Wednesday, September 24, 2014

sewaholic sewtionary review

Despite being mostly a self-taught seamstress, I actually don't have many sewing books in my arsenal. I've survived so far with only a few: one good reference book and a couple fun pattern or project books. Obviously you can now find most anything sewing-related online, but the quality of that information is sometimes questionable and there are many sources that give conflicting or confusing advice. And not everyone wants to have to prop their laptop up on their sewing table and inevitably become victim to the bottomless pit of sewing blog tutorials. Having a reference book written by a reputable source is essential for all sewers.

Tasia St. Germaine, owner and designer behind Sewaholic Patterns, recently released one such book, called The Sewtionary: An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques and Definitions. It discusses a wide range of alphabetically-listed sewing terms in detail, including the term's definition, when to use it, and how to do it with accompanying full-color photographs of each step. It has a spiral binding and a matte finish on the pages for a more pleasant reading experience.

Image courtesy of the Sewaholic blog

Tasia kindly asked me to be a part of her Sewtionary book blog tour this month, and I agreed to review the book and try out a technique from it. I've been a long-time fan of Sewaholic Patterns and Tasia's blog, not just because she designs for pear shapes like me, but because her blog is a wealth of information (and purty clothes). Tasia's education and professional background make her a qualified patternmaker (bio here), so I've always trusted the quality of her designs. And whether she's leading a sew-along of her own pattern, sewing her first quilt, or sewing a vintage McCall's pattern, she covers the details of her construction process in extensive detail. I've followed many of her tutorials before and it's clear she knows what she's talking about. Her sewing is impeccable!

So who better to write a new sewing reference book? I'll admit that I own a pretty stellar one already that is a 350-page beast and covers almost everything possible (fabric types, machine use, fitting, pattern adjustments, technique tutorials and projects). However, I do think there's a place on the shelves for a book like the Sewtionary. First of all, my Singer photo reference book covers so much that it's a bit overwhelming and difficult to navigate. When looking for info about hems, I'll get distracted by info about serger tension or swimsuit sewing and then I feel like I've fallen headfirst into a Pinterest-ish abyss. The Sewtionary is more concise and straight-forward due to its alphabetical format. The pages all follow the same layout with careful spacing so nothing feels cluttered or extraneous.

Tasia is of a younger generation of sewing professionals and is aware of modern techniques and fabrics. This affects the styling of her book and I think sets it apart. Even though my Singer book is revised regularly, the garment samples are not and the result feels dated even though the information is still sound. I know I'm biased, but I appreciate Tasia's use of samples such as the Minoru jacket, the Renfrew top, the Grainline Studio Archer shirt, and other more casual designs that modern women want to sew and wear everyday (since I have sewn those patterns and do wear them everyday!).

It makes the techniques feel more applicable to me and makes me feel more inspired to sew. Whereas this skirt suit from my Singer book -- ummm, not so much:

I think the Sewtionary would be a good buy for someone who is relatively new to garment sewing or, say, needs a visual aid when trying to interpret Burda magazine's garbled instructions for a fly-front zipper. But it's probably not for more advanced sewers or those who already have shelves upon shelves crammed with sewing books. I found some information that is new to me but not a ton. If I wanted to execute an advanced technique like tailoring a jacket with hair canvas, I would probably try to consult several sources more focused on that technique. If you only want one reference book in your library, however, this could be the one because it is very well-done, but maybe it doesn't have enough supplemental information for you if your library is already robust with reference books. Or, yaknow, if you're a dude. I'm sure you could guess that the Sewtionary is aimed more toward female sewers than male sewers, which makes sense considering Tasia's expertise and pattern market. It includes terms like horsehair braid and boning, but not collars or tower sleeve plackets. Ohhh why is it so hard to find info about how to sew tower sleeve plackets? 

Anyway, I decided to put the book to the test and use it to learn a new skill. I chose bound buttonholes since those are tricky to teach and tricky to learn. I've tried them once before but ditched that particular project long ago. The bound buttonhole section is one of the longest sections in the Sewtionary and rightfully so because it's an involved little task. I appreciated the clear photos and pro tips along the way because my buttonhole ended up looking alright! I will definitely be following that exact technique if I need to sew bound buttonholes in the future.

The Sewtionary is a nice resource overall and I couldn't admire Tasia more for sewing ALL those samples and creating such an organized and polished book. I think it reflects her brand and her blog quite well, but doesn't feel catered to Sewaholic fangirls only, if that makes sense. Like you could buy this for your second cousin for Christmas and she'd dig it even if she doesn't know a Cambie from a Belcarra.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the Sewtionary signed by Mrs. Sewaholic herself, you can do so here. It's also available on Amazon and such. The blog tour is still going! The following galz are participants, many of whom are hosting giveaways of the book:

Wednesday, September 10th: Thread Theory Blog
Thursday, September 11th: Miss Crayola Creepy
Friday, September 12th: Coletterie
Monday, September 15th: City Stitching with Christine Haynes
Tuesday, September 16th: Tilly and the Buttons
Wednesday, September 17th: Madalynne
Thursday, September 18th: Closet Case Files
Friday, September 19th: By Gum, By Golly
Monday, September 22nd: Lladybird
Tuesday, September 23rd: True Bias
Wednesday, September 24th: Four Square Walls
Thursday, September 25th: Ada Spragg
Friday, September 26th: Did You Make That?

What's your favorite sewing reference book? Do you have the Sewtionary? Have you tried a technique from it yet?

Disclaimer: I was given an electronic PDF version of the Sewtionary free of charge for this review, and I tried to be as honest as possible about my impressions.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

how to gather fabric with a serger

Darlings! I haven't had a moment to breathe sew much for myself since I last updated, but I figured I could at least share some lil' techniques I've been learning "on the job." In my freelance work, I often sew multiples of the same thing, so I use those opportunities to try out different ways of executing the same step to see which method is fastest or looks the best. 

Gathering fabric is one of those [obnoxious] tasks that can be done a few different ways, such as pulling on two parallel lines of basting stitches, zig-zagging over a strand of dental floss or string, or using a gathering or ruffle foot on your machine. Those all work fine... when they work. I actually haaaaate gathering fabric because those methods very easily go wrong and can be time-consuming, especially when your threads snap and you have to start all over again. And what if you need really dense gathers, or your fabric is a bit thick? A gathering foot won't do you much good there.

Well, I was recently commissioned to make 10 gathered party skirts for a local startup clothing line, so I had to figure out a way to get fast and consistent results with sewing gathers. OR ELSE. The fabrics I'm working with for these skirts are cotton sateen and silk taffeta, and they have a skirt-to-waistband gather ratio of 2.75-to-1, so they're pretty frickin' poofy and need a lot of gusto to gather. I think 3-to-1 is the determined max limit on gathered skirt poof before it becomes, like, physically impossible to sew and maybe socially unacceptable to wear.

I knew in the back of my mind that sergers could gather fabric, but I had never tried it. So when I did try it, I couldn't believe how much easier and faster it seemed. All you have to do is adjust some settings on your serger and get gathering. Now, of course this method can go wrong, too, as nothing in sewing is fool-proof, right? This technique actually works in an opposite manner as the basting method because you gather the fabric as you serge and then loosen the gathers to fit. This is unlike the basting method, in which you typically tighten the gathers to fit. This means you should test out your gathers on scrap fabric first to make sure it gathers tightly enough on your serger. If the gathers are too loose after serging, it will be difficult to tighten them up.

The first step is to set up your serger for four-thread overlock. The tightest gathers will occur if there are two needles engaged instead of one. Once you have threaded your serger properly, tighten the tension of the two needles (not the loopers), which are typically the two leftmost dials. For this particular project, I needed to gather the fabric very tightly, so I increased the needle tension as high as it would go, which on my Brother 1034D serger is at a "9" tension. After some trials, I found I achieved best results if my left needle is at "9" and the right needle is more like a "7" tension. Your machine may react differently. I left the loopers at default tension, which for my machine is a "4":

Next, tighten the differential feed if you are able to. The serger has two sets of feed dogs, one in front of the other, and the differential feed controls the ratio at which these feed dogs move the fabric under the presser foot. A higher differential feed -- in this case, a "2" -- will move the first set of feed dogs twice as fast as the second set, which gathers up the fabric. Conversely, a lower differential will move the first set of feed dogs more slowly, which stretches out the fabric. Here I've set it to the highest ratio possible:

Now, all you have to do is serge along the edge of the fabric and the machine will do the gathering work for you. 

Here is a video I took of the gathering at work. This is high production value, folks. Oh you're welcome!


Keep in mind that the serger will gather along the edge, so you may need the adjust your seam allowance first or serge so the blade cuts off part of the seam allowance if it is 1/2" or larger. Make sure the left needle of your serged seam does not extend past your desired seam allowance because the threads will then be exposed on your garment and they're hard to pick out neatly. It may help to match your serger thread color to your garment, but I did not do that here (the skirt is lined and I did not want to spend money on four fuschia cones for one project!).

If you are attaching the gathers to a flat piece of fabric, it helps to have marked the gathered fabric and the flat fabric into fourths so it's easier to match up the points and distribute the gathers evenly. Below, I have matched the quarter marks and then I gently loosened and distributed the gathers so they match the length of the flat fabric. If you yank on the serging too hard to loosen it, the threads may snap, so be currful. Lots of pins help secure the gathers.

When you sew the gathers to the flat fabric on your sewing machine, it helps to have the gathered side facing up so you can make sure the gathers aren't folding over or jutting out from the seam allowance. Be sure your needle sews right below the serged seam.


It's worth mentioning that you can do something similar with a regular sewing machine by upping the tension, but the serger helps create tighter, more even gathers because it is set up to sew two parallel lines of stitching with two needles and you can adjust the differential feed as well. I also like that it finishes the edge as you gather so there's less annoying fray to deal with when you're attaching it to the flat fabric. And because it's so fast, if your gathers somehow fall out or get too loose, you can just zip over one section again with the serger. Much less stress than having to rebaste two full lines.

How do you prefer to gather fabric?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

a painterly dress

I keep waffling between LOVING this dress and thinking it looks like a 90s thrift store special. Something about the mix of pink and purple in the color palette seems dated, maybe, and sometimes I think I see butterflies in the print that aren't actually there. Butterflies on clothing reminds me of my childhood. But I mostly love the dress. It helps that it's relatively well-made, by my standards, and it fits quite nicely, by my standards. And I do like the abstract floral print. I made it specifically to wear to a wedding so I enjoyed having an excuse to sew a fit-and-flare dress that has more than three seams, is fully lined, and not made of cheap jersey like my usual handmades.

I started with one pattern -- Simplicity 1418 -- but went completely off script as I tend to do. I bought a few of those Simplicity Project Runway patterns on sale at JoAnn recently and then decided they were kinda "meh" once I got home. It used to be I was so bored by the Big 2 offerings that indie patterns seemed shiny and bright, but now I'm bored by indie patterns --at least for dresses-- so it felt exciting to flip through the commercial pattern books and see a bunch of new-to-me stuff that I could gobble up for $1.99 each. But, it turns out they're all basically the same sort of silhouettes anyway with a few questionable details tacked on, like the fake lace-up binding on the back of this dress:

I first made a muslin of View B with the wide cap sleeve things like the yellow dress on the envelope. It looks cute on the model. It did not look cute on me. Getting those sleeves to fit would be tricky. They actually have an elastic casing attached underneath to help the sleeves stay put on your shoulders, but they still kept slipping down into 80s territory and were all gapey in the back so I knew I would have to play too much with the sleeve pattern to make it work. Plus, strapless bra requirement? Ew.

So I decided to make View A.... kinda. Here's what I actually kept about the pattern:
  • Princess seam lines on the front
  • Back pieces with darts and high back inset, though I seamed in the inset instead of attaching it behind the back pieces
  • Side zipper placement

Here's what I changed:
  • Changed the neckline from a v-neck to a scoop neck and cut the front piece on the fold instead of as two pieces.
  • Eliminated facings and edge bindings.
  • Added full lining, which narrowed all the edges since I was turning under seam allowances instead of binding them.
  • Used the half-circle skirt from Simplicity 1651 instead of this pattern's pleated skirt. I assumed that since they were the same pattern line and same size, the skirt would match to this pattern's bodice, and it did perfectly.
  • Added pockets to hold my phone and keys while I'm dancing at the wedding reception, of course.

So, I basically made it more boring! I very nearly bound all the edges in black bias tape as the pattern calls for. It didn't "feel" right, though, so I consulted the smart gals of Instagram because it's impossible to make decisions on my own in this approval-obsessed age of social media. The vote for clean finish vs. black bias tape was 36-to-18, so I had to go with majority. I do think it was probably smarter for this kind of occasion -- black edging would have made the dress more casual and bias tape can look hokey and be difficult to apply neatly. Without it, though, some of the design effect of the back bodice is taken away because the binding is supposed to outline the inset piece. Ohwell.

FABRIC: The fabric is a linen print from Jo-Ann, so probably a third of you own it as well. It's a bit scratchy on its own which is why I chose to line it. The bodice lining is made of some off-white cotton I found in my stash, and the skirt lining is cream-colored Bemberg rayon.

FIT: I was kinda surprised to see that these envelopes are split at size 12 instead of size 14 like other Simplicity patterns I own (so you have to buy either 4-12 or 12-20). Maybe it has to do with the amount of design variations included in the pattern, so they can only print so many sizes. Fortunately it doesn't affect me too much because I only make a size 10 if it's a knit pattern, so I just bought the upper envelope. Choosing size for this dress was a bit of a gamble; they do list the finished garment bust size on the back of the envelope, but I had to consult the actual pattern pieces to find the finished waist size. I fall between a size 12 and 14 for bust and waist, but cut the size 12 to cut down on some of the built-in ease. I got nervous that adding a lining would bulk up the dress, so I sewed the side seams at 3/8" instead of 5/8" and it worked out fine.

I made a muslin and tweaked issues like puffy princess seams, sticky-uppy shoulders (technical fitting term), a gaping armhole and a waist seam that dipped too low in the back. I actually altered the pattern pieces (!!) so the issues would already be taken care of on the final fabric. Yeah, I don't normally do that...? This is one of those patterns that has the option of sleeves vs. sleeveless without any change to the shape of the armhole, which seems like bad drafting IMO. Luckily the front princess seams end right where the gape at the front armhole is, so it's easy to adjust there. I also folded out a small (3/8") wedge out of the back armhole pattern piece before cutting into my final fabric.

CONSTRUCTION: The original pattern has facings, but the facings are supposed to be basted to the garment edges WRONG sides together, then all layers of the raw edges are bound with double-folded bias tape. Huh? What's the point of the facings if they're not there to help finish the edges? I don't know if it's just to provide stability to the neckline or what, but if I were to make this garment without a lining and with the binding, I would probably just eliminate the facings all together. Am I right or wrong on that?

I used a 14" invisible zipper in the left side seam. Sewing an invisible zipper around an in-seam pocket is always an adventure, and since I added my own pockets to the pattern, the instructions weren't included for that. The only tutorial I can find linked to online is from 2008 on the Pins & Needles blog that no longer exists. Luckily I own Simplicity 2215, which uses this method.

The half-circle skirt is cut so that the side seams are on the straight of grain and cross grain, with the center front and center back hanging on the bias. Helps with zipper application, maybe. I had limited bemberg rayon for the skirt lining, so I had to cut the lining with its side seams on the bias and the CF and CB along the grains. I'm not willing to figure out the geometry of why that saves fabric but, it does. I... don't recommend this, if you can help it. I guess you have to even out the hems separately no matter what, but it made it seem like more of a headache because after hanging, the main skirt was drooping too low in the front and back, while the lining was drooping too low on the sides. Zzz hemming. Once I got it even enough, I did a blindstitch hem on my machine, which I only attempt on textured or printed fabrics.

I feel like I'm providing an unnecessary amount of detail about making this pattern, so I'll shut my trap now. Have any you had success with a Project Runway pattern lately? The Project Runway collaboration with Simplicity makes me laugh because Nina Garcia would probably kick me off stage if I sent this dress down the runway for real. Too twee and fashion-backward for Marie Claire, perhaps. BUT ILIKEITALOT.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

swimsuit sewing saga

I can't lie to your pretty faces, so I'll say it: I hated sewing this swimsuit. But I forced myself to DO IT anyway because I didn't have a swimsuit at all, and it's still somehow a fraction of a bit better than shopping for one. Shopping for swimsuits entails fully undressing and redressing far too many times in a row, and then staring at your perceived bodily flaws under glaring fluorescent lights from all angles, and being disgusted at the fashion industry for selling us these noodley mesh things meant to be worn in front of strangers in broad daylight. Nothing has decent coverage, nothing feels comfortable, and having to overhear conversations between teenage girls in the dressing room is its own kind of hell.

So, I sew. It's desperate times, people; it's 90F degrees daily and there are pools and lazy rivers that I need to be submerged in, stat! But sewing my own swimsuit released a whole new angst inside of me, maybe partly due to the lack of air conditioning in my sewing room. Sure, you have control over style, print and coverage, but getting to that ideal state of fit was a battle. It was not an empowering process, lemme tell you. Why can't I stretch this thing over my hips? Why does it STILL not cover my whole booty? Why can't my sad little bust hold this thing up? Why are these bra cups so low, and these other ones so pointy, and these other ones as hard as concrete? Why is the suit pulling here and dragging there and dipping and gaping and rolling? Why can't I stretch elastic evenly? That muslin fit in jersey, but it's too small in spandex. Can I starve myself and fit in this by mid-week? No way, take a break and go buy a brownie pop.

First attempt, second attempt, third, fourth. Two patterns, three. Fold-over elastic wasted by the yardful. Hack, cut, slash.

Le fin. I finally eked out something wearable before I used all the spandex in my stash or flipped a table. Of course I exaggerate about my rage, but you get the idea. I think the fit was tricky because I'm a pear shape, and a one-piece swimsuit can only be put on one way: upward, over dem hips. When there's a 13 inch difference between your waist and hip measurements, that makes for some major stretchage and wriggling requirements. I almost considered cutting this thing in half but realized that would be two additional openings to elasticize. Wasn't into it, and my heart and midriff were set on a one-piece.

Here's the muslin graveyard. Let us mourn the loss of that cute green dot spandex:


I started with the Ginger Bodysuit pattern by Ohhh Lulu. It's drafted for a bigger bust and shorter body than mine, which I thought I worked out but couldn't get right after two tries. Seams were slightly different lengths, the easing looked bad in solid spandex and my side seams were slanted for whatever reason. The lower cups were also too deep, so it wasn't just about changing the apex curve. So I moved onto the Ohhh Lulu Jasmine Bra mixed with a Nettie Bodysuit body. I think the Jasmine is more flattering than the Ginger with its vertical seaming, and I knew the Nettie already fit my body length and had better rear coverage, though I still ended up adding more depth all around for public decency. 

You may recognize my fabric, so I'm sorry you have to keep looking at it on all these sewing blogs. But it's adorable! It's a pink/coral/black "abstract wildflowers" print from Girl Charlee that Heather also used for her Nettie bikini hack and Sallie recently used for her Soma bikini. The back of my suit is solid black matte spandex, and everything is flat-lined in black tricot lining, also from GC. I cut up an old bra for the cups, which are tacked in place to the wrong side of the bust lining.

I decided to go with solid black fold-over elastic (FOE) for all edges and my straps. I like the contrast and I like that I didn't have to worry about taking away any seam allowance from where I needed it most (leg/crotch openings). I was already so fed up with the whole construction process and FOE seemed like the fastest option. My FOE is from Peakbloom. A five-yard cut of solid FOE from there is only $1.45 total, which calculates to under 30 cents a yard. I'M SERIOUS. They have tons of cute prints, too, for all your handmade undie needs. The prints are slightly more expensive than the solid, but still way more affordable than JoAnn's, where printed FOE is $3.99 per yard.

However, I've worn the suit in the pool once now and the color of the FOE has already started to fade, and the black spandex on the back of suit is doing some weird splotchy effect as well. Great. I know they say (whoever 'they' are) that you're only supposed to use cotton or nylon elastic on swimwear, but I didn't want to believe it. If this suit is unwearable by the end of this season, though, I am gonna flip a table. Or, uh, just make another suit. Swimsuits are actually pretty fast to make once you have modified your pattern to fit properly! And they take such little fabric that you can squeeze two (or more!) out of one yard of spandex.

Laying flat, the suit isn't very pretty, which is why I actually modeled it on my body in front of the camera (with majorly cropped photos for everyone's benefit, trust). The back looks like a diaper cover, but I had to stretch the elastic that much so it would be snug around all curves once worn:


This strenuous exercise in swimsuit fitting was worth it, I think, because I actually did feel somewhat comfortable at the pool in my finished suit. Believe me, that's rare; I haven't been in a pool in years due to self-consciousness (mostly). While I was there, I witnessed a woman hike up her suit repeatedly and actually say to her friend, "I need to hire a seamstress to fix the neck on my swimsuit so it stays up!" I almost considered chiming in, but decided that I should reserve the swimsuit sewing stress for me and my body alone. 

Have you taken the swimsuit sewing plunge yet? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

sewing & blog organization

Whenever I feel creatively stagnant, rearranging and organizing my physical workspace is the best way to refresh my energy. That or online fabric shopping, though that's more of an addiction than anything so I'm not gonna endorse it.

First, I've updated the tutorial page on my blog, which is hopefully beneficial for you guys (gals) most of all. Instead of browsing through pages and pages of lengthy posts tagged "tutorial," you can now simply scroll through a gallery view to find what you're looking for. Find the gallery by clicking the Tutorials button at the top of my blog. Screen shot:

It includes tutorials you've seen here as well as those I've written for the Craftsy sewing blog. I have been posting fortnightly tutorials over there but I don't wanna spam you every time one of my Craftsy posts goes live. So if you're interested in seeing all the tips & tricks I've been covering lately, just check out my tutorial page and it will show everything in order starting with the most recent, which happens to be about how to store printed PDF patterns. HOORAH STORAGE. I'm digging the three-ring binder method with side-zip sheet protectors. Any of you do the same?

I curated my fabric and pattern stash and gave away two full IKEA-blue-bags of stuff (!!) to an enthusiastic beginner sewer via Freecycle. I tried to sell on Craigslist but I received no serious inquiries, so I figured I'd just be gone with it all at once and make someone else happy. Most of it was hand-me-down or $1.99/yd Jomar fabric anyway. Then I reorganized my sewing room, buying crafter requisites like white cube shelves (though not from IKEA), and switching the location of my machines, iron, etc. The rearranging didn't really serve much of a purpose other than to make my room feel new-ish again so I'd be happy to sew in it. I'm just naturally messy, though, so my floor and cutting table are already covered in work and personal sewing projects. At least there's now a place for everything when I get around to cleaning up, yea? Haaaaa.

Have you been organizing your sewing space (or blog) lately? Any "aha" storage solutions you'd like to share? i.e. How to make or where to buy non-tacky cube storage cubbies for my new cube shelves that don't cost $10+ each?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

archer shirt variation: v-neck placket

Wutsup Internet pals. After my last post, I received some requests for a demonstration on how I modified the plackets of the Grainline Archer shirt to a V-neck. And I oblige! I like this look because the shirt lays flat against your chest while still framing your neck and face in that nice button-up shirt kinda way. It's slightly more feminine, too, so there's that.

This doesn't involve anything too difficult, despite the long post that follows here. The modification involves three steps: 1) modify the shape of your shirt pattern piece, 2) draft separate plackets to match, and 3) shorten your collar stand. I'll also show you how to actually sew on the new plackets. You can, of course, do all this with any button-up shirt pattern, but I'm showing it on the Archer because it seems likely that more of you guys already have this pattern (or are thinking about getting it) than some rando Butterick pattern or something, right? We're all indie fangirls and we know it.

So if you want to get this look, follow along!

1. Assemble the front pattern piece of the Archer shirt. If you need to print a new one for this modification, you only need to print pages 2-4, 8-10, and 14-16 from the PDF. Cut or trace your size.

2. Cut along the vertical line that says "Trim Along Dotted Line for Right Front." The original Archer pattern has you fold under and stitch the placket on the wearer's left side, and attach a separate placket piece for the right side. On this modification, both sides will have two separate plackets so throw away that chunk and pretend it never existed.

3. Cut off the desired amount to create your V-shape in the front. Make sure it doesn't cut way below your bust apex (unless u naughty), but remember that there will be added plackets that will provide more coverage. For reference, I made a point 1" inward at the neck and another point 7-1/2" down, and connected those points with a straight line which I then cut off. Feel free to make the neckline more or less open, higher or lower.

Because I was making a sleeveless version, I went ahead and modified the shoulder and armhole, too. As Jen writes in her sleeveless Archer mod post, you don't want a sleeveless shirt that hangs off your shoulders, so shorten that shoulder seam and blend to nothing at the original underarm. I shortened my shoulder seam by 1-1/2". You'll need to similarly alter your yoke and back pieces, too.

4. Before drafting the plackets, go ahead and draw the seam line on the front edge of the shirt pattern piece. The seam allowance on Grainline patterns is 1/2". This steps just helps with the drafting process for accurate measuring of the new plackets.

5. To draft the plackets, place a sheet of tracing paper over the top of your pattern piece (I use Swedish Tracing Paper). Weigh it down then trace that seam line you just drew. Now draw a parallel line 3/4" to the left of that seam line. 3/4" is the final desired placket width I chose, so if you want a wider or narrower placket, adjust as you please. Connect the top of the two lines by tracing the curved outline of the shirt neckline. Connect the bottoms with a straight perpendicular line that matches the hem of your shirt piece.

So, the blue outline on the tracing paper is now the placket piece without seam allowances on the sides:

6. Add seam allowances to the sides of the placket only, since SAs are already included in the top and hem (traced from the original pattern). My SAs are in green in the photo. Stick with 1/2" if you're using the Archer so it remains consistent with the rest of the shirt construction. When drawing your SAs at the top of the placket, the top bit should continue to follow the curve of the shirt neckline. It will look crazy pointy, but that is all trimmed down later after you sew it on. Cut out your new final pattern piece.

While you have all your pattern pieces and fabric out, let's do this mod now before sewing anything. Remember that you removed fabric from the front of your shirt pieces, which makes the garment neckline shorter around. If you're adding a collar, collar stand, or both, you will need to adjust the pattern piece(s) accordingly. I decided I wanted a "mandarin collar," or just a collar stand with no collar piece, so I'm only showing that modification here. The same theory applies if you're adjusting a collar, too: remove length at the center so the shape and pitch of the ends remain unaltered.

First, calculate how much of the neckline you removed from the shirt on each side. Instead of measuring all the pattern pieces and adding stuff together, just think about the original pattern pieces versus your new ones and do some subtraction. On the original Archer, there is the full neckline plus a 1" placket. For my version, I removed 1 inch from that neckline, then added plackets that are only 3/4". So my shirt neckline now has 1-1/4" less on EACH SIDE, or 2-1/2" less total. I hope that makes sense. I tried to create some diagrams but it just made it seem more confusing.

The Archer collar stand is cut on the fold, so changes made to this pattern piece reflect only one side, though the changes will be doubled once the fabric is cut. Since I removed 1-1/4" from each side of the shirt neckline, I similarly removed 1-1/4" from each half of the collar stand at the center back. I marked a line at 1-1/4" and cut there. This is your new "Cut on Fold" line when you cut your fabric.

1. Cut FOUR placket pieces from your fabric. Two of them will be your outer plackets and the remaining two will be the placket facings. Cut two interfacing pieces as well. 

2. Fuse the interfacing to two placket pieces.

3. Right sides together, pin and sew the the facings to their placket counterparts. You will be sewing the outer edge, or the outer curve of the plackets. Trim this seam allowance.

Open the pieces and press the seam to the placket facing (uninterfaced side). Understitch this seam in place.

4. Fold together and press, wrong sides together. The understitching will help the placket facing stay put in the back. Double check the width of your plackets now and trim the raw edges to make everything even if you need to. 

5. You'll now be attaching the plackets as one piece to the front shirt edges. That means you'll sew both layers of the placket and placket facing to the shirt, and the seam will be visible on the inside. I decided not to do a "clean finish" (where the placket facing edge is folded over and stitched to cover the separately-sewn placket seam) in the interest of time and in the interest of me not being interested in a clean finish. Do whatchu do.

Pin the right side of the placket side to the shirt edge. The pointy seam allowance at the top of the placket sticks out awkwardly as it's supposed to, but remember it will be trimmed and pressed back in place later. 

Stitch these seams at 1/2" then trim and finish this seam by serging or zig zagging. Press the seam away from the placket. Topstitch down if ya want.

Your plackets are done! I know you can hardly see them in this fabric, but check out how the neckline now looks when the plackets are overlapped. It will open up more once you put it on a 3D body.

Continue constructing the shirt per the pattern instructions, using your modified collar stand. Some other things to note:
  • If you need help sewing on the collar/stand, I have a tutorial on that here
  • If you made your shirt sleeveless and need help finishing those edges, the Colette blog has a nice post on finishing armholes with bias binding, which is how I sewed mine here (except, duh, I sewed mine in the flat, not the round).
  • The buttonhole/button situation will be a little different than your standard Archer (there's fewer of them, yay!), but just make sure you place a button at the fullest point of your bust to avoid placket gaping/bra peekaboo.

Any questions? Holler!