Book Report: Patternmaking for Menswear!

Oooh, you guys– I have a super fun book to show you today!  It’s Patternmaking for Menswear by Gareth Kershaw, sent to me by my friends at Laurence King Publishing.

I was really excited to see this in my mailbox for two reasons– firstly, because I’m suddenly feeling comfortable enough with my sewing skills to want to sew for my fella, and secondly, because I’m about three-quarters of the way through my first patternmaking course at FIT and ready to delve more deeply into that world.  Folks, this puppy does NOT disappoint!

The book draws inspiration from the world of fashion, but the pieces are classic and wearable.

To make the projects in the book, you create basic pattern blocks, then use them as a jumping-off point to create patterns for different looks.   (I have to say, after spending a semester drafting for women, the lovely straight lines and dart-free lines of menswear really appeal to me!).

At the beginning of each project, the author lists the changes you need to make to the block and the techniques you need to learn.  It’s all laid out in a simple and straightforward fashion, which I appreciate.  The drawings and instructions are much clearer than the textbook my patternmaking teacher references (an older, out-of-print book with small, hard-to-see illustrations).

There are enough patterns and variations in the book to dress a dude really well.  Also, not to be TOO much of a superbrat, but lots of the details and skills included in the book translate to women’s sewing, too.  I would TOTALLY wear this shirt (I KNOW, I KNOW, I’LL MAKE SOMETHING FOR MY DUDE FIRST).  In the project shows above, you need to create cuffs, yokes, plackets, a curved hem– all kinds of things that would come in handy for guys and gals alike!  Did I mention that I would TOTALLY wear this shirt?

There are twenty patterns included in the book, and they’re a great mix of basics and hipper garments.  For example, there’s a basic buttondown and basic pants, but there are also cargo pants, a hooded sweatshirt, a henley, and a lovely trench coat.  This is about as much bang for your buck as you could possibly get sewing for guys– I don’t think you could buy 20 patterns on sale for the amount this book retails for on Amazon ($38!!!)!  I should also mention that I think this book would come in handy even if you’re not interested in drafting patterns from scratch.  If you want to change up favorite commercial patterns, there’s lots in here to help you update basic patterns and turn them into new looks.  Also, in case you were wondering, the book uses the imperial system– no metric measurements.

If I sound really excited about this book, it’s because I am!  And, the good news is that I have a copy to give away!  Sadly, I can only send it to U.S. residents, but I will plan a giveaway soon for international readers.  I’ll choose a winner at random one week from today, at 10P EST on Thurs., Nov. 21st.  If you’re interested, leave a comment below!  I’d love to know what you’d be most excited about making from this book!

Dude Sewing: Thread Theory Newcastle Cardigan

O, Autumn!, fairest of seasons, when the air is crisp and clear, lattes are pumpkin-spiced, and a sewist’s heart leaps at the thought of wrapping herself in wool from head to toe!  Just kidding, guys, I hate cold weather and I don’t like dropping an extra buck just to have someone dump nutmeg in my coffee.  But I do turn into a whimpering baby and reach for sweaters the second the temp dips below 65 degrees, so I hit the wool section at Mood Fabrics NYC determined to find the perfect cocoon to shelter myself from autumn’s advances!  They have beautiful fabrics for fall up there, and when I found this luxurious wool double knit, I knew immediately I had to make a sweater for my dad. It just looked like something he would like, you know what I mean?  He’s always cold, but lives in a cool climate (if you haven’t experienced it, you don’t want to know what Michigan feels like in the wintertime), so he layers up nearly year-round!

(Special thanks goes out to Man Friend, who graciously volunteered to model the cardigan for these photos despite the fact that it’s a good size and a half too small for him. He was a lovely model, so I’ll have to think of something special to make for him!)

Newcastle Cardigan made with wool double knit from Mood Fabrics

This is the closest thing I could find to a smile in the photos…

I used Thread Theory‘s Newcastle Cardigan pattern and cut a size small based on measurements my mom took of a few of my dad’s sweaters. The pattern comes together quickly and is pretty fun to sew. I chose version 1, with front and back yoke details, but cut them in self fabric as my pop’s a pretty conservative dresser and probably wouldn’t appreciate any extra “flair” in his garment! I opted for the larger shawl collar as it seemed cozier. The topstitched yokes are a really nice detail, even if they’re mostly covered up by the shawl collar. I added an extra button (pretty arbitrarily… six just looked better than five in the button size I selected!). If I made this for someone else, I would lengthen the body a bit– it seems a little short, especially in comparison to the length of the sleeves. Luckily my dad’s pretty short-waisted, so it won’t be a problem for him. I would also draft a waistband for the cardigan, I think. I feel like a hem band would look a little nicer and more RTW.

Newcastle Cardigan made with wool double knit from Mood Fabrics

“Oh, wow, this pipe is so INTERESTING! I think I’ll keep staring at it!”

The fabric is perfect for my pop– it’s warm and soft, but without any of the scratchiness that often deters people from wool. It’s got some heft, but it’s still drapey, which seemed like just the right weight for a cardigan.  To help it keep its shape, I used pro-tricot deluxe fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply for the collar, plackets, facings, and yoke pieces.  I really liked this interfacing– I was amazed to see that the fabric still retained its stretch after fusing!  I also stabilized the shoulder seam with twill tape, following the pattern directions to topstitch from the right side on either side of the seam. The fabric is stretchy, but not CRAZY stretchy, so I used a ballpoint needle to avoid skipped stitches, but stitched the vertical seams with a regular straight stitch. I used a zigzag stitch on anything that needed to stretch horizontally (like the cuff seams), and I used my Janome’s special stretch zigzag stitch for the hem to make sure it had plenty of give (I just discovered this stitch after, oh, two years sewing on this machine… facepalm).  Buttonholes… well, they LOOK pretty good, but my feed dogs couldn’t move the fabric forward while I was sewing them, so I had to sort of manually shove the fabric underneath the buttonhole foot.  I was trying to match the speed I thought the sewing machine would move to keep from stretching out the buttonholes, and I think I was fairly successful, but it was pretty nerve-wracking!

Newcastle Cardigan made with wool double knit from Mood Fabrics

The major difficulty of using a fabric like this for this pattern is BULK.  In some places, like where the collar attaches to the neckline, you’re sewing through six layers of fabric (not counting interfacing!)– whoa, Nelly!  My poor sewing machine was pretty sad trying to chomp through that much fabric.  I graded the seams and notched them aggressively, but there’s still a bit of bulk in some of the seams that just couldn’t be eliminated.  If you’re making this pattern or something else with a shawl collar, it might make sense to cut facings or the undercollar out of a lighter-weight fabric, something I routinely do when sewing with wovens but didn’t consider on this project.

Newcastle Cardigan made with wool double knit from Mood Fabrics

Better keep inspecting that pipe– you might miss a detail!

So, brief sidebar– guys, it’s WAY more fun to be on the other side of the camera telling someone how to model than to pose for pictures yourself!  I was nearly mad with power and really had to dial back the impulse to shout things like, “What’s your character’s backstory?”  Man Friend was worried that he looked too much like His Excellency, the Duke of Fall.  There’s definitely a resemblance, huh?

HOLY CRAP, LOOK OUT! YOUR HEAD IS GLOWING, MAN FRIEND!  Someone take the camera away from me, please.

How about you– are you a wool enthusiast?  Are you a fall junkie?  Are you a member of the pumpkin spice latte cult?  What’s on your sewing table these days?

Bathroom graffiti at FIT where I’m taking night classes. It’s a cult, people!

Ginger Made: McCall’s M6016, or The Tiniest Magnum P.I.

This is, hands down, the best thing I’ve ever made.

Rock the hula, kid!

Before you’re all, “Hey, girl, enough with the hyperbole!”,  just stop for a second and look.

IT’S A TINY HAWAIIAN SHIRT.

I can’t even look at this without laughing.  There aren’t many things funnier than babies dressed like strange adults.  I’d like to imagine this shirt worn by a baby with a mustache and chest hair.  Possibly a crime-fighting, convertible-driving baby with a mustache and chest hair.

This is a gift for one of Man Friend’s oldest friends, who just had baby #3.  She and her husband met while living in Hawaii, and all three kids have lovely Hawaiian names, so this seemed like a good gift.  I used M6016 and a cotton print I scored during a sale at Jo-Ann.  The pattern was super easy to put together  and everything went smoothly and uneventfully.  The toughest part was getting over my fear of making buttonholes!  I did a few practice versions, and while these aren’t perfect, it wasn’t anywhere near as tough as I thought it would be.  I was all worked up over nothing (story of my freakin’ life…)!

I’ll have to get pretty comfortable sewing for little boys– it’s recently been revealed that my due-in-January niece/nephew is in fact a nephew!  Anybody have any favorite patterns or projects to make for boys?  My previous go-to boy gifts, if you knit, are The Brown Stitch’s Chunky Monkey Vest and/or Linden Down’s Baby Sophisticate sweater.  What about you guys?  Other than PJ’s for Man Friend, this is the first item I’ve sewn for a dude!

In other news, I found myself completely overtaken by a fit of insanity and signed up for a 5K yesterday.  This may not sound very eventful, but as Man Friend pointed out, it’s doubtful that I’ve run a total of 5 kilometers in the last 10 years (I was a bigtime runner in high school, but realized that I actually hate running and haven’t done it since)!  Here’s the kicker– it’s two weeks from today!!!  Am I totally screwed?  People!  I know!  This is crazy, but it’s a benefit raising money for walruses!  WALRUSES!  I can’t think of a more hilarious reason to run!  And my dear friend and also-reluctant-runner, KristyWes, is doing it with me (and inspired me to sign up!).  So.  We’ll see.

What about you guys?  Any novelty 5k’s on the horizon? Have you tried anything new (or done anything a little crazy) recently?

Ginger Made: Boy Pajamas!

Hi, everyone!  Thanks for all your warm wishes– Man Friend is back in good health!  To celebrate that, and our 6th anniversary (tomorrow), I stitched him up a fancy new pair of PJ’s!

He’s quite the Star Wars fan, so I used a sheet set.  The fabric is really weird, some kind of strange, stiff poly-cotton blend, so maybe not the nicest for pajamas, but he loves the print, so I guess that’s OK.  Maybe they’ll get a little softer after washing them a few times.

Look at puggy adoring his pop!

As you can see, I made no attempt to match the print.  I probably should have positioned it a bit more strategically– it looks a bit sloppy.  Oh, well!  I also didn’t use a pattern– I planned to trace a pair of Man Friend’s pajamas, but I couldn’t find or he doesn’t own any actual pajama pants (just track pants or sweats… so fashionable…), so I traced a pair of sweatpants.  The sweats are a bit too big for him, I guess, cause these turned out a little large.

Bad news– Cap’n Crunch has defected to the Dark Side!

Man Friend requested that I not show his face to “cultivate an air of mystery” about him.  Hahaha!  Don’t you just want to know more about this mysterious, pajama-ed stranger??

Hope your weekends are going swimmingly!  I’m looking forward to jumping back into MMM tomorrow!

All About Boys

Hi, friend-os! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m the kind of person that holidays tend to sneak up on. I have an intense work schedule and, I’ll be honest, I’m unorganized and a huge procrastinator. So I find myself (for the zillionth time) just a few days from Father’s Day with… lots of great gifts planned… yes, many great things… that I can’t tell you about… ’cause they’re totally AWESOME and not because I haven’t figured out what to get yet… OK, I give up, and since I’m sure my dad doesn’t read my blog, I can admit that I definitely don’t have a gift ready!

This brings me to the question of making things for men. Do you guys sew for the guys in your life? This is something I’ve been hoping to do more of, but sometimes it’s really difficult to find projects that I want to make that boys want to wear. I have two brothers, two brothers-in-law, my dad, and of course my husbie, and it’s been really challenging to think of things to make for them. Man Friend’s requests for items of apparel usually fall into the category of “novelty items”, and sometimes it can be hard for me to finish a project that I know will probably be worn rarely if ever, like the unfinished TNMT mask below (here’s the pattern if you need to make your own).

The world's saddest party dude

Man Friend has also requested a few items that are, simply put, beyond my skill set. His dream is for me to make him a replica of the sweater vest that legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka wore on game day, but I haven’t yet made him a sweater, let alone charted a pattern for letters. My biggest foray into knitting for men was a sweater vest that I gave my dad for Christmas, and it fit poorly and was a huge pain in the neck to make (mainly due to the pattern being really difficult to follow, but also because it required hours of seaming to finish). Plus, knitting for men takes forever because the garments are so large, and many of the sweater patterns I think are nice Man Friend finds a bit… cheesy?

Who says sweater vests can't be sexy?

I’m finding out now that the problem of lack of good sewing patterns for guys’ apparel is oft-discussed on online forums. I love looking at vintage men’s patterns, but I wonder how the fit and sizing compares to modern menswear. Anyone have any experience with this?

The timeless Apache Shirt. I dare you to make this pattern for a man in your life, perhaps in a nice leopard-print silk?

I think I may have found a good gift solution, though. I snapped up a copy of vintage Simplicity 4007 from Sunni’s sale last week, and I’m excited to make them for all my guys. They look like the perfect thing to wear when you’re sitting at the breakfast nook smoking a pipe and reading the paper, you know, normal guy stuff.

I like to imagine Roger Sterling wearing these around the house

So maybe my predicament is solved for now, except for the part where it’s Thursday, Father’s Day is Sunday, and I have maybe three hours on Saturday to work on this and no fabric. Oh, and my dad lives 1000 miles away. Better late than never?

What about you guys? What are your thoughts on boy clothes?