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Without doubt, this is by far the most challenging and time-consuming project I’ve ever undertaken! I returned from my first (of two) sessions at The Ministry of Craft in Manchester yesterday, early evening, thoroughly done in! Who knew sewing could be so exhausting? And seriously hats off to all of you who have whipped up shirts on your own! Even with the help of an experienced and incredibly patient tutor, by three o’clock yesterday afternoon (we started at ten in the morning) I actually groaned aloud, slumped forward and put my head on the desk! We still had two hours to go…

We could select from three styles: a woman’s short-sleeved shirt, a man’s short-sleeved shirt or a child’s bowling shirt. Given my son’s recent comments about my shocking, maternal sewing-neglect, I went for the boy’s bowling shirt. There were seven of us on the course: three making men’s shirts, three making a woman’s version and me making the child’s version, all different pattern designs. If I was exhausted at the end of it, I hate to think how the tutor felt spinning so many plates at once!

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My son chose his own fabric from my recent favourite, online shop: Guthrie and Ghani. It’s a very sweet cotton, covered with foxes’ heads on a pale grey background. Interestingly I think it’s the first fabric I’ve sewn with featuring a ‘directional’ print, which I hadn’t even noticed until the tutor commented that we needed to make sure the heads came out the right way up on the collar. Thankfully once the collar was constructed and attached (a feat of engineering in itself, so many steps…) it came out the right way up, phew! He also chose a navy, double cotton gauze, patterned with all-over (thankfully non-directional) anchors. I thought I’d better attempt my own version at home alongside the course, before I promptly forget it all…

So to summarise (and for my own future reference) here are the steps we covered:

  1. Complete small pleats on either side of both back and front pieces
  2. Overlock around edges and attach pocket
  3. Interface collar and collar stand pieces
  4. Construct and attach shoulder yokes
  5. Attach front pieces to back piece via the shoulder yokes
  6. Fold and press the button placket
  7. Attach sides and overstitch button placket area
  8. Hem round the bottom of whole shirt
  9. Construct collar, attaching to collar stand piece
  10. Attach collar

Writing this list up, no wonder I was exhausted though! I’m also pretty hazy about the shoulder yoke bit as well (I daftly left the instruction sheet there, will have to get them to email me out a copy), but I’m pretty sure this was the correct order. As usual on these courses part of the exhaustion comes with wanting to just keep up, so that you don’t miss the next stage and get behind. I was particularly pleased with my pattern matching on the pocket (above left, though clearly ignore Dolly’s lady lumps which clearly won’t be spoiling the lines once it’s on my son) but from then on, any thought of pattern matching went clean out of the window. That said, the neatness of the finish, especially the internal shoulder yoke (not even sure this is the right word without my instructions) and the collar pieces more than makes up for this.

I have just a little homework to complete before next Saturday: hand stitching the collar down so that everything is neatly contained (see below). If I can summon up the energy I’ll also make a start at cutting out and beginning my second version too, but I seriously need a few days to recover first πŸ˜‰


I really loved the course (my slightly premature birthday present) and feel that I’ve learnt a huge amount already. The tutors at The Ministry of Craft are lovely, and couldn’t be more helpful. I whole-heartedly recommend their courses if you live in the North West. Next week we get to attach the sleeves and complete the button holes… My son is already delighted, though I’ll save an image of him in it for when it’s fully completed. I think I’m just about forgiven now!

I may just need another lie down in a dark room to recover my energies for the last week of half-term now, what’s everyone else been up to?




50 thoughts on “Shirt-in-Progress…

  1. Isn’t it nice to learn from the experts. Everything is so far away from home, I prefer on-line classes instead of more travelling after working 5 days a week. Luck you! I am sure your son’s shirt will turn out perfectly fine. Great thing about doing a shirt for him, the procedures will be the same for your shirt or a man’s, you just get to practice on smaller pieces – like all those doll’s clothes I used to make (that turned out pretty rough!)

  2. Love it! Such brilliant fabric choice and it sounds like the course is teaching you a lot – probably wise to practice what you’ve learnt at home so that it sinks in while still fresh in your mind. I love making shirts, all those details to get just so. Very satisfying. Can’t wait to see it on your son and hear what he thinks of it!

    • Thanks Sheila! I felt very proud whilst writing up this post, and fingers crossed I can reproduce it on my own. I break up two days before the monkeys do, so a little window to make a start on it hopefully. May well take me three times as long without the course though… πŸ™‚

  3. I’ve made lots of shirts for myself but not one for my husband or sons! Feeling slightly guilty now! It took me AGES to get my head round collars and the internal shoulder yoke thing, so I’m not surprised you were wiped out! Just imagine your son’s face when he tries on the finished shirt, it will all be worth it then! It sounds like an excellent course, I bet you learn a lot from it. x

  4. Looking good so far and I LOVE the fabric that your son has chosen! I’ve made (cobbled together) a few shirts now and I know what you mean by exhausting. You really need to concentrate hard at all times and learn to step away when you’re tired. Having said that they have been the most satisfying thing I’ve sewn yet and my husband has even worn them on occasion. Your next one will be fab! Good luck!

  5. I haven’t made a shirt with a yoke for ages but this looks like it’s going to turn out so nicely. I’ve also never heard of the Ministry of Craft but I’m going to check them out ☺

  6. Well done! The first collar is the hardest but they get much easier with the next one I promiseπŸ˜ƒ. Your son has good taste – thats a nice fabric. I cant believe its half term already! As for what i have been up to – just finished my final round review for the PR sewing bee so it feels like a huge weight is off my shoulders. Taking the time to catch up on reading blogs after helping my son pack for his Yr6 residential.

  7. Teresa, I salute you, this is looking very smart indeed! Love the print too.
    I bought plain white shirting for Child 2 yesterday (who is – unfortunately – not into prints in the way your son is) and might get a chance to get started tomorrow. Do you know if you’ll be doing proper men’s shirt plackets for the sleeves? Because in that case I’ll hold on until you report back, I never got my head around how those work …

    • Thanks Chris, but I seriously wouldn’t have been able to manage this without the help of the tutor. The instructions read like double Dutch! We’re only doing short sleeves sorry, which is fine for my son, but I bet those making a man’s version will be slightly disappointed at that. Will look forward to hearing how you get on…

  8. That fabric is soooo fun! I started working on an Archer button up today and my fabric is a bit of a challenge. I can definitely relate to needing a break and I didn’t get nearly as far as you did. I am looking forward to seeing your finished shirt!

    • Thanks Teri, but the tutor helped with deciphering the instructions a lot! Really not sure I would have managed it alone first time through. I think a non-directional fabric would have made it easier though…

    • Thank you! I’m really pleased with it and money well-spent on the course, not sure I would have had the patience or knowledge to get this far without it… And yes, think I’m just about forgiven now πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! Yep, was kind of lusting after the women’s version, but on reflection I don’t actually wear too many shirts except a couple for work, so not feeling like I’m missing out too much…

  9. Lovely fabric! Shirt making has such a lot of steps that are quite time consuming – it’s amazing that you got so much done in one day – no wonder you were exhausted! I just finished a shirt which seemed to take forever and now I can’t find any energy to write about it!


  10. Pingback: Selfless Sewing: Boy’s Shirt – As it happend | said & done: Handmade by Chris

  11. Nice job,your son will be a very proud boy owning such a unique shirtπŸ˜‰.I started making a tunic shirt and so far so good,only dreading the sleeve plackets 😞

  12. It looks great so far and the fabric is lovely – he’s a lucky chap! Be warned though, you will probably end up making more as he’s bound to love it!

  13. Your son is so lucky to have his Mum make his own shirts! I bet you will be more exhausted for his future projects. LOL! It is really a very exhausting day to go to a sewing class but the things we learn from it are absolutely rewarding.

  14. Pingback: All About The Boy | navybluethreads

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