mccalls 6044 version 3.0

so last weekend we hunkered down for the

BLIZZARD OF 2013!!!


during which time not only was it difficult to leave the house, we were expressly forbidden to at risk of fine and/or imprisonment. not kidding! not that i had any intention of driving around in a blizzard, but there you have it. we got 2 feet of snow and literally had to dig our way out the front door.


so what’s a girl to do while snow is falling at an alarming rate? why sew, of course!


i already had this dress shirt cut and fused and waiting for it’s turn under my needle. after cutting the shirt i perused david coffin’s “shirtmaking” and wanted to employ some of his techniques. while i didn’t strictly adhere to his method on all points, i did pay close attention to how he does the shirt collar. while i haven’t achieved perfection here, it was interesting to see how such small changes improved my collar attempt so dramatically! to me at least.


i’m not going to detail a full rundown of his methods, mostly because he does such a great job of it in his book, but also because duh! he wrote a book and it’s hardly fair for me to just put it all out there on the internet. if you’re not interested in owning a copy, most likely you can find it at a library. my library has a great inter-library loan service so i can get virtually any book i need. that’s how i tracked down this source, though i plan to buy a copy soon to have on hand.

i’m just going to call that last buttonhole
stitched in green my signature okay?


to start, he gives you several different seam allowances to work with. he suggests 1/4″ for most parts of the collar (except the edge of the collar that attaches to the stand—that you leave 5/8″) which allows for more control and accuracy. i find 1/4″ difficult to stitch because it falls under my presser foot, which i obviously can’t see, so i went with a 3/8″ SA.

he also suggests trimming width off the under collar and inner collar stand, so the under or inner side of these pieces are 1/4″-1/2″ smaller than their counterpart. i find it interesting that he has you stretch the smaller piece as you sew to fit the larger piece. what i have seen before, say in tailoring a coat or jacket, is to cut the outer pieces larger then ease them down to the smaller size. do you see the difference? it’s subtle, but it really works well. when you let go, the collar just naturally curves itself! very cool. i was a bit nervous and didn’t trim as much as he suggested so i still have a few wrinkles. next time i’ll follow more closely for sure.


i always had issues getting the rounded edge at the front on the collar stand to look good. i could never figure out when to sew that little curved bit and thankfully, coffin address this very well. no more guessing for me! all in all, the collar on this shirt is much more crisp and formed than my previous attempts. i still need some work on my collar points. i may need to invest in one of these.

i hope to make up a “how-to” for the collar stay channel soon…


i’m still not great at flat felling. i had removed most of the ease in the sleeve cap because it’s quite unnecessary here and makes felling even more difficult. i think with practice i’ll get a little quicker at it, but i spent f-o-r-e-v-e-r putting those sleeves in and felling them. the side seams, by contrast went super fast. it’s still tedious to get all the way up or down those sleeves, but using my new felling foot at least got my stitching far more even.


inside felled armhole


inside felled sleeve seam


another thing i found interesting was how coffin recommended a very short stitch length. i had noticed while examining my husband’s rtw shirts that the topstitching was done with a very short stitch, so i did this on the last shirt, but he suggests that you do all your construction with a much shorter stitch. his argument is that the shorter stitch uses more thread to go up and down with each stitch which enables the fabric to retain some of it’s natural give. i noticed that i was getting slight puckering in my seams, but dialing down the tension a touch took care of that.


there are still minor changes i’ll make next time around: widening the button placket (coffin recommends 1 1/4″, this one is 1″), turning the under button placket to the inside instead of the outside, widening the back pleat, etc. i do feel pretty good having made three dress shirts this year, and it’s only mid-february! i know more will be on my plate before long, but these are a good start. actually, i wouldn’t mind making one for myself. each time i make one i keep thinking, you know with leggings and a belt i think i could wear this… focus lisa, FOCUS!

—lisa g.

mccalls 6044: version 2.0

it’s tricky to get interesting-looking shots of an un-modeled men’s white shirt (i should probably at the very lest get myself a nice hanger) but here you go anyways. i finished this last week right before my husband had to take off for the weekend on business. to las vegas. wah-wah…

this is one of two shirts i cut out for my husband, this time dress shirts for work. there is a dive fabric shop nearby that has amazing deals and i picked up some white and light bluish grey shirting for $2.50/yd. since i’m still learning all the tricks i’m not ready to splurge on the $10-$20/yd quite yet.

i made the white shirt first with a couple fit and design alterations. i widened the neck by about 5/8″. when i had him button the top button on his first shirt, it was definitely too small for tie-wearing. also, the sleeves were a touch long, so i shortened the sleeve by 1/2″.

if you squint you can see the collar-stay channel i added

then i did the front placket different. i extended the center front of the shirt front so i could attach the placket at the edge then fold it onto the front, then top stitch.it’s a small change, but it requires less blind precision and eliminates hand stitching the placket from the inside.

i went ahead and flat-felled the sleeve/shoulder seam as well as up the sides and down the sleeve. surprisingly not as hard as i thought it would be! i just ordered a felling foot to make this stitching a little more precise in the future though. it’s damn near impossible to hide imperfect stitching on a light solid colored fabric, let me tell you.

i decided to track down the ultimate resource in shirtmaking, aptly titled “shirtmaking”, by david coffin. since the husband has tasted the fruits of custom clothing there’s just no going back. i’ve glanced through the book and there is so much information to absorb. he has great techniques for all the tricky bits and i will no doubt rely on this book heavily.

i had promised a sleeve placket tutorial to go with my pattern piece, but i made this one in the evening and had no adequate lighting. i’ll make sure to do the next one during daylight hours for your benefit. it did turn out rawther well, i think.

overall i’m pleased with how the shirt came out. the fabric weave is looser than a lot of shirting so i had some issues and struggles all throughout. the next one has a very tightly woven fabric so i think it will come together a bit easier. even though i have it cut out, fused and ready to go, i have another project i’ve already started: thurlow pants in denim! the shop that i picked up the shirting fabric at always seems to have a pile of denim for $2.50/yd and i finally picked some up. plus i have an unblogged pair of pants i made for my daughter… ack! it’s only the end of january and i’m already getting behind in posting!

—lisa g.

menswear!!!

finally, finally! the lovely guy who supports my addiction, obsession, useful skill of sewing FINALLY has his own garment to show for it. i should have done this ages ago, but… well… i don’t really have a legit excuse.

i picked up some plaid shirting from fabric.com and used mccalls 6044, which i picked up for $1 at joanns. i mentioned in my last post that i had a laundry list of gripes about this pattern, but upon further reflection i’ll just call these “changes” and QUIT COMPLAINING. 


overall, this is a decent pattern. the fit for my husband is an unaltered, straight out of the envelope size small, and it’s basically perfect. (to all of us who do extensive alterations on patterns to get a decent fit… I KNOW! so not fair.) and it’s not that he doesn’t fit a standard RTW size, but he’s small-framed and those sizes aren’t heavily stocked. ultimately i want this pattern to serve as a business shirt that i can make over and over whenever he needs a new one. right now he needs about ten. i went to his closet, checked out all the details on his RTW, and here is is what i changed.


i drafted a back yoke piece that was straight across the back (instead of the western style—though i love me a good western shirt) and did the whole two piece yoke sandwich thingie (or “burrito” as described by peter at MPB).

then i added 1″ in width to the back piece so i could add pleats. his casual shirts have two pleats out toward the shoulder and that’s what i did here. his dress shirts have a single larger pleat in the middle, so i can easily change where i pleat the back piece as needed.


for the long sleeve version in this pattern, there are two pieces to the sleeve. typically there is a button placket at the cuff, but to get around doing a regulation placket, you are instructed to turn the SA’s in and topstitch. eh. not gonna cut it for me. all i had to do was lay the sleeve pieces together along the seam line and cut it as one. but, then i had to figure out and draft the button placket. i had instructions on how to sew it in a book, and after a bit of puzzling i worked out the dimensions and drafted my own. if anyone is interested in having this pattern piece, i plan to create a .pdf with instructions at some point. i measured the plackets of his existing shirts so what i have is a pretty standard size, though it could be customized according to preference.


i didn’t flat-fell the seams on this one, though i plan to for future makes. i did serge and topstitch for a faux flat-fell. i set the sleeves in flat, so topstitching the side seam and down the arm was something of a challenge. it was like sewing in a tunnel. not sure if i’ll be skilled enough to flat-fell it this way… if anyone has tips for me on how to do this, please speak up! i’m a complete newbie on this one.

i bought a 1/4″ piecing foot for quilt making (i have grand plans to use up my leftover fabric scraps and turn them into my very first quilt), but i found it came very much in handy as a guide for topstitching, fancy that.


the only thing i plan to change for future shirts will be how the front button placket is done. it’s fine as writ, but it requires a bit of lining up so that the inside and outside edges line up perfectly when topstitched. there’s an easier way that minimizes both bulk and room for error. next time i make a shirt (and i’ll be fabric shopping for white shirting this week—wish me luck!) i’ll elaborate and show how it’s done.

so what did i learn? the button down men’s shirt is not to be feared ladies! it took a little more of my attention since the process was not my normal autopilot dress or tee shirt, but difficult? not really. okay, the collar can go very wrong very fast, but other than that, not difficult. you will see more of these from me. and maybe even one for me if i ever get around to it.


so there.

i did it.
I SEWED MENSWEAR!!!


—lisa g.

UPDATE: click here for the sleeve placket template