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Jan 4, 2011

Men's Flannel Shirt -- UNEDITED insomnia edition

Friends, this is what I look like at 2:48 am.  Not pretty but the tea is delicious (and if you squint I look like a gorilla in that picture, seriously).  Perhaps due to the excitement of my flannel shirt project, I am up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep.  I can't even blame the dogs.  Happily, there's the blog.

The plaid flannel shirt is coming along well.  I should finish tomorrow, I mean today.  And now an endorsement.  As you know, MPB is an ad-free blog and anything I recommend I genuinely use.  I receive no compensation (if only).

But I am totally in like with my straight-stitch low-shank walking foot, which I purchased from Sew-Classic for about $20.  This thing works well, fits my Pfaff 30 perfectly, and let's face it, half of it is psychological: I sew better knowing that I've taken this precaution; it's like a sew-condom.  For $20, it's well worth it and you don't lose sensation.

And speaking of endorsements, after I mentioned blockfusing yesterday, clever Kiwi commentator Sherry put it in my head that I need a dry press, or a steam press, or an Elnapress, or -- well you get the idea -- and now I want one.

Question: Should I wait to stumble upon one at the thrift store for $4, buy a used one on eBay, or splurge for a new one on a site like  I know ten anonymous commentors are going to try to talk me out of it, but I think I'd use this if I had it and could figure out a) where to store it, and b) where to use it.

I'm leaning toward a dry press since I really want it to fuse interfacing as opposed to pressing shirts.  There's always the spray bottle if I need steam.  I've read a lot of posts on Pattern Review about these and most people have very positive things to say about them.

Now back to the shirt.  I have decided that one of my New Year's resolutions is to sew more slowly and carefully.  I tend to speed through projects and sometimes the quality of my work suffers.  I am trying to approach this flannel shirt project with more care and focus on getting the details right.  Plus, let's face it -- plaid's a bitch and slows you down regardless.

So far, I like it.  A few details:

Here's the left front button placket.  Still haven't made up my mind about buttons vs. pearl snaps, though I'm leaning toward buttons.

I decided to do my facings in black cotton sateen.  This is turned under and topstitched -- well, there's a tuck in there too but let's keep it simple.

I cut my back yoke on the bias and interfaced one side for a little more body.

I also used the black cotton sateen to make the inside collar stand.  Here you can see it from the outside before topstitching down the outside collar stand. 

I think it may be time for a men's shirt sew-a-long so I can discuss construction methods in greater detail.  How much lead time do you think we'd need -- a month?

I have a (growing) file of pics of my shirt construction here, though with all that plaid and a fabric that has no right or wrong side, it may be hard to grasp what I'm doing.

Here's how things looked as of quitting time:

Next up is topstitching my sleeve plackets.

Friends, has this ever happened to you?  I wanted to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich yesterday -- not something I often eat -- and I toasted my bread, a delicious sourdough from Trader Joe's and look:

I mean, honestly, no one loves yeast as much as I do, but isn't this kind of ridiculous?

I may have to flag down one of these next time it drives through town.

Rested readers, I must go back to bed or read or something.

In closing, do you own a walking foot and does it work for you?  Do you own a press and do you love it/use it/want to donate it to me?  If I did a men's shirt sew-along would you sew along?

And how about that bread?

I want to hear from you!


  1. I don't owna walking foot or that steamer thing, but I do know a thing or two about bread. I used to work in/for a bakery. Those holes are caused by not punching down the dough and getting rid of the air pockets that develop during the rise. shame on them. There is a particualr brand of bread that my hubby loves that i now refuse to buy as the last three times there have been HUGE air holes in the bread. More air than bread, which makes it hard to make a you can attest to!

    Keep on sewin, and i will keep on readin. Now, go get some sleep!

  2. Isn't sourdough made without yeast, and prone to big holes like that? I can't think of a sourdough I've had that wasn't holey.

    Such lovely method and madness. I'm pretty close to being inspired. Walking feet are the bomb.

  3. Yes to the walking foot and the press. But don't splurge and buy new. Bide your time and you'll pick one up for a song. And won't regret it. I get mine out even for small things that need fusing, it's that much better than the iron.

    Don't need any men's shirts, so no to the sew along, but I will read along.

    BTW, I love your blog, it's one of the first I check everyday.


  4. Please do a shirt sew along, I would love to learn how to make one properly. One of my sewing resolutions for 2011 was to sew for others, and this would be a perfect opportunity.

  5. Ooohhh... walking foot! I have a Pfaff 3.0 with a built-in walking foot (IDT-system). I am sooo in love with it! Even making dress-up clothes for my daughter with lots of ruffles in slippery satin is a breeze.

    dry-thingamajig - have never tried it :-)

  6. I was a trifle freaked to see you posting at this time! Insomnia must be going around. I did a 2am post on my **new blog** (eek) the other night. For once, here in Australia, I get to be one of your earlier commenters rather than right at the end.

    I own a walking foot that looks a lot like that but haven't had a lot of call to use it. I am most impressed by its work on your plaid though. No idea about the press thing, looks a bit cluttery to me. My laundry is an obstacle course as it is.

    I'd love a men's shirt sew-along. I really can't figure out sleeve plackets, not that I've tried more than once, but would love some guidance. Yes, please.

    As for the bread, just looks plain delicious to me, especially as a midnight snack, although I understand the spreading problems. Still, the crunch must be superb.

  7. The shirt's coming along very nicely! I own a walking foot but almost never use it. The press, OTOH, I could not live without. I have a 16x20 dry press (the type used for t-shirt transfers) and it is such a huge time saver. I would get a dry press if you can because steam presses tend to be more problematic (I've been through two of them).

  8. I have a walking foot, and use it regularly. No more screams of frustration over plaids.. an really good for very thick fabrics too.
    As to a press, if you find too many (in case this turns into a sewing-machine thing), I'll be glad to take one off your hands :-). That said, you should contemplate the fact that they take up about as much room as two sewing machines.

  9. I would love a man's shirt sew-along! In which case, will you be recommending a pattern? I have spent so much time looking for a proper shirt pattern with a front placket and two-piece collar, yet all I ever find are ones with french fronts and one-piece collars... I want to make something more structured for a change, without having to take apart an old office shirt. Any advice?

    Looking at your bread makes me hungry. Time for lunch, methinks!

  10. Mmm, I take back the longing for more leopard-skin. That shirt is really starting to look quite hunky. How DID you get so good at sewing in such a short time?!


  11. I do have a walking foot and use it on almost every project now. It was much cheaper than I expected. I would absolutely sew along in a men's shirt group. It is one of my New Year's resolutions, afterall. :-) Your flannel shirt is looking so great!

  12. Okay, am I the only one that hasn't worked out what a walking foot is for?

    Wait for the thrifted press and get a good deal.

    I would love a shirt sew-along so I could work out where I went wrong with my husband's shirt all those months ago...

    As for the bread... I was relieved you were worried about the holes in the it as I thought you were going to say you could see an image in it that needed to be sold on eBay.


  13. I think your straight stitch walking foot will fit your treadle and Singer 15-91. I use a walking foot when piecing quilts, it works most excellently. Jenny at Sew Classic also sells a marked throat plate for the Singer 15-91, it is not as shinny as the original but very nice to have the seam allowances marked on it. I'm very impressed with your sewing projects and your blog.

  14. I'm brand new to this, and not sure if my skills are up to par yet, but I would still love to try a sew-along. Men's shirts are the goal that got me started on sewing in the first place.

  15. Good morning! The shirt looks great thus far. I always love your topstitching.

    Yikes! Eat at your own peril. But seriously, that bread has way better texture than any souless loaf of white, so I myself would eat it holes and all.

    I picked up a press at a garage sale for a song. It does weird things to the electricity, no longer produces steam, and has a tendency to forget that it should be on (or rather my electrical sockets are shutting down in fear), but with a spray bottle and a wet bit of terry cloth, it does a nice job. Besides, I figured it was a cheap way for me to see if it was something that I would want/use.

  16. I would love a man's shirt sew-a-long! I made two men's shirts for our theater's Dracula. Cuffs! with ruffles even! after picking and resewing the first set several times I decided it was a costume & would do and the pattern directions were very poorly written. The second was better but I'd love to be able to do a good job the first time.

    As for the buttons v pearl snaps, may I suggest the buttons? Pearl snaps come and go so quickly while a good button flannel shirt can be worn as long as the fabric lasts. Those snaps seem set as strictly country clothing while buttons are more everyman. Just my opinion.

    As for the bread - I would be very disappointed to find I'd bought that much air. Do they have a new baker? My children like air holes in homemade bread only when making toast because then the insides toast up crisper.

  17. Isn`t that annoying when you cut into a loaf?
    Peter you have got to try making your own bread, I highly recommend this recipe.

    I have been making almost all my bread for the last 25 years (how on earth did I get that old?), and this is by far and away the best I have ever made. There is also a video on YouTube, so here you go.

    The only thing I do differently than the recipe is that I let the bread rise for 24 hours instead of the 12-18 hours that they recommend, so that I don`t have to think about the timing. Try it, you won`t look back I promise.

  18. Hi Peter - count me in on the man's shirt sew-along If you start in Feb that would suit me just fine.
    With regard to early am sewing - I was sewing at 3 this morning, until my other half got a bit cross about the machine noise!
    Not sure about a press - I fuse alot for corsetry, but always cut the seperate pieces rather than block fuse. But I have used one and L O V E D it - if you can get a good one - I say go for it.
    I'm a lucky girl as my Janome 6600P has a walking foot built-in. I couldn't sew without one (or a concealed zip foot)
    Your shirt looks fab (as ever)

  19. I would so love to do a men's shirt sew along. I've never really made anything for my husband. I have made shirts for my son (with collar stands and everything). I think that would be fun. A month lead time would be good. Not much shirt fabric is available around here and I would have to scope a great pattern.

  20. 1. LOVE my walking foot - seriously one of my most prized possessions.
    2. No press, but now I want one too.
    3. Would be super excited to do a men's shirt sewalong - I have been checking out Colette's Negroni pattern.

  21. Love the shirt!! Fantastic job! That bread makes me mad for you - here you are ready for a delish sandwich and you have bread full of holes! Such a disappointment!

  22. Count me in for the mens shirt sewalong! Can't you get stuff blockfused at some shop in NYC, though?

  23. The shirt looks great! I would comment on the sewing condom and the Bunny truck, but I'm laughing too hard. Although maybe you should pick up a bread machine along with the press during one of your thrift crawls. I use mine a lot (see, it's not all Bunny all the time here). But then I don't have NYC outside my door.

  24. Cheap walking foot, check. Although I do experience some loss of sewing sensation when I use it, I do insist that my husband puts it on when he hijacks my machine. (Less complaining to listen too about puckering.)

    Blockfuse--whatever that is. If you want it, you can justify the purchase by the decluttering you did. And there's one on Ebay right now (she says with an evil laugh).

    Men's shirt sew-a-long? No thanks for me, but I'll lend DH my walking foot.

    Bread with gaping holes? I've heard block fusing takes care of that problem.

  25. P.S. I was looking at the Elna press with a bid option.

  26. I don't have a walking foot, but would like one. An inexpensive alternative is a roller foot. It works fairly well with thick fabrics and fabrics that want to move at different speeds. I got my dry press at Wally World's estore. It lives under my cutting table in my sewing room when it's not in use.

  27. I am so sorry you were having trouble sleeping. I felt guilty about my comments yesterday. I didn't mention that I have put as my goals for this year to make a great white shirt like yours and a nice dress shirt like the hubbie's. Eventually I would like to make a blazer/suit. I am looking forward to following you through your promised jacket as well. Just the push I need. The flannel shirt is looking good!

  28. I have a Janome 6600P with the built in walking foot too and love it! I have them or other machines too. Couldn't sew some things without them. Did you know that years ago Singer made one? It has the black metal like the buttonholer. Very expensive and hard to find but i would still love one! As for a press, I have no room. Maybe I'll keep my eye out though an if I find one, make room. Good luck!

  29. I don't own a steamer thingy, so I can't help you there. However, your walking foot is something that I definitely need to pick up.

    Please host a men's shirt sew-along. My hubby wants a shirt and I definitely could use your advice and expertise!

    Your shirt is looking fantastic (of course) and you're nocturnal sewing adventures (sewing condom?!) are just the thing I need to read to start my day on the right note. LOL!

  30. Here's another vote for the shirt sew along! I have fabric in my stash and a pattern ready to go, no lead time necessary! But you may have to slow down a bit otherwise you're going to leave me in the dust!

  31. Yes, yes yes for the sew along. I bought the David Page Coffin book for myself for Christmas, and my daughter sent me some amazing steampunk cuff links. How about giving us all a month to secure a pattern and materials? I see a lot of time spent on Ebay and Etsy in my future!~ LOL.

  32. Walking foot: I have one built-in to my Pfaff, and use it all the time. Well, not ALL the time, but most of the time. It greatly increases the odds of sewing successfully!

    Sew along: Doesn't have to be a men's shirt, right? Why not a tunic-length women's dress shirt, for example? Same techniques, after all.

    Bread: At the risk of exciting another passion, I'm suggesting that you check out Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

    It takes literally five minutes to mix the dough for the basic bread. Then you let it sit on the counter for two hours, after which you keep it in the fridge for up to ten days, breaking off and baking whatever amount you want.

    It's crusty, delicious and practically foolproof. No holes, either. And no kneading, either.

    If you take this up, I plan to deny that I mentioned it. I don't need an innernet's worth of raving MPB devotees running me out of cyberspace because you forsake your sewing blog. Mum's the word.

  33. I had a Pfaff with a built in walking foot and loved it. Now I have a Viking with an attachment, and when I need it, it's great. Never had as good a stitch as with the Pfaff, but in the rural south, service was a real issue.

  34. No to the press, yes to the walking foot and I use it a lot in quilting. I'd love to do a shirt sew along. Lead time would depend on whether we're all making the same pattern or I use one I already have. Have never done a sew along before, although I have done lots of quilt alongs where I'm given the sizes of what to cut; not so easy with a shirt pattern, huh? Loving your plaid shirt and agree on buttons vs snaps. Lane

  35. We love TJ's sourdough too, but it doesn tend to look like that most of the time!

  36. I would love a sew-along!! I made the mistake of telling my boyfriend I'd make him a shirt....I cut it, and well, that's as far as I got. He's so picky with his clothes that now I'm scared to work on it!

  37. No to the press, no to the walking foot, I wouldn't sew-along for the men's shirt as it's too soon since my last men's shirt...that project was tricky! Your shirt looks awesome so far! I particularly like the bias sleeve plackets. I bet you get a ton of interest in the men's shirt sew-along!! Sew-condom, I love it.

  38. I've been meaning to take on a shirt project for a while so yes to the sewalong!

    As for the walking foot, I love the idt on my pfaff 1209.

  39. Good for you on getting a walking foot. They can make that matching thing much easier. As to the press. Get one; fusing is much faster and easier. But now on my third press (a Family Press brand) I would suggest buying a new one. Allbrands is a good source because you can rely on them for repairs. I take mine off the cutting table when I am not using it, but it does make a nice crease in a pair of pants.

  40. If you do, I'll be making one for one of my brothers. And yes, I do have a walking foot. It came with the machine. :) Actually, I have two--one for each machine. And they're high shank Pfaff. That's right, official Pfaff feet. Most of my feet are. I have a complete set for my machine, plus a few extras. All I need is a ruffler that works with Pfaff, and I'm good. Tell us how the press works out. I've never had one.

  41. Oh! And as for the sew along... Can we do a modern pattern that can also be made in big and tall? All of my brothers are over six feet tall, and in the XL and up categories, so...

  42. Your shirt is looking good... And once again I am amazed at how quickly you work. It seems like you have only been working on this project for two days and you are already nearly done. What are you? Some kind of sewing savant? Should we call you Sewman?

    I do not own a walking foot. That's just not one of the attachments I have purchased yet. I haven't sewn enough to feel the absolute need for one yet but based upon the popularity among your readers it sounds like a 'must have' item.

    I do not have a press like the one you mentioned... I have so many other ironing options. I would also have a storage issue. I already need to declutter my life. What can I say? My parents were depression era babies and not much got thrown away. After all, you may need that 30 years from now!

    The bread is visually disappointing but it's the taste that counts. I can imagine it tastes wonderful. I have very rarely encountered a piece of bread I didn't like... Especially toasted!

    I wouldn't mind following along on a sew-along. I just wonder how long you would take to complete the project? Perhaps you could do the project in phases once or twice a week so those of us who actually sew much, much slower than you could keep up. That way you could still work on other projects at your normal rate without wondering what's taking me so 'blanking' long!

  43. OMG, You're a super star now Pierre!! Vogue Sewing on Facebook just featured your OTP Vogue Toggle Coat. It won't be long till you're writing articles for them on vintage sewing machines!

    Kudos to you my friend!

  44. Your shirt looks fabulous!
    Walking feet: you really can't do withot 'em.

  45. Peter, delighted to happen across your blog. I remember meeting you at the booth at the Sewing Expo last year; good to see you here. So, as to your questions:

    1. Yes, I have a walking foot just like yours. I don't use it all that often, but when I need it (plaids, stripes or squiggly fabrics) it is the best tool ever.

    2. I have a press (Singer) similar to the one pictured. It's a steam press, but I never use the steam function preferring moistened press cloths and/or spraying. I only use it when block fusing, which is not often (I don't use many fusibles, neo-Luddite that I am...). However, when I need it, see comment above.

    3. I sew almost all of my own shirts, so hells yeah, let's have a sew-along. I'd be happy to learn some new things!

    Richard in MI

  46. I cannot imagine life without a walking foot, a press, and a bread machine. I use the walking foot regularly for bad boy fabrics. I have a steam press but only use the dry function. I guess people do still fuse with an iron. As for the bread machine, the bread is fresh without any holes. Your shirt is looking good. Happy New Year!

  47. Yes, count me in for a men's shirt sewalong. As I mentioned yesterday, I have a Singer press and it truly has revolutionised my sewing life, so I urge you to get one. I had a friend who has used one for years show me how she presses sheets so that I could manage to press lengths of laundered fabric before cutting. It's also brilliant if you need to crease pant fronts (for when you make Michael's suit).

  48. Damn sourdough-paying for holes for butter to drip through.
    I want a walking foot now!
    Sewalong? Bring it on!

  49. Gotta hate the insomnia thing - last night I had restless foot syndrome for about an hour while trying to sleep. That was ace - not!

    Anywho... nope, don't own a walking foot - do I need to get one? ;)

    Nope, don't own a fancy iron, but my mum has a Laura Star and she really likes it. :)

    And Yes, I would join in a shirt sew along and make something nice for the fiance.

  50. LOVE my walking foot, I bought it because I make cloth diapers and use PUL which is crazy slippery, but i've used it on practically every other fabric too since I have it!

    I am also tossing around the idea of a press, my Mom has one...wonder if she would notice if it went missing??

    I ate almost an entire loaf of sun-dried tomato & herb bread for dinner with my lentil-kale-potato soup, I love bread!

    Hubby also loves bread and is waiting for me to make him a of course I'd do a sewalong! :)

  51. Guys, this is very inspiring. Great to hear there's so much interest in a sew-along!

  52. Pop another name on to the sew-along pile!
    I can't wait.

  53. I'm in on the sew-a-long, however the shirt will be worn by a woman. Will that be a problem?

  54. condoms? really? You get a little giddy at 2 in the morning eh?

  55. I have a walking foot but am sometimes too impatient to put it on (blush).
    I can see you getting a lot more use out of a dry press than I would. Just the thought of finding space for such a thing in my cramped NYC apartment gives me a minor panic attack.
    Bring on the mens' shirt sew-along! Hopefully no one will ask me for a new leotard or hand me a big pile of mending while it's going on.

  56. I'd be in on a sew-along. Taking into account the time consuming distractions (and care) of two small children, maybe in a few months? I need to find one of the patterns you recommended on Pattern Review a while ago. That liberty one on PR was pretty awesome though.

    Limited use of my walking foot, just in piecing one quilt top, but it seemed to do the job.

  57. Yes, I would love to join in a sew-along.

  58. Your blog cracks me up! I hope you intend for it to be a bit humorous. If not, just ignore this comment. I found you while looking for info on my vintage machines. I may just join your sew-along. I just have to convince my husband to wear the finished product. Would it ount if I made shirts for my sons??

  59. Proud Mama, welcome! You can make shirts for anybody you want; I won't tell. ;)

  60. Look at that flannel! That detail! No wonder you couldn't sleep.
    Peter, that looks like 'rope', a type of fungi that rye flour is particularly susceptible to. It should have baked up smelling horribly though, so maybe not. Giant air pocket because the dough wasn't shaped well.


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