|Edited 7/1/13 to update photos after webshots closed, darn them!|
Pattern Description: Boys' and men's shirt with front variations. The style choices include a retro bowling shirt, a basic camp or Hawaiian shirt with a yoke, and--surprisingly--a guayabera, the fancy pleated and/or embroidered men’s formal shirt popular in Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines. The guayabera is the one I chose to make for my son for his beach wedding.
Pattern Sizing:All sizes in one envelope, everything from a boy's size S to a man's XL.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?It did, but mine was dressier.
Were the instructions easy to follow?Yes, and pretty well illustrated, too, but the fancy pleated shirt would be challenging for a beginning sewer.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?The drafting of this pattern is very, very good: The collar is cut deep enough so its back edge covers the neck seam. There is subtle shaping at the side seams, which is not shown at all in the envelope photos. It is a flattering shirt, and can be quite body-conscious, depending on what size you choose. And, of course, it is an unusual design.
Fabric Used:A very soft, lightweight 50-50 linen/cotton blend from Joanns, of all places! Since this was to be a wedding shirt, I had ordered two other super lightweight, pure linens from a couple of online stores, and I washed and dried all three fabrics thrice before making my choice among them. In the end, the pure linens, in spite of their delicacy and fine weave, were a tad scratchier in feel than the Joann’s blend, which looked like the pure stuff, but felt heavenly.
Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:My son is six feet, three inches tall with a short torso for his height, weighs 165 or so lbs, and likes his clothes rather fitted. His chest measurement is about forty inches and the finished measurement of the men's size small in this pattern is forty-four, so I chose the small and lengthened body and sleeves a couple of inches.
Instead of using machine embroidery, I did handwork.
Details: My son and his bride planned a casual beach wedding, literally right at the edge of the water. The bride had chosen a long silk jersey slip dress in a pale sea blue/grey/green color with images of starfish scattered here and there on the fabric. I have no daughter to make a wedding gown for, but since our only son is beautiful in many ways, I really wanted to make him a beautiful white wedding shirt. How remarkable that Simplicity actually had a pattern for the very style I had in mind!
I bought a commercial guayabera in Cozumel last year, so I could study it for some construction details, and I gleaned more information from the internet. These shirts must have four pockets (2 upper and 2 lower), a large number of nonfunctional buttons, and several panels of little bitty pleats (alforzas), both in front and in back.
back yoke on hanger
Many guayaberas have machine-embroidered flowers and other patterns centered between the groups of pleats. Sometimes there is also cutwork or faggoting, as well. The shirts can be made of cheap cotton/poly blends, pure cotton, or various grades of linen. Vintage shirts of silk or rayon can be found, and regardless of the fabric used, the old models from the 1950s-1970s can be extremely ornate and beautiful.
In general, five rows of pleats per group is considered minimal for quality shirts, and the more rows there are in the panels, the finer the workmanship is thought to be. However, very, very often, you see groups of only three or four (the Simplicity pattern has four), and frequently, the pleats are actually just machine pintucks. I preferred pleats over pintucks, but wanted to use the pintuck foot for the sake of speed and precision without a lot of marking on the fabric. It took several days of fiddling with samples to come up with a setting that gave the right effect. In the end, the winning combo was a size 2.5/80 Schmetz double needle with a 5-groove pintuck foot--plus something special that I saw on the Martha Pullen site, where they recommended taping a toothpick in front of the foot to make the fabric stand up as high as possible. The toothpick was a little rough, so I used a big, fat, hand-darning needle. It worked like a charm to produce tucks about an eighth of an inch deep.
Ironing those wee pleats to make them lie down was a pain, though. I couldn’t fit edge of my steam iron fit reliably into the spaces, and wound up belatedly driving 30 miles to the nearest fabric store to buy my first Clover mini-iron, which was well worth the trouble!
There seem to be two ways of applying the decorative panels to the shirt. On the RTW example from Cozumel, the pleating and machine embroidery were apparently done before the shirt was constructed. The more common method seems to be separate construction of the long panels of pleats and embroidery, which are then applied to the shirt body, as is the yoke. This is the method used in the Simplicity pattern, and I chose to do it their way for several reasons: (1) I was planning to do the embroidery by hand over a period of several weeks, and I didnâ€™t want to have to schlep entire, giant shirt-front lengths of white linen around with me for that period of time; (2) since I was doing hand embroidery with thread considerably thicker than machine embroidery thread, I wanted the underside of the stitches to be protected by a lining or backing of some type.
Drawing, sizing, and placing the embroidery motifs constituted the most time-consuming part of the job, really. It always takes me a fairly long time to get into the right mode for this, but once my brain comes up with the right combos, I can proceed fairly quickly. In this case, I settled on vaguely seaweedy shapes and starfish in pale blue-green floss, in keeping with the bride's dress.
The three motifs had to fit between the yoke and the top pocket, between the upper and lower pockets, and finally, between the lower pockets and the hem.
This was one of those situations where it was really handy to use clear plastic dropcloth for tracing and superimposing the various pattern pieces. To keep things looking sort of unified, I halved (or 2/3-ed) the motifs in the shorter regions. Even so, it took a fair amount of tracing and re-sizing to get them right.
Copying the designs to the linen was an interesting problem. I learned that DMC embroidery transfer paper, allegedly removable with plain water, never comes out, no matter what you use. Fortunately, I had used only their yellow in just a couple of broken lines to orient the motifs, so it wasnâ€™t really serious, just irritating. (Note to self: No more DMC embroidery transfer paper, though). The best method I found for transferring the designs was a light box and a black Micron pen with an .05mm point, making little dots to form the outlines. Of all the permanent markers I tried (about six of various types), only the Micron pen produced a clean, non-blurry mark on this fabric. The tiny black dots are visible in some places, but are not conspicuous, and even though the ink is supposedly permanent, it fades with washing, and does so without smudging.
The embroidery itself only took about a week and a half of working while waiting for doctor appointments or sitting in front of the TV. I enjoy the geometry and the rhythm of handwork. After some experimenting, I chose outline stitch, buttonhole stitch, fishbone stitch, satin stitch, and plait stitch to work the shapes, and decided on three strands of DMC floss. Two strands would have been more appropriate to the light weight of the fabric, but I was pressed for time, and the third strand did give a nice dimensional quality to the embroidery.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?It is an excellent pattern with good instructions, and the results are very nice.
Conclusion: The guayabera is quite detailed and time-consuming, and although I may not have occasion to make it again, I would not mind doing so. But because the pattern is so nicely drafted, I will make the bowling shirt in the future, probably a couple of times.