dang

Starting Member
I've started playing around with altering a few of my shirts, sewing new buttons and such. The next logical step here is to try to sew my own shirt. I know it's quite a task, but I have some spare time.

Anyway, the question that comes to mind is:
  1. Which thread is recommended for shirt stitching? Is is the same thread with regards to thickness/material throughout the shirt or should I use different for top stitching, side seams and whatnot?
  2. Which thread is recommended for buttons and button holes?
  3. What S.P.I (Stitch Per Inch) is recommended? I read that bespoke shirt uses up to 30 S.P.I but reading through the forum it looks like allot of people use 16 and maybe 22 for top stitching. Should I use different S.P.I for different seams? I know that fewer stitch per inch is probably to recommend when starting out and I'll probably go for that, still I wan't to know the "proper" way for when I'm there.

Anything else to consider? Also I have David Page Coffin's excellent Shirtmaking book.

Thanks in advance, Dang
 

Alexander Kabbaz

Tech and Business Advice Guru
I've started playing around with altering a few of my shirts, sewing new buttons and such. The next logical step here is to try to sew my own shirt. I know it's quite a task, but I have some spare time.

Anyway, the question that comes to mind is:
  1. Which thread is recommended for shirt stitching? Is is the same thread with regards to thickness/material throughout the shirt or should I use different for top stitching, side seams and whatnot?
  2. Which thread is recommended for buttons and button holes?
  3. What S.P.I (Stitch Per Inch) is recommended? I read that bespoke shirt uses up to 30 S.P.I but reading through the forum it looks like allot of people use 16 and maybe 22 for top stitching. Should I use different S.P.I for different seams? I know that fewer stitch per inch is probably to recommend when starting out and I'll probably go for that, still I wan't to know the "proper" way for when I'm there.

Anything else to consider? Also I have David Page Coffin's excellent Shirtmaking book.

Thanks in advance, Dang
1] #50 Aurifil cotton
2] HyMark Glacé #24
3] Most seams 18-20 or you'll get puckering; Collar, Cuffs, Top Center (if properly interlined) 25-30
 

PedanticTurkey

Super Member
To bring this thread back from the dead:

Do you use a stronger thread for the shoulder seams, or is there some trick to it I don't know? The aurifil 50 doesn't seem strong enough off-grain.
 

Alexander Kabbaz

Tech and Business Advice Guru
To bring this thread back from the dead:

Do you use a stronger thread for the shoulder seams, or is there some trick to it I don't know? The aurifil 50 doesn't seem strong enough off-grain.
If you're breaking the Aurifil 50 your tension is too high, your needle too small, or you're sewing too fast. Strength comes from the quantity of stitches, not heavy thread. You should be using at least 15 s.p.i., preferably 18, on the yoke.
 

PedanticTurkey

Super Member
Mr. Kabbaz, thanks for your response.

In the aurifil 50's defense, I'm a newbie, don't really know how to sew, and I was trying to break it. So maybe it's not the thread. Still, I think I have the tension right, wasn't going too fast, was doing about 15 SPI, etc. I'll tighten the stiches up a little on the next one.

As for needles, I've been using #10s and #10 "sharps." Does that sound right?
 

Alexander Kabbaz

Tech and Business Advice Guru
Mr. Kabbaz, thanks for your response.

In the aurifil 50's defense, I'm a newbie, don't really know how to sew, and I was trying to break it. So maybe it's not the thread. Still, I think I have the tension right, wasn't going too fast, was doing about 15 SPI, etc. I'll tighten the stiches up a little on the next one.

As for needles, I've been using #10s and #10 "sharps." Does that sound right?
Unless you are sewing 240s or 300s, switch to a 12 needle with the aurifil. 10 is too small to sew with any speed at all and 12 won't hurt the fabric. If by #10 (vs #10 "sharps") you mean a ball point needle, I wouldn't use it. Sharps are what we use on almost everything.
 

PedanticTurkey

Super Member
I've got a Kenmore 18221 (IIRC). It's a pretty basic zigzag machine. It only makes basic bar tack buttonholes, but I think they're pretty good.

I've actually almost finished a couple shirts (i.e., got the collar & sleeves on, etc.), but haven't done anything I'd wear yet. I've got nobody teaching me (in person), and I honestly don't even know anyone IRL who sews. So I have to figure some things out myself. It's slow going, but I'm getting there. Every weekend when I have time I get a little farther.

If you're interested in giving it a shot I'll be happy to tell you everything I've learned so far. It ain't that much...
 

S.Paul

New Member
I'm interested in this thread also, Turkey, as I am looking to graduate from changing out shirt buttons to actually adding some darts/tailoring a few of my shirts to eventually making my own. I also have the book Shirtmaking from Coffin. Great questions so far and of course great answers from Alex K!!

cheers,
Sean Paul
 

PedanticTurkey

Super Member
If you've got Coffin's book, next get his DVD--for $15 it's a pretty good deal. He shows you how to use a felling foot, rolled hem foot, etc., one technique for inserting the sleeves. I would take some of what he says with a grain of salt, though--like the way he attaches collars/cuffs, the way he stretches the inside to shape them while sewing, etc. Overly complicated in my (brief) experience.

Mike Maldonado has a bunch of videos demonstrating various techniques, including one on collar making (which also shows you how to attach the collar, it's worth the $30 just for that...). They're all worth watching and don't cost much (google it). He's got 15 of them available for free on his website (click "Shirt Tutorials" in the "Sponsors" box at the bottom to see the free videos. Maldonado also does custom patterns -- or at least, he used to -- I don't know if he still does -- but I'm sure he'd hook you up with a student or the like to make a pattern using your measurements--with the seam allowances all included. He also gave me a DVD with a bunch of his old shirtmaking videos on it.

Then, let's see--what do you need:

A sewing machine, needles, thread (see this thread), a pair of good fabric shears ($30 or so, get 10"... I got 8", too short). A washable fabric marker--$2 at wal-mart. A see-through ruler--$5 (get one that's something like 3"x18" and not a purple one if your washable marker is purple!). Some muslin broadcloth to practice with ($1.50 yard locally, you'll need about 2.5 yards to do a shirt if it's 45" cloth, so get 10 yards). Once you get past there, you can order shirting fabric from somebody like Philips Boyne or Acorn. A point turner for the collar ($3), a seam ripper ($2), some pins (though you really don't need them much) -- $2, a yard stick ruler $3. I'd use poster board (the large white ones from Wal-Mart that're $0.50 each) for pattern making. The only thing that's really hard to find would be a felling foot and a hemming foot (your sewing machine should have a hemming for especially made for it, felling foot could be harder--try the dealer first, then ebay or somebody else). You'd want a 4mm hemming foot, 6mm hemming foot, 4mm felling foot, 6mm felling foot. Figure about $15 each, maybe less. If you just want one of each, get the 6mm for now. If you have a zigzag machine that can put the straight-stitch needle position anywhere, you can use the zigzag foot as a "quarter inch" foot for top-stitch, etc.

Maldonado has a free video showing tools that you might watch if I've left anything out, which I'm sure I have.
 
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andy b.

Senior Member
PT and Alexander,

Thanks for the replies and info! I have a variety of machines, from an 1872 Singer Model 12 up to more modern zigzag machines and a host of oddballs in between. I made many of my uniform pieces for Civil War reenacting including a Mounted Services Shell Jacket. I'm familiar with a lot of the sewing procedures but I have never sewn a modern dress shirt. I think it would be a fun project. I wonder if anyone else on the forum has attempted to sew any of their own clothes (I'm talking amateurs, not professional tailors).

The first time I read posts here regarding "sack coats" I just kept picturing a bunch of guys running around in navy blue Civil War uniforms. :) The funny thing is, you can definitely see the development of the modern sack coat and how it evolved from the 19th century garment.

Andy B.
 

PedanticTurkey

Super Member
A few more things, before I forget:

A work surface (I use a 2'x4' piece of plywood, lowes sells them pre-cut, covered with an old blanket and a couple layers of muslin, assembled with a staple gun--make sure you stretch the fabric before stapling...)

An iron and a spray bottle (best to use a small, cheap iron that heats up fast; you really don't need steam)

A stick of water-soluble glue

A sleeve board

A point presser for making the collar (definitely optional)

Don't bother with a rotary cutter, at least not at first.

The most important thing is to start with a good pattern. Once you've got that you'll eventually get everything else. Sator in his "Cutter and Tailor" forum has posted some old books on pattern alterations that should get you through any minor changes you'll need to make in the future. But start with a pattern that's drafted and trued by someone who knows what he's doing--it'll save you a lot of headache. Trust me.
 
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andy b.

Senior Member
Alexander,

Now THAT was cool of you!!!!! I have to dig out some of the custom-woven cotton fabrics in my Civil War shirting material and see what I come up with. I have some awesome blue and red striped material that would make a great winter button-down. The hardest part for me will be the collars. My CW stuff all has simple band collars.

Andy B.
 

PedanticTurkey

Super Member
Get Maldonado's $30 collarmaking video. It's really easy to adapt it to making a button-down collar without interfacing (i.e., you just trace the collar w/o seam allowances onto the wrong side of the fabric and go to it). Just be careful that you don't stretch the points out of shape when you turn them.
 

Concordia

Advanced Member
Some years after this thread has started, finding the HyMark #24 is not easy for amateurs who use Google as their distributor.
Any hints for locating it-- or a good substitute with colors enough to re-sew the buttons onto polo shirts?
 

WA

Honors Member
A thinner thread can be doubled and waxed (Candle wax is fine. Bees wax is best.) put through a needle and twisted, then run it against a warm hot iron, or between paper and set the iron on top to melt the wax into the thread.
 
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