flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

flannel shirt sew-a-long: tracing the pattern

flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

Hello my awesomesauce stitching fiends! Today we are getting started in earnest on sewing up a flannel shirt. You can post any questions about this section of the sew-a-long here in the comments, and remember – I am available to support via email and Skype!

To catch you up: I’ve already posted the supply list, a bit about what to expect in undertaking this project, and a link to the the Flickr Group (please consider posting your progress!). I’m going to assume you are all caught up and ready to go!

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* evil laugh *

Today we are just doing a few simple things: getting our pattern ready by tracing it off the large pattern sheet, converting a few of the original pattern pieces, and pre-treating our fabrics.

Today you will need your fabric, your pattern, a tracing medium, whatever you will be using to trace (pen, pencil, etc), a ruler, and scissors. For pre-treating the fabric, you will need to think about how you are going to treat the shirt – handwash? Gentle-wash? Machine-wash? Dry clean? Mull it over while we’re tracing, then let’s talk.

Now before you trace, you will need to know what size you are making. On the back of the pattern, you see a (supposedly) self-explanatory diagram of a human body (shown here at left), complete with numbered measurements that correspond to size:

Size Chart

In order to talk about size, we have to also mention fit. This pattern is a very relaxed-fit shirt with a dropped-shoulder sleeve fit. We will be constructing the shirt differently from the pattern directions, meaning the body of the shirt will lose 1″ around the girth, and the sleeve length will lose about 1/2″.

Now, I am not going to be discussing alterations, fit, and adjustments in the main body of this sew-a-long. But you can post questions in the comments. Even better – email me! I am available through email, phone or text (360.500.3287), or Skype (text me to set up an appointment).

However, I caution anyone who is brand-new that you should beware making a lot of size adjustments to the standard pattern, as if you make errors (and it’s easy to do this) these can be devastating and you can end up with a poorly-executed shirt. One suggestion for the new stitcher is to make a size as-is from the pattern sheet, with no adjustments, as practice. Then, if and when you want to do some alterations to the pattern, you will be far more at ease with the construction of the shirt. For practice, you can even make a small children’s size as you will learn a great deal on this “practice” garment and can then gift it to some adorable child (like maybe your sew-a-long instructor’s child).

Every single pattern company is slightly different in how they report sizes, and frankly it takes time to get used to all these numbers. But unlike many beginner stitcher’s beliefs, this does NOT mean the sizing schemes they use are erroneous. I have found over the years that the numbers don’t lie and when things don’t work out, it is usually the stitcher who is in error about sizing.

So. I will be carrying around a copy of this size table in my purse the next two months so that if you email or text me your measurements, I can help steer you toward a plan!

Let’s proceed. I selected a size “M” for my son, and added some length to the body, as he is slim and tall. Size “M” corresponds to a size 9 – or, roughly, a size 134 Euro. At the bottom of the size table, you see the number of buttons needed for the shirt. Sounds like a lot of buttons, right? It’s better to have a few extra than too few:

Size Chart: How Many Buttons?

Time to unfold those big pattern sheets!Have you ever sewn from a pattern sheet before? If not, unfolding the large paper sheet can seem intimidating. Shown here – one of the pattern sheets open, plus my tracing medium in a roll on top:

Tracing Medium - Pick Your Poison

“What should I use for tracing medium?” There are many options, and I will list them in order of general efficacy. You can use a special pattern tracing medium made for this purpose, a non-fusible interfacing (available at any quilting or fabric store), project paper from an office supply store, and even things like newsprint, kraft paper (i.e. “paper bags”), or if you are desperate and sad, tissue paper. All these mediums have pros and cons – for instance, kraft paper is very sturdy and will hold up for many  uses, but is opaque and therefore a little more challenging trace through.

Now, one common tracing method involves putting the pattern over the top of the tracing medium, placing a carbon- or wax-paper in between the two, and using a wheel to trace the pattern lines onto the medium. This is not so great for a large unenforced pattern sheet like this with many sizes, so I am using the method of tracing like we did in grade school – putting my tracing medium over the pattern sheet. Shown below is how this looks when I do it at my dining room table in good natural light:

Tracing: Not Likely!

And now we see the difference, if I place these two sheets of paper over a light source – in this case, a window:

Tracing. Use A Window!

Simply put, it is far better to see – especially with lines so close together – if you use the window. Take your time, put on some smooth jazz, whatever, and trace every pattern piece you need. Remember – we are making view A which means, the view with the long sleeve.

Trace the pattern in its entirety. This includes the pattern lines, the grainline(s), all pattern markings, the pattern manufacturer and number (Jalie 2111), the letter and description of the pattern piece (shown below, “I”, “placket facing”), and most of all – the size. I guess you can skip the French on the pattern (unless you speak French). All this information is not super-necessary for one shirt-sewing, but the novice may not know what information is okay to skip. And perhaps you will want to make up this shirt again. If so, recording the information is especially helpful as if one day you come across an errant pattern piece it will be easy to know what envelope to return it to.

So you should be stacking up a nice little supply of traced patterns. Let’s see what this looks like – and what our first pattern-piece alteration looks like, too. Below I show an example of the pattern sheet pattern, and in the picture below that, my traced template:

Preparing For Sleeve Placket Conversion

“What is that red dashed line all about?” Well you may ask. Here is our first simple pattern change. We are going to convert the sleeve placket facing to a two-pieced version. Nothing easier. Trace the piece as-is, then cut it right where you see my red dashed line. Here is the result:

Sleeve Placket Conversion

Now, on to the second pattern alteration, and one I do for most patch pockets I sew – a lined pocket. Lined pockets are sturdy, look great, assist in construction accuracy, and have a luxe feel. Check out my little diagram on how to take an original self-faced pocket piece and convert it to two pieces for a lined pocket:

Drafting A Lined Pocket

Here you notice we are delving into the seam allowance for the pattern. If you don’t know what a seam allowance is, look it up, as it’s important! For all stitchers – it is time to familiarize yourself with the fact that this pattern uses a 3/8″ seam allowance (which is not typical). You are going to need to sew one with accuracy, and soon! Don’t worry. We’ll practice.

Okay, so – here is what you should have for the pocket pattern pieces, now. Shown at top: the original piece. Shown below, at left: the newly-drafted pocket piece. Shown below, at right: the lining piece (this will be cut from your cotton remnant). Okay? Okay.

Pocket Drafting

We will retain the interfacing markings on the pocket piece, as shown:

Pocket & Lining Pattern

And now, we need to add bias grain marks to several pattern pieces.

Briefly: several pieces in this shirt are going to be cut from fabric on the diagonal, or what we call bias grain or on the bias. In general, there are two primary reasons for cutting out pieces on the diagonal – one, is that fabric cut on the diagonal behaves differently when it is worn, and it sure as heck behaves differently when you sew it! The second reason we might cut fabric on the bias, is for the visual effect. Plaids, especially large-motif plaids, will lend themselves to an ugly garment if you don’t take some care with cutting. In the case of this shirt, in general, we are exploiting the bias-cut for a better visual effect. If you look at this stitcher’s “Cowboy Shirt” project, you will get a concept of what I mean. When you cut many details on the bias, you avoid some of the ugly plaid mishaps that can happen when you don’t line plaid well (I am not going to post pictures of that, because it kind of feels like plaid-shaming). The larger the plaid motif, the more likely you can end up with a jarring effect.

So, proceeding.

We are going to mark bias lines on each pattern piece we will be cutting on the bias. That will be: the collar, the collar stand, the yoke, the pocket, the sleeve placket pieces, and the cuffs. Mark new grainlines, in a different color, at a 45 degree angle from the original grainlines:

Bias. It's Geometry.

Converting Pattern To Bias

So, you should have bias grain marked on all these pieces:

Pattern Pieces Converted To Bias

So there you go! All of your paper pattern pieces are traced, cut, and marked. Please note – the above picture does not show the remaining three paper pattern pieces – the sleeve, front, and back – but you should have those cut and marked as well.

Now – for pre-treating fabric. For cotton fabrics, in general, this means simply – washing and drying it a time or two before you sew. But read on, before you proceed.

So, I instructed you to obtain three fabrics: the shirt fabric (100% cotton), the cotton remnant (100% cotton), and the satin remnant (probably polyester). In general, you want to pre-treat these fabrics exactly as you expect to treat the garment. For a flannel shirt you will be laundering, my suggestion is that you wash and dry the flannel and the cotton remnant fabrics twice. For a flannel shirt you will be dry-cleaning, you can have the fabric dry-cleaned, or you can steam it (there are many ways to do the latter; I won’t go into them right now).

Most of you will be laundering your shirt, so you will be laundering your fabrics to pre-treat them. Before you do this, there’s one more step to take!

If you wash and dry fabric in the washing machine, the raw edges of the fabric will fray, sometimes severely, and can make the fabric knot up and be a big pain in the arse (ask me how I know this!). In general, I serge-finish the edges of my raw yardage before I wash and dry it. If you do not have a serger, you can zig-zag finish the edge of the fabric before you wash and dry it. This is a great time for you to fire up that sewing machine, and make sure things are running. So go ahead and thread your sewing machine with the thread you’re going to use and the needle you’re going to use, and finish up those fabric edges.

The final time that you dry the fabric, make sure to check on it and keep it from tangling in the dryer. Remove it before the dryer stops but after it is dry, straighten it, and hang it on a curtain rod, a dowel, or even over a door that is not going to be closed. This way, the fabric will not get any wrinkles that you have to press out.

If your satin remnant is 100% polyester or 100% synthetic fabric, you likely don’t need to pre-treat at all. If you are unsure –

pre-treat it!

There is one more angle to pre-treatment. The interfacing, which adds structure and body to pieces of the shirt, may or may not need pre-treatment. One thing is for sure – you don’t want to dry it in the dryer because you are going to want it to be fused to the fabric, first! Now I prefer interfacings that don’t need pre-treatment, and those are the ones I purchase. For this sew-a-long, I had recommended Fashion Sewing Supply’s Pro-WEFT Supreme Lightweight Fusible Interfacing, which works beautifully without pre-treatment. Now believe it or not, pre-treating interfacing can be controversial (everything in sewing can be… I know. It’s goofy). In general, follow your manufacturers instructions.

If you are nervous about your interfacing, you can easily test it first. After you wash and dry your cotton a time or two, take a small piece (like 4″ square), fuse it to a 4″ square piece of interfacing according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and wash and dry that little sample a time or two. At this point if it is still well-fused, you know the interfacing and cotton will perform well together in the garment.

Any questions about interfacing – just ask, in the comments.

And – guess what? This completes the first sew-a-long installment! I like to clean up as I go, for the most part. So at this point, you can recycle all your little paper trimmings. Fold up your pattern sheet – but first, carefully cut the instructions out as we will likely refer to them now and then.

What are we doing next session, for those who want to plan ahead? Well, we are going to be doing a whole heck of a lot of precision-cutting and marking, block-fusing interfacing to the fabricfinding the grainline of the cotton plaid by tearing the fabric (which is fun – and accurate), cutting the fabric, and marking the shirt pieces using thread marks. You are going to need a large surface for cutting and good scissors. You will also need pins and/or pattern weights. I cut using a rotary cutter and mat, and without pinning, so that is what I will be demonstrating.

Okay, stitchers – I will see you on Tuesday. Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to ask for help!

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