Sewing Your Shirt for a Tonner Matt

Greetings! Wow. It’s been quite a while since I last posted. It’s good to be back to say, “Hello,” to you all. You may (or may not) be wondering what has taken me so long. Well, we’ve had some MAJOR career changes going on over here! I have a totally new job in a totally new venue, and I’m really liking it! But now I leave VERY early with 10 hour days and a fairly long commute. It makes for a tired old bird at the end of the day! Never-the-less, I have not forgotten you who come and visit. In my last post, I mentioned getting to work on some pants for the Tonner Matt body style, and yes ~ I have TWENTY-THREE pair cut out and ready to sew! I also have a cammo puffy vest, two fancy dress vests, and a flannel shirt all cut out & ready for assembly. (Will post that picture first!)

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But today’s blog will mostly be the long awaited sequel to my May 22, 2016 post entitled, “Making a Shirt Pattern for a Tonner Matt.” Today I cut out the pieces I made for that blog and put them together. I will give the step-by-step instructions along with photos of my process. I’ve never done an actual sewing tutorial, so please be patient if I accidentally leave out an instruction or two. You may want to go back and read through that earlier post, so you will have a frame of reference for this one. If you’re already an experienced pattern maker and sewer, this may seem really simple, but I like simple.

First of all, whenever you are sewing a newly made pattern for the first time, be sure to use some fabric that’s not expensive or important. This first attempt of mine will be on a simple cream colored cotton. Then if it doesn’t work, it’s not a big deal, but if it does ~ I will have something usable. My fabric was just some leftover scrap from cutting out all those cream pants above, so the layout looks a bit weird. I just made sure I could neatly get all the pieces I needed. After the first few pieces were cut, I rearranged the remaining fabric for the two pieces of the collar & the back facing.

Now it’s time to sew! All my doll clothing has 1/4″ seams. I always do my “prep work” first, which is connecting the facing pieces at the shoulders (right sides together) & finishing (serging or zig-zagging) the raw edge that will lay inside the shirt & be visible. I press the seams open, but do not serge the shoulder seams. When making doll clothing. I try to avoid creating unnecessary bulkiness. Sometimes serging can do this, so when I know the seams will be completely hidden, I leave the edges raw. I also prepared a small front pocket for fun. I serged just the top edge that would be the open part of the pocket, then hemmed it. Next, I pressed in all the side & bottom edges before laying it on the shirt & top stitching. Be sure to keep these stitches as close to the edge of the pocket as possible to maintain a good size proportion for doll clothing. Then I stitch the shirt fronts and back together at the shoulders (right sides together). I lay the seams open and topstitch the seam allowances, because I think it gives a nice tailored look.

Next is the collar. Sew the two pieces together at the sides & top with right sides together (leaving the neckline open). Then clip the seam allowance leaving 1/8″ allowance and angles at the corners. Turn the collar right side out and press seams flat. Then stay stitch bottom unfinished edge and clip a small notch in the center of the collar being sure to stay within the seam allowance. Now stay-stitch the necklines of the facing and shirt, clipping small notches to the stay-stitching about 1/4″ apart. This will allow the neckline to stretch out into a straighter line for sewing the collar to the shirt. Next mark your shirt back and back center of the facing within the seam allowances. This will help when you pin the collar to the right side of the shirt.

Here is where it can get tricky. When pinning collar to the shirt neck, start in the center & work out to the sides making sure you have the same amount of shirt front hanging outside the collar sides on both ends of the collar. This pattern worked pretty well, as I had 1/4″ at each end which will be the needed seam allowance for the center seams of the shirt fronts. Once your collar is in a good position, add the facing ~ keeping the right side of the facing towards the collar. Once pinned, your collar should be sandwiched between the right sides of the shirt pieces and the facing pieces. I always start pinning at the center of the collar and work my way across the neck and down both fronts to the hem.

It is also very important to make sure that both ends of the collar raw edge are tucked up tight in the seam allowance of the neckline. I have made the mistake of not checking this, and then I ended up with one side of the collar not anchored in the shirt correctly. It was definitely an “Arrrrggggg!!!!” moment. You DO NOT want to take apart three layers of fabric to re-sew! Now, start at one front hem and sew up the front, across the collar, and down the other front. Remove pins and make sure you don’t have any tucks in the fabric. When you press the seams, the shirt & facing should lie pretty flat, and the collar should be able to stand up.

 

Now you’re ready to add the sleeves! I serge the bottom edges of the sleeves before stitching the hems. Then (since this is a very light cotton) sew one line of stitching on the top edge of the sleeves with a long stitch length. Slightly ease the fabric together without making it looked “ruffled.” This slight gather is just to ease the upper sleeve edge into the shoulder line of the shirt. As I worked on this particular shirt, I found the sleeve to be slightly bigger than I needed on the top edge, but we’ll address that at the end. (For now, I just adjusted the pucker to fit the shirt.)

Stay-stitch the arm hole of the shirt and clip to the stitching about 1/4″ apart, so the arm line will lay better for sewing. I start pinning the right side of the sleeve to the right side of the shirt at the outside edges and work towards the center of the curve meeting at the top of the shoulder seam, adjusting the sleeve gather as I go to avoid too much pucker in any one spot. I also sew this seam with the sleeve down. This will allow the feed-dogs of my machine to help evenly feed and distribute any extra pucker in the sleeve. Then I check the seam on both sides to make sure everything lays good and flat. I press the sleeve seam towards the sleeve.

Now it’s time to sew the sides. Turn the shirt inside-out and pin the underarm edge of the sleeves and the front & back of the shirt together, then stitch. I also serge this sleeve/side seam, because it shows inside the shirt. We’re almost done! When you have the sides together, turn it right side out to check how it looks.

Now for the hem. First, I serge the entire hem, including the hemline edges of the facing (keeping the front seam allowances towards the facing). Next, I turn the facing at the hemline so that it’s on the outside of the shirt with the right sides together & stitch the hem. Then, turn it back to inside and press out the finished corners. You will see that the hem is now ready to be pressed up 1/4″ and stitched. I always like to re-press the hem once it is sewn. I also tack in the facing at the inside of the shoulders, careful to catch the seam allowance, but not breech the shirt. Now, I lay the shirt out and press the tops and bottoms of the sleeves as well as the side seams. Time to try it on the doll!

And there you have it! Now the shirt is ready for the handwork of adding snaps and buttons. As I mentioned above, I thought the sleeves had a little too much pucker, and they also looked more full than I would prefer. I also thought the shirt could use more room at the shoulders and less flare at the hem. After inspecting the shirt, I made the following changes to my pattern pieces (shown in green). The collar was fine, so no changes were made to that particular piece.

And there you have it! That is how I put together a basic button-up shirt. I hope this has been helpful, and now you’re ready to strike out into the adventure of pattern making and sewing! Thanks for coming!

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