A Duo of Handsome Wing Collar Shirts

…for two handsome guys – my dad and my husband!  It does come in handy for me when their presents are garments that both men are almost exact in body type…and therefore size, too.  Thus when it came time to figure out gifts for them last year, I sewed up two shirts from the same vintage pattern, but choose two different fabrics and prints to accommodate for personal taste.  There isn’t anything like a custom, personalized gift to make someone’s day, and I love doing that for people as special as both my dad and my hubby.

What I used here was a ‘tried-and-true’ pattern that has previously helped me sew this unusual shirt for my hubby, a Butterick #7673 from 1956 (see facts below for a picture).  This time I used the second, completely different view which has something called a “wing collar”.  The collar is a wonderful kind of subtle different, yet I LOVE how its ‘wing’ name coincides all too well with the kind of shirt I made for my dad in particular…

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Out of the wide and varied store of awesome knowledge that my father has in his head, he is amazing when it comes to World War II airplane history.  He had previously raved to me about a co-worker of his that had such an impressive plane print shirt, so he himself gave me the idea.  I set about to comb the internet and after an exhaustive, long drawn out search, I found the one perfect print that screams “Him” to me, and boy – I found it!  His shirt is a cotton print which combines his expertise in camouflage prints with his knowledge of WWII planes.  The aerial view of the ground, in brown tones, looks like a camouflage when you focus on the planes, which are all-American, like us!  My dad (and I, too) love, love the mix of bomber and fighter planes so much so that we are frequently caught looking down at his shirt when he wears this!  Distracted much?  The basic, soft cotton of his shirt makes it very ‘everyday wearable’ for him, and the print can definitely a conversation piece for him – something he can all-around enjoy!

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I am completely tickled by the close matching down the front of the shirt where it buttons.  Whether you believe me or not, the matching was a lucky surprise.  You see, I figured I wouldn’t be able to pull a full match off without blowing my brains, so I didn’t try, but it still happened anyway!  I did meticulously match up the left chest pocket, so that it is nearly invisible.  Finally, I added a cloth “made with love” label inside for a true gift message, too!

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My thought process and motivation behind making hubby’s shirt was different than my dad’s, but similar in the whole “gift” idea.  You see, ever since my first few dresses inspired by the Marvel television series Agent Carter, he started bugging me with hints about something for him inspired by the same show.  He’d remind me that if I’m going to be Peggy Carter, there should be an Agent Sousa (her romantic interest), and who better for role that than him?!  Well, yes, (I’d roll my eyes and sigh), I suppose.  Being set in California post WWII, Agent Sousa often wore Hawaiian print casual shirts, and as that was something my hubby certainly did not possess, the ‘vacation-time to relax’ vibe of a tropical shirt is what I wanted to channel.  I wanted to not just give him a new shirt, in a new style and print, but also lend the shirt itself a relaxed ‘feel’.  I did all of that by choosing a new-to-him fabric to enjoy which would dress up his casual shirt – rayon challis, my own favorite!

Now, as this was to be his shirt, I let him be the one to pick out the print.  I found a bunch available online and both he and I were undecided about two, so we bought both!  He preferred a rich orange background tropical print rayon (bought from this shop), with Agent Sousa in tropical shirtHawaiian and bird of paradise flowers spread out in a large scale.  He also liked (but I preferred) a print closer to a shirt worn by Agent Sousa, one that seems more ‘California’ to me – the one you see in this post.  I love the rough, tree bark effect of the background and two colors of palm tree silhouettes.  He will still get the other Hawaiian print sewn into a shirt soon enough, but for now he is happy with the one that makes him more like Agent Sousa, and one that we both picked out!  Besides, there was enough leftover of this tree bark-palm tree print rayon to actually made myself a sort of matching, summer, 50’s blouse, too.  Granted we haven’t yet wore our tops in the same fabric at the same time…but it still is kind of cute to know I made a ‘his’ and a ‘hers’ version.DSC_0580a-comp,w

What I’d like to point out is that this men’s shirt design is also unusual in the way it has no shoulder placket.  The back is one full piece, with no darts, tucks, or pleats of any kind, and it extends all the way up to the center top shoulder seam.  How easy and simple can you get?  That’s what makes this design of shirt just perfect for novelty prints, in my opinion.  Not that style lines are bad, but in this case they do not get in the way of the fabric prints and make complex matching one of the last things to concern yourself about.  Between the back and the simple, faced, all-in-one “wing” collar, this is a very easy and quick pattern to sew.

DSC_0579a-comp,wBoth shirts were cut out the same, like an assembly line, except for two small tailoring points.  My dad has smaller shoulders and is shorter in height than my husband, so the length I added to hubby’s shirt was taken out as well as the extra 5/8 to extend the shoulder width.  Any other differences had to do with the material and how it needed to be treated.  My dad’s shirt, being cotton, got flat-felled seams and a bias bound, shirt-waist style hem.  Hubby’s shirt, being a slinky rayon, received French seams, and a tiny ¼ hem around the straight edge bottom.  My dad’s shirt buttons match the background of his cotton print – they are basic and two-toned brown.  My husband’s shirt buttons are rather nice, pearlescent basic shirt buttons for a slight, but not flashy, contrast.  As suits a vintage shirt, all the buttons are vintage, or at least retro, from the stash of hubby’s Grandmother.

I like how this post presents a good example of how the choice of fabric dramatically changes a design.  (McCall’s Corporation just presented and example of this on Instagram.)  It is the same for all patterns – the choice of texture, color, and ‘hand’ of a material all makes important variations.  Sometimes these variations can be a surprise or planned depending on whether or not you are working with a fabric that is new to you or one that is akin to a well-known friend.  Either way, sewing offers endless opportunities for creative fun and expression starting at the fabric level!

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Men, at least the one’s I know, are so hard to be models!  My husband is not comfortable being pointed at by a camera, but he did his best for me here for this post and accommodates his seamstress like a good man.  I didn’t even bother to ask my dad because I know him and didn’t even want to try and convince him, too.  Believe me, though – my dad’s shirt stands perky (keeps its own shape) and is awesome against his darker skin tone, suiting him well.  One model is enough, because anyway…these shirts look even better in person.

This men’s vintage pattern NEEDS to be reprinted (hint, hint McCall corporation).  If I knew how to make this happen, I would.  Out of all the patterns I’ve come across, I am never more serious than about this one.  For those who sew, these shirts are fun to make because they are creative, incredibly easy, and a nice change from the traditional collars and plackets.  For the guys who would only be on the receiving end, this is the kind of shirt where you will feel special in it, and if you hang around one person for about 5 to 10 minutes length of time, you will get a curious, interested question about your collar.  Then comes the time to do the seamstress a favor in return as part of your answer!  It’s a win-win all around.100_6215a-comp,w

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Plane shirt – a quilting 100% cotton; Hawaiian shirt – a 100% rayon challis

PATTERN:  Butterick #7673, year 1956

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread, bias tape, interfacing, and buttons were needed, and I always have this stuff on hand!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Each shirt took me only 4 hours to whip up, and both were finished up about August 23, 2016.

DSC_0340-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  French seams for the inside of the rayon shirt and a combo of flat felled and bias bound seams are inside the cotton one.

TOTAL COST:  The plane print cotton was bought off of Ebay and more than what I normally spend or even would like, but as it was for a present I felt it was worth it to get something so appropriate for someone.  The two yards of rayon for the Hawaiian shirt came from “Simply Fabric of Oakland” (see it here, if you want to buy some, too) and is lovelier than the normal Jo Ann’s store rayon – very silky with a slight sheen.  So pleased with my present purchases, I’m not really counting!  

Hubby’s Holiday Ration

Every year when December comes around is the time for me to figure out what I will make as a gift to give my husband for St. Nicholas Day/Christmas.  This has pretty much been our tradition for the last several years – he gets some article of clothing handmade by me for the holidays and then one other garment for his birthday/Father’s Day.  So, his “ration” of articles from my hands is about two a year.  I love to see his tickled and happy reaction every time I make something for him…it makes it so worth it!

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Anyway, this year’s gift for him is more than just his ‘allowance’.  It really is a garment from a time of real, restrictive, and penny-pinching rationing due to then current world history – a “Manufactured in England” year 1945 McCall’s pattern for a men’s dress shirt.  This is his ration on the ration but you’d never guess, would you?!  This is the dressiest shirt I’ve made to date, the first English pattern I’ve used, as well as the first long sleeve nice shirt that I’ve made for my man.  Come to think of it, up until now I’ve always made him short sleeve and/or sports shirts.  To make it even easier for him to wear his new shirt immediately (which he wanted to anyway), this new shirt a Christmas appropriate color!  It turned out so well and he does look quite spiffy in it, if I must say so myself.

THE FACTS:                                                                                                                 

FABRIC:  100% linen mccall-5864-year-1945-cover-compw

PATTERN:  McCall #5864, Printed and manufactured in England, circa year 1944 or 1945.  I’ve seen colorized envelope American versions of this pattern dated 1944 and also 1945, so I’m guessing this design was printed throughout both years.  However, the way my pattern’s insert mentions McCall #6044, from 1945, (more about that below) my version of #5864 is probably also 1945.  By the way, is it just me or does the top left guy’s face look like the actor Robert Young?!

NOTIONS:  I used everything from on hand in true 40’s outlook, but I only needed thread and some interfacing.  The buttons are probably close to authentic 40’s vintage as well, as they are a set from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash with obvious cut marks on the back (meaning she saved them off of an existing worn garment).

TIME TO COMPLETE:  His shirt was finished on December 9, 2016, after just over 20 hours.

dsc_0875a-compwTHE INSIDES:  I feel like because the insides are so nice in French seams, with the shoulder panel lining covering the rest, Hubby thinks I played a trick on him (…not me).  He literally has a hard time telling right from wrong side with this shirt!  Score!

TOTAL COST:  This linen was bought on deep discount when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was closing earlier this year.  I spent probably only $6 on this shirt for him.  When hubby reads this I’ll sound cheap for his gift, but it’s the thought, fit, and quality that counts!

The pattern sadly manifests the effects of WWII compared to all the other USA sourced McCall patterns I have used before.  First of all, the cover of the envelope drawing is in black and white, the same as Australian patterns of WWII times.  Secondly, the pattern is unprinted, reverting instead to the hole-punched code system on plain paper like other companies.  This is a major step in rationing because being the very first to offer printed patterns continuously was always (and still is) part of the bragging rights of McCall’s, and I have never read that they departed from that.

mccall-5864-year-1945-instructions-compwThere are a few small “reminder” sheets inside with a half size instruction sheet…seeing how to make the shirt was like reading ant-size print, no kidding!  The one other “reminder” sheet states (in all red letters) that now the 5/8 inch seam is the baseline for their patterns, and the other sheet gives a guide of how to read their non-printed hole-punch system.  At the top of the guide for reading the hole-punch method is an interesting apology for it, “As a result of the present conditions…”  Everyone knew what those were, I guess not clearly saying “W-A-R” helped make those circumstances slightly better.  Below the apology is the confusing “notice” that their patterns have a ½ inch seam allowance up until number #6044.  What?  Didn’t McCall go out of their way to print a small added notice of 5/8 inch seam allowance, only to also say it’s ½ inch too?  I see all of this pointing to the company awkwardly, hurriedly adjusting and adapting to the (then) “present conditions”, trying to do their part in the ration effort the longer the war went on while still offering home sewers no less awesome designs.  One last thing – notice the envelope was stamped “TAX FREE”!

The quality of the pattern did not seem all that affected beyond the fact that it is an unprinted pattern.  As I every so often find with the punched hole patterns, there were some slight inconsistencies or mismatching with its making – something only I woulddsc_0832a-compw notice.  The front hem of one side to the front was about ½ longer than the other (which I trimmed), the left shoulder panel was a bit wider than the other (again trimmed), and the two collars were not shaped exactly equal.  Most of the times this doesn’t even happen because most patterns have pieces such as these cut on a fold, so both side are guaranteed equal.  However, this pattern is unusual in that it only had the back bodice of the shirt cut on the fold while all else was a full piece, with both right and left sides, and cut out on a single layer of fabric.  This together with the fact that most all the pieces were skinny and small, made for a very efficient pattern that left with plenty leftover to go for another project.  Yay for fabric thrifty 40’s patterns!

I really love all the finely classy and subtle vintage features.  All the 40’s shirts I see for men have gathers in some form or fashion, so the light, barely-there gathers at the cuffs and back panel are a nice departure from the norm.  Making/sewing the collar stand was quite challenging, small work, but compared to the turnover style (where the collar merely folds on itself) or the all-in-one style (where the stand is the same piece as the collar) this style is the best for dress shirts, in my opinion.  I already had practice with making button sleeve plackets when I did my own 1946 flannel shirt, so I really feel that I did the ones on hubby’s shirt very well this time.  The front left button overlap was fun and so easy to make as well as another classy touch.  Sewing something for my man has given me the opportunity to try new techniques I wouldn’t do otherwise.

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Once again, because he is skinny I choose a pattern that has his collar size (14 ½ inch).  Unlike women, neck size is priority, too, together with the chest when making a pattern for a guy…not so much hips or waist! However, just like the last 40’s shirt pattern in this size the sleeves ran really short, as if for a teenager.  I’m not talking about adding a little – I had to add 1 ¾ to the sleeve length for my man!  Granted, in modern shirts he does look for the longer length sleeves.  I don’t know how many of my readers use vintage men’s patterns but if you do and you also notice super short long sleeves as a trend for the small sizes, let me know if you see what I see!

The linen for this shirt was an absolute dream to work with – so soft and easy to sew!  People who only work with polyester need to try this kind of fabric, and they should be amazed at what they’ve been missing. To keep the linen in the right shape, the interfacing weights were switched up with the mid weight stuff in the collar cuffs while the lightweight was in the collar stand and button overlap.  Hubby’s linen shirt is the same cross-dyed, semi-sheer linen used for my 1933 skirt, just a different color tone.  Cross-dyed colors do make for such a lovely option to plain solids.

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Christmas is a time to sing, hope, and pray for “peace on earth” and “goodwill towards all”, so I find it rather funny in an ironic way how my shirt for hubby brings the Allies of World War II together.  I made this living in my country of America, the pattern I used is from the United Kingdom, the inside seaming to the shirt is French, and the material for it is similar to a fine Irish linen.  (Ireland was officially nonpartisan during WWII, but they had many contraventions helping the Allies and being aided by them in exchange.)  Perhaps a shirt for the peaceful time of Christmas can assuage the facts of the circumstances around this war time pattern, and provide a nice way to “wrap up” memories brought up by the recent celebration of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Green is symbolic of many things, but also of balance…perhaps I should have called my post title “Holiday Harmony”.  We all need a taste of that!

I’m hoping everyone had a restfully happy and beautiful holiday season of Christmastide!  I also hope you were told compliments on all your handmade garments and received some lovely sewing related and creative-inspiring gifts!

My Hubby’s 1956 “Odd-Collar” Madras Shirt

Menswear can get pretty predictable after a while, and it’s hard for me to find “something new and different” for my hubby without being too avant-garde or “look-at-me”.  So often, it’s the little details or subtle touches or even the fit that makes all the difference to menswear…so here is one shirt that stands on its own.  I’ve never seen anything like it, but leave it to a vintage pattern to offer something amazing!  I think this shirt rides the delicate balance of being fresh, vintage yet timeless, comfy and classy, with a toned down unusual-ness.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton madras plaid100_6215a-comp

NOTIONS:  I had the bias tape, thread, and interfacing used already on hand.  The two buttons at the neckline came from hubby’s Grandmother’s collection so they are most probably vintage.

PATTERN:  Butterick #7673, year 1956

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This is by far the easiest and quickest shirt I’ve made for him to date.  It was made in about 5 hours and finished on September 24, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  All cleanly finished bias bound edges.

100_6581-compTOTAL COST:  The madras was bought for pittance when our favorite local fabric store was closing.  For only 1 ¾ yard it cost maybe $3 or $4.  Cheap, cheap!

My hubby loves how comfy his shirt is in the weightless madras cotton.  He also seems rather tickled at the shirt’s uniqueness.  He does get thrown off just a little by the unusual way of closure but it is not hard in the least to slip on over the head.  On my end, being the one that did the sewing, the biggest perk is that it is so easy and super quick to make (believe it or not), besides being incredibly fun to do something so out of the norm.  Plus, (lovey-dovey gushing alert) I also own a matching ladies version (Butterick #7771) so I can sew my own “odd collar” blouse to match my man!  Awww!  Look for my version coming soon to my blog.

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I would like to know if there is an official name or title for this style or type of collar.  I think I remember seeing in an old catalog page or ad where this kind of shirt was called an “Italian-front” shirt.  I have not yet re-found where I saw this so I feel badly that I am not justified for saying this.  The envelope back identifies the other style of shirt in the pattern as a “wing collar” (unusual, too) but yet does not identify the other view that I made.  For the ladies’ version, the envelope back summary calls it a “two button horizontal closing”, but there has to be a better name.  If anyone else can help me out as to what an “Italian-front” shirt is, or any designation or story or such for my hubby’s shirt please let me know.100_6580-comp

Peter at “Male Pattern Boldness” made a version of this same style shirt, only in long sleeves, from a different brand, and (surprisingly) in an earlier year, 1954.   Now, as the ladies’ version of this style shirt is the latest dated version I’ve yet seen I can’t help but wonder – was it so popular for the men that the ladies demanded a version or was it planned by Butterick anyway?

Back to my man’s shirt, I do love the option of decorative top-stitching across the front.  I’d like to try this on a solid version – after all, I do have a late 50’s sewing machine (kept in storage) with a dozen cams to make such fancy stitches.

However, hubby had an immediate liking for the feel and the plaid of the black and white madras when he found it in the fabric store.  As is the unfortunate trend, the fabric he again picked for a shirt for himself was a seriously shortened length.  Not even two yards!  It was the last end of a bolt…barely enough for a shirt but just enough to make it a very challenging effort for me to finally make it work.  This is why there is an unplanned-for (but rather invisible) seam down the center back of the collar and the shoulder panel – I had to piece those parts together just to get a match of the plaid or even fit them on the fabric at all.  I’m hoping yet that someday making a shirt for him will be easier with at least one having enough (or more) fabric to spare (…feel the doubt in my tone).

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The continuous lapped sleeves are wonderful – so much easier than the set-in kind.  I wish more women’s patterns had this but then again we ladies generally want slightly more defined shoulders.  There are side slits that go up to the level of his pants pockets so the shirt doesn’t have to come up when he wants to use his pockets.  The sleeve hems are shortened up by several inches because the original length is about down to his elbows and that made his shirt only look frumpy (so we thought).  We also wanted simplicity to let the plaid shine so I left off the optional chest pocket…it would be too much like a dentist’s shirt at that point.  Besides the sleeve hems and the pocket, the rest of the pattern was 100% unchanged even for the fit as it was his size right out of the envelope.  Hallelujah for easy!  The hardest part was figuring out ahead of time how the collar goes together, but I just followed the directions and it came together with no problem.  I’d like to congratulate the person who came up with this shirt’s design and its instructions.

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Who knew sportswear could be so sophisticated, yet effortless to make?!  What is so funny is the way we like to see if others notice something different when he’s wearing his shirt.  For example, one day my dad complimented him on the shirt (knowing if he’s wearing a new shirt I probably made it) yet he looked at it better saying “Wait, what…something’s going on…where are the buttons…how do you put it on?”  It’s so good to catch people off guard in such a good way, getting them to see and think differently about men’s clothes, a thing often taken for granted when it comes to style or change.  Do you have a favorite “out-of-the-box” garment you really enjoyed finding and/or making?

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(It looks like hubby is doing a Western-movie pose, much like, “Draw partner!”)

A Christmas Cotton Set for the Mr. and Mrs.

No – I’m not talking about the Mr. and Mrs. Claus of Christmas, but making something for me and my hubby! It feels so good to finally see (and get to wear) something from my stash that was silently begging to be re-fashioned! It is nice, too, among the business of making (and finding) gifts for everyone else to make holiday gifts for a little “selfish” sewing for ourselves…

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I’m wearing my Burda “Wrap, Drape, and Tie” set from the previous post.

This story starts with a downer but ends well. One attempt at creating an elegant, ankle length, full circle cotton skirt for a Christmas about 12 years ago turned out to be a disappointing fail that I couldn’t wear. The skirt only looked tacky, overwhelming, and literally homemade. It was just one those bad ‘fabric-print-pattern’ combinations. However, I loved the print of mistletoe and holly, and the cotton was very soft, thick, and high quality so I always wanted to make something better of a ‘failure’ to redeem myself. Here is that re-fashion combo on Christmas day at family’s house – not-so-good picture and all! It is a man’s neck tie, 3 ½ inches wide from a 1971 pattern, for my hubby and a vintage inspired bias-skirted apron for myself.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton is the “Holly and Mistletoe” print, but the lining for the back of my apron (in a deep bright green) is a broadcloth which I suppose is mostly cotton, too, with some polyester perhaps.100_6606a-comp

NOTIONS:  I used whatever I had on hand for both the apron and the tie, which included thread (of course), interfacing, bias tape, and a blank clothing label.

PATTERNS:  The Tie: McCall’s #2971, year 1971; The Apron: the “Mango Tango” pattern from the book “A is for Apron” by Nathalie Mornu; The original skirt: Simplicity 4883, “Design by Karen Z”, year 2004, made in a size larger than what I needed so as to have an elastic waist.

Simplicity 4883, full & half circle skirts, yr 2004, with A is for Apron bookTHE INSIDES:  Both items could not be made any better even for being rather fast in completion. The apron has bias bound edges, both inside and on the edges, while the tie’s edges are not seen, 100% covered, tucked away inside itself. There is a “custom label” underneath just like store bought ties, too (picture below).100_6827a-comp

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I have a beef about the tie which I’ll address later, but it took me a total of 2 ½ hours to make. The apron took me maybe 4 or 5 hours, which is twice as long as my ‘normal’ time for aprons, a fact due in part to adding lining, doing some fitting, and much ironing.

TOTAL COST:  As this was a re-fashion of something bought and made from such a while back, made with what was on hand, I’m counting it as free. However, the tie only calls for 5/8 yard, and the apron pieces are rather small, so both could be made from scraps or at least very little fabric to make them low-cost creations.

100_6603a-compFor this duo of re-fashions, the absolute hardest part was at the pattern layout and cutting stage. It was hard to re-establish the grain line and selvedge direction on a garment that had already been made. My first step in the re-fashion was to cut off the waist panel which extended several inches down below the waist so that I could deal with just the bias circle skirt part – the only part I really wanted to use this time. I’ll save the skirt lining and the waistband for some other time. Now the only thing I knew was that the center front of both the front and the back skirt were on the straight grain, so I the rest I figured from there. Then finding the right grain for each of the pattern pieces for both patterns was the next challenge. It was kind of like a puzzle to fit the patterns in on the right grain and I can tell the bias might be just very slightly off in the tie and the apron skirt, but so close to right on that I shouldn’t be fretting. A successful re-fashion is always something great, especially when you can end up with two wearable projects out of one unwanted one!

100_6822a-compNotions and supplies given to me by my Grandmother came in handy for these two projects. Pre-Christmas time can be crazy enough the way it is, and the last thing I needed was an extra errand to the fabric store. Besides, I love to make my projects work as far as I can with what is on hand, although I do try to keep up a good supply so as to make this practice work more often than not. Anyway, I used two slightly different colored bright red single fold bias tapes (1/2 inch) for the apron, as well as a random cut of happy Christmas green. Going with a slightly shortened apron skirt, this green cotton lined the back of my apron and also a man’s utility apron I made as a gift for my sister-in-law’s husband, so it was enough for two actually. Hooray for stash busting with a good cause.

Oh goodness, the cover of the tie is so happily deceptive, for as nice as the tie turned out it 100_6655-compcertainly did not take me 45 minutes. In reality, it took me half of an hour to do both the cutting out and sewing out the pointed ends and two hours of hand sewing to finish the long inner center seam edges. (The two hours of hand sewing were actually quite productive, as I was multi-tasking listening to Ken Burns’ program on the history of “Prohibition”.) However, surely there must be a faster and easier pattern to use to make a tie so I probably will not be using this pattern again. Beyond some not-as-clear-as-they-could-be instructions, the pattern wasn’t really all that bad. After all, the tie did turn out quite nice, with clean finishes, and creative construction methods…it just didn’t live up to its façade of being ‘quick and easy’ as it makes you think. I do appreciate the fact that the tie pattern gave two size options: a 3 ½ inch wide or 4 ½ inch wide front bottom. Both of us decided unanimously for the 3 ½ inch option. He didn’t want to look too vintage, although he does look totally like a swing era gent in his picture.

100_6604a-compHow and who came up with the method of transforming a ‘T’ shaped end into a self-faced triangle? So smart, I wish I’d done it, but whatever, it tickles my mind. Seriously, look at that pattern! There is definitely some backwards thinking ‘engineering-style’ needed in sewing, especially when it comes to designing patterns, in order to deconstruct how to manipulate fabric and get it to turn out a certain way. I think this tie pattern is a good example of what I love about sewing…it’s better than magic how something in paper that’s flat, odd-shaped, with no dimension can become a wearable work of art. Amazing!100_6654-comp

My hubby’s father has done all this before me – he makes ties out of worn out denim blue jeans, and he has made his own pattern for his projects. Not to give away any secrets but it has a simpler design of construction which fits appropriately with the heavy weight of the denim. My father-in-law’s ties and my own are both products of re-using and re-fashioning, a trait I am proud to share. I am the happy owner of a copy of his personal, special pattern and maybe I’ll have to try it in my quest for the perfect design.

My biggest fear was that the two ends would turn out looking wonky. What if one side of the point has a different angle? As it turned out, following the markings of the pattern and such did produce perfect angles for even looking tie ends. Yay! I’m proud at being able to successfully make a not-so-traditional item and try something new.

100_6738a-compA cotton tie might sound odd just because you don’t see them sold but ties haven’t always been what they are today. In the 1910’s and 1920’s men’s ties were more like scarves or square bottomed. In the 1930’s, 1940’s, and the 1970’s tie were often a little wider than what we’re used to, and throughout the last 70 or so years ties were made from different materials such as sweater knits or made with odd monograms, painted designs, and appliques. On the pattern I used, the envelope back lists every material under the sun (almost) as recommended fabrics.

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Love the quote on this page!

Interfacing was added down the inside center of hubby’s tie. I didn’t really know what to use as interfacing. Muslin cotton? Canvas? Regular modern interfacing? I went with the modern lightweight interfacing and merely ironed it down in very small patches at the two pointed ends (to create a sharp triangle), at the center seam for joining the two pieces, and once in between. I made sure to tack the interfacing down with the tie anyway when I hand-stitched the first center inside seam down through all the layers. It should stay in place if it needs a washing, which I can do ‘cause it’s only cotton, he he.

I have so many patterns and choices when it comes to apron making but for some reason this particular design from a book of mine “spoke” to me, just seeming to be the right fit for the Christmas cotton. I’ve already made my mistake when I made the skirt, and it a pattern naturally pairs up with a fabric I’m not resisting. I kind of wanted something classier for my apron, like ivory or soft green color highlights by using different bias tape than the bright red I did use, but Hubby was right when he said those colors would have been too muted. I do love the slightly vintage flair to it, the very fun and feminine bias flaring skirt, the unusual pocket (too small to be too useful, but still cute), and the neckline features. In other words, everything! Maybe I should re-name this apron into a twist on the pattern title – “Christmas Tango”?

Patterns from this book are in the back, needing enlargement of 400% to be true to size. I took the “easy” route for the patterns and used a photocopier service to do all the printing and figuring for me. Otherwise one could draft the patterns up to full size themselves.

100_6813a-compThe pattern was made “as-is” except for a slight fitting I made to the ties. The ties are an extension of the bodice and slanted at such a sharp angle down that on my smaller frame I would have ended up with a bow over my behind…not the best spot. So I added a pair of 100_6825-comp1/4 inch darts into the inner (upper) curve where the bodice section runs into the ties to make a sharper turn, keeping the ties around my waist where they should be. Keep in mind that this was done before I sewed on the bias trim. Notice, too, how I took the extra time to line the extension of the ties with the printed fabric so that there wouldn’t be a “wrong side” of green lining cotton showing behind me. I love to make such little touches that none but an expensive apron would have. It doesn’t take much extra effort on my part and gives the pleasure of having a de-luxe apron.

Perhaps the mistletoe on the print will prompt holiday smooches both ways – from him for the cook (me), and from me to the dapper man with the cotton tie (me). Being a coordinated twosome has never been so fun and tolerable as this. It’s not like making matching clothes. An apron and a tie are just something to add onto our clothes, that we can take off when we feel “too cute” together. What a better time to be together than the Christmas holiday, anyway!

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My special “Merry Christmas” pin is decorating the apron top!

For One at the Home Front: a Man’s 1943 Flannel Plaid Work Shirt

There are the honorable men who helped World War II to be fought…and then there are the men (for one reason or another) who had the often over-looked position of keeping the home front with the women, children, and politicians. Those at the home front did not win awards or medals, but helped keep the wheels running for the country the soldiers left behind, making sure their nation was there for them when they returned from active duty. This part of World War II was brought to my attention by making a vintage pattern, believe it or not. I made (as my title states) a 1943 flannel plaid work shirt for my husband, as authentically possible and practical for me the seamstress.

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I would like to use the opportunity this creation presents to remember and address a subject of the men who stayed behind in WWII, and also the masculine fashion which prevailed in the mid-1940’s.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% cotton blue, navy, and white flannel plaid. A small amount of black cotton broadcloth from my stash was also used to line the back shoulder yoke inside.100_4745a-comp

NOTIONS: Hubby enjoyed rummaging through his Grandmother’s vintage button stash (which I now keep) to find 10 total matching white buttons which he liked for his shirt – sleeves, lapels, and front. The interfacing and white thread needed was on hand already.

PATTERN: Simplicity #1961, year 1943

TIME TO COMPLETE: The total time was about 25 hours or more. The shirt was finished on March 8, 2015.

THE INSIDES: Every raw edge that isn’t the hem or isn’t already covered by lining or the design of the shirt (such as the cuffs), is finished in French seams. If I’m going to make him a shirt, I want to make him a really good one…’cause I can and ’cause I care (high mushy factor but true).

100_5904a-compTOTAL COST: The flannel was bought at Hancock fabrics on a big discount at $2.25 a yard. Since everything else for the shirt was on hand, and as I bought all the under 2 yards of fabric on the bolt, I only spent a total of $4.50. I think this total makes hubby even happier about this project…wouldn’t you?

100_4954-compBoth the proportions and the cover drawing of this particular pattern that I own has led me to some interesting conclusions. Firstly, let’s look at what’s apparent. The cover drawing top half shows two men facing the viewer, comfortably middle aged perhaps, both with a “grown-up” moustache and the left one having slicked back hair streaked with grey while the right has a pipe. The other man not facing the viewer is, to my eyes, a young adult/grown boy, dapper healthy and cheerful looking. I see a discrepancy here – what is not drawn are the 20 to 30-something year olds who were the ones sent away to fight the battles and see the action. Secondly, the sizing of my pattern is a small and the given proportions are quite petite. My hubby has arms that need a 34in. length sleeve, and a neck that is comfortable with a collar which is a 14 ½ in to a 15 something inch. The neck, the chest girth, and the shoulders all fit him as is, but the pattern’s sleeves needed a whopping – inches added to the length. Now I know hubby’s finished shirt fits more snugly than a traditional 40’s shirt should, and I know men’s 40’s shirts seem run roomy (that was the ‘look’ of the times), which is why he got away with fitting into such a small size, although he is lean anyways. However, my patterns sleeve length tells me that the small size was catered to one not fully grown yet – a teenage boy who would have been home because he was under 18 years old, one of the two age groups I figured from the cover drawing.

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Here’s a family photo. My hubby’s Grandfather, who was in the war, is in the middle in his uniform, with hubby’s great-uncle, who was about 17, on his left in the flannel plaid shirt. This is year 1944.

Amid the flurry nowadays of learning (and amazing) at how people of the 40’s rationed, scrimped, saved, and “made-do” to help their soldiers, I’d like to point out that the needs of the men who stayed behind were thoughtfully not neglected by the pattern companies, apparently. I’m impressed. I know from learning first-hand about family history on both sides that men who were in their prime of life, and did not fit in the two “classic” categories shown on the cover of my pattern, did stay back from being sent overseas, too. According to page 6 of the American Population Reference Bureau report on the military, “The World War II armed forces represented about 12 percent of the population and included about 56 percent of the men eligible for military service on the basis of age, health, and mental aptitude.” This means about 44 percent of American men didn’t serve active military service. Thus, I am curious about the size proportions of the medium and large to my pattern – are the next two sizes up for adult men with dramatically longer sleeves than the small or are shorter arms something of the 1940’s or just of this pattern? I can see some sizing on the back of my envelope, but a full sleeve measurements would fully prove my thoughts. After all, this pattern reminds me of a true “working man’s shirt” in the “lumberjack” style, with lots of generous pockets to make it even more useful and practical. Men’s vintage duds just isn’t around still like women’s vintage clothes – men wore their stuff (especially the practical ones) until it couldn’t be worn anymore. I’m so happy to find patterns which help me fill in today for what is missing from back then.

100_4958-compSpeaking of fabric rationing and pockets from the paragraph above, I was working with some major discrepancy of flannel to make this 1943 shirt, leading to some slight adjustments to the pattern. Not too often do I come across an exact fabric match to a pattern envelope drawing, much less at a cheap not-to-be-missed price, and also have it be something hubby actually liked, as well – a very rare combo! It was almost painful to hear at the cutting counter that there was just under, yes…under, 2 yards for me to make a plaid-matching, long-sleeved shirt. Augh! I don’t know why this is a habit, but it seems as if the fabrics which get chosen for hubby’s shirts are so far always way too small of yardage. I have to make the gears in my brain smoke just to make things work out (see his 1953 shirt). Oh well – I mark it up to, “it keeps me creative” (I have to reason with myself). Anyway, I did squeeze in all the pieces with a few necessary compromises which hubby is happy have – chest pockets and their flap closures are smaller all around by 5/8 inch with the hem shorter and rounded up into a point at the side seams. The shoulder tops were taken in ½ inch to eliminate drooping sleeves and keep the seam at the true shoulder. No compromises whatsoever were made as to the grain line or matching up the plaid, and I am shamelessly proud at the results, especially working on such an impossibly short amount. I’d like to think the most hardcore 1940’s era rationer would be proud of me, too.

100_4959-compNow, I’m not called “Seam Racer” for nothing, however I really slowed my pace down while working on this project, enjoying all the fine details and getting things as perfect as I could make them. Attaining “perfection” is a hard goal to set, but I wanted hubby to have a really nice shirt – besides, I have a tendency (for better or worse) to make things hard for myself.
Let me define some of the details put into my hubby’s 1943 shirt so you can look for them in our pictures. There are rounded off sleeve cuffs, for a subtle dash of personality. There is an ultra-wide collar, more akin to what I also see in the decade of the 1970’s. The classic back shoulder panel is there, fully gathered across the lower piece below to complete the vintage look. I top-stitched everything in white for a contrast/utilitarian appearance, and made the shirt insides special for hubby in French seams not seen in ready-to-wear. He chose a medium weight interfacing for the cuffs, collar, and button-hole closure edge. I chose to use the “wrong” non-fuzzy side of the flannel as the right side out to keep his shirt looking a bit more crisp and less likely to “pill” up or look worn before it’s time. This “new” “vintage” shirt is meant to last a long time!

100_4952-compThe detail that was the source of the most thought, time, and stress for me was the duo of flap patch pockets on the chest. This was the first time I had done this kind of pocket, and I found it to be a tiresome, exact technique but very rewarding when finished. The placement in the front didn’t leave much room for error without becoming immediately obvious. This is why I left sewing on the pockets with its flaps and closures for the very last step after the rest of the shirt was done. Not meaning to complain, but matching the plaid of the pocket with the rest of the shirt and the flap closure section is one thing…however, there was the button and button-hole closure to center. I felt like these pieces were a bit fiddly and rather tiny to turn, sew, and generally work with, so I am quite impressed and amazed when I see flap closure patch pockets on our son’s child-size shirts. Hubby is happy with the pockets, even though I still doubt whether or not they’re centered, so if it’s good enough for him, I’m happy, too.

After hubby wore the shirt a few times, I went back to the few minute scraps leftover and added little triangular inserts to fill in the upper corners of the shirt-tail arch. These are intended to give him just a little extra ‘forgiveness’ in the length. Now, the shirt won’t show his undershirt as easily when it is pulled out from his pants or even left untucked. Each triangle fill-in piece is doubled up and lap-stitched under the existing hem of bias tape.

100_4960-compHubby has yet to own a pair of vintage 1940’s pants, so his shirt is often worn with classic jeans. The jeans give his 1940’s shirt a sort of quintessential look in my mind, making them not so obviously vintage. Jeans are not too far off in era-appropriateness, although, because they have been a staple in the world since the 1800’s when the Gold Rush happened, as the best wearing and longest lasting bottoms. As a daily-life, work-wear men’s garment, my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt seems appropriate to be paired with jeans, besides the fact the combo of flannel and soft broken-in, quality jeans is quite cozy.

The Marvel television show “Agent Carter” has offered some enticing eye-candy of Agent Carter Cast with Stan Leehandsome menswear styles which I have seen recently. Some of the masculine characters wore authentic vintage pieces, while others wore well sourced and excellently tailored new replicas, but either way, I love the way “Agent Carter” presents the variety of styles available for men during the 40’s, a subject often overlooked in lieu of women’s fashion. Go to this “Hello Tailor” Blog interview with the designer of “Agent Carter” where she talks about sourcing and styling the men for the television show.

1943 mens fashion-magazine ad & Spunrayon shirtsFor a man of the decade, there was the classic mid-40’s relaxed look of lumberjack shirts and blazer jackets, and also “new” post-war casual look of sweater vests and pre-1950’s “University-style” sweaters, which did or did not need a tie and “braces” (suspenders). The dapper style was there for men, too, with endless opportunities for self-expression by choosing classic ties or art ties, old style-plaids or newer brighter colors, double-breasted or single-breasted suits, and multi-pleated or darted flat fronted pants (more fashion forward). Knitwear men’s shirts, precursor to the modern polo, were also being worn by men in the 40’s, as well as more artificial man-made fibers, just like for women of the 40’s. Nevertheless, there is some things that do not change about 1940’s men’s clothes – high/natural waist pants with boxy shirts with large collars. Knits and plaid, new and classic…it all stood side by side offering a man of the 1940’s more personality with his wardrobe than many people realize.

Men’s vintage wear might be rather non-existent as far as surviving, but with knowledge, a 100_4957-comprealization, and respect of the past, us seamstresses can change this and bring back men’s ‘chic’ fashion from the past. Men deserve to have the same admirable classy personalization of individual fashion like what was available in the 1940’s. Here in this post, I feature a 1943 shirt for my hubby so relaxed it becomes a part of him but so classy and tailored I hope the vintage style and hand-made quality quietly stands out. I can’t wait to make him a different vintage project. If you sew and have special man in your life, what about honoring the past, catering to individual style, and expanding one’s talents by finding a pattern for you to create a “new” vintage garment with me and bring back a style and variety so lacking today?!