You know how sometimes the thing you’re dreading turns out to be BIG FUN? Such was the case yesterday, when I finally started on the Archer button-down shirt that drove me to propose the Summer of Basics Make-along. A shirt like this is the hardest thing for me to fit — any woven, set-in-sleeve shirt that suits my big shoulders will inevitably be too big in the body and in the upper sleeves as a result. Which is why I want to make my own, and also why I’ve been dreading it. This is also a garment that involves cutting out and assembling 19 pattern pieces. (My average is more like 3.) So never have I been more committed to the traditional muslin process. Meaning, after tracing them off onto my beloved Swedish tracing paper, I cut the five key pieces (left front, right front, back, yoke and sleeve x2) out of muslin so I could assess and adjust the fit. As a starting point, I cut a straight size 14 after comparing the shoulder measurements to my favorite flannel shirt.
Upon stitching together the yoke/back and front pieces, and setting in the right sleeve, I was thrilled that — ta da! — it actually fits, with very little fiddling. I’m ok with the ease through the body; my only issues were that the sleeve was a little big (not terribly, but why not tweak while I can?) and too long: It hit perfectly at my wrist before a cuff was factored in. So I laid the left sleeve back on the pattern, sloped the sides down from a 14 at the underarm to a 10 at the cuff, and shortened it by 2.5″, then sewed it on. The difference in the upper arm is subtle but meaningful, but it’s a much better width at the cuff than the 14 was. To make sure I’ve got the length just right, I cut out the cuff and pinned it on, and I’m officially good to go.
That was surprisingly painless. So now it’s time to cut all 19 pieces out of my beautiful blue cotton-linen chambray. The thing is, I’m so excited about this shirt now, and know I’ll want to make several, so I almost want to cut them all at once and have them waiting in the wings for gradual future production.