, cleaning my wounds (a not-so-funny story in the streets of Port-au-Prince) and driving me around, The Old Man keeps a Pinterest board of LADIES outfits, for me. Yep. I said it.

I know…. Now, let’s move on to the dress. This is the second linen dress on which I worked with The Old Man. The selected inspiration dress was an Asos ponte knit number. Try to explain that ponte and linen do not behave in the same way and you will get a blank stare back at you… So I decided to keep the technical challenges for myself and try to make it work in a Tim Gunn’s manner!

Inspiration picture

 

As it is extremely difficult to show the seamlines in the pictures, I hope you will get a closer idea in the dressform shots and the inside-outs. As for my previous linen number, I used my now TNT sheath dress pattern Lekala 5166. This time I kept the center back shaping. I made the dress longer (OBVIOUSLY) and tapered the seam at the hem up to 1″ on the front and back side seams. In total that represents 4″ less in the knee area so adding a back vent was mandatory if I intended to do more than standing straight in that dress. I created the underbust seam and I closed that section at the princess seam to just keep a pleat under the bust. My other modification for the front was to extend the bottom of the side dart into a pocket. For some reason I find these type of pockets visually interesting as well as practical. If you remember I already used it in my Reiss inspired coat last year. So instead of a 1 piece front you get a front and a side panel that acts also as the pocket bag.

After the pattern work, the construction was fairly simple :

  • the upper front pieces  sewn at center front on the SA
  • on the main front a attached the pocket facing and then added the side panel and then attached to the rest of front,
  • Attach the upper front and the front together
  • Sew the back darts
  • Join front and back at shoulder seams, do the same for the front self lining and back facing
  • Insert the invisible zipper (still with the Fashion-Incubator technique), sew the center back seam (and the vent)
  • Attach the facing all around the neckline and armholes. Turn out the whole thing like a sock. I hope you are all familiar with the all-in-one facing technique. If not, I think Salme patterns did a good job at illustrating the concept.
  • Sew the side seams in 1 step, from hem to facings
  • hem, topstitch the vent and done!

You can see that I left some of the process regarding seam finishes out. I mostly used seam binding as you can see on the inside out post!

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I really like this dress and I wear it quite often even though it is a bit formal for the everyday look at my work place. Thus, it’s great for these I-have-a-meeting type of days. However the décolleté is a bit on the osé (bold?)  side…

Overall it was a great experience and I officially awarded TOM with a special advisory title on my sewing. I know it’s been a while since my last post, but in the mean time I’ve been to NY (brought fabric that you will see very soon), to Guatemala, sewed 2 pencil skirts, currently looking at relaxed wide linen pants and worked on a special project that you should be able to enjoy soon if things go according to plan. Yes, I’ve been busy…

My last word are on press cloth, I will admit to be a wild presser. I press everything heavily and I try to pretend that I don’t see the shiny marks that I am creating… But to be honest it’s bothering me more and more. Recently I read this post on Sunny Gal Studio’s blog and I think it’s time. Time to stop being lazy and start using a press cloth! In my 14 years of sewing, I had to fight my laziness many times : stop ignoring that you have to “set in” a sleeve, stop cutting double layer for silk, stop thinking it’s ok not to finish seams, etc…. Overall this is how my sewing improves, gradually and in steps. BUT I know very little about press cloth. Do I need more than one ? Is a piece of muslin ok ? Does it depend on fabric ? I will have to do some research…

What is your favorite source of information when it comes to press cloths ? And I would love to hear what was the latest step you took to take your sewing to the next level!

 

 

Linen dresses part I

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OK I know I announced a lot of posts, or at least weekly ones, but of course life/work got in the way. I’m currently enjoying freezing in the streets of NYC for a quick 5 days and then I will be off to Guatemala. I made this dress before the end of 2013, and it is sort of an experiment than could be entitled “what happens when you let your boyfriend design your dress?”.

First of all, I have to say that he is very interested in women dressing. Like we shop together, for real. He does not wait around the entrance looking like he’s trying to escape. He selects clothes on the rack, wait around the dressing rooms, gives his opinion about fit and quality of material, etc. I’ve never been so much of a group shopper but for some reason it works well and generally if I follow his advice I get a lot of compliments by strangers later… So ok I give in, a guy may have better taste than me to dress me… After doing a closet clean-out due to some weight loss and style evolutions, I talked him into defining a dress he would like to see me in.

Overall no big surprises : it’s short, it’s fitted and in a solid color… Men… He also made the specific requirement that it should be linen (and navy). Which is good because it’s the only natural fiber readily available in Haiti (at high cost though).

For the pattern I used the made to measure lekala 5166 that I used for my little 90’s dress. I altered the pattern to make a sleeveless dress (bring the underarm seam up and in), removed the back seam and its shaping so it’s a bit more loose in the waist, raise the neck line and create a placket opening, and finally lengthen it  a little. I’m sticking to my strategy of working based on Lekala patterns, and it has been very rewarding so far!

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Construction was fairly simple, I finished the seams with french seams and the front placket unbuttons down to the waist so no need for other closures. I fused the placket pieces and the opening on the dress. Unfortunately I only had white interfacing but it’s on the inside so it does not bother me too much. Since I made that dress well over 3 months ago, it got a lot of wear already. Comfortable + flattering + easy to wash = heavy rotation!!

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Overall the experiment was a total success so we tried a second time. I already have the pictures of that second (linen… again…) dress and should be able to post it soon! What about you ? Have you ever let someone else decide on all the aspects of a garment you were going to sew for yourself? Is your partner a good source of advice for clothing or does he run away when you say you are looking for constructive criticism ?