Banging out a shirt. — and, what’s with buttons?

Sorry, no photo shoot of the new jacket yet. I’m headed to the west coast in a couple of days to meet up with the fabulously talented headmistress of the Foster Monster’s Orphanage. While she’s not busy disciplining her unruly gang of monsters, I’m hoping she’ll agree to be my photographer. Plus it will actually look like Spring there. The alternative is me trying to look happy standing ankle deep in snow.

So, while I have a little free time I’ve decided to make myself a new shirt for the trip. Something about traveling makes me want to have something new to wear. I’m probably the slowest sewist in the universe, so to get this made in three days is really an accomplishment. I’m really pleased with the result, and think it will be perfect for mid to upper 60 degree days.

This is a cotton lawn that I purchased on sale through Denver Fabrics for $4 / yard. At 54″ wide it took just a little over 2 yards. I have also seen this fabric in NYC. Some of the more cramped fabric stores in the garment district actually have bolts of fabric tumbling out onto the sidewalks. It’s their free advertising. Sometimes it makes me think “hmm, this place looks interesting”, other times I think “man, I don’t think I can even squeeze in there”. Anyhow, I spotted this fabric on the sidewalk once and walked away. When it showed up on sale at Denver Fabrics I decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did.

This fabric has a wonderful “floaty” quality. I don’t sew for women, but this would make a great summer maxi-dress. The diagonal pattern really adds a sense of movement. The color is really more pink / coral. My camera is making it look more orange.

I wanted to preserve the diagonal pattern of this fabric without agonizing over matching, so I opted for a placket front. This allowed me to cut the front on the fold. The placket is just the David Coffin sleeve placket writ large. His book on shirtmaking gives all the instructions on how to draft and sew it. It’s really a great bit of sewing origami, and surprisingly easy to do. You will never fear making a placket again. I interfaced the placket, collar and stand with Pro Woven Shirt Crisp from Fashion Sewing Supply. It’s simply the most amazing stuff! (and this, from a guy who resisted fusibles forever!) You will swear that it’s a store bought shirt.

The real challenge of this shirt was, of all things, the buttons. My only sources locally are JoAnn’s and Wal-Mart. I decided that my best option was JoAnn’s. They really only had one option for a man’s buttondown shirt. The issue is finding the small buttons for the collar. What JoAnn’s had was “OK” but really didn’t go with my fabric. If I had been looking for something gold, with rhinestones or shaped like cupcakes I would have been all set. It’s funny how something so simple can be so frustrating. The other kicker is that a set of buttons that I really didn’t like cost $6. They’re buttons!

So, I turned to the biggest selection of buttons in my area….

That’s right, Goodwill. I can buy a shirt for $4.99. They have a huge selection so it was easy to find the “right” buttons. I ended up with an X-large flannel shirt that can be used for either a nice dust rag or perhaps coat pocketing in the future.

All of these for $4.99. Almost double the amount needed.

Plus, I found this great 50’s lampshade for $1.99. Guess who’s been watching too much MadMen!

Happy sewing (or thrifting), everyone!

12 thoughts on “Banging out a shirt. — and, what’s with buttons?

  1. What a great place to look for buttons! I am such an avid reader and fan of your work, so I am more than pleased to realize you are also a thinking man, as well.

    I follow your blog because of all the sewing I did for my (now grown) son, and will use these new secrets as my three grandsons put in their clothing requests.

    I look forward to your next project and/or photo shoot. Enjoy your trip!



  2. that's such a cool idea! It's so frustrating to find matching buttons for men's shirts when you're a bit on the adventurous side. My husband wanted a shirt made out of coral red muslin, just imagine the gasps and glances we got in our local store when we politely declined the cute duckies and strawberry buttons since the sales assistant just assumed the fabric was for me.


  3. I have the same fabric. I didn't buy too much of it though so the shirt I make with it will have to be sleeveless. It's neat to see the fabric made up into a shirt, I have just been admiring mine in my stash for about a year now. Have a great trip!


  4. I too find just the right buttons or zippers at thrift stores. Sometimes when I am in a bind I will look to my own closet for the buttons or zippers I need from something ready to be retired. $.00


  5. First, I love this shirt. Nice going on matching the fronts but not the plackets, it looks great & really flows.

    I recently was allowed to do something I wanted to do as long as I can remember – raid my mother's button collection. This is a huge cookie tin circa 1960-something filled with buttons. Now that she's 83, she's finally allowed me to take some buttons for myself. When I was little I used to spend hours sorting them by size, shape & color, and finding my favorites. The excitement has not worn off!

    I left with a mini button collection of my own, although more of an Altoid-tin-sized collection than a cookie tin one.


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