Shirt Fitting (Holiday Shirt, Part 2)

I have several things stirring in the pot right now, so my absence from the blog isn’t a sign I haven’t been busy!  In fact, I’ve been so busy I’ve put blogging at the bottom of my priority list, and now I have writer’s block because I don’t know where to start.

So I’ll start with what I promised you last time: the progress on fitting the shirt block for my late, but still planned Holiday Shirt.  I have another occasion coming up in early February that the shirt will be appropriate for, but I’m still unsure I can meet the deadline because of another sewing project that’s higher priority.  You’ll be hearing about that other project as soon as I can write about it.

Shirt Fitting

In my kickoff article for the Holiday Shirt project, I was foolish enough to utter these words:

Both shirts, especially the Regent shirt, already fit me pretty well. They only need minor adjustments to fit better.

While I still stand by that statement, I’m currently working on the sixth muslin of the shirt and I still haven’t gotten around to fitting the sleeves yet. There’s a lot I’ve worked through, and a detailed article at this point would take a lot of words and pictures to get through.

Instead of giving you the play-by-play of what I’ve done every step of the way, I’ll show you the original muslin and where I’m at right now. 


For my education on shirt fitting, I’ve been using these sources:

  • David Page Coffin’s Craftsy class, Shirtmaking Details: Beyond the Basics. Though DPC stresses construction over fitting in his course (fitting is covered only in the back half of the very first video lesson), he does demonstrate his draping method for fitting shirts.  He also describes the concept of “balance” in shirt fitting, which was very important to me and I hope to show an example of where it was helpful in my fitting.
  • This article at the Cutter and Tailor website also describes balance in fitting shirts, and was useful to elaborate on DPC’s presentation.
  • Sarah Veblen’s video class, Fun with Fitting: Bodice with Darts. You saw me work with Sarah Veblen over email as she coached me through fitting pants.  This class is aimed at fitting bodices for women, but there’s still plenty here applicable for men.  Some things are different.  For example, Veblen might take neck and shoulder darts to shape the bodice at upper back.  In a men’s garment, you have to transfer those darts to the yoke seam.  But in terms of understanding how to make fabric fit the body, her classes have been very helpful to me.
  • This blog post from Ruben Bakker, a tailor in the Netherlands.  I found this via DPC’s Pinterest boards, and it’s like a course in men’s shirt fitting in the space of one article.  I was amazed at how much I got from it.

There’s other articles I’ve found useful.  My Pinterest board “Shirt Making” has links to a lot of them.

The Original Shirt

Here are the fitting photos of the original “Famous Maker” shirt. (Click/tap for larger versions).





Some of the things I noticed from these photos are:

  • The armscye curve goes past the tip of my shoulder and hangs out on the arm.
  • In front, there are faint strain line radiating out from the shoulder point, going across the collarbone area and diagonally to center front.
  • In the back, lots of fabric is collecting as vertical folds near the armscye seam.
  • The sleeves have diagonal strain lines.
  • It’s hard to see in the photos, but there’s a bit of fabric puddling at the neckline just below the collar.  It shows up best in the side view above where I face to the right. I frequently get this problem in ready-to-wear shirts.

Some things about me that are noticeable in the photos:

  • My standing posture leans back slightly, which affects the hang of the shirt in back.
  • My left and right shoulders are mildly asymmetrical.  The left is a little wider than the right, and I think the right is a bit lower than the left.  The right side also has more of a hollow in front than the left. I broke my right collarbone in a cycling accident about eight years ago, which contributes to the asymmetry.

Scanning and Digitizing the Shirt Pattern

I took the shirt trace I made in part 1 of this series, and scanned the pieces into the computer, assembled the 11×17 scans into pattern pieces using Inkscape, and traced the scans using Wild Ginger’s Pattern Master software.  I’ve described the process in my series on pants fitting, so I won’t repeat it here.

I’ve refined my scanning and digitizing process; I now stick several 2-inch alignment squares on the pattern pieces before they go through the scanner, and I write letters inside each alignment square (“A”, “B”, “C” and so on).  I now include around four or five alignment squares per major pattern piece.  This really helps me orient the 11×17 scans when I’m assembling them via computer, as I can precisely overlap the squares across scans and I usually have at least two squares in view to align on.

This time around, I got very good agreement between the scanned/digitized pattern in the computer and the paper trace.  I did a printout and overlaid the two and they matched up perfectly.

I also got a fairly accurate trace.  There wasn’t a lot of discrepancy between the dimensions of matching pieces. I didn’t have to do very much work inside Pattern Master to true the front and back side seams, shoulder seams and so on.  As suggested by blog readers, I also measured the shirt to verify the pattern dimensions against the original garment.

Muslin A

The muslins I’m preparing are made from actual muslin fabric, as I did in pants fitting.  Up until this point, they haven’t included sleeves or collars.  The muslins also have alignment grids that show the grain line as well as the horizontal balance lines to judge how well the garment hangs on the body.

I made a mistake on the first muslin; I left out the back pleat and realized pretty quickly that removing that much ease made the shirt muslin tight to wear everywhere, especially around my large-ish belly.  So I added in the extra ease up and down center back to allow for the box pleat in the back, and I sew that pleat into the fitting muslin now.

I don’t plan to include photos for every muslin along the way (as I write this, I’m doing the pattern work for Muslin F) but I did want to show you the Muslin A photos.





This muslin was difficult to pin shut at center front due to the missing ease at back.  I had to clip into the neckline because I added seam allowance there, which was totally unnecessary for the neckline.  Clipping into the neckline released the tension from the added seam allowance.

Also, notice the notch marks on the back, on the left shoulder.  One thing I got from DPC’s Craftsy class was the idea of locating the yoke seam at the point where the roundess of the shoulder gives way to the flatness of the back.  I marked a couple points where I thought that might be, and so I lowered the yoke seam (at the middle of the three points I marked) for Muslin B.  This caused problems I’ll elaborate on in my next article.

Final comment about Muslin A:  There’s quite a lot of crumpling in lower back. That’s a balance issue and I’ll also talk about it in my next article.

Next Time

I’ll start going through the fitting modifications I’ve done to the shirt muslin, and show you the current state of affairs, hopefully with Muslin F that I will be working on today.

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