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So! Today one of my online sewing groups is finishing up a shirtmaking module as helmed by David Page Coffin, shirtmaker extraordinaire and author of two shirt construction books (here, and here). I finished my version of a menswear shirt several days ago, and yesterday took a few pictures (OK more like a dozen). I also wanted to drop a few plaid-sewing tips here as I find myself more and more excited about working with plaids; you can read a bit more about the pattern in my pattern review.
So: my husband is tall – 6’1″, with an athletic lower body from running (read: booty and calves for dayyyyyys, damn son!), a long torso, a muscular neck, and longer arms. Shirts from the shop don’t fit: they don’t feel long enough to him, and the sleeves are always too short so he simply rolls them up. In this shirt – a Bootstrap Vado made-to-measure draft, which I’ve reviewed here – he was very happy and told me it was “the perfect fit”!
So it looks like I’ve found a great tried-and-true for the good man!
So now – let’s talk plaids!
As you may remember from my plaid shirt sew-along, I generally do not cut on the fold, as this can impede plaid accuracy. I also favor cutting every single design element, except for the main body pieces, on the bias! I know that sounds a bit intense, but it is my personal preference. For this particular garment, however, I elected to keep more design elements on the straight-of-grain – starting here, with cuffs:
Plaid shirting will likely not yield a perfect plaid line-up, for the very fact you often insert gathers or pleats in the shirt (more on this later). We can, however, line up the plaid for the front part of the cuff (that is more visible) as well as line up the vertical aspect of the plaid – the latter is all the more important for large-scale plaids. Shown here, I am measuring and cutting for just those two effects (and after I snapped this photo, I moved the pattern piece over a bit too account for seam allowance)!
I also cut the yokes, collar, collar stand, and on the straight of grain. I first attempted a bias-cut yoke (like in the car coat I made my son), but this effect did not look good on this plaid. So in that case, given you often have a pleat or two in the back body, it is a judgement call how to line up the plaids (here is the back yoke lineup on a coat I made earlier this winter). Given my straight-of-grain yoke, here is the end effect for this shirt, where you can see the lineup in the center part of the back, and observe the pleat at far left:
The collar and stand: rather than cut on the fold, straighten the grain (if your plaid tears easily, all the better!), block-fuse, and cut the entirety in one piece, for the most symmetry. Remember, you may be able to create a perfectly symmetrical collar by halving the collar piece. I elected to keep it whole:
Now is as good a time as any to discuss my contrast fabric: for the inner yoke and the inner collar stand, I used a very fine plaid homespun-style shirting in a similar colorway. The plaid was bold enough I didn’t want to add a lot of intensity in the contrast. Shown below: the inner collarstand (hand-finished), the inner yoke, and my label:
Observe the on-grain perfection! No small feat for these very fiddly soft shirtings, which did not have a crisp hand or firm grain.
Plackets: I favor either bias-cut plackets (interfaced first), or contrast plackets. You can make sure the left and right plackets match – with the plaid’s symmetrical ability to do so – or just cut them on the bias and not worry about it:
Let’s talk about pockets. Now, I’ve mentioned before I enjoy putting pockets on the bias. It is fast, it looks gorgeous, and it saves time. Obviously I am capable of matching pockets, too. For this shirt, I made bias pockets which means: I interfaced them first. If you have an especially fiddly or lightweight shirt, you may want to use a stabilizer (sticky or pinned) to sew them evenly to the shirt front:
You can use a cardboard template for your pocket shaping; I rarely find I need one. You can fell-stitch the pocket if you want a tailored look; I simply edge-stitched at 1/8″.
And, with the cuffs, let’s talk finishing and be all done!
Observe, first: the outside of the cuff above. As you can see, the plaid lines up horizontally until we have our first pleat.
Now, for the inside of the cuff. Hand-finishing means you can’t see any stitching whatsoever. I hand-finish the inner collarstand and cuffs.
And one of my favorite aspects to plaids: the plaid helps you align buttonholes. Shown below, the cuff:
And below, the front placket. It is very hard to see the topstitching that finishes the (interfaced) front placket: I design it so the topstitching is near-invisible from the right-side:
So there you have it! If you have any questions, please do post them in the comments, email, or ask on Facebook!
And on this note, I’ve taken this opportunity to tidy up my own flannel shirt sew-along, which probably has more detailed photos than any other menswear shirt sew-along out there (more than two hundred). Even now, participants are adding shirts to the group! I appreciate this – and I really appreciate those that find little errata in my posts, and let me know so I can fix them.
I am ordering this pattern straight away (well, as soon as I remeasure my giant man.) he is 6’5 and slender and I haven’t been able to get the shoulder slope right with the jalie pattern, maybe this will be the trick! Thanks!
The made-to-measure patterns at Bootstrap have never let me down. Good luck!