New Nightshirt


This feels a little like showing pictures of my underwear. It’s quite decent though really. It’s a modest garment and I’m not even modelling it.

Some people like pyjamas, some people prefer nothing. I like voluminous white nightgowns. I find them comfy, and I can pretend I’m a historical figure or a character from a book :-).  I’ve been making them myself for years, because although one can buy the sort of thing I like, they are jolly expensive. My current favourite winter one is just a loose, ankle length shirt. So I decided I’d make another like it. It’s my standard shirt pattern cut a little wider under the arms and with the side seams angled out to use the full (only 112cm wide) fabric width. I’ve learned finally not to put lace on the hem, it ends up too bulky to be comfortable. So this is just a shirt tail hem with the back intentionally a bit longer.

The fabric is a flannelly cotton/linen blend (or so I presume, it’s certainly cellulose fibre and feels very much like some cotton/linen I had years ago). It feels a little heavy initially but goes beautifully soft on working.  I have a bolt of it from a warehouse closing sale. So if I like it, I have a lifetime supply of winter nightgown fabric.

If I’d thought more about the lace placement before I made the button placket, I’d have done a matching point. Oh well. Ah yes, the placket is a different fabric, a plain shirt weight linen. I was concerned that the flannel would come out too bulky with all the folds that this sort of placket generates.

I must say, applying that lace at the end of the cuff, enclosed in the seam was a rather more complicated affair than I expected. I’m happy I made it work though there was a bit of unpicking and changes of plan needed before we got there.


Collar Issues

Sometimes it is brought home to me that I’m not as good at this game as I’d like to be.

This poor shirt has been lying part made, crunkled into a ball, since early January. The fabric is vintage Liberty Tana, bought from a shirt making firm closing down their Melbourne city workshop. I had wanted to make a fully classic shirt, including two part collar. I didn’t have such a collar to match my current shirt pattern, so I used one from my previous shirt pattern. I thought I’d checked the seam lengths, but it still ended up a couple of centimetres short. Boo. Once I’d convinced myself I couldn’t make it work, I threw a minor hissy fit, unpinned the failed collar and put the shirt bits aside. For months as it turned out.


Today, I decided that I would at least drape the constructed body/yoke on me to try to see what was going on. Aha. The neckhole is way too big. Why did I not see that before? It doesn’t look too bad in this pic, but that is the cut edge, not where the seam will end up lying.


Given the neck edge was already clipped, I decided to revert to a narrow straight cut collar. Sad. Not what I wanted, but I’ve learned something.


See, too big. Pretty colours though:


I did at least make my first set of proper cuffs for ages, narrowed to better go with the narrow band collar. Also, my theory about making one of the wrist pleats a continuation of the sleeve crease seems to work. Hurrah. I thought that would make neat ironing easier.


Here is the whole thing:


and a sexier, more insouciant pose


Ho Hum

Yet another chemise. Now I can do Festival in 14thC with a clean chemise each day.

It doesn’t look like much hanging. White on white.


It’s linen. Of course. Or at least what we believe to be linen (some of the Job warehouse haul). Sewn mostly by machine in cotton thread. All seams are neatly flat felled, even if only by machine. My uber authenticity friends will think ill of me for that. I’d claim to not have enough arm to do it by hand. Actually I suppose I could, over quite a long period.  It seems I’d rather spend that capacity on my patchwork.  Some medievalist I am eh?


Neckline is faced with straight grain double fold tape of the same fabric. Handsewn down, though I had a brain spasm and went with a less than wonderful stitch choice. I realised partway, but chose at that point to just continue.


The wrists and hem are done by hand in a prettier stitch, which the camera really didn’t want to focus on.


Here she is having a rest on the little sofa :-). Nope I’m not pressing it.


Ticks all the boxes

Long time no post. I hurt my back and I’ve only just managed to set up my computer for standing use.

I decided I wanted a shirt for sun protection while travelling and that none of my existing shirts quite fit the bill. I wanted plain weave, light weight cotton with minimal construction and no trim, so it would dry quickly. A print for preference, to help in not showing dirt and creases. A fabric that dries relatively crease free without ironing would be a bonus. So I made one, in only a few hours. Hurrah. Cut it this morning. Finished without rushing before dinner and with several hours off for a visitor in between.


It’s my current standard shirt pattern in it’s simplest version. Sleeves are just hemmed rather than cuffed. Sleeve hems and button bands are self faced and interfaced, or could be described as simple double fold hems. The collar is interfaced with the same openweave linen I used for the ramie shirt. I’ve cut it a bit shorter than usual so it doesn’t get so sat on and ends up less crushed as a consequence. I’ve also cut the armholes a little deeper (and sleeves wider to match) to minimise sweat transfer (I’ll mostly wear it over a tshirt). With luck I might get a couple days wear out of it between washes? Perhaps. The fabric came from a Clegs boxing day remnant sale. I grabbed it thinking it was Liberty Tana. It’s not, but it’s still very good shirting. Selvage details below. It is beautiful stuff to work with and the tiny scale print is delicate and whimsical. “London Calling” seems to be the name of the print? Makes me smile.


Here’s another close up of the fabric, plus the pretty engraved shell buttons that I felt worked with it.


Indigo Shibori Shirt #1

A few weeks ago I had a marvellous time having my first go at dyeing with indigo at a workshop run by Opendrawer. I dyed a bunch of short lengths of fabric, but all from two types of fabric. Below are the results hung to dry straight from the workshop. A few days later I washed them and lost a bit of the contrast. The dark sections are now lighter and the white has gone pale blue. The narrower solid pieces at the front of this pic started as white cotton poplin. Yet again, this is from a friend’s cast off stash. I was concerned about not having enough of this to make a shirt, so I threw a plain undyed piece in when I washed the dyed fabric so it wouldn’t look too stark. That thought worked, the plain piece came out matching the paler sections of the dyed cloth.


Yesterday I cut a shirt from the poplin pieces. It’s a while since I made a patchwork shirt. I used to make them in my student days, free clothing from Mama’s leftovers :-).


I used the plain piece to line/face the collar, yoke, button bands and hem. For fun I made a little self piped edge on the buttonhole band


Due to concern about sufficient yardage, and because the poplin is a bit stiff, I made the shirt shorter and a bit jacketty. The cuffs and collar are deep and interlined with linen. The hem too is deeper and more robust than is usual for a shirt. Definitely meant to be worn over top, not tucked in.


Here is a back view. I took care to place the starburst on the yoke, but the nice central placement on the upper left back piece is a very happy accident, I was just trying to maximise the used of the darkest and most interesting sections. I really enjoy the different patterns pieced together. I know some of my friends prefer a much more ordered aesthetic, but they don’t get to or have to wear this shirt.


From the front. I’m aware that the picture that gets picked up by FB is the last one in a post, so I like to select which that will be. Sometimes that messes with the natural order of the WP post.


Ramie voile experiment

A couple of years ago, I found what I thought was linen voile at a very cheap price and bought silly amounts of it. Well, silly amounts given it turned out to be ramie rather than linen.  I’d done nothing with it, partly due to the disappointment, mostly due to my very large stash.

Ramie is rather like linen, but more brittle, has very little stretch and can be scratchy. I read that it is also good at resisting bacteria and mould. So some good, some bad, and some people find it too scratchy to tolerate. I don’t know whether I can wear it or not. The only other experience I have sewing ramie was many years ago and disastrous. The fabric was so brittle it was breaking apart as I worked and that project went in the bin. I was very sad, partly to lose the work and the cost of the fabric, partly because it was a beautiful jaquard weave in shiny black.

So to get a feel for how it behaves, I decided to put a simple shirt together, then get through a few cycles of wear and launder. The main fabric is very fine but with much more body than cotton voile. So fine that I wondered what I would use for interfacing. The plain linen I’ve been using lately seemed too heavy, as did the lightest white iron on in stash. So I decided to try strips of what I  think is a linen gauze, that also hasn’t yet been used. Thankfully, it has worked well (to be reviewed after first wash), which is great and lets me be less concerned that there is no cotton organdy in the stash at the moment.


and the obligatory button shot. I do so love shell buttons, especially when they are shiny, and even opalescent.


Well, it is a simple shirt* except that I had an idea for a bold but stealthy self detail.


Any excuse to put trefoils on things. At least one friend would call this an ermine spot though.


*This is of course my original pattern that I adapted for Mama

Mama shirt: stage two, trial shirt

The trial shirt reached Mama in the mail yesterday, so now I can post about it here. I had lots of ideas about what fabric to use for this, but finally settled on this dark blue linen*.

It’s a very plain shirt pattern. I was aiming for flat construction, no darts or pleats, but a gently close and flattering fit. It works quite well on me, how would it work on Mama?  Note that the lack of cuffs is by her request. The collar is a plain rectangle, I like the simplicity and it makes sewing easier, but won’t sit well under a jacket. I’m not sure why the yolk is sitting badly on one side, but it could be partly that Mum has slopier shoulders than me, more sloped than the hanger. It seems to set better on her.


A button detail. I like buttons and I’m pleased I’m getting better at buttonholes. Shell buttons as I prefer, except when metal ones work better. Mum is a clean lines lady so I sewed the four hole buttons on to suit, crossed stitching would amuse her less than I.


And look! it fits really well, or at least well enough. She is to tell me whether she wants any changes to the pattern before I make up the printed lawn. She has also asked for a copy of the pattern! I’m thinking that I was right that the armhole curves need softening a bit (not obvious in this pic) but that the neckline fits better than I feared, still might need adjusting though. Maybe a few mm more in the side seams over the hips. A jolly good outcome for a first attempt from the other side of the country though, and she likes it.

mama shirt-1

*fabric was a stash reject from a friend. The bonus of being a rare bird of a dressmaker is that people keep giving me their stash.

Mama shirt: stage one, the pattern

Eight years ago, I went to Edinburgh to visit my brother. I found this pretty cotton lawn and brought a piece home for my dear Mother, who loves William Morris designs. On my last visit to family, Mama hadn’t yet done anything with the cloth, so I offered to make her a shirt.


What pattern to use? well, I’d just done up a new shirt pattern for myself, but Mum is littler than me. We tried my shirt on her, and I made a list of changes that seemed to be needed.


Today I got around to having a go at applying those changes and building a new pattern. However, without my model present for fittings and because I can’t replace the WM lawn, I’m going to cut and make up a trial shirt first to test the pattern.


I’m getting close to needing to replace my brown paper roll. Gotta keep the amazing vintage paper cutter in use.