My dream of owning a button-up shirt I like has become a reality.
I’ve gotten into the habit of donating or selling clothes I don’t wear anymore semi-seasonally since I read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” in 2015.
(Get on my level, you filthy casuals.) This has kept my wardrobe a reasonable size, considering I’m a picky clothes shopper thanks to fit issues with ready-to-wear fashion.
For this round of wardrobe purging, I donated the following:
- 2 pairs of pants – Too small, thanks to heavy squats and deadlifts.
- 1 skirt – Umm, wider lower gut?
- 3 dresses – No pockets, so no point.
- 1 skort – What can I say? I’m Thighzilla.
- 1 vest – It was an impulse purchase.
- 6 blouses – Color, fabric choice, or style I didn’t like anymore. (RIP Loft quality.)
After rehoming these items, I was left with few options for shirts. Now there are no shortage of options for blouses and tops, but an item that I’ve always coveted was the classic button-up shirt. My previous purchases left me dissatisfied because of fit, fabric choice, or color.
After taking a good look at the mirror (and turning to my trusty Pinterest board), I came up with this criteria for button-up shirts I wanted to own in the future:
- Must be a v-neck. Traditional button-up shirt collars sit very high. Because I have a short neck, previous button-up shirts I’ve owned in the traditional style made me feel like I was being choked, or made me look more square.
- Must not contain polyester. I live in Texas and because I’m human, I sweat, especially when I’m nervous.
- Must not gap at the chest. I’ve got an average-sized chest, but after learning more about boobs than I ever have, I know that most of my fullness is at the sides. (The proper term is “wide root” but you can get a visual.) Even if I found a petite-sized button-up shirt that “technically” fit, this fullness at the sides meant that I would inevitably get that pull on the front buttons, or worse, those buttons would come undone. Wearing a camisole underneath was a temporary fix, but see #2 and you can understand why I didn’t want to do this.
Lucky for me, I know how to sew! And I don’t have to settle for ready-to-wear options anymore. I was positive there was a pattern out there that would have that v-necked silhouette I was looking for. And that’s where McCall’s M7629 pattern came in.
It’s styled on the envelope like a Hawaiian shirt, but it was exactly what I was looking for. Boxy tops are *the thing* right now and I’m a recent convert to the tucked shirt after being a long-time skeptic.
I wanted to make View A with the length of View B because I never understood the purpose of front breast pockets on women. (What are we supposed to put in them? Gum? Post-its?)
The land of a thousand adjustments
I took the high bust measurement a la the tissue-fitting method and cut a size 14, which works for me since I’m 4’11 1/2.
As I began the fitting process, I soon learned why finding a button-up shirt in stores I liked was so hard. I made my typical adjustments for Big Four pattern bodices:
- Back: High, low, and sway
- Shoulders: Sloping and narrow, taking in one inch
- Sleeves: Widening one inch
- Waist: Shorten one inch
For this pattern though, I needed to add a few more adjustments. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t realize this until I was nearly donw with sewing an orange linen version of the top.
I tried on the shirt, looked in the mirror and realized in horror the gaping in the back neckline and a front neckline too low for my comfort. I also noticed the stretch lines where the armhole and sleeves met when I put my hands on my hips. There was a possibility I would have that gapping problem at the chest I was trying to avoid. If I plowed ahead, this top would be unwearable for me. Of course, this was the one time I didn’t muslin before making the real thing. Lesson learned.
Knowing that I wouldn’t wear this top if I didn’t fix this shoulder and neckline issues, I unpicked everything and made the appropriate adjustments to the front pattern piece, the front facing, and the lapel piece (used for views C & D). Given that I had already shortened the armhole depth, which was a first for me on a Big Four pattern, my only conclusion for the potential chest gapping issue was to redraw the armhole to give me a little more wiggle room. I resewed with a muslined front cut out of an old bed sheet.
I tried this half-muslined shirt with a bra that generally gives me more fullness but doesn’t act like a push-up. The forward shoulder and front neckline adjustments worked, as well as the redrawn armhole. On to the real thing!
I set the half-finished orange linen shirt aside since I ran out of thread making all these mistakes. I cut out the new pattern pieces from old pattern pieces I had cut with a cream linen/rayon blend from Joann’s, before I realized I needed to make additional adjustments. As such, this version would end up being more like the cropped length in view B, which I didn’t mind. I just didn’t want to waste fabric.
I’m sewing along my merry way, and I’m almost at the finish line when I get to the buttonholes.
In my defense, I tested the buttonholes on scraps of similar fabric without a problem before I went to work on the real thing. Mine’s a four-step buttonhole and I was a little intimidated, to be honest. Though I’ve had my machine for about three years, this was the first time I was doing buttonholes. When I moved on to the shirt, the first one went well, but then it all started going downhill.
I could not figure out why the feed dogs weren’t moving the fabric down the line. There was lots of unpicking and I actually spilled a little blood on this shirt thanks to a wayward seam ripper. With a hope and a prayer, I somehow got the third and the last buttonholes to work, but there was still the second button.
Three attempts later, I was done. This would not do. I knew I needed to visit my trusty sewing machine repair shop.
The tornadoes in Dallas struck part of the garment district, and though my trusted shop came away relatively unscathed, others weren’t so lucky. Surrounding damage affected businesses up and down the block for a few days. While I waited for the situation to calm down, I went ahead and finished hemming my shirt.
I visited today with my machine and a cry for help. I figured I was doing something wrong and they would have a trick for me. The moment I showed Antonio, who sold me both my machines, the buttonholes I was able to do successfully, he tsks and says, “you have them too tight!”
Cue me hanging my head in shame.
As I came to learn, my trusty Babylock BL9 can’t really hack the middle setting I had for my buttonhole width. Antonio told me a click off of stitch length 1 would work best. He also told me to use some stabilizer, even if I was sewing on something that was interfaced. Oh.
He also helped me decipher this cryptic diagram in my manual about oiling my bobbin winder and showed me the points to oil. (I’ve oiled my machine before, but those diagrams aren’t the best.)
After thanking him, skipping up the ramp to the fabric side to get some stabilizer (and a new ruler and leather thimble for good measure), I went back home to tackle that last buttonhole.
Less than a minute later, I had my buttonhole.
This technically isn’t a hard pattern to make. I struggled with buttonholes, but that was more of a user error on my machine. If you’re comfortable with sewing set-in sleeves and a facing, you can make this pattern. There are no darts, but using the recommended fabrics, you’ll still get a top with nice drape. I’m undecided whether I’ll topstitch the front facing. I’m leaning towards “yes” because it’s a linen, but we’ll see.
Collars and patch pockets are optional depending on the view you choose to make, but if you’ve never sewn them before, you should still try it out. I made the patch pockets for the first time when I was weighing whether to include them or not and it wasn’t difficult.
I’ve been fitting a few patterns now, and though I admit I completely missed that I needed to make a forward shoulder adjustment on all my projects going forward, I did need to make extra adjustments to the M7629 that I hadn’t with other Big Four patterns. I still plan to make this again. Why not? It’s a good basic to include in your wardrobe. And I have about 7 pins on my board with the same type of shirt so might as well fulfill my button-up dreams.
Coming up next
I have one shirt down, many more to make. It’s ironic I finished this short-sleeved, cropped button-up shirt today when the temperatures started dropping. I’ll have to decide whether my next project is View D, or whether I’ll tackle a pattern from Named’s Breaking The Pattern book, which is sitting on my bookshelf. To be determined!