The Perfect Chore Shirt

The weekend long read.
For me, one of the most satisfying garments to make is a stripey shirt. Let me explain.
I love making shirts because I know the process like the back of my hand. When I graduated from uni I spent the following year making shirt after shirt to experiment and develop patterns for my previous business. I slowly became an experienced shirt maker and it’s the most enjoyable thing to return to.
I find each and every step of shirt making fun and interesting. The entire process is structured, formulaic and requires really precise use of the iron and needle. It’s a mathematical process that becomes an escape for the mind once you know exactly what you’re doing. Each fold, each stitch, each press is like completing a line in tetris.
When you combine this process with using a stripey fabric you add another dimension of satisfaction. Firstly, the direction of the stripes are fun to play with visually on pieces like the placket, cuff, collar and yoke. You can use the cross grain or even the bias to create your own ‘design’ within a fairly regimented pattern. And secondly, the stripes of the fabric also give you a linear guidelines to work with for each construction step. Shirt patterns are quite grid-like and a stripey fabric is like having a ruler to work with at all times. For each fold, press and stitch line you have a built in guideline to get an extra sharp finish.
After nearly two months away from my sewing machine I was desperately excited to get back to it. I’m partial to a mid-weight cotton twill with a punchy look so when I saw this blue striped fabric on the New Craft House website I ordered it straight away. When it came through I was slightly worried that it would look like chefs uniform but I think paired with the right design it has the vibe of a chore shirt without feeling too utility (although a tea towel over the shoulder would not look out of place).
For this shirt I used the Unisex Shirt pattern in a size Large (which is two sizes up from my usual size) to get a casual oversized fit. I didn’t make any changes to the shape but I added a few extra details to the piece with stitching work and also by changing the front patch pockets.
I hope it’s an interesting make to refer to if you have a shirt or utility piece in the pipeline. And if you haven’t dipped a toe into shirt making before I highly recommend giving it a go. Our Over Shirt Online Workshop is a complete tutorial for really high quality shirt making and even if you’re a beginner you’ll finish with something that looks professionally made.
Let me know any thoughts and questions and have a happy Sunday.
Cut: Unisex Shirt
Size: L
- changing the pocket shape to a curved one
- adding an additional large breast pocket with a button fastening
- extra topstitching around the collar, cuff and placket
- contrast red button hole on the plackets
Playing with Pockets
I nearly always add patch pockets to a shirt at the end of the make. I like to pin them on at the end and see whether they add to the overall character of the garment. I then assess whether to make them bigger, change the shape or arrangement or even leave them off entirely. 
Above show some of my 'drapes', placing different options down with a variety of buttons to see what worked.
I think the curve of the patch pockets helps to soften the structured uniform look and then by layering an additional pocket I think it helps to make the piece look more considered and give it a more 'designer' feel.
Contrast Button Hole
The contrast button hole colour is just a tiny extra detail that brings a bit of character to the placket area. And it's an easy way to add a pop of colour!
I added more topstitching than I usually would on the collar and collar stand and it made me wonder why I don't do this on every shirt I make. I think it's lovely to look at and it's fun to sew too.
Even if you're using a matching thread colour the additional topstitching still catches the eye and adds an extra layer of detail to the garment.
If you like the look of playing with topstitching you might want to check out this previous newsletter/blog post - The Art of Topstitching
That back stripe is a tiny bit off centre but oh well. Good enough for me.
In summary...
I'm really happy with this piece, it's a really lovely weight and fit and I think I'll wear it a lot as we transition into spring. I can also see myself wearing it open as a light jacket in summer. A very useful piece with just the right amount of character I think.