One of the first times I saw my husband, across a crowded goth club, he was wearing a romantic, slightly pouffy white blouse.
This was the intended effect, though that was long before cellphone selfies so I have no photographic evidence.
Now, in the early days of this blog, the first shirt I ever blogged about making him was an attempt at recreating that long-lost shirt. But this wasn’t my first attempt.
A few years before that, shortly after we moved to Cowtown, I had tried to create much the same look, using Butterick 4486. I don’t even know how I came to own the pattern, though it’s still in print.
I didn’t have much success. My fabric was a slippery, textured synthetic that had a vague linen “look” with none of the joy of sewing actual linen. I was completely mystified by the placket construction on the front, and had to bring the half-finished shirt front back to Saskabush to consult both my mom and her best-sewing friend. I was still puzzled. and then, after all that angst and anguish, when giving the shirt a final press I managed to iron a hole right through it. Argh!!! Into the bin.
Needless to say, I was not a fan of the pattern. But I’m also a hoarder-in-training, so in stash it stayed. Until early this spring, when an old family friend contacted me, looking for a vaguely Mediaeval-looking shirt to wear for performances of a choir he’s part of that does Mediaeval and Renaissance style music.
Well, I hemmed and I hawed and finally admitted to myself that I was intrigued (especially if it meant I could sew with some yummy fabric like linen) and I emailed him back with a price that I was fairly sure would send him packing, but he didn’t even blink.
Next thing I knew we were exchanging inspiration photos and I was building a Pinterest board and a lot of what we were looking at was very reminiscent of Butterick 4486—not overly historically accurate, but certainly fun and evocative. It appeared the pattern would be coming out of 7 or 8 years in the naughty bin.
He found me several links to linen fabrics on Canadian fabric websites I hadn’t even heard of—with reasonable shipping rates! OMG!!! So once we settled on a colour, we were off to the races. (By the way, despite all my camera’s efforts to make it look grey, the colour is a medium muted blue.)
I feel I need to proclaim right off the bat that this is not meant in any way to be a genuine historical outfit. It’s more 60s-Hollywood-does-Mediaeval. 😉 but I added little “authentic” touches as I could—all the visible stitching (except the felling on the sleeve seams) is done by hand. The buttons are cloth balls, sewn directly to the edge of the cuff.
They’re pretty adorable, actually.
Though I think making more than six would get pretty tiresome. My hand worked buttonholes are… Not as terrible as they used to be? I’m still a little squirrelly about charging someone money for them, but I’m tamping that down hard under the “my time is worth it, dammit!” mantra.
I had a hard time settling on a seam finish. My first impulse was to flat fell everything. But, I was reluctant to do it all by hand (after all, this is a costume piece, not some intensively-researched recreation.) I tested the machine fell on the sleeves, but that still leaves a line of machine stitching on the outside. Which I didn’t hate enough to rip out, but I wasn’t loving.
I had plenty of time to ruminate on it, mind you, while sewing the endless eyelets of the placket. (And finishing both placket and cuffs by hand.) I tucked under the end of the placket and hand-stitched it down—not perfectly invisible but all the seams are enclosed! Which is not the case in the instructions. Still not loving the construction, but at least I knew what they wanted me to do this time.
I hand-felled the shoulder seams, which is lovely and authentic and stuff. For the side seams, I made French seams—maybe less authentic but a clean finish with no visible stitching.
The hardest decision was how to finish the armscyes. I didn’t think there would be enough seam allowance to fell over the bulky gathers, so I spent a bunch of time researching and dithering, and then eventually just did it.
I guess there was enough seam allowance after all. It’s a little odd with the gathering but I don’t mind it.
Then there was the fitting angst, as this is a long-distance project and while I worked from measurements, things like the dropped shoulder and the amount of length that will be lost when the tunic-length shirt is bloused over a belt are wild cards I can’t really predict. And then I realized I had messed up my interpretation of my measurements and had to shorten the sleeves by several inches. Infinitely better than the opposite, of course, but it meant taking off the cuffs. Which I then proceeded to sew back on inside out. Twice. Kill me. Please.
But the linen was a hell of a lot of fun to sew with! And it’s done, after a month of faffing around and endless hand-sewing. I’m in the middle of way too many intensive projects, by the way, mainly for other people. Blerg!