Pete and Repeat

Or, Perkins and Reperkins. I binge sewed the Ensemble Patterns Perkins shirt this past summer and I’m finally catching up here! I sew a lot of pattern repeats, but this shirt showcased one of the wider varieties of fabrics I’ve used to sew one pattern, and I hoped it might be interesting to compare the finished projects. My first post showed the cropped, gathered view in breezy semi-sheer polyester. Here’s that same view in lightweight but opaque 100% cotton.


Okay, you caught me – this is 10% a thoughtful comparison of one pattern in many fabrics and 90% me saying LOOK AT THAT PRINT!! Like my first Perkins, I sewed this in a fabric I bought from TMOS. I am KICKING myself that I didn’t buy more. I bought 1.5 meters for the princely sum of $5.47 and if I could ever find it again (impossible, at a guess) I would buy 3 or 4 meters more.  


That’s some aggressive fruit! ❤ Fear meee!

I actually got this Perkins from the leftovers of my 1.5 meters after making a tee, so when using stable fabrics where print direction doesn’t matter, I think you can really cut the pattern pieces any which way and be successful. The only pieces that aren’t backed or lined in some way are the shirt front and back – the plackets, collar and collar stand, yoke, pocket, and sleeves all have added support/structure.

The pocket placement might seem too low on the cropped view. Hold fast. It’s not too low. It’s just right. I doubted and was justly smote (by having to unpick and re-sew the pocket where the markings indicate; I’ve been smote-er).


I used cotton lawn to line the sleeves of this and the next Perkins, and I used the lawn instead of interfacing as well. I’m of two minds about this. On the ‘pro’ side, I was able to cut the cotton lawn very efficiently with nothing leftover for my scrap box. Also, it’s never going to get that wrinkly surface that interfaced pieces sometimes develop after going through the wash a few times. On the ‘con’ side, unless you baste it to your pattern pieces (I didn’t), it’s a pain in a neck to actually sew. The solution (baste it!! Obviously, baste it!) didn’t occur to me at the time. I also managed to stack my collar pieces wrong, which is how my lawn ‘interfacing’ ended up as my undercollar –


Who knows what terrifying carnivorous fruits lurk within these collar pieces?

The stiffer cotton adds volume, but because it also weighs a little more, it floats away from my body less. So the silhouette is similar to my polyester Perkins, but the movement is quite different. Sisters-not-twins. So this one is their brother, maybe!


This is a different view – regular length, no gathers. The sleeves and collar are the same for all views (well, there’s a tied-in-the-back collar option, but it’s very very not for me).

The first time I posted a Perkins shirt review I was so buzzed on my finished shirt that I forgot to talk about the instruction booklet. I puzzled it out and I love my shirts, but the instructions are confusing. The first two pages of sewing instruction show steps 01, 02, 01, 02, 03, 01, 02, 01, 01, in that order. Each sewing stage restarts the numbering and the views are jumbled together. Again, after sewing two views, I’m happy as can be with the drafting and my finished shirts, but the instructions share certain qualities with a funhouse mirror.

That said, this was my third time sewing a Perkins shirt in a span of weeks, so the actual construction held no mysteries for me. But the fabric was another story!

I used cotton twill for the outer pieces and it came out of the washer and dryer so, so off grain. This would be less than ideal even if it wasn’t marked with a grid that would make any error on my part super duper obvious. I cut everything on a single layer, skewing my pattern pieces to match the skewed grid. Then, after cutting, I pulled the cut fabric back on grain. I had to pull hard! This is so counter to the usual way to treat cut fabric! It felt wrong, like throwing away a book or eating a sandwich in a bathroom.

Luckily it worked! I didn’t start with a ton of faith in the process, so I cut the yoke and the pocket on the cross-grain instead of trying to pattern match.


I also decided this shirt would button left-over-right, instead of the intended right-over-left, because I liked the shirt front better without the off-center vertical red line visible on the placket.

I French-seamed the side seams on both these shirts, by the way. I needed to use cotton lawn to line my fruit shirt because I didn’t have enough main fabric, and I chose to use it for my plaid shirt because it was lighter and cheaper than my main fabric. And it reduces bulk in the underarm seam.


Once again I’ve taken a winding road to a similar Perkins silhouette – the body of the regular view is a lot less full, but this twill holds much more structure! Well, why fight it, I guess?


The plaid one is my favorite so far, but that might be because it’s the warmest one. I haven’t tried a fabric that didn’t work as a Perkins shirt – I don’t have plans to add a fourth to my wardrobe right now, but you never know, I might find a fabric I can’t resist and have a totally new favorite come spring!

Pattern: Perkins shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 8

Supplies: leftovers from cotton Hemlock tee, TMOS; 2/3 yard of black cotton lawn, Gather Here, $5.90; 6 buttons, Gather Here, $2.00

Total time: 5.5 hours

Total cost: $7.90

Pattern: Perkins shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 8

Supplies: 1.5 yards of Classic Plaid Twill in Hunter and Black with Red by Sevenberry, 2/3 yard of navy cotton lawn, Gather Here, $28.78; 8 buttons, Gather Here, $4.00

Total time: 5.75 hours

Total cost: $32.78

Perkins shirt

The Ensemble Patterns Perkins shirt is my first autumn-facing sew! Which Perkins? Sue? Maybe! Sorry Sue, it’s mine though!

One of my weirder acquisitions from The Man Outside Sainsbury’s was this devastatingly cheap, semi-sheer windowpane fabric, which I thought was cotton until about two seconds after buying it. Then I realized it was definitely a mixture of petroleum and cotton candy (so fake! So fragile!). What, am I not gonna sew it though? NO.

Also did I mention I went to TMOS?! Professor Boyfriend and I had one unscheduled morning in London (we were there for three days, mostly to see his family) and luckily some of that family lived not too far from Walthamstow, so I was able to squeeze in fabric shopping. Sadly I didn’t make it to Ray Stitch as recommended by the outstandingly stylish Beck, or Liberty of London (I wanted Liberty bias tape!), but next time I hope!

This fabric was a pain to work with, but dare I say worth it? I like the windowpane, it’s light and flowy, but most importantly, I feel really proud of myself for handling it!

I made a batch of homemade spray starch, but it wasn’t a good fit for this synthetic. Pressed on cool, the starch didn’t stiffen; any hotter, and the starch left a toasty spot on my white fabric. I didn’t even try iron-on interfacing – all I could picture was melted, shriveled plastic.

Instead, I underlined both collar pieces, collar stand pieces, and plackets with scraps of cotton voile. I actually cut the pattern pieces from my voile, and then sewed them to my uncut main fabric within the seam allowance, before finally cutting the main fabric to match. Almost like block fusing! Fussy, but I don’t regret it!

 I cut the inner sleeves, yoke, and pocket lining from scraps of white linen. They’re slightly different temperatures of white but I used up a lot of odds and ends. I also hemmed the shirt with voile bias tape. These scraps did triple-duty – they added a little much-needed structure, prevented the print from showing through on the sleeves, and concealed most of the seam allowances.

Cutting in general was a marathon! This fabric had a deeply held anti-staying-on-grain position, but the woven grid pattern helped me tug it more or less into shape. The MVP of cutting was actually the sheer nature of the fabric, since I could cut one piece, move it, and easily see, align, and pin the grid. Then, and I can’t repeat this enough for thin, malleable, shred-y fabric, STAY-STITCH EVERYTHING.

Actual sewing was not so bad! I was racing the clock on those 3/8ths seam allowances as the fabric tattered before my eyes, but except for some fabric dragging when I topstitched, a new sharp needle got the job done with only, OH YOU KNOW, constant stress (but then an equal and opposite satisfaction).  

And then a lady in Trader Joe’s said she liked it so it was ALL WORTH IT!

Oh, here’s another thing about my shirt: at least one of these sleeves is sewn wrong. I rather suspect they both are. I know this seems like a mathematical impossibility but thanks to the linings, I can put in one fashion fabric correctly and one wrongly, and one lining correctly and one wrongly…on opposite arms! Booyah! None of my fabrics had a right side/wrong side and the fashion fabric shredded right down to my stay-stitching line, notches too; halfway through sewing the second sleeve I realized they weren’t symmetrical anymore but it’s anyone’s guess which piece ended up where!

It seems to not matter, somehow. Yes let’s agree it doesn’t matter! By the way, if the fabric requirements seem a little high for this shirt, it’s because of the sleeve linings. I didn’t realize the so-called ‘magic sleeves’ were lined until my first instruction booklet read-through. It briefly threw me for a loop but I love it, in fact. It doesn’t make the sleeves too heavy, and it seals everything up all pretty inside.

If you want to use a different fabric for the inner layer of the sleeve, yoke, and pocket, you can subtract ½ yard from the main fabric requirements, and buy an additional 2/3 of a yard of your lining choice. It takes slightly more because you can’t fit it in around the edges of other pieces, but you can choose something cheaper/lighter – or in a case like this, solid and opaque, to prevent print show-through.  

The only seam that isn’t finished beautifully, if you follow the instructions, is the underarm/side seam. I opted to use narrow French seams as I figured this shirt could sacrifice an extra 1/8” per seam – the total  ½” is not a meaningful absence by volume. Also, I recently learned French seams are called English seams in France, which is pretty delightful.

I think I can ju-uu-st about squeeze into this, despite making it ½” smaller around. :} I love my new shirt. I’m afraid to wash it in case it rips, dissolves, melts, or turns out to have been a dream all along. But don’t worry, Mom, I’m still gonna.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this bizarre gem, courtesy of Professor Boyfriend!



Pattern: Perkins shirt

Pattern cost: $12.00

Size: 8

Supplies: 2 meters of windowpane mystery fabric, $4.86, TMOS; 6 buttons, $3.00, Gather Here

Total time: 7.75 hours

Total cost: $19.86