I’m fairly certain my sister-in-law doesn’t read my blog (Kate, if you do read my blog, watch the mail soon!), so I’ll post about this project sooner than later!
I’ve decided that I have no good reasons to be afraid of sewing shirts. Of the button-down variety. I mean, how much harder can they be than shirts of the not-button-down variety, really? It’s the same basic shape. A few more seams. Oh, and buttonholes. That must both line up and be evenly spaced. Yah, what’s so scary there?
I figured I’ve been sewing for over a year now (eek!? really?!), so it was high time to tackle a button down shirt. I was also feeling a bit like making something for my nieces & nephews and landed on the idea of making one of them a buttondown shirt! Genius, right? I get to practice my technique, and in miniature so that if it turns out to be horrendous, I’m only out like a yard total! Plus, I don’t think the target demographic is quite as picky as I am, fit-wise (yet!). I even stash-busted and pulled some very funky train fabric out of my closet for the main fabric, and some fun paper airplane fabric for the trim! Win win!
I did a lot of research for patterns. And by that I mean I googled “kids button down shirt pattern” and found precisely one pattern, the Sketchbook shirt, from Oliver + S. I called my local fabric shop to see if they had it in stock and they did! I skipped over there to nab a copy and was presented with a conundrum…you see, Oliver + S patterns come in two multi-size ranges, sizes 0 to 4 or 5, and size 5 to 12 or so. Basically little kid, and bigger kid. One of the unfortunate side effects of long-distance sewing is that I literally guess on what size to cut out (loosely based on age, but still no guarantee there). And the kiddos I had in mind range in age from less than a 1 year to just turned 7. So no matter how I sliced it, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-most here. However, logic prevailed and I realized that kids only grow bigger, so eventually, all of them would be in the bigger size range. So I went with that.
I started out tracing the size 10 pattern, figuring I’d just be on the safe side and send on a little big for the oldest. Well, I traced it out and the pattern piece looked like it would almost fit my husband (a solid mens’ Medium if ever there was one). It was HUGE! So I retraced my steps and went with the size 8 instead (since the nephew in question just turned 7, and sizes are supposed to correlate to age, or so I’m told!). It looked much more reasonably sized, so I cut out my fabric and got started.
Let me start by saying that the directions in this pattern were amazing. At times, they were annoyingly detailed and I felt like screaming “OF COURSE I WILL BACK STITCH TO LOCK THE SEAM!!!”, but, well, if you were new, I bet it’d be really nice to have that reminder on every seam you are instructed to sew. And the directions are thorough. Some patterns which will remain nameless have very poor copy editing and miss entire steps, but not so here. Everything was covered, which I’d expect, but, you know, that isn’t always the case!
I went with a mandarin-style collar and short sleeve, with one front pocket, too. I planned to do the pocket, back yoke, button plackets, and collar out of my trim fabric, but I ran a bit short, so the collar ended up being out of the main fabric instead. I started off sewing the button plackets to the front of the shirt, and that was super easy.
The pocket was next, and that was pretty simple. The hardest bit there was getting the corners folded in at 45-degree angles to keep from having weird bits poking out at the bottom.
Sewing it to the shirt was easy, I was just extra careful not to tug it out of place as I sewed…nothing worse than an off-kilter pocket!
Then came the yoke. That was a bit more tricky since by the time you got the yokes properly attached, you had the shoulder seams magically done, and the whole shirt poking out of the neckline like a fabric hernia. It was stressful, very very stressful. Mostly because I was certain I was going to accidentally sew the shirt shut half inside out. It worked out in the end, and I really can’t imagine any other way to accomplish it, but it was no fun!
The collar was next and was actually easier than it looked (though to be honest, I did skip the hand-sewing and just pinned the bejeezus out of it and machine-sewed it into place. Lazy? Definitely. But it worked!
The sleeves were a bit strange and I deviated from the instructions again here…I’m used to just easing sleeves into the armhole, but these were supposed to be gathered at the top of the sleeve, then sewn down. Which I thought would look stupid (well, I still think it would look stupid). So I eased as much of the sleeve in as possible, then trimmed the excess and made the sleeve opening a bit narrower. I think it should still fit just fine, and it won’t be all puffy at the top. Won’t know for sure till it’s tried on, though.
Now, the buttonholes were slated to be next, but let’s be honest. They still scare me. I hung the shirt up and contemplated other closure options. A zipper would be cold and might be pinchy, plus would throw off the overall gestalt of a button down. Buttonholes were too anxiety-inducing. John suggested snaps, and the light bulb went off! A friend of mine has an industrial snap press, and if I got ahold of her right away, there was a good chance I could borrow it!
Let me just say, snaps are really easy. I may never sew a button hole at this rate!
Overall, I’m pretty happy with how the shirt turned out. Now just to send it off and see who it fits!