Even if you’re not ready to sew placket, collar, or cuff alterations, The Shirtmaking Workbook is an eye-opener that exposes you to the possibilities.
If you sew, you know that you’ve had that moment, plenty of times, when you look at a pattern and think, “If only it had a collar like the one that I saw the other day! If only these cuffs looked just like the cuffs on this other, completely different pattern!”
Altering a pattern is a learned skill, and even if you’re new to sewing, you can absolutely learn this skill. Once you do, you’ll see that a pattern is just the beginning of the design process, and you can use it to create a variety of styles, giving you more bang for your buck, an expanded wardrobe, and more creative control over your personal style.
To that end, The Shirtmaking Workbook,* by David Page Coffin, can be an excellent starting point. Even if you’re not ready to sew the placket, collar, and cuff alterations that the book discusses, it’s an eye-opener just to be exposed to the possibilities.
For instance, I’m pretty butch. I don’t like fussy clothes and I don’t like feminine cuts. I do like clothes that allow for a lot of movement, clothes with lots of pockets, and clothes that allow for plenty of hard wear. This means that I’m most drawn to the Sport Block and the Folk Block that Coffin discusses, and I found plenty of interesting modifications for these basic blocks, including lace-up plackets, zippered plackets, a trench collar (so that I can look like Sherlock!), and several different placements for front pockets.
The only real disappointment to this book is that the promised “100 pattern downloads for collars, cuffs, and plackets” do not exist… yet. A very few are up, but certainly not 100. A dozen, maybe? The author has stated, however, that he IS working on them, so we can expect them to appear at some point.
Since I don’t have access to my promised downloads to explore, my real favorite part of The Shirtmaking Workbook is Coffin’s walkthrough of his digital redesign process. With a scanner, wide-format printer, and a couple of graphic design programs, he makes patterns from existing store-bought shirts, then alters those patterns to add his preferred elements. I think this is brilliant, and I am 100% going to try it.
I’ll have to hold off my final verdict on The Shirtmaking Workbook until I’ve gotten some pattern downloads to play with, but until then, I am now officially on the lookout for shirts whose patterns I want to crib.
*I received The Shirtmaking Workbook free from a marketer, because I can’t review a book if it hasn’t convinced me to buy a scanner and a wide-format printer!