Shirt making continues despite drought!

“How in the heck can you wash your neck if it doesn’t rain any more”?

Rhythmic ditty courtesy of a Suzuki music summer school. 3 of our neighbours are out of water and we are eeking out our last 3000-4000 litres, groundwater usually reserved for irrigation. Given that our capacity exceeds 85,000 litres – it’s ludicrous; clearly our tenant had no idea how important water capture would become, so we suffer. Showering and laundry is done over at the yacht club where our boat is kept, we’re fortunate to have that option but bushfire risk is pretty dire and if the unthinkable were to happen, well, at least we have the ocean in front – there’s plenty of that!

Stitching continues unabated, electricity is abundant, so there are shirts to share, lots of shirts! But today, just 3, don’t want to bore you!

Having ripped a pattern from my favourite flowery rayon Billabong shirt, the next task was to get down to ‘designing’ various shirts. Experimentation isn’t a bad thing, but making endless calico toiles doesn’t fill the wardrobe. Eventually a girl has to bite the bullet and make something wearable! There is an inner dialogue that goes something like…”what if the bust is too tight? What if I hate the fabric? What if the piping is all wrong?” You can relate?

So if one hasn’t entirely proven the fit, a great jumping off point might be a cotton/elastane purchased way back in the dark ages. Funny how some fabrics just don’t lose their appeal over the years. The lemony yellow and aqua vintage print is joyous and with a lemon satin piping originally bought for teeny tiny baby clothes, I feel quite smug that this shirt required no out of pocket expense!

#1 lemon stretch cotton poplin with Boro'd jeans

lemon shirt details, the spotty binding was a close call - rejected in favour of satin piping

Vaguely reminiscent of those fabulous pyjama outfits we’re seeing at fashion weeks everywhere, I like this shirt more than I had anticipated. The fit is close and reasionably comfortable, no back darts, perhaps a smidge too short. Zelda was on her way to the hairdresser, 8C one day 32C the next!

#2 sleeveless Nani Iro 'western' shirt

Toile #2 was a sleeveless ‘western’ shirt experiment from the Nani Iro (1 metre x 90cm) pocket lining remnants of my Cascade duffle coat. I luuuurve this fabric, but there was so little of it. Camp collar from David Page Coffin’s book (templates provided in the book), sewn on facing, Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) of 1cm rotated to a french dart. Despite pulling this dart back 4cm from the apex, there’s still lots of puckering, a french dart really does need rounded dart legs – doh! The western yoke should have been appliqued/stitched over the top of a plain shirt back, that way there isn’t the crazy bias stretch as seen here for your delectation! Much swearing ensued and no fabric left for a redo! adjustments for the sleevelessness – 2cm reduction in armscye, 1 cm of that was eased into the bias binding, the other 1cm taken out of the yoke/shirt back junction.  Originally I added a centre back pleat for ease, but it boofed like crazy, I like the stitched down solution which takes on the form of ‘interesting jazz color’/ ‘unnecessary detail’! This baby was worn to a family reunion and received many favourable comments, so perhaps people don’t notic bias-y gathers on a decorative yoke like I do?!

sleeveless 'western' shirt back


sleeveless 'western' shirt detail

#3 shirt, long sleeved, abandoned the dart idea. The skull fabric originally bought for a shirt for #1 son, but he declined – whatevs, my gain! I just adore the contrast piping on this one. We have quilting shops up here in Mona Vale, Sydney and the ladies at Cottage Quiltworks were very helpful – even to a garment making non quilter! The close fit of this shirt is magnified by the very tightly woven cotton poplin – the shirt might have benefitted from a dart to broaden the bust measurement. Clearly not designed for playing volleyball in, this one!

skull shirt front

And a closer view because I know you like a close up! This photograph illustrates the concept of how the sleeve ease effects bust measurement explored a little in the last blog post, don’t you think? It hitches a little over the bust, but it’s not a deal breaker for me!

skull shirt close up

shirt back with 2 x 1cm back dartsIt’s amazing to me how even a 1cm back dart controls the shirt back boof. It seems to be more of a structural engineering issue than a circumference reduction, the dart seems to discourage blousing just by virtue of the vertical structure. If you hate that blousy back effect on shirts, 2 tiny darts of whatever you can spare is worth a try – you can always unsew it if you don’t love the effect!

I’d be interested to know if these photos are too grainy for your taste. Its an ongoing effort to reduce file size and shorten loading time – feel free to comment below.





Add yours →

  1. Love all these variations. The fabrics are such great choices for shirts. As for the photos… they look just fine on my mobile device. (I hear you about file size and uploading time, etc.)

  2. Lesley, I just love your posts. Please post more often! So sorry to hear about the bushfire risk, among other issues. That`s not nice. Keeping my fingers crossed it doesn`t come to that.

    I love all of these shirts and am totally stealing those pockets! These are so cheerful and lively and of course finished beautifully. You might not believe me but I have been looking at all of my shirts carefully after reading your last post and you have helped me to figure out what I don’t like about them and what I can improve. The next one will definitely have the dart removed (and stolen pockets!). Now you’ve added in the colour dimension – irresistible. I’ve been wearing floral shirts and abandoned my bland stripes and plain colours this fall – must be something in the air.

    Thanks for the inspiration! Oh – before I go. That arm ease thing is an issue that bugs me about my shirts. I was wondering what I could do about it just the other day…

    • You are a luv Steph! Pocket dimensions are 9.5cm long x 10cm wide. The pocket flap sits 1.5cm aboce the finished top edge. Flap is 10.5cm wide x about 4cm long. I found a basting stitch around the rounded corners made pressing the curved hem much easier. The arm ease thing is interesting. The underarm point needs to be high and enough ease to drive but not play volleyball! Perhaps you could try extending the underarm gusset and side seam a little (last post)?? Of course there’s always Spandex Steph! Good luck with your making 😉

      • Thanks for the dimensions. You will be shocked when I really do make shirts when I get back from Italy. 😉 I just love the pockets and back yoke and bias cuffs and….need to find some fun fabric! You look especially great in red/cranberry, BTW.

        I always like a fairly snug armhole in a shirt but I don’t like the pulling over the bust. Need to think about that one.

  3. The weather is strange everywhere this year. Sorry to hear about your troubles. Your photos look great on my iPad. My favourite is the blue with the coloured dots. All lovely garments.

  4. Oh bravo Lesley. I really loved the original, but these are superb. It is amazing how pulled together a well fitted shirt can look in beautiful, colourful fabrics. Really great work. Well done.

  5. I adore these – your fabric choice and trim is gorgeous. feel for you getting so low on water, I live in Ireland and although its a wet place, I know one friend of mine was cursing a fine summer we had years ago as there tank was emptying too fast and empty mid August …..he also had to curse it very quietly as a fine August makes such a difference to the grain farmers

    • Oh I was in Ireland about 3 years ago, how beautifully green it is. Dry weather at this time of year is a little unusual for us, it’s spring right now and the flowers need a drop! Of course we have completely prepared for drought with plenty adequate water tanks, but no one can prepare for humans! Thanks for your lovely comment.

  6. I *love* the shirt from vintage fabric! Your posts on shirt variations is really timely: I am hoping to modify the Merchant and Mills All States men’s pattern to a female-friendly version! Thanks so much for the post… (and further north in NSW we are hoping for rain, too….)

    • Thanks so much Kitty. I see the all state has a camp collar, might you try rounding off the collar points to feminise? Heck, shirts like this can always be worn as PJs if they turn out not quite to plan. I’m just making PJs right now to toile a pattern alteration – best of luck.

      • That’s a great idea of toiling for a pj option!… Brilliant ! I was enthusiastic about the all states pattern for its somewhat vintage styling – probably the outcome of Netflix binge viewing choices during a recent enforced break — 1940s/50s fashion has renewed appeal (and I’ve never enjoyed placing collar stands, either, so it ‘wins’ on that front, too!)….

  7. The shirts all look great, especially the first one. I love that fabric, it looks so fresh. The water/bush fire threat situation sounds awful. I hope you stay safe. The last time we had a serious drought here in the UK was the summer of 1976 and I missed it because I was travelling in Greece!

  8. Your post has inspired me too! I was on a steady shirt making kick for almost 10 months (they are ADDICTIVE!) then decided I really needed to visit my knit stash and get to it so I’ve left shirts for the time being but I miss them and seeing yours just made me salivate 🙂 LOVE all your fabric choices – the reddish/pinkish one just made me gasp it’s so pretty 🙂

    • That reddish pinkish was a complete surprise. I had no idea the colour was so pink till i tried bindings next to it. Actually when i come up for air i have some knits in my future – but then you probs knew that Psychic sewer Kathleen!! BTW – virgo!!

  9. Eighteen comments and not one about Zelda! NOOOOO! I mean…the lady has just been to the stylist and all…Seriously though; she is adorable.

    The sleeveless shirt is really cute…the tiny, really tiny puckering looks intentional; it’s so even across the back.

    And I too, love the pink scull fabric. You go girl!

    A bit scary heading into spring with a lack of water. At least it would be for us in the Pacific Northwest. Winter and spring is when we get soooo much rain.

    • Haha, yes, I was surprised that no one noticed her new haircut! Perhaps it’s not IG worthy after all! The pink skulls are now my unofficial Halloween outfit – it’s new to our shores and I’m firmly in the ‘no’ camp – for Halloween that is. Usually our winter is very dry with hot and wet summers, so a drought at this time is quite untoward. 50% chance of rain today, but you know what they say about weather forecasters!!

  10. Wow! I just love all 3 variations. Even though I’ve tackled some tricky garments I tend to shy away from shirts but after seeing these I need to just get on with it.
    The pics are fine and not grainy at all, and I’m viewing them on my large screen iMac.

    • Aha, good to know, thanks. On my MacBook they do look a little grainy. Can I suggest you put Janet Pray’s shirtmaking class n Craftsy on your wishlist then wait for a sale. She really demistifies the whole process I think. Then there’s alway David Page Coffins books – but honestly – they can be quite hard to navigate there’s just so much information!

  11. Rain is forecast this weekend, so hopefully you will get your share. The photos look fine on my Mac. Great shirts and good to get some of that fabric made up.

    • Those weather men lie though Vicki! They keep telling us 50% chance and we happen to be the other 50%!! Yes, I do love diving into the fabric archives and moving them into the wardrobe – so satisfying!

  12. I’m a late reader but I was going to mention just how smart Zelda (and you!) looked 😃.
    The shirts look great, and no-one but us fussed about their perceived imperfections. I’m sure you will enjoy wearing them all.
    I’m shocked at your water situation. Here in the UK we are virtually paddling. No shortage here. Hopefully any threat of Bush fire will come to nothing.

  13. These shirts look great but sorry ‘Zelda’ is the star here 🙂 100km from the coast in central Victoria so no popping to the sea for washing etc. We now have ‘thunderstorm asthma’ warnings in place but have had rain so not so dry. Not looking forward to bushfire season tho with all the growth around! Thank you for your informative post. Sam the Aussie

  14. All of your shirts are gorgeous. I love the variety. Any tips on piping those pockets? I’ve been toying trying to make the perfect piped pockets to put on a dress without much success. Help!

    • I think it’s worth drawing a guideline calculating exactly where your piping should sit. I often use 7mm seam allowances on these small parts and then I cut my piping to 7mm as measured from the stitching line to the raw edge. I snip into the corners of the piping as I go too, much easier to encourage it around the corners. Oh and an olde fashioned zipper foot, the kind that means you can stitch right up against the raised piping edge. I really hope that helps. You’ll see more piping soon, I’ve gone a bit mad for it! Good question, TY x

  15. These all look so cute! and your piping choices… YUM! I just love a colourful/contrasting piping! hopefully you’ve had some rain by now. We, on the other hand, have had a wet winter, which is really good news, if not fun to live with. A;so, your photos look fantastic to me 🙂

    • We now have about 300litres in the tanks, this weather is crazy, so dry, we could be Ye olde worlde W.A. Still showering and laundering over at the yacht club, which is the biggest pain. Especially when I forget the washing machine settings are pretty severe and I accidentally shrink something! And thank you x

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