I was so pleased when the fabric importer Loom & Stars asked me to participate in their event “shirtfest”. If you don’t know of them, you should definitely be giving their shirtings a look. They’re woven in India and come in a wide range of stripes and checks. Perfect for Summer shirts (and PJs, I might add!)
I requested 3 swatches from their website (they sent me 6!) and I chose the Ocean Stripes Handwoven Cotton. It’s the one on the far right. It has 1″ horizontal stripes in a teal blue and soft white. Wonderfully soft. It prewashed perfectly, and I took it to the laundromat to dry it at the highest heat possible to prevent any future shrinking. I do that with all my fabrics.
When I see horizontal stripes in blue and white, I immediately think of the Breton or Marinière shirt. It’s always a staple at my local LL Bean, and it’s been worn by more famous personalities than anyone can mention.
Of course all of these shirts are knits, and if you’ve followed this blog for awhile, you know that’s never going to happen! So the challenge became how to get some version of the “look”, using a woven fabric.
I knew that it would have to be untucked, and that a collar wouldn’t be appropriate. But a loose shirt with a “granddad” collar seemed way too bland. Having never been gifted fabric from a retailer before, I could only assume they would want something a lot more imaginative than a short sleeved shirt with horizontal stripes. Zzzzzzzz.
So I decided to zhush the fronts up with tuxedo pleated plastrons. Interestingly, Vogue ran an article on the many iterations of the marinière by Jean Paul Gaultier as I was working on this. You can read the article here. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t completely insane; taking the classic shirt in a new, slightly silly direction.
Umm. This might be going a little too far!
I worked out the pleating using a scrap of Swedish Tracing Paper. The rule (if there is one) is that the pleat must be wider that the space separating them. In my case the pleats are 3/4″ and the space is 1/2″. That way none of the stitching is visible.
The plastrons were made large, edge stitched onto the shirt fronts and then trimmed at the neck and shoulder. I didn’t want to edge stitch the bottoms, so they have been invisibly handsewn from behind with a little back stitching.
The rest of the construction was pretty straight forward, a hack of the baggy button-down that I always make. I love loose untucked shirts in the Summer, and having mitered vents at the sides is both visually attractive as well as practical. It makes getting into one’s pockets much easier.
This is a surprisingly easy feature to add to any shirt. You can find a series of videos on my YouTube channel that will walk you through the whole process. I do hope you’ll check it out and subscribe. I’m sure there will be more shirtmaking themed videos in the future.
As work progressed on this shirt, I couldn’t help but feel that it needed something more. I frequently add a contrasting fabric to my shirts. Sometimes it’s inside the cuffs or collar stand. Other times it might be on the placket or as a trim on a pocket. So I went on a mission to my local JoAnn’s.
I found nothing in the rows and rows of quilting cottons, which quite honestly surprised me. I figured something blue, something nautical would be in abundance. I was ready to give up when I noticed these two fat quarters.
At $1.89 I splurged on both! I’m not really a “blue blue” person, which is why I chose the Ocean Blue fabric in the first place. So the coral print fabric held the most promise. There was just one little problem. The background was glaringly white. So into a bowl of green tea it went!
With the white “softened a bit” it was full steam ahead to finish the project.
The Loom & Stars fabric was a pleasure to work with. Surprisingly, there was nary a ravel anywhere. It did, however, NOT like to be unpicked. So any “slapdash” sewist might get into some trouble. This is a fabric that requires a deliberate approach. But that’s how I work all the time. I plan out the step and prepare my fabric before going to the machine. My goal is “one and done”. This is an approach that has served me well.
In closing, a huge Thank You to Loom & Stars for including me in this year’s Shirtfest. I love what I was able to produce with your lovely fabric. My style is “traditional with a twist”, and your fabric stretched my creativity and helped me get to that “sweet spot”. I look forward to wearing the hell out of it this Summer!
Be well, and happy Summer sewing to all!