13 January 2009

105. Refashion 11: Grainger Empire Waist Shirt from Men's Button-Down Shirt

Thanks for your comments on the last post about inspiration vs. copying.  Very valuable perspective related to some of the recent copyright discussion at Columbia Lily.  

So, about that refashion...  Sweet Clementine has been serving only as a perfect-postured model for my clothes until yesterday, when I finally used her unique abilities for draping.  Yes, I have finally draped my first garment, a refashion from a men's shirt.  No pattern for the bodice, just a picture of the finished shirt in my head.  I'd hoped the original was long enough to become that babydoll dress I must subconsciously want, but it's a couple inches too short, so it's a long babydoll tunic.  I may shorten it again to be more appropriately tunic length.  Admittedly, this was as simple as it gets for draping, having kept the entire shoulder seam/ collar stand from the original shirt.  But I'm proud of it anyway!

At left is the original shirt:  100% cotton, probably size XL or even XXL.  The neck size is, like, 17 1/2, which is too big for most women's shirts.  Note for next time.  After cutting the armholes using Clem's armhole plates as my guide, cleaning them up with the french curve, trimming the armholes again, trying them on myself and moving my arms, trimming again, etc. the hardest part was done.  I'm still not entirely sure the armholes are round enough, esp. in the back, but with the sleeves sewn in, it's very comfortable to wear and I have full range of arm motion.  I winged this one for real, and after about 1 1/2 hours the shirt was done except for the sleeves.  I was In The Zone.  Things were humming along, my intuition guiding me, everything falling into place.  You know what I mean.

I chose BurdaStyle JJ for the sleeve and sleeve cuff because, on my long list of skills to learn, sleeve drafting is near the top.  I've "winged" sleeves (no pun intended) with disastrous results, never with decent results.  Lucky for us, JJ is still a free download pattern!  I like the puffiness of the sleeve -- not obnoxiously puffy, but full and feminine, and not a cap sleeve.  I semi-winged the sleeve insertion, in that I didn't read directions or make a button cuff as the pattern directs -- I used the cuff as basically a wide sleeve binding.

The chosen playlist for this project was Cake.  Actually, the whole iTunes library was open, in alpha order by artist, and I started cutting at the first Cake song of three consecutive albums.  It set the right kind of mood for me with this project: lots of energy, lots of attitude, a real "I'm going to push through the discomfort to the other side" feel, perfect for my first draped garment.  By the time I'd reached the sleeves, I'd gotten kind of sassy and arrogant, as quickly as it was all coming together, and thought I'd be done in another 15 minutes.  (Right, because I've set sleeves in 15 minutes before -- NOT.)

Imagine my surprise and frustration when I found out I'd attached one of the sleeve cuffs inside out.
My eyes got very wide and I could feel very negative feelings surging up inside as I saw my expectations for "the perfect sewing experience" vanish before me.  What?  I made a mistake?  I've somehow fallen out of the zone?  I have to unpick a seam?  I felt a cry/ shriek/ yelp forming in my lungs, and then:

Grainger: Irish Tune From County Derry (Choral Version) - Percy Grainger - Cambridge Singers

"Cambridge Singers" is the next artist after "Cake" alphabetically in my library.  This song has always held a place in my heart, and this particular arrangement by Percy Grainger is probably my absolute very favoritest of all.  In less than three seconds, my mind, heart, and hands went from rage against the machine to complete peace.

I dedicate this refashion to you, Mr. Grainger.


  1. I love how it looks now. That pocket is just too perfect. :-)

  2. Ooh, are you going to enter it in the SPR refashion contest??

  3. Cute! I might have to borrow that idea from you-- I would totally wear that.

  4. Like I said over on the flickr photo, this looks amazing. You've really inspired me to think more about refashioning and (gasp!) even try it out myself. Great work and a really fantastic style for you as well.

  5. Wow-zuh! You did it again, but [aaargh!] how did you pull off the collar?

  6. So cute! I wish I could do something like this!

  7. that is flippin' adorable. I wouldn't shorten it though, especially when you have such a tiny figure, you can pull it off... or if you wanted tomake it a baby-doll dress, another 6" gathered layer of cotton at the bottom would be cute. :)

  8. Thank you for the comments! Big compliments coming from each of you talented ladies and they are much appreciated. Diane, the collar is the original collar stand from the men's shirt, completely as it was except that I unpicked the foldover part of the collar and then sewed the stand back shut.

    xo to you all!

  9. I love every single one of your men's shirt refashions! I will be nagging my father for a cast-off soon!
    But, my heart dropped as I reached the part where you discovered about the sleeve mistake! If things go wrong, even for a really talented and experienced seamstress like you, why should I even try ruining a shirt?
    Hemming, taking in and the occasional easy refashion are fine, but I'm still not confident enough for sleeves!

  10. I love this. I would love to see a tutorial for this one!

  11. Hi...
    What a great resource you have given me and others with all of the examples of refashioned shirts! I'm interested in doing my first one and notice that it looks like you have moved the pocket to the lower portion of your "after" version shirts/dresses. Do you just rip out the seams and move the pocket? Does it show when you are done?


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