Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Incredible Growing Shirt

Or, why it is so important to stay neck edges, armholes and other piece edges that might stretch.

"Stay stitching" is a single line of stitching, through one layer of fabric, to stabilize the fabric, preventing it from becoming stretched or distorted. When I take the time to stay stitch, I will do so 1/8" within the seam line - on a 5/8" seam at the 1/2" line. In some cases, I'll sew in a strip of seam binding or my personal favorite, an organza or chiffon selvage strip. It is important to stay neck and armhole edges, bias seam lines where a zipper is to be inserted, and in the case of my shirt also along the back waistline edge.

I laughed when our dressmaker, Cindy gave a lecture about the importance of "stay stitching" for her Sewing Educator Certification course, but my "Incredible Growing Shirt" is a prime example of why this simple step, that one might think is such a bore it might be eliminated, is so important.

Its surprising how much this shirt distorted. Its a lightweight silk jersey, which is not the most stable of fabrics, but this is pretty extreme growth from stretching. This shirt is also an example of when you might use a fabric for your rough draft that handles similarly to the fabric to be used in the finished garment. The best dressmaker I know collects different fabrics that are deeply discounted on dump tables for her muslin garment drafts, and has a collection of all sorts of weaves and weights.

I made this muslin, with just that, a woven cotton muslin. It has no stretch. I left the side seam open to get the muslin on and off and pinned it shut for fitting. The shirt needed to be pinched in at the waistline by about 1-1/2". Other than that it fit well.

Now what must I do to salvage this shirt besides wearing it draped over my shoulders and dripping off my body. First, re-establish its new shoulder line, which in this case pulls in about 2" of fabric from the front and back neck.

Second, I can open the side seam and pull in the back at its waistline, and taper into the hemline, but I think I'll create a poet's shirt pleat at center back. I actually like that more than its simple straight look. Sometimes, its best to loosen up and creatively progress the design along the way.


  1. Oh no, a lot of work waiting for you!! But above all I can see that your choice of trimming (the tulle over silk) is just perfect for the blue fabric. I think this trim is better than the zebrastuff would ever have been!

  2. I guess it is the little foxes that spoil the fine. I've started making myself do the little things like stay stitching, and even directional sewing even though some of the things are never seen or don't seem to matter. I even put up sticky notes to remind myself to do some of the little things. I know your top will turn out nicely.