There is a legend. I don’t know if you’ve heard it, but if you stand very still next to the pattern section of a fabric store and listen really, really hard you can sometimes hear it… the faintest echo of a story told long ago, from lands far away. Hush now, and really listen to the soft whispers of the pattern catalogue as you turn its pages … can you hear what it says? “Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a perfectly fitting shirt …”
Pah! So many times I have slammed the book shut in disgust and marched from the store in outrage at such tellings and well, let’s be honest, lies. You see, I have made a veritable cavalcade of shirts. It’s not quite millions (sometimes it feels that way) but let’s say I am no stranger to a stand collar and cuffs, sleeve plackets and yokes. I have made them for men through to teens and even wee ones, so have used a lot of different patterns over the years, all with their own distinct flaws. Patterns from the big four are the main ne’er do wells in this tale. They promise so much with their shiny faced metrosexual models on the front covers, all crisp contrasty bands, muscular arms and white teeth. Even though you should know better you fall for it, buy the pattern, cut out your awesome fabric and then your hopes are dashed as your bloke ends up looking like this …
No, I did not inadvertently cut out the size XXL … amazingly this is a New Look size large, for a 42″ chest. (Clutch stomach and roll around the floor laughing hysterically.) Coincidentally, my bloke also has a 42″ chest. Fancy that eh? Yes, I am sure, I double checked with two totally different tape measures when I started to fear I was losing my mind. The problem, it seems, is ease, or E—A—S—E in the case of this shirt! Can you guess how much ease there is in this pattern? It’s over eight inches on the width. Eight extra inches? One can only imagine what a man would be doing to need that much ease in his shirt – swashbuckling perhaps, or swordfighting, or smuggling kittens – the mind boggles. However, I think it is safe to say that your average man on the street does not need such a loose fit.
I am sure that these shirts would run up perfectly for a hero (or villain) in Game of Thrones, after all with all that womanising and pillaging they probably need such roomy garb, whether for launching themselves into bed with a bevvy of beauties or slicing someone’s head off (the ultimate active lifestyle) but for a modern day man in quiet Oxfordshire … not quite so relevant. Then there is the no small matter of the sleeves – surely drafted for the gene pool remnants of neolithic man, they pass over the entire hand and finish an inch or two above the fingertip. And I haven’t even mentioned the giant Brady Bunch-esque collar line. Yes, safe to say this one is an epic fail. My bloke looks like an orphan in it.
I have tried so many shirt patterns over the years. Some are cut massively wide, or short, or feature miles of painstaking hand stitching (an automatic rejection in my book). But then a few months back I was reading a blog that talked about a man’s shirt pattern that actually fitted! “Wow, that’s raising the bar,” I thought. I scribbled down the make and name onto a post-it note and stuck it in my purse. When the fabric store was having a sale on patterns recently I unearthed my tattered note and bought the pattern. Time to start the quest…
I gathered my materials, set aside my cynicism and started making. So, did I learn my lesson and cut a toile? Ummm, no. Hey, life is short and I have enough fitting to do on myself … if I’m sewing for my bloke it need to fit from the packet people! What I did do was compare it to a couple of his best fitting RTW shirts. And you know, it looked pretty good side by side. I used some quilting cotton I got a while back from the States and paired it with an offcut of buttercup yellow cotton for the contrast and then cut it out. It was an easy sew and I loved some of the details in the instructions, much of it eliminating hand stitching but still giving an excellent quality finish.
And then I had finished. With a final press I went off in search of my bloke for the final test … the fitting. What is amazing is that the finished fit is pretty darn perfect. On the next one I will slightly tweak, by lengthening the body half an inch and shortening the sleeves a tiny bit, but other than that it is very good indeed.
So, here it is ladies and gentlemen, the mythical Shirt of (almost) Perfect Fitting – Burda 7045. Put it on a pedestal, light some scented candles and bring it gifts. Men’s shirt patterns don’t get much better than this.