The Chambray Shirt Lives! (Part 1)

I’m pleased to report that the Chambray shirt project I started SIX months ago (the first appearance of the fabric on this blog happened in July) is now in progress!

In fact, as I type it’s close to completion – all that remains now are topstitching on the cuffs, buttonholes and buttons.  But I do have a few notes to share.

Thread again

For this project I auditioned quite a lot of blue threads, but none of them were quite right.  This Chambray print has a steel gray tone to it that none of my thread seemed to match.


Then I found it, in my Gutermann thread sampler box – a steel gray-blue that is a perfect match to the fabric, and also to the red contrast.  Of course, this meant a trip out to Britex to pick up a larger spool, since I ran out before the project was complete.



The shirt has two chevron pockets. Way back when I did the first bedsheet muslin, I managed to get the pockets misaligned and one ended up higher than the other.  I also wanted to make sure both pockets had the exact same shape.

Pattern Alignment

For each pocket, I placed the pocket pattern onto the shirt front at the marking points and  traced distinguishing pattern features onto the tissue.  This is the same thing I do to match plaids.


Now I can position the pattern onto a new patch of fabric and cut out a properly positioned pocket.


I had to do this individually for each pocket, since the patterns were different for both.

I used the same trick to cut out individual flaps that match the pockets.


Pocket Shape

To get the pockets to have a consistent shape, I cut a cardboard template for pressing the pockets.  I folded back the seam allowances and traced the pattern onto cardboard, then cut it out.

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Using the template as a guide for pressing the pockets made sure the chevron points came out looking consistent.


Pocket Placement

To get the pockets placed accurately, I cut both front pieces, and marked the attachment points from the pattern.  I used tailor’s tacks for the purpose.  Before matching and cutting the pockets, I double-checked with a ruler to ensure the markings were at the same height.

After I stitched the pockets, I positioned them, pinned them down, and double-checked with a ruler to make sure they were both at the same height and same distance from the center front line of the shirt. Measure twice, cut once carpenters say.


Pocket Flaps

On the Orange Flannel Shirt, I didn’t sew the buttonholes on the pocket flaps until after the shirt was constructed. This was a problem because the machine’s auto-buttonhole cycle could no longer feed the fabric accurately with the  flap as part of the shirt.  I was able to fix the buttonhole by doing some satin stitching with the regular zigzag foot, but thought it would be better to do buttonholes up front this time.

I positioned the flaps on the shirt and marked off where I thought the buttonholes should go.  The horizontal tick marks indicate where I calculated there would be interfacing on the pocket, to back the button itself.  (I’m using Crayola Washable Markers).


The vertical lines are for aligning the buttonhole foot.


The buttonholes turned out almost right. BUT, I realized I stitched them too early.  I should have attached the back of the pocket flap and turned them inside out before doing the buttonholes.  So I had to get out the seam ripper, unpick the buttonholes (not fun) and redo them as the FINAL step of making the pocket flaps.

Here’s the result, after the do-over.


Next Time

As I’ve said, I have gotten quite a lot more done with the shirt since the above photos. I snapped some current work-in-progress photos.

The collar and cuffs are made and attached, and the sleeves and side-seams are all there.


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Hopefully next time we’ll be showing off the finished shirt.


5 thoughts on “The Chambray Shirt Lives! (Part 1)

  1. Josie

    I am impressed with your shirt making skills. I gave up on making a professional looking shirt collar a few years ago. If I remember correctly the shirt collar was not alligned proper and one side was higher than the other. Yours look perfect to me which leads me to the question. Did you take a shirt making class?
    I am considering a craftsy class on tailoring or sew better sew faster? Do you know anything about this classes?
    Aloha from Josie and Happy New Year

    1. David

      The shirt looks very professional Michael. I love your choice of fabric too. Your topstitching and attention to details is really excellent.
      Josie, I did the Classic tailored shirt by Pam Howard on Craftsy and I heartedly recommend it. Worth every penny in terms of construction and Pam is such a brilliant instructor.

    2. mportuesisf

      Happy New Year, Josie!

      Thank you for the compliments on the shirt. Like David, I also took the Craftsy “Classic Tailored Shirt” class by Pam Howard and I also highly recommend it. Pam Howard is a first-rate instructor. She covers shirt construction, including collars, methodically and step-by-step.

      I also highly recommend “Sew Better, Sew Faster”, and though I haven’t watched it yet, I also bought “Carefree Fly-front Coat” to learn some tailoring skills. I think I’ll do a blog post about these classes.

  2. John Yingling

    Two comments:

    Thread color, did you consider using the other color in the print? Looks like a natural shade of white, it would have been easier to find.

    Marking tools, you used crayolas for the precise location of you buttonholes, but used tailor tacks for the precise pocket location, hmm? Personally I use the purple disappearing ink pens for all my marking on light colored fabrics, and use some type of white chalk, pencil, or wax for dark fabrics. Of course, if I’m working on a fuzzy wool or thick velvet, tacks are back.

    1. mportuesisf Post author

      Hey John,

      I tend to use tailors tacks for markings in the middle of the fabric, where it’s hard to get a marking pen to write through the pattern paper, or to go through two layers of fabric. I suppose I could use a tracing paper and wheel, but the tailor’s tacks are easy to remove.

      The Crayola markers have a thick line, but they are precise enough most of the time. Sometimes I will use Pilot Frixion pens because they have a fine line, but I still don’t trust them outside of seam allowances. And finally, I seem to prefer chalk on white fabrics.

      The steel blue was already in my thread stash, as part of a Gutermann thread sampler. I did consider a white thread, but I liked the look of the steel blue against the pink accent pieces.


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