The shirt that nearly destroyed my love of sewing.

Such pretty fabric, such a beastly pattern

Such pretty fabric, such a beastly pattern

I started making this shirt about 6 weeks ago, and three weeks and two crazy and confused muslins later, I had a wearable shirt that I love, but am still a little emotionally scarred by. This is entirely my own fault and the result of me getting a bit maverick. I decided to try a million new things at once. I mean, this is fairly inevitable as I am a beginner, and everything is new to me (I’m like a newborn baby here!) but knowing that, I probably shouldn’t have tried to make my first ever shirt from a company that is notorious for its extremely minimal instructions. I also probably shouldn’t have chosen a pattern from that company that was described as ‘medium to challenging’ and had features like a double yoke and a concealed button placket.  But hey. It is a really nice shirt design and I had some lovely Liberty tana lawn that was calling out to be made into a pretty floaty shirt.

So StyleArc Maggie, you nearly defeated me, but you also taught me a lot in the process of trying to make you. And my finished shirt is pretty fackin fabulous of I do say so myself. I’m allowed to say so, because I’m also going to show you the two abominations I made before I got to version 3.

First of all I will show you how big a pattern for a loose fit size 24 shirt is when it’s all printed on one piece of paper.

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It was a humungous untameable beast. The instructions however were MINIMAL to say the least. NO DIAGRAMS other than a cutting layout and very little in the way of descriptive writing. It assumed you know how to do everything from creating a fly front to attaching collars. The instructions for attaching the collar are thus: ‘With right sides facing sew the top edge of the collar, turn to the right side, flat stitch and press. Attach the top collar to the neckline, turn the under collars (sic) edge inwards and sink stitch around the neck’. I don’t know what flat stitching is. How do I attach the top collar? Which bit is the top collar? Where is the under collar? What is sink stitching? Basically, these instructions do not teach you how to do a thing. They assume you can do everything, and just tell you the order of construction. Though apparently the order can be a bit skew whiff. I know Style Arc produce a lot of patterns, and I know that not every pattern can be as good at teaching as Colette or Tilly, but this just made me feel stupid, and frustrated and I wanted to give up. It just all seemed like an impossible mountain to climb. I had to research every single instruction, and guess at a lot of things.  Some of these guesses were waaay off the mark. That’s why I made three versions. This wasn’t because I was adjusting the fit, I didn’t even attempt that, but it took three goes to understand the instructions. That seems silly to me.

Right, lets see what I made.

Number 1. In 99p per metre fabric. Why did I not realise that at that price it would barely be a fabric, but rather a collections of wispy strands barely attached to each other? Dear God this was difficult to cut and sew with, and that’s before I had even glanced at the impossible instructions. I totally failed to understand how to make a concealed placket, and I totally failed to make anything wearable.

The crumpled mess

The crumpled mess

Dreadful business.

Placket/finishing/life fail

Placket/finishing/life fail

So I tried again using some scraps of gingham and an old bed sheet from a charity shop. I also googled a lot and found that others were having trouble with the instructions, especially the placket. I got the placket just about right, but then managed to totally cock up the pleat at the bottom, giving me some kind of scissor effect.

Not so hot mess

Not so hot mess

I muddled through the yoke, with no help from the StyleArc tutorial which seemed to be for a shirt that was not already joined together, but I could not work out how to do the inverted pleat at the back of the yoke.

Wrong

Wrong

But after a lot of very heavy duty thinking and scratching my head and swearing and watching this tutorial I got the hang of it. I am very pleased with the results. I managed to do a proper yoke, a concealed placket, a curved hem, and buttons. Also, the fabric is awesome.

I ran out of red yoke poplin, but I like the contrast

I ran out of red yoke poplin, but I like the contrast

Here I am in it!

Ta da!

Ta da!

This is the back:

Hooray!

Hooray!

And here is my concealed placket

Now you see the buttons...

Now you see the buttons…

Now you don't!

Now you don’t!

There are still some things I’m not happy with: I had to finish the collar by hand as the instructions were totally useless about how to insert it, and I have never done this kind of collar before. And I’m rubbish at sewing by hand, so the tips of the collar look scruffy. I also placed the buttons in totally the wrong place: the top one is way too high, but if I unbutton it, the next one is too far down. DRAT. This is partly because I didn’t try it on and mark the button holes where I would like them, but also because so much handling and fiddling around with the placket to try and work out what the hell to do with it rubbed my chalk marks off. The whole thing was so confusing and infuriating I lost the will to live and just wanted it over so I could move on to something that didn’t make me want to scream.

All in all, I love the style of this shirt, and I am proud that I persevered. I’m not much of a ‘completer/finisher’, so I had to use a lot of willpower to not give up and move on to something more fun that I could understand without taking a degree in dressmaking first. The fabric helped. I loved it, and wanted to use it. I didn’t want to spoil it. I had to understand the pattern properly before I cut anything and I couldn’t just bodge my way through. It was an excellent exercise in concentration and self discipline, though I won’t thank StyleArc for it! I will use their patterns again after a period of recovery, but I think I will choose one of their ‘Easy’ makes. And take a few valium, drink whiskey and practice yoga while I’m at it.

Have you had a positive experience of StyleArc?

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13 thoughts on “The shirt that nearly destroyed my love of sewing.

  1. I love StyleArc. However I have been sewing for almost 3 years now and still haven’t tackled a button. I really do think StyleArc patterns need to be sewn according to your skill level as the instructions are not teaching ones – however having said that – look how much you have learnt from tackling Maggie. Good on you.

    Had a read back through your blog and had a laugh at your first post – “probably half my wardrobe is made up of ‘incentive clothes’ or ‘memory clothes’” – that is me to a tee. Keep hold of all my lovely thinner clothes even though I haven’t fitted into them for about 15 years!!

    Good luck with your sewing.

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    • Ha yes! It’s so hard to throw those pretties away! I think I need to though, I need to make room for all my me-mades now. Maybe it’s time to refashion some things…. and buy a new wardrobe!
      You are definitely right about StyleArc: I did learn a lot from throwing myself in the deep end, but I will go back to beginner ones for a while. I know you make lots of them: I guess they get easier the more you make just because you get used to their ‘house style’ a bit?

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  2. Wow. Love this shirt on you!!!
    The fabric is perfect.

    You can always talk to Mr. Google or Miss YouTube if you don’t understand terminology. Some of this is from down under. I think the sink stitching is code for understitching (USA). It’s hard enough to learn sewing without weird versions thrown in as well. See if you can get to know the peoples who staff your fabric store – especially if they seem to talk in wierd codes.

    And no, I have not used StyleArc. It’s very difficult to sew for oneself when oneself is not a size 2 with no bumps to get fabric around. So – I am impressed. A shirt!

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    • Thank you: this is great advice! I definitely to spend some more time with people in fabric shops instead of doing everything online so I can ask stupid questions. Mind you, Mr Google, Miss YouTube and particularly peeps from the online sewing community have been so helpful: thank you!

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    • Aw, you are NICE! I think coats are a long way off yet: I’m still scared of lining! I know you are unhappy with some of the finish of yours, (which as you know is only visible to you) but I think it’s looking absolutely GLORIOUS!

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  3. That material is so gorgeous – I’m glad you were able to make such a lovely shirt out of it by the end of the whole experience. You’ve done such a fantastic job of persevering in the face of vast sewing adversity. Personally, I probably would have given up halfway through the second version. Nice work!

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  4. I am so impressed with this top–I have never dared try Style Arc patterns because of their instructions. You did such a great job with your Maggie!! (FWIW, my first collar was a struggle and didn’t turn out great, but I wore/wear the shit out of that dress because I DID IT =).) And I love the picture of you holding the unwieldy pattern sheet, LOL.

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    • Ha, the pattern was so large I spread it out over my whole table,and laundry rack, and the floor! I hope I haven’t put you off stylearc: I think their simpler patterns are probably fine. I think the advice is to make something from them that you have made before: Not try something totally new like foolish me! And yes, I don’t care that the collar is crap: I made a collar! How is the amazing cat combo coming along?

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  5. Pingback: Sewing for other people 1: tiny ones | sparkleneedles

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