Sunday, July 19, 2020

Weekend Review: Sewing Shirts with a Perfect Fit

Sewing Shirts with a Perfect Fit / David Page Coffin
Beverly MA: Quarto, c2019
144 p.
Is there anyone more identified with sewing shirts than David Page Coffin? I'm not sure about that -- unless it's Peter Lappin!

I picked up this book at a sale site a while ago and still haven't fully explored all the potential in it. It is packed with information, tutorials and technique, plus projects. It's broken up into two primary sections. It starts with Fit: an overview of types of shirt fit, the concept of draping and then how to drape a loose fit, fitted, or tight shirt. Then it moves on to 4 basic projects, including two shirts, a shirt jacket and a shirtdress.

The concept of fit in this book is not flat pattern manipulation or adjustments, at all. The whole idea is to drape a shirt to get the fit to be just what you want it. This would be fantastic if you were sewing for others, or, if you had a perfect dress form that is exactly your shape. Sewing for yourself using this technique would otherwise be impossible (which he acknowledges in the intro).

Although, in the project section, he describes making a body clone for this purpose, using tinfoil, muslin and foam. So you could give it a go if you wanted to! Other than that caveat, the book itself is so full of information, great illustrations and small tips that will make a big difference in your projects.

There is extra online information too, and it's important to check the publisher's online resources for this book -- along with the full construction details for all the projects, downloadable patterns, and technique tips, there is also an errata noting errors in the printed pattern tools included with the book. Be sure to check this page before using the paper inserts.

The paper pattern tools are tucked into an envelope inside the front cover; there are two sheets which provide armhole and sleeve cap curves to use in your shirt fitting work. (as noted, check the website for an updated pdf with the correct armhole curves on it).

Each style of shirt has a full section on proper fit, how to adjust for a soft or crisp fabric, construction order and technique, along with many full colour illustrations. The photos often have each piece -- ie, back, yoke and sleeve -- in contrasting fabrics so that you can clearly see the pieces and seams he is referring to. I found this very useful. And there are instructions on how to turn your draping into a paper pattern, and a section on fine finishing details.

This is another excellent resource by David Page Coffin, and it may inspire me to try this technique to see if I can manage to get a good result with something so new to me. There is so much detail on all aspects of the shirtmaking process that I'm sure reading this book thoroughly would help even if you were just using a commercial pattern and tweaking it. Definitely recommended!

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