Sewing: small shirt

shortsleeved shirt in a pale purple silk noile fabric

Yes, I’ve started making shirts in more than just my size. I had some of this purple fabric left over from making one for myself, and there was enough to make a short-sleeved shirt. So I did. To me, it feels a bit like a toy shirt, because a Small, in this pattern, fits about a 34″-36″ chest (about 87-92 cm). I myself wear a 52″ shirt, which is more like a 135 cm. This is the core reason why I got into sewing, after all — none of the cool clothes I wanted to wear, ever fit me. So I had to work around that, by laboriously building up my skills to the point where I could follow a shirt pattern, and make one for myself.

I seem to be there, now. And that means I can now make them for other people, too, or carry them in my store. They do take a fair bit of tricky work, and at least some hand-sewing: the placket can’t really be finished well without slip-stitching or ladder-stitching the insides, and the bottom of the placket also requires quite a bit of handwork. I find that I don’t mind that so much. It’s got an order and a beauty to it, all its own, and it’s impossible to match that work with a sewing machine. It’s kind of like the difference between a piece of furniture from IKEA assembled with pocket screws into chip-board; and a piece of furniture assembled using hand-tools, built for your living room. The first is cheap, and easy to assemble, and there are 40,000 others exactly the same as it, all over the world. The second is maybe more beautiful, maybe not… but there’s a richer story behind the thing. That’s what hand-sewing can do for a garment… it makes it a little bit more enriched with story. And a garment that’s partly done with hand-sewing and partly with a sewing machine? It’s the work of mastery to find an appropriate balance between the two. And so does a shirt get made, partly with bulk stitching using a machine and maybe a serger; and partly with hand-sewing. Ta-da! Shirt made, and ready to sell other than buttons.

Do I want to? That’s a trickier question — If I look around Etsy, I see men’s shirts for less than I can usually make them. At the same time, I know more people in the 50″-chest range, than I know in the 36″-chest range… It costs a lot to make a shirt, and then have it sit in inventory for a period of time, unsold. But it also costs money to make a shirt for someone specific; even if they don’t like it, the materials and time still cost something. Hmmm.

One comment

  1. What about making a couple of small (or even doll)-size shirts, photographing them somehow,
    and then saying you will make-to order for plus sizes?
    Disclose that shirts ordered will be made to order, when ordered.

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