Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From Shirt Pattern to Nightshirt Pattern

When I was young, I used to buy a lot of sewing patterns. In those days they only cost a couple of dollars, and I always hoped that the next pattern would turn out just as I imagined, with no messy alterations or disappointments.

Even as a teenager, though, I had favorite patterns that I cut out and sewed over and over again because they were so reliable. Doing that, I learned that it is much easier (and more fun) to make style alterations than alterations of fit. That's why, before I shelled out $10 or $17 for a nightshirt pattern, I thought I'd try and make my own by restyling a pattern I'd already altered for fit.

I've made nightgowns, pajamas, and nightshirts before, and they are generally loose-fitting, for comfort. However, I've often been awakened in the night by an oversized nightie that didn't move with me when I turned over in my sleep. To avoid getting tangled up in my lingerie, I thought I'd try something with less wearing ease. This is the pattern I started with: Jalie 2322. Here are the shirts I made from it, as the designer intended.

Four ladies' shirts on my clothesline

Basically, I made the shirt longer, left off the collar and cuffs, and turned it into a pullover when I cut it out. If you're interested in more detail, I've included a list of my changes.

  • To plan the bottom width of the sleep shirt, I measured the bottom width of an oversized tee-shirt. I used the finished length measurement from a nightie listed in a catalog. Both these measurements were quite satisfactory--I believe there's a lot of room here for individual preference.
  • I omitted all the darts except the side bust darts. If I make another night shirt, I will run gathering threads between the side seam dart markings, and ease in the fullness, rather than sew the darts. I think this will look better. It makes no difference in comfort.
  • I turned the front-buttoning pattern into a pullover by folding the shirt front pattern at the center front line, and placing this new center front on the fold of the fabric.
  • If you cut your neckline deep enough (and this one is, in fact, deep enough to pull over my head, even with all the buttons buttoned), you don't need a placket at all. However, I like the look of Grandad's old-fashioned shirt, so this time, I made the simplest neckline placket I know, for fastest results. I measured a polo shirt placket for length, and used three buttons because it looks right. Next time I make this, I will make a full-blown tuxedo shirt placket for that old-time menswear look.
  • I cut the neckline about three inches deeper at the center front, and about half an inch deeper at the center back. I selected this by trial and error, cutting until it seemed comfortable. I finished the edge with 3/8 inch plush lingerie elastic, because that's what I had on hand. Bias tape or self-fabric bias strips would probably be better in the long run.
  • I used the sleeves just as they were, and made up the missing length with a lace edging instead of a cuff, because it was much easier and quicker. It's also less constricting, if that's a consideration.
  • I made a shirt-tail finish on the bottom edge by folding the sewed-up garment, free-hand cutting the side vents, and making a rolled hem. (I've made a lot of shirts in my day.) You could make a even hem, or finish it with lace or other decorative edgings to suit your fabric.


The Tile Lady said...

Wow--this is really impressive! I bought a nightshirt pattern and have made a number of nightshirts from it. I even found a use for the nightshirt pattern when a group of role-players that were helping train Independent Contractors headed to the Middle East needed something to wear that looked like Arab dress. I sold several! I agree with you, though, that patterns nowadays are so expensive, it almost makes more sense just to buy the clothes instead of make them, or alter existing outfits as you have done!... Gone are the days of saving money by sewing for yourself! The fact that most patterns today also have multiple sizes makes it impossible to cut the garment out unless you copy the pattern onto paper and use the new paper patterns you make for each size. It's ridiculous that patterns should be this user-UNfriendly as well as expensive! I really like what you've done here....it makes sense!

Rebecca Clayton said...

I agree--I miss the days when you could really save money sewing. I had the nicest summer wardrobe of pretty feed-sack blouses....I shop the "remnant table" when I can find one, and get Wazoodle's grab bags for reasonably-priced knits. If you don't mind using the dye bucket, you can save money buying plain white fabric by the bolt from Dharma Trading Company and coloring it yourself. (Actually, I do this because it's fun; it's only cheap if you do a lot of it.)

Several years ago, I bought a big roll of the brown wrapping paper my local hardware store uses, and I copy all my patterns onto this. It's a pain in the...neck, but it lets you reuse and change those pricey multi-size patterns.