Hello from CANADA! Yes, folks, I am writing to you right now from a hotel room in sunny Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I am in this frankly epic country of neverending proportions, where the squirrels are black (yes, I have been photographing them like an overexcited tourist), the pavements are wider than your average London street and everything, I mean everything, comes with a maple syrup flavour option. It’s fantastic.
We’re here because J is half Canadian and one of his Canadian cousins is getting married tomorrow, and also because I really, really want to see a moose. It’s been a lifelong ambition since I found out just how ridiculously big those animals are. Almost bigger than your average London flat.
Anyway, most of you don’t rock up here to read about my weird moose-fixation so let’s move on and introduce you to a recent and very proud achievement. My first man’s shirt, here modelled (mostly willingly) by my very own piece of Canada.
So here’s a surefire way to elicit a look of panic on your partner’s face: announce you’re making them a shirt. You can see it right there and then, the ‘oh cripes what if I don’t like it and I have to wear it to please her and she’ll keep asking me how much I like it and be able to tell if I’m lying noooo no oh no please no…’ At least that’s what happened when I gleefully informed J that fabulous sewing company Sew Essential UK had offered me a choice of pattern and fabric from their online store and I’d chosen to make Colette’s popular man-make, Negroni.
However, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like J’s mounting anxiety put me off my act of selfless sewing. I would make him a shirt, and he would like it – he just hadn’t realised that yet. Thus I ploughed ahead, selecting some truly gorgeous John Kaldor herringbone stripe to go with the pattern. Sew Essential has a vast range of John Kaldor fabrics; Amy of Almond Rock used a lovely imitation lace version for her Big Vintage Sewalong feature. Anyway, the silky lustre of the herringbone made it feel too formal for the Negroni’s original design, which has a camp collar and double pockets; I decided instead to adapt the pattern to mimic some shirts I snuck out of J’s wardrobe. This meant redrafting for a collar with stand, only adding one pocket (on the left side) and omitting the pocket flap. As I begun to puzzle my way into this, I found to my immense relief that Fiona of Diary of A Chainstitcher had already done pretty much the same thing, and that she in turn had used the ‘new collar for Negroni’ sew-along on Male Pattern Boldness for guidance (Peter’s shirt sew-alongs are just brilliant, and include tips relevant to shirt-making in general, not exclusive to menswear).
Colette’s instructions covered all the basic construction in beginner-friendly detail, and the fabric was a joy to work with. Peeps, I LOVE shirt-making! I used to think I was all about swishy skirts and gung-ho ‘who actually measures seam allowances’ going-for-it, but there’s something about the precision involved in the construction of a shirt that has really caught me. With every shirt I make, I get slightly better – and I immediately want to make another to get better still. I’ve got two Archers up my sleeve (sorry, couldn’t resist) for post-holiday makery. And I may be a little bit addicted to pattern-matching…
Anyhoo, here’s the best bit: when I finally persuaded J to actually put on his amazing new dreamshirt, he really, really liked it. The fearful trapped-animal look was replaced by an expression of pleasure mingled with immense relief. He even stroked the fabric and said ‘this is so much nicer than my other shirts’. Hah! Not that I was at all surprised because a) Negroni, albeit hacked, is a super pattern with a pleasingly modern fit, and b) I knew I was right all along.
So as I mentioned, the fabric and pattern were gifted to me courtesy of Sew Essential UK. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of these guys before they got in touch and if you’re the same I really recommend checking them out. Their site has everything you could want, plus, in the manner of all good shops, a whole load of things you didn’t know you wanted (kantan beading tools, anyone?). It goes far beyond the normal range of fabric/haberdashery, and in particular has a fantastic range of sewing machines, including some on special offer. They are a family business and will offer advice based on direct experience of all the machines they sell. Seriously, I know I sound absurdly gushing here but I’ve been so impressed by the team and their site and am having to remind myself every day that I don’t really need that embroidery machine, even if it is on sale… And so to conclude, standard blog line here: pattern and fabric courtesy of Sew Essential UK, all opinions most definitely my own 🙂