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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 😉


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?