Custom Shirt: The Classic Button-Up

If sewing for women is an art then sewing for men is definitely a science.

I began drafting this shirt pattern for my husband roughly…10 years ago. When I hear someone says it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill I think they might have had this project in mind. As a mentor of mine always says; it’ll take a lifetime. And in the case of tailoring for me husband, I pretty sure that’s supposed to be the good news!

I started the first draft in 2009 with a McCall casual shirt sewing pattern (M6044) while I has still in school for Apparel Design and just learning the ins and outs of clothing construction. Button-up shirts are the perfect tool for teaching basic sewing skills I came to find because in our freshman year it was the only piece we built, painstakingly putting on and taking off the collar, yolks, and pockets until everything was just right. I still remember every stitch of that project and when I was finally finished I was shocked to find that I was ready to start another. Luckily for my then-future husband it was at that moment our paths crossed.

After making a few different renditions of that McCall shirt with tweaks in length and slimming down the body I still felt like I hadn’t quite achieved the look I was going for but I was at least headed in the right direction.

McCall M6044 Sewing Pattern sample.

McCall M6044 Sewing Pattern sample.

Next I came across the infamous David Page Coffin and his ‘Shirtmaking Workbook’ and drove right in. The collar and cuffs sizes were particularly interesting to me as these were the details that stood out in my current samples that looked somewhat out of proportion. I toyed around with a fool more paper drafts of adding a bit here and shaving off of bit there. Now I really felt like I was making progress.

A favorite reference: David Coffin Page’s ‘Shirtmaking Workbook’.

A favorite reference: David Coffin Page’s ‘Shirtmaking Workbook’.

At this point I think it became apparent to me that in a desire to continue building and modifying the same garment over and over again I may have hit on a new ultimate goal, the seed of tailoring as career was definitely becoming planted, though it would take a few more years to really break through and grow.

As an aside, one of the other great benefits of this on-going project (other than a husband that will proudly where all your strike-offs whether you want him to or not) is that button-up shirts are traditionally made of cotton or some similar extremely easy fabric to work with which kept my motivation high and frustration low.

Fast forward a few years to 2014, after taking a little time away from sewing to get settled in a then-new place (Tulsa!) I was ready to set up the sewing machine in another new home and get back to the saga of the shirt.

This is when sewing took a real turn for me; in my quest for new patterns, I found the online sewing community! What an incredible hidden world! PDF’s galore! Slimmer modern fits and outstanding instructions! The evolution in such a short period of time was astounding!made

PDF Illustration on Thread Theory Sewing Pattern for the Fairfield Button-Up.

PDF Illustration on Thread Theory Sewing Pattern for the Fairfield Button-Up.

Enter Thread Theory, Menswear Sewing Patterns. A modern menswear sewing company with exactly the type of patterns I’d been hoping for and easily modified to the extra long sleeve length and slim darted waist I was looking for to fit my Army Captain 6’3” husband.

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Beginning with the Fairfield Button-Up, I began making the adjustments I have honed specific to him over the years; longer sleeves and body, slightly narrower cuff, wider collar band to stand up a bit more around his neck, wider breadth at the elbow so he won’t blow them out as quickly (though I always keep leftover bits of fabric for elbow patches down the line!) and so on. After learning a few new techniques (see below for the ‘burrito method’ of constructing the yolk!), the first new sample was complete!

The ‘burrito method’ of applying a yolk. The shirt front and back are rolled up in-between the yolk and yolk facing so that all seams are enclosed. See the Thread Theory Fairfield Shirt pattern for exquisite instructions on this method!

The ‘burrito method’ of applying a yolk. The shirt front and back are rolled up in-between the yolk and yolk facing so that all seams are enclosed. See the Thread Theory Fairfield Shirt pattern for exquisite instructions on this method!

Though I’ve already made a few more modification for the next make (because now that I’ve got a solid pattern I surely can’t stop!), I’m extremely happy with this version and even happier that I got him to pose in it! Check out the final product below!

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Finally: one of my favorite details for custom clothing; matching stripes! And that cute face!!

Finally: one of my favorite details for custom clothing; matching stripes! And that cute face!!

Have a custom shirt idea you’d like to discuss? Shoot me an email at hello@thetulsatailor.com.

Thanks for reading!

Sources and Further Reading:

McCall Sewing Pattern:https://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m6044

David Page Coffin: https://www.amazon.com/Shirtmaking-Workbook-Construction-Resources-Downloads/dp/1589238265/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=80SN1CRYKGDQWKC1CANP

Thread Theory Patterns: https://threadtheory.ca/

Thread Theory - Fairfield Shirt Pattern in PDF - https://threadtheory.ca/collections/pdf-sewing-patterns/products/fairfield-button-up-shirt-pdf