The weather is warming up here in Tennessee, and comfort on those hot, humid days is what I had in mind with these shirts. I chose two lightweight warm weather fabrics. The first is a small check blue and white gingham, and the second shirt is made from a light gray Pima cotton. Both are 100% cotton and feature a single pocket on the left hand side. I may end up adding buttons to the collars to make sure they don’t flair out too much, but I want to wear the shirts a bit more to see how the collars naturally fall.
Back in January, I started re-working my shirt pattern in anticipation of needing a couple of spring/summer shirts. There was too much ease in the back of my first few shirts, which caused them to “poof” when tucked. Overall, I ended up taking out about 2 inches of extra room from the back of my shirt pattern.
Another major change I made was to the length of the shirttails. On my first three shirts, I purposely left the tails somewhat shorter than normal so I could leave the shirts un-tucked and not look like I was wearing a dress. I’ve pretty much decided that un-tucked shirts look sloppy and a little juvenile (maybe I’m getting old?). This time around I lengthened the shirttails to make sure they didn’t pull out when tucked.
I also made a couple of small changes to the collar. I slightly widened the spread of the collar points, and I made the collar taller by about 1/4 inch. Lastly, I took out a little ease from the sleeve, raised the arm hole, and refined the shape of the side seams. While I was happy with the fit of my first shirts, the above modifications are definitely an improvement.
I kind of wish I could photoshop that stupid look off my face.
This picture was taken right after I finished sewing on the buttons. It fits better than depicted above. I should have ironed the shirt first, and it would help if I was standing up straight instead of leaning on that railing.
I am a little late to be deciding on goals for the rest of the year in April, but better late than never. Here is a quick list of projects I want to accomplish before the end of the year (or next year in some cases). The first two are already underway and pretty much complete. I’ll post some pictures soon.
A pair of jeans for my wife. This project is long overdue and something I should have completed a while ago. I started the pattern, but need to make some adjustments and a couple more muslin test fit garments.
A few ties. These will most likely be casual cotton ties but I haven’t decided yet.
Canvas bag/back pack. I need a simple bag for work that can double as an overnight or weekend getaway bag. I’m not sure if I want more of a duffel bag shape or a back pack shape.
Jacket. The first version will most likely be an unstructured, unlined, informal jacket. Once I have a decent pattern for this, I can turn it into a more formal sport coat or suit jacket with a lining.
Cold weather jacket, pea coat/toggle coat. Again, I have to decide what I want here. This project could easily get pushed to next year, but is definitely something I want to attempt.
Suit. My work environment is extremely casual (I work from home), and I only need to wear a suit once or twice a year. That being said, I love suits and I would like to have a closet full of suits that fit really well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the suit project got pushed into next year as well.
More jeans. You only need one, maybe two good pairs of jeans. The key word being “good.” I am still adjusting my pattern for that perfect fit, and will probably always have plans to work with denim in some form or another. Quality denim is by far my favorite fabric to work with so far.
I could easily change or add things to this list. I may change my mind about some of these projects, but putting some of these goals in writing will make me accountable. If you have any suggestions for things you think I should consider making, let me know.
I get asked about the sewing machines I use quite often. If I had more space, I would probably have about a dozen different machines all set up for different tasks. In general, I like simple machines. You can spend a lot of money on a domestic (made for home use) sewing machine with tons of features, different types of stitches, and touch screens. I doubt most people utilize all of these features, and I feel that the more complicated the machine is, the more things that can potentially go wrong with it. All of my machines are mechanical without a computerized interface.
This is the workhorse of our (I share with my wife) sewing studio/office. It is a basic single needle, straight lockstitch industrial sewing machine made by Brother. It goes forwards and backwards and that’s about it. Whereas domestic machines are made to accomplish a variety of things such as straight, zig zag, and stretch stitches, industrial machines are uni-taskers. They do one thing and they do it really well. After all, industrial machines are made for the factory floor where they are expected to do repetitive tasks and run at high speeds all day long.
This machine is built into a table with an oil pan and large motor mounted underneath. It has a 3/4 horsepower motor, is very powerful, and when set at its highest speed, can sew up to 5,500 stitches per minute. I never sew even close to this speed, but it’s nice to know the speed is there if I ever want it. The really nice thing about a big powerful motor is that the industrial machine still has a lot of “punching” power even at low speeds. This machine can sew through five or six layers of heavy denim without flinching while sewing very slowly.
One of my favorite features is a lever that sits right below the surface of the table that I can access with my knee to lift the presser foot. This allows me to keep both hands on whatever I am working on while raising and lowering the foot. Right now we have this machine set up for medium to heavy weight materials with a heavy set of feed dogs.
After sewing on an industrial machine, domestic machines sort of feel like kid toys. The industrial machine is made out of steel, which contributes to it being so solid and running so smoothly. The sewing head by itself without the motor and table weighs between 70 and 100 pounds.
The Juki serger below is still fairly new to me. I bought it in January and am still learning about all of the different things it can do. Like many sergers, this model has two knives that cleanly trim off the edge of the fabric and then overlock the freshly cut edge with any combination of 2, 3, or 4 threads. These overlock stitches prevent the edge of the fabric from fraying. This model has differential feed and can be used with a single needle or double needles depending on which type of stitch I want to create.
Our oldest machine is a domestic Pfaff. It was one of the first sewing machines my wife bought about six or seven years ago, long before I was even remotely interested in making clothing. It has held up really well over the years,
and I still use it just about every week. Since our industrial machine is set up for heavy materials, I use this machine for shirtings and other lighter weight fabrics (update: I actually don’t use this machine very much anymore and use our industrial for just about everything). This type of machine is what I would recommend to anyone looking for their first general purpose sewing machine. I don’t think Pfaff makes this particular model any more, but there are other options and brands that are comparable.
Since I’ve been on a leather accessories kick lately, I thought I would post this belt I put together a little while back. I actually won the buckle in a giveaway from my local and totally kick ass microbrewery, Yazoo. You can buy your own buckle here. I picked up a belt blank from the leather supply shop, drilled a few holes, cut it to length, and rounded off the end. Simple as that. Done. New Belt.
This is way more buckle than I am used to, but since I won it, and since the beer is outstanding, I’m really proud of it. The leather is vegetable tanned cow hide, so like my wallet and card case, it will naturally age and take on some color with time.
The best part is that the buckle also doubles as a bottle opener.
This was my first attempt at working with leather. I needed a less bulky wallet and a way to easily access business cards. The leather, which is a vegetable tanned goat skin, is a little lighter in color than I originally wanted, but I decided to go with it anyway. This goat skin is much thinner and a bit tougher than cowhide making it ideal for a wallet.
The wallet is made using a single piece of leather. There are no stitches and no glue. Just one piece of leather folded with tabs. Some of the edges are already showing some wear. Over time, I’m sure this light color will age and patina to a darker brown (or blue if they ride around in my jeans for too long haha!).
Full disclosure: The idea for making a wallet out of a single piece of leather with no stitching or glue came from a Maxx & Unicorn wallet I saw here. I liked the simplicity of the idea and the challenge of trying to figure out how to create a wallet with just a piece of leather. The Maxx & Unicorn version is obviously more refined and quite nice. I’m not a hundred percent sure whether or not they use any glue. The description doesn’t really say, but there doesn’t appear to be any stitching.
Despite being a different color, the card case is actually cut from the same piece of leather. I opted to use stitching here to reduce bulk/layers and to get the job done quickly. The wallet is more complicated and it took quite a while to create the pattern, cut, fold, etc., but this card case only took about a half an hour to complete from start to finish.
I would like to thank the guys over at Put This On for featuring my jeans on their blog. I am a huge fan of what they do, and am honored that they took an interest in my latest project. As a long time reader I was ecstatic (literally jumping around the room) when I saw the above image on the Put This On home page. Their posts as well as their videos are very informative and entertaining, and I highly recommend checking out their site if you haven’t already.
100% cotton, 12.5oz, Blue Line, Cone Mills selvedge denim.
“Slim” fit, straight leg.
Single needle stitching.
Handmade by me from my own pattern.
Hand felled yokes, center back, and inseams.
Selvedge coin pocket.
Yeah, the pocket bags and fly are lined with a pink-ish plaid. I like it, and think men should be able to enjoy a little pink.
I used the selvedge for both the left and right sides of the fly. The look is clean, and the bulk is reduced to a minimum.
The shirt should look familiar. It still needs to be ironed, and tucked properly.
The denim is still really stiff, which I think causes them to hang a bit odd right now.
Selvedge denim, check.
Pocket lining, check.
More thread than I can use in a lifetime (18,000 yards), check.
A new pair of jeans just waiting to be sewn.
I started work on a new pair of jeans today. While I still love the first pair I made, and pretty much wear them every day, there are a couple of areas where I can improve the fit. The waste on my first pair is too big, and the fit through the leg is a little baggier than I prefer. Even though these were fairly minor changes to make on my pattern, I still want to make a muslin version before cutting into my denim stash. You never know how a few small changes in one place will alter the fit somewhere else.
The other reason I want to make a muslin version is that I just got a new industrial sewing machine, which is really, really fast, and I can use the practice to learn the new machine. The seams below puckered a little bit, which is probably a result of the tension being set too high and the heavy duty feed dogs that are on the machine. Once I switch to denim, the puckering shouldn’t be an issue. I attached the yokes and back pockets today, and hope to start work on the fly and fronts this week.
My wife and I threw together this felt iPad sleeve to protect the new toy from scratches and our crazy cats. The felt is far too thin for this to be a long term solution, but it works just fine for now. Ultimately I would like to make a similar case out of 3mm 100% wool felt, but that stuff is a bit pricey at $70 + per yard.
For $70 I would rather buy a bunch of selvedge denim for more jeans! When this case finally dies, I might have to make a lined, selvedge denim case for the iPad. I still have some denim left over from the jeans I made, which would be perfect for this type of project.