• Selfless sewing,  Tops, blouses and shirts

    The (almost) Paul Smith Shirt

    Happy New Year everyone!

    The first blog post back after Christmas is always an odd one. You get slightly out of the habit don’t you.

    I’m here to share some pics of a shirt I made as my Dad’s Christmas present as well as a few other things!

    paul smith shirt almond rock

    The fabric is from Fabrics Galore who had a few different bolt ends of Paul Smith shirting at their stall at The Knitting and Stitching Show.

    I used one of Dad’s M&S shirt as the template for the pattern, I made a quick muslin to check the pattern and cracked on.

    Aren’t the colours lovely!? It’s a fun micro-plaid. And it was fun to use bias for the plackets, yoke and pocket. To make it a bit more of a formal I added collar stays using Fiona’s excellent tutorial.

    paul smith shirt almond rock

    I finished it Christmas Eve morning and wrapped it up before heading over. He seemed really happy with the shirt and wore it out for New Year! Result!

    Next up I thought I’d share you what I got from the Sewing Secret Santa that Lisa – Stitched-Up From The Start – organised. My parcel was sent by Teresa at Navy Blue Threads!

    It was a lovely parcel wrapped in gingham with a lace bow that was chocca full of lovely gifts. She clearly thought so hard about what to pick for me which made me beam.

    almond rock sewing secret santa

    There were handmade lavender hangers, a pin cushion, two cute crafty patterns, a sewing themed tin and needle case, plus saving the best for last… the cutest pair of zipper earrings you ever did see!

    almond rock sewing secret santa

    Thanks so much to Teresa for my thoughtful gifts and to Lisa for organising a fun swap!

  • Selfless sewing

    And now for something different

    Today you get to meet my brother Andy (aka Little Fro).

    I’ve been promising him a shirt for over a year and I’ve finally delivered!

    almond rock men's shirt black and white polka dot Steffani Lincecum

    This lovely black and white pin dot brushed cotton is from Stone fabrics and also comes in blue and red.
    I presented samples of each to my brother, white was chosen and then we were off!

    The shirt is a rub-off of an Austin Reed button up that Andy owned. He picked it as the copy garment because he was happy with the fit and style of the shirt. I used the Steffani Lincecum book that guides you through copying ready to wear clothes. She also has a Craftsy class on this technique but I think the book is sufficient enough to grasp what you need to do. Sunni did a good post which convinced me to get the book.

    almond rock men's shirt black and white polka dot Steffani Lincecum

    I used a few different sources to understand the logic of sewing a man’s shirt without a pattern; like the MPB Men’s Shirt Sewalong, plus this great Shirt Sewing Blog’s post on two piece plackets that gave me food for thought, and finally this post has a helpful image about the subtle variety in collar shapes which I have to say I was ignorant of before.

    Sadly I definitely couldn’t get my head around the burrito method and I’m one of few people who didn’t get on with Andrea’s tutorial for sewing collars in a different order.

    almond rock men's shirt black and white polka dot Steffani Lincecum

    There were a few  funny things about the source shirt. First, it had different sized front plackets. The side with the buttonholes was wider than the button side, and it wasn’t topstitched.

    Also the shirt had a mixture of flat felled seams (down the sides and sleeves) and French seams (at the shoulders and armholes). Is that normal? Plus the seams were a mixture of widths too.

    This meant I had to label my pattern pieces really clearly or I would have totally confused myself!

    almond rock men's shirt black and white polka dot Steffani Lincecum

    It was really nice to learn classic sleeve plackets with this project.

    To help myself, I bought an 90s McCall’s Ladies Shirt pattern from a car boot which has amazingly detailed (and rather witty) Palmer Pletsch instructions, while also having the Coletterie Hawthorn sewalong placket post open on my screen to look over their lovely clear photo steps.

    Have you ever sewn a shirt? How did you find the topstitching? I’ve worked out I can use my new stitch in the ditch foot to edgestitch if I move the needle position. It made it SO MUCH EASIER. I’ve heard a blind hem foot works too.

    almond rock men's shirt black and white polka dot Steffani Lincecum

    Don’t the black buttons look like big polka dots? They do have two holes (rather than being shank buttons) but by using black thread to attach them the holes sort of disappear!

    I finished the hem with home made bias tape from the same fabric. This technique seems to be getting loads of attention all of a sudden but I’ve been doing it for ages on blouses, glad everyone else it getting on it because it makes hemming a curve so much easier.

    We had some fun photographing the shirt. I got Andy to break out his best catalogue poses. Bwahaha.

    almond rock men's shirt black and white polka dot Steffani Lincecum

    Reminds me of Roger Moore who started out as a knitwear catalogue model and Michael Caine loved to tease him about it, calling him “The Big Knit”!

    I wholeheartedly recommend his autobiography; even if you’re not James Bond mad like me, it’s SO much fun to read.

    almond rock men's shirt black and white polka dot Steffani Lincecum

    So all in all this project involved:

    * a collar with separate stand
    * a one-piece sleeve with placket
    * a yoke
    * miles of edgestitching, including a slightly wonky pocket
    * curved  and slightly dipped hemline

    Now I have orders from three other men in my life to stitch them shirts. Phew! Wish me luck.

  • Other stuff

    The Sweetheart Dress (oh don’t get all soppy on me)


    Last week I showed you a dress I hadn’t blogged about but it went down quite well so I here are the details.

    I wanted to make the Colette Truffle bodice into my go-to dress bodice block as it was so close to being perfect on my Christmas party dress.


    I made a rub off pattern from a lace dress I love and then combined this with the Truffle pattern to make what should have been a perfect fit. It’s sooo close to perfect but not quite as the neck gapes a little, though it seems to suit Beryl.


    I also drafted an A-line gathered skirt by using the hem and drop measurements from the lace dress and after eyeballing the amount of waist gathering figured out the waist length I’d need. I like A-line gathered skirts more than dirndl because a lot of waist gathering makes me look too wide there. Plus you still get a good twirly skirt from them!


    The fabric was from Fletcher’s Fabrics in York and was a birthday present from Mr AR. It’s a popular quilting cotton which has been in stock for years and comes in a variety of colourways.


    I did my new trick of encasing the zip with bias tape and I lined the bodice in cream poly lining but didn’t line the skirt… that was my major mistake.

    Unlined cotton dresses stick to your tights and I hate this. But I convinced myself otherwise! Now this dress rides up when I wear it. Even when I wear a half slip for goodness sake! I live the dress so I think I’ll retroactively fit a lining. I just need to mull over how….

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