I’ve been meaning to get a shot of this shirt being modelled for you by little E, but just haven’t gotten around to it. He’s not exactly easy to photograph (moving target, anyone?), and this is supposed to be too big for him so in fact he hasn’t even tried it on. He is on the big side, however, though so I’d better get on it before I find out it’s too small!
It’s hard to find cute patterns out there for boys, and while Oliver + S, like all other pattern companies, is weighted heavily towards dresses, skirts, and the like, the boys patterns they do have are unique and very cute. (I can’t say the same for most pattern companies–they boys patterns they have are downright uninspiring at best, and hokey at worst). Thanks to an online sale, a few months ago I ordered the Oliver + S Sailboat Top, Skirt and Pants Pattern (obviously I have in mind the top and pants, not the skirt) and decided to make size 3T. Never knowing how long it will take me to finish one of these, I always make a bigger size that I need to give myself a bit of a cushion.
I also wanted to use this opportunity to try my hand at sewing knit fabrics rather than woven cotton (i.e. the quilting fabric that so far is the only material that I’ve used). I’m a bit more interested in apparel sewing than quilting (but that’s what kclever is for), but am still straddling the fence to some degree. But apparel sewing, besides the challenges of fit and flatter, also opens up a huge array of fabric choices, from lacy sheers to heavier weight brocades and wools. That’s well into the advanced category–first I need to get comfortable with jersey/knit fabrics–after all, that’s probably the type of fabric most of us wear everyday.
The difficulty with jerseys is that special stitches that also stretch must be used–otherwise you get ripping seams, puckering fabric–nothing you much want in your clothing. I found Sew U: Home Stretch indispensable to give me the confidence and technique to go ahead even with my very basic Kenmore (serious sewers would have a serger for their knits–I’m not sure I can justify that one yet!). And as I learned when I first began to knit, child-size projects are perfect for learning new techniques–they are faster to complete and there’s less to rip out when you make those inevitable beginner’s mistakes.
And–I love the result! The pattern I found to be well written–there’s a little unclarity about attaching the interfacing to reinforce the button and button holes, but if I figured it out, it can’t be that hard. I did have some challenges with the fabric, as to be expected, but felt comfortable with it by the end. I used the zigzag stitch, which works fine but isn’t ideal because it’s hard to figure out how to measure your seam allowance–rather than one straight line you have little zees back and forth making a rather wide seam. (I have since learned of the specialized knit stitch on my machine which is a bit easier to use but also slower going, so it’s hard to say which I prefer).
I had some issues on the buttonholes as well. I haven’t generally had problems with buttonholes since I started sewing again, but am always a a bit nervous about them. (My mom’s heavy olive green Kenmore–1970s, need I say more–was none to sharp in the buttonhole department and the memory lingers on!). My machine is just fine, but I think the newness of jersey plus various layers of cloth, and my poor job at marking the fabric and trimming the interior seam allowances all contributed to the fact that I had to sew and re-rip many times over–sometimes the fabric didn’t move through the machine, giving me the smallest buttonhole imaginable, other times the buttonholes ended up way too close together or crooked (which is pretty noticeable on striped fabric). I got to what I thought was good enough, but after putting it aside a day or two pulled out the seam ripper, tried again, and finally got it just right. (It’s hard to know in those circumstances–you don’t want to rip out “close enough” to then replace it with something worse, but you know it will continue to bother you if you don’t…).
This time at least, it all worked out. I think that making sure to really HELP that fabric through the machine was what saved this shirt (and my sanity) in the end–though next time I’ll better prepare the fabric and hopefully avoid this problem as well.
Some “detail shots” — those darn buttonholes:
The adorable curved hem, which in addition to the button detail, also makes this more special than any old striped shirt. While you’d have to zoom in to the photo, you can also see my zigzag seam topstitching. (I have since learned that I could probably have topstitched with a long basting length stitch as it’s mainly decorative–can anyone confirm)? I think the zigzag works on a little boy’s top, but not sure I’d want that on something for myself.
I’m already at work on another smaller version of this shirt, plus pants, in a slightly smaller size. Don’t want Don Segundo to have only hand-me-downs after all. (Don Segundo is my dorky way of trying to make “#2” sound a bit more special until the “big reveal” of his name–and putting my college degree in Spanish to work!)