White Olya

This is my second Olya, in my second batch of Stylemaker Fabrics fabric. I’m always chasing a big white shirt ideal so I resisted the beautiful colors on offer and ordered this crinkle cotton in white. I thought it would be a safe bet. To my surprise, I prefer the softer, thinner yellow I used last time – both the color and the final shirt.

That said, there’s nothing actually wrong with this cotton and it sewed like a dream. I was just anticipating something both fussier and finer – more see-through, and with some unwanted-but-expected stretch from the crinkles. Actually this has the dry, stable, semi-crisp hand of a paper towel. I ordered 2 yards as directed and used every inch of length, leaving just some funny-shaped large scraps that will make terrific interfacing for a future project.

I shortened the sleeves of this Olya by 1”.

I also cut the pocket pieces as one piece each, with the fold at the bottom of the pocket bag. Those were my only adjustments this time, though commenter M-C suggested a forward shoulder adjustment, which I’m sure I’d benefit from. Unfortunately, given the odd shape of these pattern pieces, I found that adjustment intellectually intriguing but practically, beyond me. I’d like to try it on a more traditional shoulder seam first!

The finished shirt is okay. I’m having trouble styling it at the moment – surprising for such a basic piece – but I think it’s because it’s such a summer fabric. I’m hoping it will come into its own with shorts. I really want to like it, mainly because I like the buttons. Which I made!! With a laser!!!

Our local public high school has a fabrication space open to city residents in the evenings. It’s called Fabville and it’s terrific in every way! It’s actually one of the many available in our area – Somerville (soon Allston) also boasts the dazzlingly complete Artisan’s Asylum, and the Cambridge Public Library hosts The Hive, but Fabville is free, friendly, nearby, and open after my workday, so it’s obviously my favorite. I strongly recommend checking out a space like this if your town has one, or several (how many is probably a function of proximity to MIT, ha).

I wasn’t really sure how to take advantage of this kind of tech until I realized I could make buttons. I got a piece of maple 1/8” thick by 1.5” wide by 24” long from Rockler Woodworking and Hardware (another high recommend, if you have one handy). So far I’ve used it to cut 5 dozen buttons and I have about 1/3 of the piece left. Fabville has a two laser cutters; I used the Epilog Mini 24, which is smaller but more precise. I set up my files in Illustrator, though they were ultimately opened in Inkscape and converted to PDFs.

This isn’t a tutorial (I’m assuming design software competency), but here’s some spec-y stuff if you have access to a machine and are interested:

I work with vectors so I can resize elements without changing the stroke width. Please note, though, the printer calls the cutting/engraving lines “vector” and the etching lines “raster”, regardless of the file type. The cut lines should be strokes, ideally .001 mm but allowably as thick as .004 mm. The etched areas are fills (without strokes!). For the densest, darkest etching, set the fill to black (#000000) with a 0% tint. For shallower, lighter etching, change the percentage of the tint of black, but don’t touch the opacity. You can use both vector and raster cuts in one file, or just one kind; either is fine. All cutting and engraving is perfectly vertical, so there’s no beveled cuts, but it’s beautifully precise.

And a final tip: double-check your measurements in the real world. My first set of buttons was very, very small! They’re functional, they’re adorable, but getting a needle through those wee holes was dicey. After cutting this first batch I belatedly took some measurements and observed that the holes within the button should have a diameter of 1/16”, and be placed anywhere from 1/16” to ¼” apart (that second number is my aesthetic opinion).

Luckily, once attached, these hand buttons actually go through the buttonholes pretty well. I thought the bitty fingers might get snagged, but if I push them through with the heel of the palm first there’s no trouble. My buttonholes are sized for a 3/8” button – just over the width of the hand, not the length.

They’re subtle but I love them anyway! I tried resizing and cutting another batch of hand buttons to have functional holes, but it turns out their tininess is also their strength; when these hands are sized up, the fingers break off. Sad face. I’ve been experimenting with other button designs (beyond symbols carved into a circle, though those are cool too), and so far my best one is below!

Jaguars can represent protection, transformation, and power, plus those big kitties are stylin’ as hell. I don’t know if there will be any interest in this, but: if you donate to a pro-choice advocacy group, an abortion fund, or a pro-choice care provider like Planned Parenthood, contact me and I’ll send you four laser-cut jaguar buttons. If you make that donation recurring, I’ll send you eight. The jaguars are maple, 0.75″ wide x 0.6″ tall x 1/8” thick.

I’m also interested in learning about new-to-me ways to protect and defend reproductive freedom (or more impactful places to give money or time), so please recommend those if you’ve got them!

See you soon, stay mad!

Pattern: Paper Theory Olya

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 14; shortened sleeve 1″

Supplies: 2 yards of Washed Crinkle Cotton Solid White, Stylemaker Fabrics, $29.00; thread, Michael’s; 1.5″w x 24″l by 1/8″ thick maple, Rockler Woodworking, $10.58

Total time: 6.5 hours

Total cost: $39.58

Witch Hazel Olya

Might as well rip off the band-aid: $28.49. This pattern cost $28.49. It was only last week that I complained about a $16 pattern, so if you’re thinking “well well well” and “the worm has turned” and “la-di-DA”…you’re not alone. I’m a 1%er! I’m gentrifying my own pattern collection! I get targeted ads for yachts now! Also, I used a gift card!   

This pattern and party-I-am-late-for is the Paper Theory Olya shirt. For a while I’ve been been casually searching stuff like “Olya sewalike cheap Reddit”, but it’s been a no-go, so finally I took a deep breath and bought the OG. At the same time, I bought two lengths of fabric from Stylemaker Fabrics with my annual birthday coupon, both intended for this pattern (I was banking on liking it). Today’s version is made from this yarn-dyed cotton.

First, I loved this fabric. That shininess in the sample photo washes right out, and it’s beautifully soft with little wrinkling. Also, the color isn’t solid, but super-thin green and orange stripes. The result reads as a slightly sickly yellow which I can actually wear. I adore yellow and I think it’s finally having its day – not just that one foot-in-the-door mustard yellow, but a whole buffet of yellows seems to be arriving. I love most yellows, to be honest, but butter yellows are often nude against my skin tone and rich mango yellows tend me wear me, so I’m crossing my fingers for more acid and old-honey hues!

Second, I used every last bit of it! I’d read in various places that the Olya fabric requirements are extremely accurate – my size, a 14, calls for 2 1/4 yards of 45” wide fabric, and I bumped that up to 2 1/3” because why not. And I’m glad that I did, because even with my extra 3” I couldn’t fit the pattern pieces according to the lay plan (though it was AGONIZINGLY close) and I had to rearrange the cutting on the fly. So while I can’t promise I was the most efficient cutter, the remaining scraps *do* fit in the palm of my hand, which is fun. To be fair I cut my collar and collar stand ‘interfacing’ from those scraps first. And I cut my undercollar on the bias with a center seam, and reshaped my collar stand ends – pretty routine for me.

I used fusible tricot on the button bands and just the short edges of the cuffs. I also interfaced 1” wide sections of the sleeve plackets, avoiding the seam allowances. I’ve never sewn a tower placket in two pieces like this before but it’s so tidy, I love it.

And this is the sewing on the side I couldn’t see! I mean!!

Unfortunately you won’t see either side much because a shirt this light is going to be worn in rolled-sleeve weather, and also my sleeves are an 1” or so too long.

You can of course see my serger thread with the sleeves up. Even if I can figure out how to French that front yoke/sleeve seam in the future, I had to fundamentally understand it first, which meant sewing it straight the first time.

I think a lot of attention is paid to the sleeve/yoke inverse corner. In terms of difficulty, though, if you’ve sewn a banded V-neck, you’re golden. I interfaced the snipped corner and added a line of staystitching just barely inside the seam allowance, which I don’t think was recommended, but it’s easy to do and in general that step is very well-supported.

Actually where I think the directions let me down was at the far end of the seam – the armpit end. It’s not clearly marked that the sleeve piece needs to overhang the body by one seam allowance to match the front yoke seam later, and because it’s a bias curve you can make it meet or overhang pretty easily. Plus, that area isn’t photographed/illustrated in the photo sewalong or the paper directions. Once I read ahead a bit I understood how I was going wrong, but if you’re like me and you often take new processes one step by one step it might throw you off.

I wasn’t wildly jazzed about the pocket directions either. I don’t need a decorative pocket to have relatively bulky French seams when an actual construction seam is just getting the ol’ sergeroo. Instead, I ignored the booklet and attached the pocket front to the front body, then the pocket back to the pocket front, then the whole body/pocket unit to the yoke. That way I didn’t have to line up the little pocket rectangles and the major seams simultaneously. Something went a bit awry with the width of the opening but the pockets are gewgaws anyway, so I’m not sweating it!

I now call them “PITA pockets” because I am very, very funny.

Originally I hoped to find small bronze metal buttons, but I couldn’t. The wooden ones at least capture the warmth I wanted, if not the shine. They’re quite lightweight; I think metal (or just heavier) buttons would help prevent the shirt from slipping backwards, since I find myself tugging it forward every so often. But the big question: do I like it?

Yeah! I’m not like OMG SQUEE but it’s serviceable and I really like the fabric. The pattern is a fun sew too. Most other indie patterns have doppelgangers in other indie lines, or in the Big 4, but this one doesn’t seem to, so that offers unique value. My biggest concern is that I broke the seal – now that I’ve spent silly money on one pattern, what prevents me from doing that again? Specifically on yet another jeans pattern?

I’ll just be over here, resisting. Have a beautiful day!

 Pattern: Paper Theory Olya shirt

Pattern cost: $28.49

Size: 14

Supplies: 2 1/3 yards of Grainline Yarn Dyed Woven Shirting Citrus, Stylemaker Fabrics, $27.39; thread, Michael’s; buttons, Gather Here, $8.39

Total time: 8.5 hours

Total cost: $64.27

Noa shirt

I have an oversized double-gauze men’s Steven Alan shirt that has survived almost a decade of RTW culls, and I eventually figured out that I love it. Since then I’ve had an eye out for a sewing pattern that would allow me to replicate it. Around the end of last year I found the free Noa shirt pattern from Fabrics-Store.com. I thought this could be the one – per to the website, it’s got “classic tailoring”, a “relaxed silhouette”, and plenty of comments saying “watch out, it’s BIG”. Hello, sailor!

I chose to sew a 12/14 because the approximate finished chest measurement of 49” matched my existing RTW shirt, but my finished Noa shirt actually has a 46” chest so they’re really getting their money’s worth out of the word “approximate”. On the other hand, the pattern cost me approximately $0.00, sooo. And it’s a very functional pattern. The Noa is a nice professional-looking conventional button-up for people who prefer a dartless fit, but alas, it is not my dream shirt!

Sorry to spoil the ending, but the fact that I lopped the arms off probably gave you a clue! In large part my ambivalence is due to the fabric. This crisp yarn-dyed striped cotton grabbed me in the store, and I thought I could make something that was kind of winking at the idea of a business guy’s dress shirt, but I accidentally made a straightforward, non-winky, business guy’s dress shirt. A perfectly nice one – the fabric is stable, on-grain, and it pressed like a dream – and I enjoyed sewing it, but wearing it? I don’t know.

I used the Fabrics-Store blog to find out the seam allowance (3/8”) but otherwise sewed everything in my usual mish-mashy way, lots of techniques from different patterns all smooshed together.  I used the asymmetric back pleat from the Willamette, Archer’s burrito yoke, this collar, and Sewaholic’s continuous bound sleeve placket. Because OH YES, I sewed the sleeve placket. I sewed BOTH sleeve plackets, AND I added the cuffs, for all the good it did me. Even though I’m not scared of bias bound sleeve plackets anymore I realized that they’re not totally suitable for vertical stripes – by design, you sew on a slight diagonal, so the finished placket will never be parallel to the stripes.

Do I lie?!

This shirt looked so dang office-ready with the pleated full-length sleeve. If that’s what you’re looking for, vaya con Dios, get thee some sharp cotton and sew the Noa. I wanted something relaxed, more like this breezy Coco’s Loft edition, but it was clearly too late for that. It’s never too late to grab a pair of scissors and chop your sleeves off, though! I thought this baseball length looked sort of wacky and modern (finished length 6 ¾”) but mostly I wear it with a rolled cuff. Also, rolling the sleeve up hides the fact that I ran out of thread and hemmed the sleeves (truly, widely, deeply) with the only nearby shade in my house.

In retrospect, an actual contrasting thread color might have been fun, especially because my topstitching is pristine (I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it is). A couple more details I enjoy: I sewed the hem inside-out because when I attached the sleeves, I loved the candy-stripe effect of the seam allowance.

Also, this button-up is a button-*down*, because I sewed some wee little buttonholes into the collar points and buttoned those fellahs down! I copied a technique I saw in a RTW shirt to reinforce the button area, using fusible hem webbing like double-sided tape to attach a scrap of self-fabric to the inside of the shirt. All edges pinked, of course.

I thought about not opening the buttonholes and sewing the buttons through the collar, but I’ve done that to one other shirt and it makes ironing the collar a pain in the neck.

Not that this fabric needs a ton of ironing. It gets some wear wrinkles, but nothing too severe. If it weren’t for the hand, color and pattern – you know, its characteristics – I would probably really like it. I actually sewed this Noa at the end of December (strangely right before Very Peri got announced as the color of 2022) and so far, the weather hasn’t been such as would let me wear it, so I’m not sure I’m avoiding it for practical reasons or prejudiced ones.

I feel like lately whenever a project doesn’t quite live up to my hopes, I gaze out the window and whisper in a melancholy voice “ah, but ‘twere it linen…”, but…what if it was linen? Black linen, or sand-colored maybe? In any case, I’m not recycling this pattern quite yet. Or giving the shirt away either, though if summer comes and I’m still not wearing it, I’ll dump it like some shorted stock (that’s business talk, right?).

Buy, buy! Sell, sell!

Pattern: Fabrics-Store Noa shirt

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 12/14

Supplies: 2 yards striped cotton, Sewfisticated, $7.98; thread, Sewfisticated, $2.49; buttons from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $10.47

Denim Granville

These are the last of the fancy photos from our trip, and probably my favorite batch too! Next week it’s back to Professor Boyfriend’s phone camera and the occasional abandoned power plant.

Luckily, a denim shirt is at home anywhere. This is my accidental take on the outfits Samantha from Bewitched wears to do housework, but with less witchcraft and Endora but luckily also less Darrin. I digress.

This pattern is the Sewaholic Granville. I think Sewaholic patterns are aging well despite no new designs for several years. I’ve got half an eye on the Cypress cape, too. I sewed a size 10 Granville in my pre-spreadsheet era, which was technically perfect at the time; it still fits, but it isn’t my preferred fit, so I retraced the pattern in a size 12. I also modified the body of the pattern for a more relaxed shape.

The yoke, sleeves, pockets, and collar are unaffected. On the front, I temporarily held the dart closed, then traced the side seam from the Grainline Archer (a shirt I want to love but that doesn’t seem to love me back).

On the back, I merged the three princess-seamed panels into one, but without removing the seam allowances. Where the pattern pieces “kissed” I marked the center of my new pleats, each 5/8th of an inch deep. After folding the pleats (the direction is dealer’s choice; I overlapped towards center back) the width of the back panel will again match the width of the yoke.

I also traced the Archer side seams here. I didn’t make any changes to the hem curve.

As you can see the pleated back adds considerable ease and makes the shirt really comfortable and casual. There’s no reason you can’t wear business denim if you want to, but this suits me and my needs much better!

Everything is French seamed – even the armscyes, which isn’t exactly my idea of fun but it’s better than flat-felling in the round – and it’s tidy, and gladdens the heart of woman. This actually inspired me to try French seaming the sleeves on Professor Boyfriend’s shirts, too, and I like the result! Not only is there no potentially wobbly topstitching, but the seam, with its four layers of fabric, is also supportive. It helps the sleeve hang nicely with a little extra ‘bounce’ from the shoulder.

I should have chosen one topstitching distance and stuck with it, but instead the collar and pocket flaps are stitched at ¼” and everything else is more like 1/8th or 1/16th. That’s a pretty fiddly complaint though.

When I first read reviews of this pattern, a lot of people mentioned the sleeves were too long. That wasn’t my experience of the size 10. The size 12, however…

Oh dear. The good news is that I like my sleeves cuffed, and all this extra length means I can get a neat smooth cuff below my elbow, which is my favorite length anyway!

You can see how crisply it folds – the fabric also wrinkles some, but this was worn all day, straight out of my suitcase, before these pictures were taken, and I don’t look too disreputable.

The picture above shows the color pretty accurately, a cornflower blue that makes it easy to wear double-denim. And if you’ll excuse my preening, I did a dang fine job ordering thread online to match! This is from Mood, and their suggested thread would have been too light. Victory dance!

By the way, this is hemp fabric, not cotton. It’s a strong, soft, sustainable fiber – what a dreamboat! It was easy to press and mark, but it definitely felt ‘harsher’ than cotton denim while I was cutting and sewing it. It’s not for dull scissors. The fabric feels totally soft to the touch, though, so harsh isn’t exactly the right word – fibrous maybe? Tough? It is smoother than I expected. I don’t know if I’m going to get that beautiful denim fading on the seams. I hope I do! I still want a toothier denim shirt, so this one might get a sibling.  

The buttons, as many of my buttons have been lately, were fished from a Tub-O-Buttons at work! Also described as ‘button hash’ (delicious). The kids sort out the fun, sparkly, colorful, interesting buttons, and I swoop in and use the leftovers. So far no student has been like ‘THAT THREE-EIGHTHS-OF-AN-INCH OFF-WHITE TWO-HOLE BUTTON WAS MY BIRTHRIGHT’ so I don’t think I’m taking too much advantage. 😀

Final thoughts: I’ve wanted a denim shirt for a while and this does NOT disappoint. The color goes well with indigo jeans and my recent surplus of fox-colored pants. I love the sized-up and modified Granville pattern. This is the kind of deeply practical basic I like best! I think I’m going to wear this shirt for years, especially since hemp is supposed to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

Oh, and what’s in the mug? English Breakfast tea at the beginning, and nothing by the end! I do my own stunts (when the stunt is drinking tea).


Pattern: Sewaholic Granville

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12, with modifications

Supplies: 2 yards of Light Blue 6 oz. Hemp Denim, $27.98, Mood; thread, $3.91, Mood; buttons from stash (kinda ^^)

Total time: 9.25 hours

Total cost: $31.89

Can’t Elope

First, real and urgent: here’s an efficient way of contributing money to multiple bail funds and advocacy groups, and also an article (with further reading linked) that I found useful.

Now, back to trifles – sewing. I like to buy fabric in person (who doesn’t?), but the coronavirus stay-at-home order has put a geas on that and will for a while. I live in the most densely populated city in New England and we’re taking reopening slow (except for protesting! Okay, trifles again). Anyway, I made a misstep when ordering the fabric for this top. It’s perfectly nice in terms of quality, and I’m often attracted to these pale oranges and buttery yellows, but I couldn’t ‘try it on’ in person so I forgot that they’re a little nudie on me.  


Much like Rogelio de la Vega, I don’t pop in peach. Actually it’s ‘Cantaloupe Check’ by Carolyn Friedlander, so I guess I don’t pop in cantaloupe. Oh, well! The fabric is soft, stable, and firmly woven, with no wrong side; the layout left a lot of scraps, and the 1/4″ square checks made it extremely efficient to cut and sew those into masks. And I got to try a new-to-me pattern, so the time and materials weren’t wasted, really! Except for paper, since it has a wasteful layout. If they marked both necklines and hems on the same boxy body piece it would save at least a dozen pages.

The pattern is the free Fibre Mood Frances top, and the war on trees aside, it’s fine. I like it on the model a lot, but her fabric is much drapier! My cotton is poofy, not drape-y. Add the check and I might be a farmer, possibly in the dell? The shirt as drafted is almost exactly a box.


Except the front hem is curved, a little optimistically for my shape!


Given that I wear my shirts knotted or tucked, I could have skipped it. Still, that wouldn’t have conserved much yardage. Because the sleeves are grown-on, I needed a full 2 yards of 45” wide fabric to fit the pattern pieces, with a lot of wasted space whether I cut them on the straight grain or the cross grain. But I really, really liked the look of those elastic cuffs. (No way the Fibre Mood model is comfy with them stuffed into a blazer, though.)


By the way, if you know a way of French-seaming a right-angled armpit without clipping into the seam allowance, please let me know! I couldn’t find one. I stitched the seam a couple times for extra strength, but I still feel funny about the two tiny raw spots when everything else is enclosed.


The shirt tips back on me. I have to fiddle with it more than I’d like to keep it symmetrical/covering my bra straps (the peep through the large armscye of my quite sensible bra is fine; I pick my battles). I briefly considering elasticizing the waist as well, which I think would keep it in place, but that would be a deliberately poof-forward solution!

One random thing I liked about this pattern: the neck binding length is provided. It saved me a step (normally I pin, measure, un-pin, join my binding in the round, then pin, then sew…I could skip right to pin and sew, nice!).

I’m wearing this shirt with the first shorts muslin of my Perse-phony pants draft. The buttons are waaay under the overlap (too far!), but as the denim relaxes, I’m having an easier time getting in and out.


The back pockets are in extremely the wrong place. They were the spontaneous product of a couple large scraps and a desire to hide my pointy dart ends, but seeing these pictures, I might actually care enough to drop them a good 3”.


I love my butt! It deserves better!!

I have no grand pronouncements about the Fibre Mood Frances; I think I still kinda like it, but my iteration needs a new home (or I could get a tan, but actually I can’t). I’ve got some ivory rayon leftover from a long-ago project and I’m waffling over trying again in that.  And if I do, you’ll hear it here first on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!


And, why not make that donation recurring? See you next time. xo

Pattern: Fibre Mood Frances

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 2 yards of Cantaloupe Check cotton, $18.00, Gather Here; 3 yards 1″ elastic, Gather Here, $5.40; thread from stash

Total time: 4.75 hours

Total cost: $23.40

He’s a (Trapper) Keeper

A Bird Shirt has landed!


Professor Boyfriend and I use the phrase “bird shirt” (inspired by New Girl’s Winston Bishop) to describe any wonderfully patterned button-up shirt, not necessarily with a bird print, usually worn by a male-indentifying person. Think the shirts made by Wanderstitch and Emma’s Atelier, for and sometimes with their partners! Our fabric store ritual is to walk around, I point at a fun patterned fabric and Prof. BF tells me why he doesn’t like it. But not this time!

Me: Would you wear this?

Him: Yes. I’ll get that.

Me: …what?!

Him: Yes. How many yards?  

This project jumped the queue because I was so excited. Also because I’m avoiding my first winter coat project (I’m scared!) and sewing the Fairfield shirt in a highly cooperative cotton, no less, is a comfort sew, and because I found a new collar stand technique I really wanted to try (more on that later!).


I’ve sewn this pattern for Professor Boyfriend 12 times in the last three years so at this point I’m just tweaking. I don’t have any technical fitting knowledge re: men’s shirts but he feels comfortable and I think he looks v. v. handsome so we’re happy! I flat-fell everything, though this time I decided to flat-fell the side seams opposite to the directions (so I have two lines of stitching visible inside the garment, one outside, instead of the reverse). I made this minor change because I haven’t been totally happy with the appearance of my bottom thread while sewing lately. A needle tension issue, maybe? But sewing with quilting cotton is so stable and soothing.

This is one of Ruby Star Society’s first releases. It is niiice. I think Ruby Star’s designers used to work a lot with Cotton & Steel, but I get the impression Cotton & Steel was up to some funny business about royalties and licensing fees. Anyway, new brand, same great taste! This fabric is sold with the quilting cottons but it’s edging towards being a lawn, in my opinion. Apparently, that luxurious cotton feel + flashbacks of nineties school supplies is the winning formula for Professor Boyfriend.


I didn’t pattern match (ya think?) but I only got one double-noodle, on the pocket. On this draft, the pocket is raised 1.5” from the Fairfield pattern markings. Professor Boyfriend requests another half inch or so next time.

I did fussy cut the plackets! When was this shirt made?


And how do we feel about it?


Yay, fun selvages! Further yay, most accommodating fabric! It presses so crisply. This straightforward fabric was a great opportunity to try a new-to-me collar stand technique.

Remember when everyone was sewing the Archer and following those effective but fiddly directions, and then the Four Square Walls method blasted onto the scene? I was never really happy with my collar stands either way, especially compared to RTW – which is silly, because those are sewn by professionals whose experience dwarfs mine. It continues to be important to remember that, but listen, sinners! I have found A BETTER WAY.  

Actually, Mainely Menswear found it. I followed his link. It’s all in this video! There’s no spoken explanations, but it’s truly masterful sewing.

However, I prefer reading directions to watching or listening. Since I plan on using this technique forever now, I’ve made some diagrams I can follow in the future (focused on the stand, not the collar – here’s some collar techniques from Closet Case). All seam allowances should be ¼”. The interfaced side of the collar will show when the shirt is worn; the interfaced collar stand will be on the inside, touching the neck. If you try following these, please let me know how it goes!

1. Interface, stitch, turn, press, and topstitch collar using your preferred methods. Baste the raw edges within the seam allowance. Set aside.


2. Reshape the ends of the collar stand pattern piece as shown and cut x2 fabric. Cut x1 interfacing, and remove the seam allowance from the short ends and neckline edge.


3. Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one collar stand. Press up the neckline seam allowance to the wrong side, along the edge of the interfacing. If your fabric is shifty or slippery, you may want to baste this in place.  


4. Place the interfaced collar stand right side up, then the collar, interfaced side down. Sew or pin together. Place second collar stand piece, right side down, and sew together, pivoting with your needle down at the collar stand corners.   


5. Fold or press the seam allowances along the stitch line, just in the collar stand corners. Hold the seam allowances and one side of the collar stand between your finger and thumb. Flip the other collar stand piece right side out, over the seam allowances. Repeat for the other end. This should create neat, symmetrical collar stand ends.


6. Mark the seamline on the inside of the uninterfaced collar stand by running a fine marking tool along the folded neckline edge of the interfaced collar stand.


7. Pin the uninterfaced collar stand right sides together with the body of the shirt (front plackets and shoulder seams completed). Line up the edges of the collar stand with the edges of the front plackets, and sew or pin the ends in place. Then pin the rest of the uninterfaced collar stand to the neckline edge, and sew in two steps, from the center out. Hold the interfaced collar stand out of the way, and sew directly on your marked line.   

8. Turn your completed collar and collar stand right side out, tucking seam allowances inside. Remove basting stitches, if necessary. Pin the folded edge of the interfaced collar stand directly over the seamline between the collar stand and shirt body. Topstitch all the way around, with the interfaced collar stand (inner collar) up.  


Done! This was, by far, the intersection of the neatest collar stand and the simplest collar stand technique I’ve ever sewn! And the result:


It’s a straightforward low-bulk finish and the stitching is seriously so easy to get right on both the inner and outer collar stand simultaneously. Everything just lined up! This is it for me for collar stands. You can tell I’m sincere since I retraced my pattern pieces onto cereal box cardboard, and that’s the good stuff! This whole shirt is good stuff, I think!


And this guy’s not bad stuff, either! See you next time!

Pattern: Thread Theory Fairfield shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M

Supplies: 2.5 yards of Ruby Star Society Anagram cotton, $30.00, Gather Here; buttons, $6.00, Gather Here; thread from stash

Total time: 7 hours

Total cost: $36.00


Hi all! What’s the buzz?


Oh, is it the base of my Halloween costume? It is!


One of these days I’d like to cut loose and make a COSTUME, we’re talking something that needs super specific underwear and maybe you have to crouch to get through doorways, but in the meantime (as in, as long as I stay in my beloved but closet-less apartment) I pull together costumes from daywear. You could be forgiven for thinking “This? A costume? No, no, sir” which, like, fair enough. Though there are more posterboard components for the night itself.

Anyway, I’m a Spelling Bee! (Professor Boyfriend, not pictured, is a Spelling Beekeeper. His veil is dotted with yellow and black striped capital letter “B”s.). Whereas I’m, basically, a nerdy bee? The sewn elements are a pair of Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, which I covered thoroughly here, and a Seamwork Natalie blouse.


Nothing much to say about the shorts except that they’d match the concept better in black, but I found this grey linen locally for $3/yard, so yeah, SOLD.

One of the best parts of working in an elementary school is that you can have serious in-depth conversations about Halloween costumes. During one of these, a six-grade visionary suggested I add suspenders to my outfit, which: yes! They really cinch the Poindexter vibe! It’s just suspender clips and black ribbon, so only aesthetic, no support. I actually already had these – a couple years ago I got smitten with the idea of suspenders just long enough to order the clips, and I wore them maybe twice before the day I paired them with culottes and a leotard and had to reenact The Great Escape when I wanted to pee.

The ‘bee-siest’ piece is this top. I’ve been thinking about the Natalie blouse for a while and I’m glad I finally made one! In recent months I’ve been glibly converting regular collars to camp collars and then moaning that they don’t sit right, but actually following directions to learn a new skill seems to have worked better, TELL EVERYONE. I think the trick is in the width of the facing. The plackets curl open close to, but not over, the edge of the facing. It mildly stresses me out that it’s just tacked down inside and not topstitched, but maybe that’s an important ingredient too?  

I did add three additional buttons between the four recommended ones. More stitching is better stitching.

This top certainly fits, but I should have picked my size more wisely. I sewed an 8 bust graded to a 10 waist. Thanks to the boxy fit it’s not tight anywhere, but the shoulders are too narrow.


Ideally, the shoulder seam would sit 1/2” – 1” further out. I think I’ll retrace the pattern in a straight size 12. The good news is I know already that I won’t need to grade for my hips!

Oh, a note on plaid-matching – I remembered to match the side seams below the bust dart, but completely forgot about the sleeves. Oh, well. Though, it’s been a while since I’ve set a sleeve in the round, not to mention I French-seamed it, and it is sitting pretty smoothly! So it might be in the wrong place, it might not match the plaid, but I’m calling it good!


I probably won’t wear these bits as an outfit together after Halloween (contrary to everything about my personality, I’m not actually putting effort into being a nerd), but separately, yes, for sure. Do you dress up for Halloween? And if you do, do you try to keep the pieces wearable in daily life, or do you go wild?


Either way – Happy Halloween! 😈

Pattern: Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts

Pattern cost: NA

Size: D at waist, E at lower hip + thigh

Supplies: 2 yards of linen blend, Sewfisticated, $5.98; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread, rivet from stash

Total time: 4 hours

Total cost: $7.38

Pattern: Seamwork Natalie

Pattern cost: $3

Size: 8 at bust, 10 at waist

Supplies: 2 yards of Kaufman Sevenberry: Classic Plaid Twill Plaid Yellow, fabric.com, $24.24; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $27.24

Rhubarb Rhubarb

Hooray, Professor Boyfriend is triumphant in his first pink shirt!


I originally thought of this hue as Nantucket Red, but a little research proved that that’s actually an indistinguishable but legally distinct color! Apparently, Nantucket Red – that mainstay of New England coastal preppie summer culture; just picture someone named Bryant drawling “We summer at the Cape” – is owned by one business in particular. I have a soft spot for Nantucket Red, since growing up it gave even the most normative boys an entrée into wearing pink (though as I reminded some students today, colors don’t have genders, and genders shouldn’t be valued by comparison – seriously, who is feeding them ‘blank is a girl’s color (subtext: and therefore bad)’ at this stage of the game?! >( Blah, rant over. Well, paused). Anyway, I’m calling this universally flattering hue “rhubarb”! Come at me, copyright!

Plus we’ve concluded that if Professor Boyfriend was a vegetable, that’s what he’d be (I’d be a butternut squash, obviously). And here he is, fulfilling his destiny!


This is my zillionth time sewing the Thread Theory Fairfield, but only the second time with short sleeves. I love a sassy short-sleeve button-up, with my eventual goal being to put him in a Winston Bishop from New Girl-style Bird Shirt, as I think this is the exact right amount of fabric and casual flair to float a wacky print. However, as I’m historically lazy, I did not print out the separate pattern piece for the short sleeve. Instead I measured an existing shirt to find out that the final sleeve should be 5” long (armpit to hem), with a 1” deep hem. It looks nice cuffed, too! No photos of that here, since we took these photos in literally 12 minutes between the end of work and the beginning of game night.


This is a straight size M with back darts, no need to reinvent the wheel; we’re both happy with the fit on him. Professor Boyfriend has requested that next time, I move the pocket upwards a few inches; using the pattern markings places it a cool half-inch under the business end of his pec. Something to look out for, if you’re considering the pocket! No need to unpick and resew this time as it’s pretty well blended into the stripes. And speaking of resewing…

This relatively simple shirt (no cuffs, no sleeve plackets) took me FOR-EV-ER. I resewed the front placket three times! That’s just two straight lines, but I couldn’t get them right! Finally I fiddled the stripes perfectly into place, topstitched oh-so-precisely, and went ahead with the shirt. When it came time to hem I realized my fussy aligning and topstitching had failed to catch the raw edge in places.

I could not, would not, unpick and resew at this point. I didn’t think the collar stand would survive, for one thing. This cotton is lovely and soft but it doesn’t have a ton of tensile strength and it already wasn’t too happy with my unpicking binge.

IMG_8465So I hand sewed a length of cream twill tape over the raw edge! Honestly, it was easier to face at that point than any other solution I could think of. It’s not too obvious or offensive and I’m hopeful the shirt will last through many washings and wearings despite my dingleberry routine.

And to soothe my troubled heart…


Not too shabby, eh? The collar isn’t perfectly lined up but considering I forget to account for the stripes moving across it when cutting, it’s darn close. A big thank-you to Lady Luck!

To conclude, in the words of many valiant background actors in many movie scenes: rhubarb rhubarb, rhubarb rhubarb.


Th-th-that’s all, folks!


Pattern: Thread Theory Fairfield shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M

Supplies: 2.5 yards of lightweight pink/cream cotton, $30, Gather Here; $1.91, thread, Michaels; $6.00, buttons, Gather Here

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $37.91


I won’t defend the 1999 B-movie The Mummy (it’s bad), but I will watch it, and enjoy it, and decide I need a shirt inspired by explorer gear of the early-twenty-first-century, and then I will watch The Mummy Returns and probably also The Scorpion King, if I’m honest.

I love archeological adventures and pastiches – Christie’s Come, Tell Me How You Live, many works by Elizabeth Peters (especially Vicky Bliss), even Romancing the Stone. And what is every explorer issued alongside their tall boots, leather satchel, and hunky travelling companion? An open-necked white linen shirt, of course, preferably filthy!

Mine isn’t filthy (yet?)! These photos were taken after a picnic and I dropped no chicken or plum juice on myself, hooray hooray!


I used S1166, currently OOP. I found my copy on Etsy; after reading the many helpful posts on Pattern Review, I decided to order the larger size range. And thank goodness, too! The reviews were unanimous: the paper pattern does not reflect the sample on the packet. The pattern sleeves are far more conventional and narrow, and the body of the shirt is too short and difficult to tie. The collar is appropriately gigantic, though. I sewed a muslin with a size 16 body width and collar, 24 sleeve, and 24 body length, and found all of this to be true.

Initially, I traced the 24 line for the armscye, but it was too short overall for the 24 sleeve because of the narrower width of the size 16 body (this is obvious typing it out, but it surprised me at the time). I ended up having to lop a couple inches of width off of the sleeve to match, and so lost the benefit of the larger size.

I wanted big batwing-y sleeves, though, so I put my head down and came up with this solution – if I integrated the bust dart into the armscye, I could have a wider sleeve and theoretically still get the benefit of the dart. It meant changing the angle of the seam, but I thought it cut in too deeply, anyway.

Chart 2

After making the changes, above, I adjusted the back of the shirt to match at the side seam. Then I walked the sleeve piece along the new armscye to check and voila, the 24 sleeve fit!


Now That’s What I Call Sleeves!

I don’t know if merging the dart into a seam accomplished anything else, but I don’t need any more space or fabric in the bust. I consulted the Olya Shirt sewalong to sew that corner seam and it worked like a charm. Bodes well for all Paper Theory Patterns, I think!

I made possibly my single favorite adjustment when sewing any shirt, changing the collar to a one-piece collar, which altered the angle of the collar point slightly but didn’t affect its big ol’ bigness.

I didn’t need the 4 asked-for buttons on the shirt. I narrowed the facings – because I prefer to topstitch mine, there’s no flapping or flipping – and centered 3 buttons on the right front facing. The collar wants to fold over at the button, not the edge, so I probably should have sewn them closer to the edge.


Instead of using the back facing piece, I sewed a yoke. It’s clean, I find it easier, and it’s as simple as a straight line.

Basic RGBIMG_7539

That extra 4th button is back here, keeping the collar sli-ii-ightly supported!

Overall I’m happy with this shirt! A couple inches longer would probably be a couple inches better, and if I was sewing it again I would have ironed a scrap of interfacing on the corners of the armscyes, but I worked this pattern around to pretty much where I wanted it. It’s comfortable, it’s highly unlikely to accumulate summer pit stains, and the cartoonishness of the sleeves and collar is pretty fun. In terms of specific aesthetics, well…


My goal: Crocodile on the Sandbank. My actual destination: Muppet Treasure Island. Well, now I have something to wear to (in my best Tim Curry voice) a festival of conviviality!


What’s the opposite of ahoy? Um…bye!


Pattern: S1166

Pattern cost: $9.75

Size: 16, with 24 length/sleeve and further adjustments listed above

Supplies: 2 yards of Kaufman Brussels Washer linen in white, $15.66, Fabric.com; buttons, $1.53, Gather Here

Total time: 5.5 hours

Total cost: $27.24

Meet Professor boyfriend!


My boyfriend has many wonderful qualities. He’s kind, etc., takes all the photos for this blog (except these, which is why they were all initially leaning 30 degrees before editing), and to cap it all off – he’s a medium! Just a straight-size medium, no grading or anything! The first trousers and button-up shirts I ever sewed were for him, because I could focus on construction, knowing fit would take care of itself.  This is probably shirt #8 or #10, but a men’s shirt pattern is still something I’m excited to dig in and sew. Especially this one!

Of course when I say he’s a medium I mean he’s a Thread Theory medium, since this is the Thread Theory Fairfield. I love this shirt on him – the slim design elements like the collar and cuffs really suit his build, and after messing around with both views we’ve decided V2, with the back darts, is just right.


They’re hard to see in this small-scale gingham, and that’s the way I like them!

I’m not sure if other men’s shirt patterns use this technique, but the Fairfield instructions ask you to fold over the seam allowance on the top of sleeve before sewing the construction seam, which makes flat-felling the armscye much, much easier (all the seam allowances are actually pre-offset for easy flat-felling, though it means you have to read carefully). The one change I’ve made to this pattern was to make the armscye and shoulders seams flatter/less curvy, however – the sleeve cap was really tall, which meant the sleeve was very stylish and narrow, but my stitching was always messy around the tight curves and it was causing me stress. Effectively I made an unnecessary full bicep adjustment, so the sleeve is a little loose now.


But the shoulder is much neater! I’m re-adjusting the pattern to be more like the original, little by little, as my sewing confidence grows. You’d think this many shirts in I would laugh in the face of a flat-felled armscye, but nah.


Can you spot my other silly mistake? I hemmed the shirt the wrong way! Eek! Professor boyfriend generously allowed this to be a feature, not a bug. We’re calling it a reverse hem and it’s a highly desirable design element, ahem.


The fabric was a gift from my mother and it’s some sort of dreamy cotton, crisp and sturdy but not that wrinkly. The interfacing was a gift too – fusible, but cotton. I started treating myself to the $5 interfacing instead of $2 interfacing about 5 years into sewing, and I’m never going back. It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes my mom a deadly gifting assassin. You can’t compete.


I think you’ll see more of these shirts before we’re through! And more of this guy, too, if I can figure out how to hold the camera straight.


Pattern: Thread Theory Fairfield shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M

Supplies: 3 yards small blue and ivory gingham cotton, gift; $1.49, thread, Michaels; $6.00, buttons, Gather Here

Total time: 7 hours

Total cost: $7.49