When I first started sewing men's shirts, I made them out of vintage cotton/poly percale sheets I found at the thrift store.
In retrospect, I should have listened to the many Pattern Review commenters on my early reviews who told me that I'd have a much easier time working with 100% cotton fabric. It wasn't until maybe my 5th or 6th shirt that I decided to spring for cotton fabric, which made shirtmaking a much more pleasant experience. It also resulted in shirts that I actually wanted to wear. Because no matter how playful those 1970's shirts looked, they felt clammy on the skin and smelled bad when I perspired.
Here are a few of my early efforts (from summer of 2009). Maybe you slept on some of these prints in your youth.
This weekend I had to make a shirt muslin for a male client who wears a size Large or thereabouts (16 1/2 - 17" neck). I headed to my vintage sheet stash for fabric. I found a 50/50 cotton/poly blend I'd bought recently at the Salvation Army (pictured at the top of this post). I like the print but, working on the muslin, I was reminded of some of the challenges of working with these sheets: they don't press sharply and tend to droop, plus they're tough to ease.
But I do like the way my muslin turned out!
I used Simplicity 8541 from 1988.
The only change I made (unrelated to fitting) was to narrow the collar an inch or so.
This shirt went together quickly. If you don't flat-fell your seams or bother with sleeve plackets (the pattern calls for just binding a "v" slit cut above the cuff, aka, a continuous lap placket), you save a lot of time.
In other news, I passed on a vintage Singer 301 at the flea market yesterday. It had a few issues (no attachments, no case, no original foot, among other things) and I certainly didn't need it. It would have been fun to play with but not for $50.
In closing, I think if were to advise a beginning sewer, I would no longer recommend sewing with cotton/poly sheets. If you can find a 100% cotton sheet, that's another story.
Do you agree that it's better/easier for beginners to start with all cotton?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!