Men’s Sewing: Creating a shirt from an existing shirt

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I’ve had a terrible time sewing clothes that fit my partner. He’s not particularly odd-shaped, but the times that I’ve attempted (see here, here, here, and here) haven’t worked out very well. They don’t look terrible in photos, but he’s never actually worn them  in real life.

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Brandon recently decided that he doesn’t want to buy any more sweatshop-made dress shirts. When he started scoping out places with ethically-made shirts, I swooped in and asked for another shot at making him a shirt. He accepted, with the condition that I do so quickly because he’s really in need of some more shirts.

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The next day I took one of his well-loved but worn-out shirts and cut it apart at the seams (literally!). I then used the pieces it to make a pattern by tracing them onto some thick paper and adding 1/2″ seam allowances. This is my first attempt at making a shirt from those pieces. To put it together, I used the instructions from the Sewaholic Granville pattern as a guide, and this excellent tutorial on sleeve plackets.

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It turns out that making men’s shirts has a few less steps than women’s, since many of the fiddly shaping steps (darts, princess seams) are omitted! This shirt went together surprisingly quickly. Though, after 4 days of sewing for a few hours after work, Brandon thought that I should pick up the pace.

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The fabric is a lightweight shirting from Joann’s. This wouldn’t have been my first choice in color/design, but Joann’s is currently ALL about the flannel, and not much else in shirting. Men’s collars are apparently a lot stiffer than the collars on women’s shirts, so I had to get some new interfacing for this shirt too. The stiffest stuff at Joann’s was in the crafting category, and is actually fusible on both sides. This required a little thinking on the fly, but worked out just fine. If you’re considering making a pattern out of an existing garment, I’m happy to share some more details on my experience. Just let me know!

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Brandon seems pretty satisfied with this shirt. He has already picked out fabric for 5 more versions online. The only change that he has requested is a slightly smaller collar. He wore it to work today (before taking these pics–please forgive the wrinkles), so I’m calling this a win!

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Pattern: Self-made from an existing shirt
Fabric: 2.5 yards of a lavender shirting from Joann’s
Cost: $16.24 fabric + $0.90 interfacing  + thread and buttons from stash= $17.14
Time: 10 hours

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3 thoughts on “Men’s Sewing: Creating a shirt from an existing shirt

  1. Christy Sanders

    That’s so great! I’ve tried making a pattern from my favorite dress but it was a bit of a fail. I think it was more a failure because the fabric I picked wasn’t similar enough in weight but I’d love more tips on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’ll be interesting to see how much of a difference fabric choice makes for this shirt, too. Did your fabric choice have more/less stretch than the original dress? I could see that making a big difference.

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    • My other tip would be to either take pictures as you go, or keep as much of the garment as you can assembled. For example, on the shirt I only took apart one sleeve, so that I could see how the placket was constructed on the original version and compare as I went. This obviously wouldn’t work as well with a dress, though.

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