Sunday, January 25, 2009

Quilt, interrupted

I straightened out my sewing cave, which has me inspired to mess it up again. (The best way to restore sewing mojo is to clean house, sort fabric or clean the sewing room.) I want to make a lap quilt for myself, to keep me warm while I watch TV or read. Each of the kids has a blankie for this and I want one for myself.(Why don't I make more stuff for myself? Bad case of Mom Syndrome.) I made one last year for my brother in law with minkee as the backing and it was so cuddly and cozy I want to do mine that way too. I use the Michelangelo method of quiltmaking: take any and all fabrics that you might even remotely consider putting in your quilt on the worktable and then take away everything that doesn't look like your quilt. I found lots of fabric that fit my chocolate and blue gray color scheme, with a nice mix of lights and darks.

But then...Mr. Hunting Creek and Best Sister Ever revealed that they were planning my brother in law's birthday party and the theme was Route 66 (because all of our parties have a theme now. And every birthday is celebrated with full birthday honors. We have our standards.) I remembered that I had some Route 66 themed fabric in the linen closet/auxilary fabric storage zone. So I spent Saturday afternoon searching through the three containers of fabric there, digging for it. I found stuff I had never even seen before. (I swear someone sneaks fabric in there while I'm not looking)
And all the stars were in alignment, because I found it AND my favorite shirt pattern.
Butterick 3777 from 1986. I have made this many times and I know the pattern by heart. It's out of print, but McCalls 4581 would be a good substitute. I've made many men's shirts before. Backstory for Lindsay T: I learned how to sew when I was a kid. Back then we took sewing in high school, at least the girls did (the boys took auto shop), but I knew how to sew before I ever took sewing in school. I had learned from friends, my mom, my grandmother and, as luck would have it, the lady next door to my parent's office. I used to work for my parents in the summers, and next door to their office in the business park was a woman who manufactured Hawaiian shirts and sold them in the boutiques in Laguna Beach and other places along the coast. I used to hang out there and she taught me how to make shirts.

The first thing you want to do is ignore their layout. If you are using a fabric that has a one way design or a pattern that must be matched, you have to take matters into your own hands and redo the layout to get the best use of the design on the most visible parts of the shirt. So take your time and look carefully at the pattern and the fabric and find the best arrangement. The first thing I do is cut out one side of the front, then carefully search the fabric for the best match for the other side. I fold back the facing and move it around until I find the best match.

I stuck the scissors underneath so you could see the top piece. (don't forget that the second front pattern piece is reversed.)See how it disappears? That's the best spot. After I cut the second front, I cut out all of the other pieces, remembering to keep the design all pointing the same way. I always buy extra fabric for shirts. I do NOT understand people who tell the cutting lady, "I'll have 1 7/8th yard, please." I always want to take them aside and say, "Do you never make a cutting mistake? Do you never match a design? Are you NUTS?" But I restrain myself. I always buy at least a half yard extra of fabric. One, it shrinks when prewashed, and two, I like to match the design and that gives me a little wiggle room. If the fabric has a really large repeat I might buy a whole yard extra.
Tonight I cut out the birthday shirt, and all this week I'll sew a little bit at a time. I'll try to take pictures at the tricky parts. If you are a shirt newbie and didn't get to hang out in a Hawaiian shirt factory as a teen, I strongly recomment David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking book. He has lots of great construction tips.(Check out his video on YouTube)But honestly, everything I know about shirtmaking, I learned back in 1974, in a business park mini factory on on Crown Valley Parkway. The quilt is still in its uncut phase. To be continued....
Happy Sewing!


Lindsay T said...

Thanks for the back story! California girl, eh?

The Slapdash Sewist said...

What a fun way to learn shirtmaking! My sister and I used to go to my dad's office occasionally to file papers. His neighbor was a CPA. Unfortunately, he didn't teach me accounting!