In 2020 I began to receive what I have been laughingly calling “commissions”. It began with some socks and some mending, but it seems to be increasing in a rather interesting and pleasing way!
It is a rare kind of person who asks if you will reproduce their favourite cotton shirt, but in denim from old jeans. Yet, this happened! I admit, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of constructing plackets from denim, for a start. But I called to ask the questions I needed to reassure myself about attempting the task, and then I began. I ripped a LOT of jeans into component parts. I ran out of those I had been given and called out on the local Buy Nothing group, and got a pile of someone’s husband’s cast off jeans.
Step 1: draft a pattern. This is not my first attempt to draft a pattern from a finished garment, but it is always instructive to make things for other people. It tells me about the limits of my confidence, for a start. And, it is fair to say I don’t make perfect things! After a lot of checking and re checking (I love how I’ve written my reasoning on the pattern as I go here), I had a pattern. Step 2: cut out the component parts from jeans, and then patchwork jeans together to create pieces big enough for the bigger components. This is not a small shirt, it’s a really big one.
Eventually it started to come together. One of the big design decisions was settling on how to finish seams inside, to prevent fraying and ensure strength–but also, given the huge number of seams–to ensure they would not be too bulky. Solution: zigzag the layers of the seam allowance together, then topstitch flat. Honestly, another design decision was taking the person whose shirt this was to become seriously. Taking seriously what they wanted and what they cared about. Surely this is at the heart of a bespoke garment…?
Then began the construction process. I have never made a shirt with this kind of front placket, but I figured it was essentially just like the one on a cuff, only larger. Reverse engineering the plackets gave me a lot of pause (by which I mean, anxiety!) But succeeding in generating the pattern and then creating them made me feel highly competent. Just as well I’m not too convinced my emotions should be in the drivers’ seat of my life, or I’d stay in bed every day and sew only simple stuff forever, apparently.
I warmed up on the sleeve plackets.
Then the front placket and the pocket and such…
On with the sleeves… then on with the cuffs. And pretty soon, it was all done. The time consuming jeans-acquiring and -ripping part was a significant part of the entire time I spent making this garment.
I can’t say that I managed a good image of the whole thing. I’ve struggled with images at times on this blog: the things that take most time and effort to create in sewing and knitting are the hardest to photograph well. But here are attempts. I have to say that I admire the grunt of my machine (and the effectiveness of a jeans needle) in getting through pleats set into a cuff in denim and other similar feats.
Happiest moment of all was the review from the recipient, however! What a grin.
And I am all the more confident… because he wanted a second one. Here it is from the back…
And from the front.