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Sep 17, 2010

Peter treadles a Western shirt

Friends, I have a soft spot for Western shirts.  I don't know why.  It's not like I look so great in them and it's a slippery slope from chic urban cowboy to looking like you should be singing "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" around a Montana campfire.

But I wanted to take on my first treadle project, and I decided a Western shirt -- without too much fancy stuff like contrasting fabric and piping -- would be the way to go.  Since I purchased my 1920 Singer 66 treadle a few weeks ago I've been practicing on it a lot.  On eBay last week, someone was selling some old Singer notions and Singer 66 accessories cheap, and I picked up these extra feet (which you'll notice attach at the back, not the side). They can be hard to find and expensive.

BTW, the old bobbin tire, which I'd like to replace, is hard as petrified wood.  How do I get this off -- electric drill?

The old bobbins included in the package were full of ancient silk, which unwound produced this -- pretty, right?

But back to the shirt.

Here's the pattern I decided to use.  I made this shirt with it last fall, which ultimately felt a little too busy.

The pattern is from 1978 but no matter, Western shirts don't change much from decade to decade.

My fabric is a black-raspberry-colored cotton shirting I picked up at my favorite fabric dive, H&M on 35th St. for $2/yd.

The pattern has this cool bat-shaped back yoke:

Here's the fabric cut:

I stay stitch the edge...

I turn the edges under along the stitch line (I use a little water soluble white glue to hold down the points).

Ta da!

Here's as far as I've gotten:

I won't lie: treadling is challenging.  It's sort of like playing the bagpipes (kudos to Michael for the metaphor) -- you're trying to do two things at once and it's a little scary, especially when you're topstitching.  I'm a perfectionist and my topstitching results aren't quite up to my usual standards but no matter -- it's good enough and I'll improve with time.

I'm also not accustomed to sewing on a flat table surface.  I like it, but it's different.

Today I'd like to get as far as I can with my shirt, maybe even finish it if possible. I even bought pearl snap fasteners!

And that's the news here at Treadle Central.

What's going on in your corner of the world?

Happy Friday, everybody!


  1. I love the less flashy take on the western shirt. I just found you and I am so excited to learn more about men's construction. I always want to sew more for my fashion backward husband.

  2. I like the shirt thus far (the fabric & colour suit you well IMO).

    But what I really want to know is how is the suit progressing hmmmm.... :) ? LOL!

  3. The shirt's looking good - I love me a cowboy shirt!

    My friend restored a treadle for a customer recently. I treadled on it for a little while and was quite happy to go back to my power machine. Treadling's just not for me. I am looking for a nice handcrank to get me through hurricane season though. It's tough when you have no power for a week and can't sew!

  4. I usually don't like Western shirts, but I like the more subtle take on it you've done.

    I tried treadling yesterday and it wasn't easy! I'm good at sewing backwards with it.

    As for sewing, I finished a knit wrap dress yesterday that looks like a glorified bath robe.

  5. *I can't type today*
    Contrasting yokes and wicked cuffs are the best part!
    Wear that puppy with a Nudie suit, and you are so ready for the show.
    That shirt is looking swell my friend! Mmm..pearl snap fasteners.

  6. What beautiful top stitching on the yoke. Your shirt is going to be fantastic. Can't wait to see it finished.

    And is that a ruffler foot you got with the Singer accessories? Maybe you could do a few ruffles for the suit?

    (Apparently I am sewing a Jedi robe for 5 year old this weekend. That will teach me to make cheeky remarks about ruffles and suits ).

  7. I think you're doing great for a first real go on the treadle. I've always believed that real projects are the way to master new techniques and equipment. It makes you try harder.

    Re the tire - it's just old rubber. Use some old scissors or pliers and a flathead screwdriver to work you way under it and cut that sucker. I'm betting that once you have a good snip into it, it will almost disintegrate before your eyes.

  8. Good idea to do the yoke the same color as the body of the shirt. I think that will make the shirt much more wearable and a lot less campy.

  9. I am amazed that you are treadling this complicated shirt. Beautiful details.

  10. While reading the post I thought to myself, lovely...I love western shirts, but what about the suit? hmmmmm

    I feel for you, I am procrastinating on something right now too. But the suit is going to be spectacular...I just know.

  11. Life is good here in Southern California! My sewing machine is BACK from the repair depot. Almost finished with a new blouse - for me, of course! And, went fabric shopping earlier this week in LA and got some fabric for two new projects.

  12. So glad to see you sewing again! I like the more subtle take on the western shirt. I've always been a sucker for those pearly snaps.

    I'm hemming my self-drafted Tetris skirt today! Woohoo! Damn I love that fabric!

  13. I see what you mean about the challenge of the treadle. The stay stitching on the left side of the yoke looks a lot bigger than the stitching on the curve.

    I don't understand your fascination with the treadle -- maybe it would make more sense to me if you lived in a part of the world that didn't have reliable electricity -- but I respect your enthusiasm and commitment.

  14. When I read this post, I couldn't but think "suit procrastination."

    I think you should resdesignate the suit as a Thanksgiving or Christmas project. Michael has a backup and a suit is a lot of work, including a lot of handwork. Why rush through it?

  15. Look to Balanchine and accessorize with a western string bow tie!

  16. I am in awe of your perfectly turned corners! Very impressed.

  17. Very nice!

    But I also wondered about the suit. Wasn't the family portrait for Michael's mother supposed to happen this month?

  18. I love a western shirt! I keep fantasizing that I'm going to make my husband one that has a Hawaiian print yoke thus making a paniolo shirt!

    My weekend will be spent stuck in the basement working on fabulous clothes for my trip to New York in a month (you wouldn't want to do a "Peter's Guide to Fabric Dives" post would you?) I've already got Lindsey T's fabric picks noted and mapped on google maps!

  19. A muted blue and cream plaid? Srsly? Surely you can rip out the sleeves and work a pair of aviators with it.
    Nice stitching on the yoke.

  20. I just got my first treadle and am in process of refurbing. Last night unwound the bobbin and had the same kind of silk pile as you! It had 5 colors layered on it, almost like they only had 1 bobbin to work with. Wish that machine could tell it's history.

    I'm with Debbie on the tire - it should break right off, maybe even by hand. (And btw, you know about Sew Classic dot com for parts such as a replacement for that tire, right? Nice folks.) I probably have another week to go in working on the machine, then 2 on the cabinet, and maybe 1 on the treadle...I am jealous that you are sewing already! :) Your shirt is looking great. How do you like the feel of treadling so far? As relaxing, rythmic, and hypnotic as they say?


  21. You always find the best fabric! Can't wait to see your completed shirt. I have been thinking about buying a western shirt pattern for my DS. I will have to do that now.

  22. I have an electric 66 (a crinkle finish from the 40s) that had a similarly decrepit looking bobbin tire. I was able to just role it right off - it was just set into the groove on the bobbin winder mechanism. Ordered a replacement from SewClassic and it works like a charm now.

  23. THe shirt is looking great! I love your trick of gluing down the points. Brilliant!

  24. Love the western shirt. I've been having brief fantasies of making one like Michael J. Fox wore in on of the Back to the Future movies with what I take to be atomic symbols on each side of front yoke. I just may have to go through with it!

  25. Thanks for the tip about the water soluble glue! That is an excellent idea. As for your topstitching, it looks as impecible as ever. Great job and I'm looking forward to the finished shirt.

  26. The shirt is fantastic. I never thought about using water soluble glue before. What a great idea.

    I think I was bidding against you on those feet. Grrr.

  27. Great shirt! I make vintage inspired western wear almost exclusively and most recently made a Nudie inspired suit complete with chainstitch embroidery and rhinestones. As for treadling, I placed an antique chainstitch embroidery machine on a Singer treadle base and operating the machine is an exercise in coordination as working the guide handle beneath the machine adds an extra function.


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