Tuesday, 4 March 2014

White Cotton Shirt

Hello dear readers!
It feels as though I haven't posted anything in months, but it has really only been a couple of weeks. I didn't have much of anything to post, but I do now.
This is the shirt I made for the Under it All challenge.

My mother gave me these 4 magazine pages of unknown origin, and they were extremely helpful. (Click for a larger view.)
They are from the February, 1981 issue of Early American Life. They have a nice little article about shirts, along with a cutting diagram and step by step instructions. The article is pretty good, though it doesn't mention thread buttons.
Curiously, this is the exact same diagram as the one in Loyalist Dress in Nova Scotia.
I followed the measurements in the diagram fairly closely, but I did make a few changes. I did not taper the sleeves. For the collar I cut two 16" x 5" rectangles. For the cuffs I cut four 9" x 3" rectangles.
I cut my ruffles on the selvedge and made them 3.5" wide by 2x the length of the edge they were gathered to.
Linen is the historically accurate choice of fabric, but I don't have that much white linen, and I hadn't made this pattern up before. I used cotton instead.
I sewed the shoulder seams by machine. I figured a bit of machine sewing would be fine since I wasn't using linen.
One of the 4 neck gussets pinned into place.
I whip-stitched most everything into place. In hindsight I should have backstitched it, like the instructions said to do, but whip-stitching is faster.
The top neck gusset in place. There is an identical one underneath it.

The shoulder strip pinned into place.

And sewn down.
I put narrow hems on the ends of all my ruffles. I drew a 6" line down the middle of the front piece, gathered the edges of the neck ruffles, and pinned them on either side of the line.
I stitched them down very close to the edge.
I pinned a facing (7" x 2") on top of that, and sewed it on from the underside.
I went along the same line I used to attach the ruffles.
I turned the facing to the inside, turned 3 edges in, and whip-stitched them to the inside of the shirt.

Having gathered the single layer parts of the neck hole with two lines of hand basting, I attached the outside bottom edge of the collar.
I turned up the inside bottom edge and whip-stitched it down.
I gathered the sleeves into the shoulder area and sewed them on.
At this point the inside of the shirt looked like this.
I sewed the underarm gussets in with a running stitch, and then machine sewed the side seams and sleeves. The edges of the cuff slits were finished with narrow hems.
I gathered the cuff ruffles and sewed them into the cuffs, leaving the ends open.
The outside of the cuff was sewn on in the same manner as the collar. All the edges were turned in and pinned. I stab-stitched the ends shut and whip-stitched the inside edge.
The inside of the cuff, pinned.
It was then time to finish all the seam allowances. (A very time consuming task that I did not take into consideration, which is partly why the shirt is so late.)
The shoulder seam. I cut the allowance of the gathered edge down by 2/3,
folded the other edge over it and whip-stitched it to the seam line.
For the other seams I cut the allowances in half on one side and flat felled them using a whip-stitch. Since most of the seam allowances folded in different directions, I clipped them at all the intersections and overcast the ends.
I turned them all inwards for the gusset.
I put narrow hems on the bottom edges and reinforced the bottoms of the side seams with 2" x 2" triangular gussets. The gussets are the only thing I actually backstitched in.
The cuffs fasten with one big button and the collar fastens with two tiny ones.
The top of the slit sandwiched between two tiny triangles.
The finished shirt is huge. It's hard to take a good photograph of the whole thing, so I left one sleeve out of this shot.
It fits.
I like it a lot.
The cuff button.

The sleeves are awesomely huge. They get in the way a bit, but there is a great range of motion.
A view of the underarm gusset.

Making Dracula hands.
The Challenge: #4- Under it All

Fabric: Plain white cotton, given to me by my aunt.
Pattern: From a 1981 magazine article
Year: Late 18th century.
Notions: Thread, 4 mother of pearl buttons.
How historically accurate is it? The pattern is accurate, the construction is partly accurate, the materials are not. The look is reasonably accurate.
Hours to complete: Unknown
First worn: March 3rd, 2014.
Total cost: $0

Here it is with a waistcoat and cravat.
Sadly, I am going to have to replace all the buttons on this waistcoat. The fabric backs are quite old and are tearing through. Two of the buttons have already popped off.
I am so glad to finally have a decent shirt.
I hope these construction notes are clear enough. It gets rather convoluted sounding when you type it all out.


  1. Yay for awesome sleeves!

  2. Absolutely fabulous! Reading your blog has cheered me up greatly. I like your descriptions and photographs. Natalie

    1. Wow. I didn't know my blog could do that. Thank you!

  3. wonderful - the sleeves, the ruffles! looks so dramatic and yet comfy :)

  4. Thank you for posting the great content…I was looking for something like this…I found it quiet interesting, hopefully you will keep posting such blogs….Keep sharing
    Made to Measure Dress Shirts

    1. WTF is with all these shirt spam comments?
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