Men’s Shirt IX: sleeves on

I’ve been working on this shirt for a while. Here are the earlier installments: i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii, vii, viii. The whole project was inspired by Bernadette Banner’s YouTube video on how to make a pirate shirt, which involved learning a few historical stitches from one of her other videos.

My goal was to finish my shirt before Christmas, and that meant using Thursday’s snow day to make some serious progress. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to work in the studio, so I brought the shirt parts home on Wednesday, and got to work finishing the gores or gussets that will go under the arms down to the hem of the shirt body.

So that was the first task: finishing the gores. These are not very interesting and not very photographable. Each gore was two rectangles, sized to roughly the right proportions, and then sliced diagonally to form two right triangles; and then the b side of each right triangle was back-stitched and felled to each other — the short end of the triangles form part of the hem, and the hypotenuses get sewed to the shirt body, eventually.

Then it was time to sew the gores into the shirt on both sides. As always, this involves passing the thread against a block of beeswax, to improve the strength of the thread and its slide-iness in the fabric. Then sewing the gores to the shirt. This involved briefly sewing my handmade shirt to the shirt I was wearing.

I did learn something important here, though, which is that in the future I want to attach the right triangles of the gore to the shirt body, rather than to each other. It became clear, in assembling the sleeves, that the gores were either going to be pulling the sleeve toward the back, or toward the front of the shirt, and that the armscye should go right down the middle of the gore. Sewing the two triangles to the shirt body, and then knitting up the middle seam between them, would have solved some of this problem: the gusset of the armscye would have split the difference, and made the shirt more symmetrical. This may not make sense in reading, but if you assemble the shirt, you’ll see what I mean. [Update: I’ve put in an extra diagram that may help in the future.]

Now that I’ve diagrammed it, I may be able to explain it better. Proof that visual explanations usually help our verbal explanations, right? I sewed the two sections of the gore (black right triangles) together, and attached them to the shirt after they were made into an isosceles triangle. This meant that the gusset of the armscye got attached behind the gore. But I should have attached the sections of the gore to the shirt separately, and then put the (green) gusset of the armscye in between them. The reason for this change is that the triangles are floppy fabric; the upper part of the triangle can flop along the edges of the gusset, and then drape around that square to become a single seam down the middle with no problem. Never make something in fabric based on the behavior of a paper model; the drape of the fabric will work to your advantage if you remember that looseness in your making.

Once one sleeve was attached, time to attach the other sleeve. Not particularly interesting, once you’ve done it once. And done.

Well. Not done. But the punch list is shortening:

  • Hem the bottom of the shirt
  • Attach eight reinforcing squares at places on the hemline and sleeves
  • finish felling the internal seams
  • make button holes on cuffs
  • sew on buttons at cuffs
  • add a button at the collar? (optional)

But structurally, the shirt is ‘done’. Nothing I do from this point on is going to change the shape of the shirt or adjust its overall fit. Still a lot to do to finish it, but nothing is going to change how it fits or what shape it holds. And that means that I can go ahead with other operations on it, like perhaps embroidery, knowing that it’s wearable and that it’s mine.

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