Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Sketchbook Shirt for a Duck

Last night was P's first School Concert. (it was also my regular French class which involves adult conversation, some wine, good cheese...). I'm sure you know which I attended.

I did the right thing and went and watched my little duck on stage. It went a bit like this: "Quack. Ooooh, lovely mud. Quack" then along with 24 other little prep kids, all dressed in check shirts, jeans and gumboots, they did a little dance. (they weren't all ducks. There were cows, pigs and horses and one appropriately bossy Mrs Wishy Washy)

So, my kid's first ever school concert required my first ever school concert costume. The notice came home from school the week before, saying they needed Jeans (got those), Gumboots (check) and a Check shirt (nope...).
But I did have one of mine that I had set aside when I did my big wardrobe clean out thinking it would be perfect to cut up for the kids one day. It was a Country Road shirt made out of Lyocell - which I hadn't heard of, but is a lovely soft, fine weave with a silky, soft feel. Checking that Wikipedia link, it turns out it's Tencel without the brand name rights. Makes sense, 'cause that's how it feels.
Anyway, I had thought it could easily make a sleeveless blouse for A. I had not envisaged trying to cut a long sleeved, size 6 Sketchbook shirt for P. But I did, and check out the photo of the remnants post cutting!

I am so proud of that! I had to unpick every seam. I thought and thought about how it could all fit. Thought I had it sorted but it was late and didn't start cutting. Thank goodness, as I'd failed to realise the check pattern was decidedly unidirectional and I would have muffed it big time. More thinking, more laying out pieces and I finally got it sorted.

I managed to cut every piece (I'd almost resigned myself to a different fabric for the inner yoke and the under collar) and I even added 1 inch to the length and 3/4" to the sleeves. Woohoo!

I didn't allow myself to entertain the idea of much pattern matching, but did try to get the front pieces and at least the uppermost placket to match. With some freaky sewing luck, one side seam also matches perfectly (but not the other) and bizarrely, without the slightest intention, the upper and under collar were absolutely spot-on.
An in-progress photo that had to go immediately to facebook!

Kind of pointlessly exciting because once that seam is pressed and the collar stitched you'd never notice, but weirdly thrilling all the same, hey?!

Speaking of stitching, I edgestitched and topstitched everything, giving it more of a country feel. The sleeve seams are pressed towards the shoulder and edgestitched and topstitched too. The side seams were flat felled, which is so easy to do with lovely soft, fine fabric. I've previously only done it with denim and thicker terry knit and found it to be a truly painful way to sew seams. This fabric resold me on the idea.

I had really wanted the back yoke on the bias, and while it's got a line of needle holes across it from an old seam, I managed it. The main back panel is cut about 1/2 an inch off the fold making the box pleat a bit scanty compared to the original pattern, but that was my only concession required to get it all out of the one thrifted shirt.

You can't beat this pattern for instructions like the sleeve placket. So neat and satisfying. (what's not looking so good is photos using the old D80 camera body and pushing the ISO in order to avoid using the flash - so grainy)

Love the fabric, love the pattern, LOVE the challenge of getting it all cut from one old shirt and REALLY, REALLY LOVE my little duck!


  1. Beautiful top. I'm REALLY impressed you go this shirt out of an upcycle. I had a really tight fit with a short sleeve a size smaller this summer. Mad upcycling skills.

    1. Thanks Rachel. I impressed myself! I wouldn't normally say I'm very good at spatial type problems, but I love a scrooge-y cutting layout challenge!

  2. I commented yesterday, but it didn't seem to work. Anyway... I love the shirt and am super-impressed by your little pile of scraps! Almost worth framing, with the title 'waste not, want not'. That's one lovely duck you have there, too.

    1. Oh Marisa, the same happened to me. I wrote a big long comment about how pleased I am that you're on the KCW blog, and rambled on about books as inspiration then lost it all! I really appreciate you coming back to comment again.
      For all his crazy duck modelling at home, he was the most petrified, wooden duck I've ever seen once he was on the stage. but he went through with it and had a lot of fun.

  3. It looks great!! I cannot believe you squeezed that out of a woman's shirt, though! And with bias accents too! Like Marisa said, that is some thrifty mc-thriftersons happening right there. And what a sweet duck.

    1. Thanks Inder. It's almost like The Matrix, time slows down and I'm just lining up plaid like some sewing ninja! So very satisfying. I wish I'd taken a photo of the original shirt, but that may have been the trigger for it all failing!
      Duck says thanks too!

  4. Wow, I am so impressed! There is not much left of the 'original'. What a great shirt!

  5. That is about the cutest duck ever:) Love his smile and enthusiasm! And I'm so impressed by your patience and skill in creating this from your old shirt - a real work of art! You are such a skilled seamstress.


I get a real kick out of knowing you've visited the blog and love to read comments. Thanks.