Cheapskate Sew U Shirt

My Sew U Shirt is almost done. Cut, slashed, sewed, ripped, re-drawn, but the bones and flesh are done; it only awaits trimming and prettifying.

But first, the back story.

A big reason why I started making my own clothes was the the difficulty in finding anything my size and shape – narrow but busty. Going by my full bust measurement I’d buy size S, but shoulders would fall off and the waist would be gigantic. And while finding XS in many brands is difficult, finding an XS with bust shaping is impossible.

 While knitting, I would theoretically have to find a pattern written for bust size 30, and then add plenty of bust shaping. That way the shoulders and other proportions would be correct. In practice, I just don’t bother to match gauge or follow the pattern instructions; since I know I’ll be doing tons of calculations for bust shaping anyway, I just pick the yarn, needles and gauge I like, and only read the pattern for general shaping and construction guidelines (eg: at which point does an intriguing pocket start, are the sleeves set in or raglan, how is the collar made to lie as in the photographs, and so on). I know I need horizontal and vertical shaping, so I do several quick, dramatic increases just above the underbust line, and then add at least 1.5 inches with short rows. This creates a garment that looks pretty bad on the hanger – fronts drooping below the back, bumpy and wrinkly – but fits perfectly on the body.

So I was fully prepared to have to do a Full Bust Adjustment while sewing the shirt. But I was dreading it a little, not because I don’t like geometry and change, but it just seemed like too much to tackle for a first shirt project.

And then, struck by something looking not-quite-right, I measured the half back piece for the XS size pattern piece. It was 9.5 inches at the fullest point.  The finished garment back would be 18 inches – a full 3 inches of ease. The horror! The front would give me another 3 inches of ease. Double horror!! Was I going to all the trouble of sewing my own clothes for SIX inches of ease?!

So I did something I thought was mighty clever (pardon my conceit if this is a standard adjustment!). I just nudged the pattern sheet so that the Centre Back line lay outside the fold of the fabric by 1/2 inch… meaning, I lost one inch from the back. And cut out the front pieces as they were, but told myself these pieces now included front facings which would later get folded inwards. Problem solved! I reduced extra width in the body, and did so without messing with the darts! The only re-drawing was to push the front neckline back a little bit, to adjust for the width lost in the middle of the bodice.

Having made these changes, I couldn’t stop. I decided on an empire waist and tunic length ‘skirt’. Changed the bust darts to shape the empire waist even better. And a whole lot of other things which I’ll write about in the FO post.

 The best part for me was this:

… these are the exact amount of scraps left from this project. I’ll probably use some of the bigger pieces to practice buttonholes. Now that’s economy!

The fabric is from an old Fabindia wrap skirt:

The weave has an extra thick warp thread every few rows, making it look sort of like corduroy from a distance. But there is no nap, which gave me greater freedom in cutting. Because it was made from three panels, I had to do some creative thinking about how to position the pattern pieces — in the end, the only way to fit everything was to have the bodice pieces with the welts going horizontally and the ‘skirt’ and sleeves with the welts running vertically. Also, there was only enough fabric for elbow length sleeves.

But I’m delighted! I’ve had this rather dowdily unwearable skirt for so long that the fabric may well be considered free. The trimming fabric has been lying around for over ten years too. In effect, I’ve got a decent (though slightly strange) shirt for the cost of thread and buttons. My cheap little heart is singing.


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