Here is the definitive resource on the fine art of making shirts. Author David Page Coffin shows how to create elegant, custom-fit garments for a woman or a man that have a great tailored look and fit perfectly. And, even more important, once you learn to make and fit a shirt -- whether you have sewn for weeks or years -- your sewing skills will be dramatically improved. David shares the construction secrets of garments from the world's finest shirtmakers.
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No part of this work covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means— graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping of information on storage and retrieval systems—without the written permission of the publisher.
Due to differing conditions, materials, and skill levels, the publisher and various manufacturers disclaim any liability for unsatisfactory results or injury due to improper use of tools, materials, or information in this publication.
Duke of Windsor and the Duchess of Windsor, Photographs by the author; published with permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Page Photographs by the author; published with permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Printed in China. Dedication To my brilliant and gentle father, David Page Coffin, who is maybe somewhere now at last understanding why the thing I most fondly recall from all the superb schools he sent me off to, long, long ago, was the fascinating clothes I got to see, and sometimes to wear.
When I fi rst received the somewhat staggering! Forty years of home sewing, a handful of sewing books and DVDs, and a thirty-year career in the how-to-sew industry has only reinforced the power and pertinence of this basic strategy, especially for this self-taught, nonprofessional garment-maker: learn how to do one basic thing reasonably well and you can mine the variations more or less endlessly.
My efforts to do just that with shirtlike garments is what this book is all about, moving both myself and hopefully you, too, from shirtmaking to shirt designing. My first sewing book, Shirtmaking, lays out how any motivated sewer can make dress shirts that reasonably approach top-quality custom-made garments. In other words, to see the core behind the details. I made an effort to demonstrate this bringing together of core and detail in my first book, filling its last chapter on design options with examples of what I was currently doing with the dress-shirt skill set covered therein, which by then was anything but dress shirts.
The garments at right, most made for inclusion in the first book, still make the point well, I think. Each of these was developed directly from my personal dress-shirt basic pattern a somewhat moving target over the years, but in essentials, just one pattern , and none of its core pattern shapes was altered in any. What IS a Shirt? Any garment that hangs from the shoulders and has a neckline; has a mostly single-layer, mostly rectangular torso shaped, if at all, primarily by the shoulder and side seams; has no internal structure, padding, or interfacing except possibly in a collar or cuffs; and has sleeves that project from the body at an angle, rather than fall parallel to it, counts as a shirt here.
Garments that match this feature list tend to fit quite simply whether snug or very loose, and to have finished seams because there are typically no linings. Inspired by Clothes When I decided to try to make a dress shirt, I simply wanted to make one just like the favorite shirts I already had. With some minor differences,. From one basic dress shirt pattern, six completely different designs; details available in online content.
Each one was created simply by swapping in new details and redrawing free edges as desired. From top left to bottom right: 1. Pinpoint oxford dress shirt with neckband collar; this is my dress shirt pattern unaltered. Silk pullover blouse with applied self-fabric pleat panel and collar band ready for separate collars; shown in the Shirtmaking book. Linen pleated blouse with a one-piece bias-cut un-interfaced asymmetrical collar; shown on the cover of Shirtmaking.
Cotton pullover shirt with piped applied panels of Japanese fabric and cowboy shirt cuff s, featured in Threads issue Wool twill pullover shirt with silk-lined sleeves and cotton-faced collar, bib, hem, and yoke; shown in Shirtmaking. Wool yoked jacket with machine-knitted cashmere sleeves and a fully lined and interlined body; shown in Shirtmaking.
But with my very first commercial shirt pattern a Vogue Designer pattern I was shocked to discover that while my new pattern had the shapes I needed—or close enough—the ways it was showing me for putting them together were clearly nothing like the ways MY shirts had been put together. To really get rolling we need patterns, and these this workbook also provides: a large collection of full-size add-on detail patterns in digital, printable format, with a heavy emphasis on collars and center-front openings, the easiest areas in which to bring variety to basic block patterns.
Many thanks to all my contributors for their generosity! This is a design book, not primarily a sewing how-to, nor is it a project reference in the sense of providing start-to-finish directions for any particular garment. Five Block Types Here are my five general shirt block types, showing typical shapes and pieces. Many variations are of course possible. What is here is limited to fitting my own quirky but by no means unique figure.
Happily, many experts have chosen to dwell on fitting, offering books, videos, and workshops that are a truly marvelous resource, and I list a few in chapter 1.
If fitting has you stalled out and broken down on your road to really enjoying sewing and design, then this is no time to refuse to go to a mechanic. These garments are photo-profiled online Full-size printable patterns from these garments, details, or muslins are online.
Online article. These document garment projects derived from the patterns and ideas supplied in these pages, freeing me from many space, schedule, and size constraints compared to print, and allowing for both real-time and archivable comments and questions. Books must end, but blogs?
The blog? Who Is This Book For? It assumes some basic experience with garment sewing, with altering conventional sewing patterns, with the machines and tools for those activities, and if no experience at least a willingness to get involved with pattern design. Ideally, the reader will have made some sort of shirt at least once before, and maybe even read my previous book on the subject. The earlier book contains complete details on dress-shirt construction and custom fitting. Techniques in it will naturally be referenced here now and again, but every effort has been made not to duplicate techniques and information already provided in the first work.
The techniques here will enable anyone with access to a physical garment to copy it quite accurately. Finally, the project that launched me into this book was and remains focused on everyday, utility clothing. And as always, if you discover anything really neat, by all means share it with the rest of us! My blog at www. What Is a Block? Within the garment industry, a block is a fit-adjusted but detailfree, utility garment pattern used as the starting point for creating detail-rich fashion patterns with the same underlying shape and fit as the block.
It has no features or parts that would be likely to change from garment to garment or season to season, so for my purposes here, it would be the core of an entire shirt, without the details. A block records the fit, silhouette, and ease of a specific garment style adapted to a specific body, list of measurements, or dress form, ensuring that a trademark fit and feel remains the same across a collection of similar garments. My Big Idea is simply that we sewers working outside the garment industry can also make practical use of the block concept whenever it suits us, by developing a collection of personal blocks.
A pared-down shirt block would thus consist only of the front, the back, and the sleeve—and the yoke if the original had one—but no specific collars, pockets, plackets, closures, cuffs or any other add-ons to or restylings of the basic shapes, as shown.
Shirt Block Categories The Second Really Great Thing I find in the block concept for home-based garment makers is how it encourages a liberating and design-friendly sort of modular thinking. So the block idea is as much an aid to creativity as it is an aid to fit. As I mentioned in the introduction and explore in separate chapters that follow, the Shirt Universe seems to me to break down into at least five useful categories, for each of which a distinct fitting block might be good to have: A Dress or shaped Block, a Sport or loose-fit Block, a Knit or stretchy Block, a Folk or pure rectangular Block, and a Shirt-Jacket or oversized Block.
Block logic remains the same however you apply the concept, and to whatever extent you do so. A block could also be thought of as simply the record of the muslin after all the adjustments and tests are complete.
It starts at the top, as shown with red lines above, top , with the shoulders, and moves down the sides to the armhole and sleeve cap; getting all those right and then not messing with them is really the most important thing your block is giving you.
The shaping and length of the hem; the amount of flare, taper, or waist suppression at the sides within limits going inward, of course ; and the shape of the sleeves as determined by the underarm seams lines are all safe to reimagine. Blocks within Blocks Consider also that you can apply the block concept to portions of a favorite pattern by converting some of it into a more basic, and thus more flexible, shape, or by isolating some already basic portion of it for use elsewhere.
Necklines are again a likely target for these ideas. You only need a portion of a block to explore an isolated area of it. As indicated in the lower half of the diagram above, all the highorder parts of a shirt block can be captured with nothing more than the partial pieces shown, which leads directly to the process I used throughout this book to explore different collar and centerfront design details.
The middle example shows that only the top of the armscye is really needed or otherwise the sub would be unnecessarily wide. Most collars only need to be adjusted at the center back to fit as wanted. C For each new collar, CF, or neckline I wanted to try out for this book, I isolated just the neckline and a short length of centerfront, adding the collar to a dickie or bib-shaped scrap, as shown as shown on page 15 2. A center-front and neckline sub-block can be as easily dropped into and then blended with pretty much any top pattern to which I want to add a different CF or collar without converting them to blocks, just removing the same area on the pattern as shown above 6 , either all the way to the hem or bust or other level as appropriate.
Any collar itself can be treated as a sub- or mini-block simply by considering as its core the seams that connect to other pieces neckline or collar stand and its details as all the free edges, as shown above. Taken together, these blocks-within-blocks ideas are behind most of the design ideas in this book.
Mini-blocks are thus my choice for the Third Really Great Thing to come from the block concept. Fitting Making a block from an existing pattern seems like the most approachable route for the sewer at home to follow, and I definitely recommend it. Here are the options I see: Buy a better pattern. Take a class on pattern adjusting, preferably in person. Buy a custom pattern or shirt from a fitting professional. Draft a pattern using your measurements. Drape a basic shirt body.
Copy an existing garment. The Resources for this chapter see page 30 can get you started on the first three. How Should a Shirt Fit? Take a look at these three polo shirts from my closet above, each of which I wear with pleasure, with no sense that one fits better than the others or suits some different purpose or activity. Certainly I notice the difference when I put each one on—I even enjoy it—but decreasingly so as the day wears on; they all quickly just feel right.
Very few shirts out there are fitted perfectly, yet most of them are regarded as working fine and looking perfectly good. If you were to select a handful of your different kinds of shirts that you really like to wear, and then could magically remake each of the shirts so they all fit to the same custom standard at each critical point, do you think that in every case, your shirts or their look would be improved?
So if your shoulders are narrower, or your torso circumference bigger at the chest, waist, or both than the average determined by the manufacturer, the shirt shoulders are going to fall off the ends of your actual shoulders. A customized pattern or garment, on the other hand, is typically going to start with fitted shoulders and adjust everything else as needed, resulting in a strikingly different look and feel.
But is it always the preferable one? To my eye, fitting or not fitting are simply distinct style options, and if you like them both, you might want to have blocks reflecting them both. Measuring Your Clothes The best way I know of to begin turning the complexities into practical action is to start measuring your own clothes and keeping a record of the results.
After all, the fitting question is just about what measurements equal what sort of fit and what kind of look. At right are some example measurings in my files for favorite shirts, a quick photo being an ideal way to keep the records together with the garments. When shopping, visiting, stopping to chat … seriously! Carry a tape and camera. Drafting There are multiple methods for drafting your own patterns or blocks from either standardized or personal measurements, using current and vintage pattern-drafting texts.
There is also specialized pattern-drafting software, and you can even do it for free online or in a general-purpose vector graphics program such as Adobe Illustrator see Resources. In any of these approaches, the process is quite fascinating but labor-intensive, and their various learning curves are not trivial, especially with the old drafts that are filled with jargon, odd phrasings, and references to knowledge assumed but unspecified.
Episode 91: Shirtmaking with David Page Coffin
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Learn More. Go beyond standard patterns with techniques for making a shirt that looks like it came from a designer boutique. Renowned sewing instructor David Page Coffin teaches you how custom details can completely transform basic shirt patterns. David begins by breaking down the shirt silhouette and giving you tips for adjusting the yoke. Delight in the details as you discover how to shape, sew and attach a stand, convertible and combination collar.
No part of this work covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means— graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping of information on storage and retrieval systems—without the written permission of the publisher. Due to differing conditions, materials, and skill levels, the publisher and various manufacturers disclaim any liability for unsatisfactory results or injury due to improper use of tools, materials, or information in this publication. Duke of Windsor and the Duchess of Windsor, Photographs by the author; published with permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Page Photographs by the author; published with permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Printed in China. Dedication To my brilliant and gentle father, David Page Coffin, who is maybe somewhere now at last understanding why the thing I most fondly recall from all the superb schools he sent me off to, long, long ago, was the fascinating clothes I got to see, and sometimes to wear.
Shirtmaking : Developing Skills for Fine Sewing
David Page Coffin joins us to chat about his almost 50 years of sewing experience! He gives us great shirtmaking tips and shares his sewing philosophy. We also dive into his career as an editor of Threads magazine and how he stumbled into the wonderful world of sewing. Source: Ravelry. Podcast: Play in new window Download Embed. Thank you for bring David Page Coffin to my attention, he was so amazing to listen to, his knowledge and life stories along with his voice, I could listen to him all day. Chris, we are so happy to hear that you enjoyed this episode.