Sewing: Men’s Shirt IV

I got in another two hours on my shirt on Thursday. This time I was back-stitching the seams along the shoulders, leaving 7 1/2″ on either side of the center-back for my head. I got both of the seams done, but I wasn’t able to put in felling stitches to secure the seam. The basic process of backstitching is pretty simple, though: a line is drawn in pencil on the fabric, very lightly, to represent the seam allowance. You then pin this line to the matching line, and then back-stitch along the line of pins until you reach the brown thread that you put in earlier (you did put in a brown thread, right???) that marks the end of the seam.

Back stitching means that you put the needle carrying the thread through the two layers of fabric, bring it up a little bit further on, and then begin the next stitch a little bit behind the out-point of the last stitch. In essence, you’re creating a series of loops in the fabric along your straight-grain line, half an inch in from the edge of the fabric.

As you can see from the first picture in the second set, my second line of stitches (top seam) is much better than my first line of stitches. And both are better than the reinforcing gusset at the bottom of the neck hole, which is still not bad, as shown in the middle picture below. Things are starting to resemble something other than a pile of scrap fabric on my sewing table. I’m gradually making progress at this whole project.

This much — the two front reinforcement gussets, and the two seams of the shoulders, took two and a quarter hours: we’re up to 12.25 hours on this shirt, as I said earlier. But it’s also looking considerably more shirt-like. I can put it on, and you notice that I’m wearing something.

I do have a problem. I’m very much wider in the middle than the body of my shirt is. Although I’m supposed to sew up the sides once I complete the neckline and attach the collar to the shirt (after gathering the edge there), I think that the body of the shirt will be rather too narrow for my… ahem… middle. This means adding two additional panels, one on either side and both the same width (to keep the middle of the shirt on the middle-line of me), underneath the armscye. Traditionally, these two shapes here would be triangles. But I’m rather more blocky than that, and I have two scraps left of this fabric which may serve perfectly. It will change the shape of the armscye, though, to add them in, making it much more like a Romanesque arch over a floor, instead of an upside-down teardrop.

I guess I’ll be assembling the collar, and then one or both of the sleeves next. Once I have the shapes of those two pieces, the question of handing the side seams may resolve itself through the clear shape of how the remaining pieces fit together.

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