Shirtmaking as a hobby - is it viable?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by chobochobo, Apr 4, 2007.

  1. chobochobo

    chobochobo Rubber Chicken Dubiously Honored Moderator

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    I was browsing the forum Amazon bookstore just as a way of supporting the forum and noticed the shirtmaking book. I'm not a tailor and have not made any clothing of my own, I don't even have a sewing machine. I'm fairly good with my hands but I guess that doesn't mean much. I'm just toying with the idea of trying to make shirts as a hobby. I can see that collars and cuffs are going to be a challenge; I wish that I could see what would be on the 'recommended requirements' list similar to what one gets on the side of computer software/hardware [​IMG]
     


  2. j

    j (stands for Jerk) Admin

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    If I had the patience and neck stamina, I'd try my hand at making shirts. If you had experience with a sewing machine, it's not that complicated, though I know going from a passable shirt to one you'd want to wear at an important event in public would take a lot of experience.

    If it seems interesting to you, you might pick up a sewing machine (a basic Sears model or a Singer from a thrift store will be fine) and try altering shirts and other clothes to see if it's something you could get into. You might impress yourself with the results. At the very least, you'll have familiarity with some methods that can save you some money in the future for alterations you'd pay for but now can do while watching TV.
     


  3. lakewolf

    lakewolf Senior member

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    I took tailoring as a hobby.

    I learned to do basic alterations, like trousers hems and cuffs and also waists, jacket side and center adjustments, I even made vents and attempted to do shoulders.

    Some are easy, some are more difficult, and as you get experienced with the sewing machine and the neddle, you can make them fast and well.

    But indeed I recognise it is not something you could learn all by yourself or from a book. I would need more insight from a master tailor to learn how to recut a jacket or how to recut trousers, even If i did recut trousers once, the results were not as good as a real tailor could do.

    It is about the cut and the patterns and your ability to handle a complex configuration of tissues and layers, specially when you are doing chests, shoulders and crotchs. Also with the experience you can see how you should modify the jacket to fit you best.

    I was toying with the idea of getting some instruction from an school or a tailor. I will do it some day.

    On the other hand I like to do it for myself, but I don't think I'd like to be doing this for others or as a job.
     


  4. Ivan Kipling

    Ivan Kipling Senior member

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    Remember that much of ready to wear is done in pieces. Those pieces are then assembled, into a whole. Attempting to do an entire garment, is another matter. I know people who can do it. I know women who make all of their own clothes. These garments do not look 'homemade,' and fit them like custom clothes should. What a great craft, to master.

    Since you're interested in shirtmaking, why not give it a try? You can't go wrong, sewing shirts as a hobby.
     


  5. william

    william Senior member

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    I say absolutely go for it. Just use cheap fabric until you've got your skill set together. I've tried to find hobbyist cordwainer classes (no success as of yet). I'd be interested in shirts as well. After a few years I wouldn't be surprised if you were able to produce at least a casual shirt (oxford button down, etc.) for yourself that you'd be happy to wear. Just remember, it's a skill, and not magic, as some would lead you to believe (I'm not downplaying the artistry involved, just making the point that it's certainly possible to learn).
     


  6. wheelerray

    wheelerray Senior member

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    What I know about sewing I learned by watching my mother and grandmother. I bought a machine to do some very simple alterations and also made a couple of things -- fleece hats, sox, and gloves, fleece pullovers.

    It is also not as simple as it would frst appear. There are speciality machines for more complex work. One such essential machine is a serger [sp?]. Even as a hobbiest you will need one. They are not prohibitively expensive, ($400 and up) but you should plan on taking classes to learn how to use it. Most big cities with stores that sell them also hold classes.

    I'm not pursuing it as a hobby because I just don't have the patience to get through the relatively steep learning curve. But it is fun and rewarding, especially if you have kids who can wear your early experiments!
     


  7. mizanation

    mizanation Senior member

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    sewing is a great hobby and i'm very glad i got into it. i mostly have done denim projects (jeans and jackets), but i know about the shirt-making book you are talking about (i have a different book made by the same person). sewing has come in handy many times. just be careful, it can really be absorbing. at one time, i was spending all of my free time browsing fabric stores and looking for vintage sewing machines. there is a lot to learn and it can be very fun. just make sure you don't get too obsessed or it might hurt your personal relationships. [​IMG]
     


  8. Tck13

    Tck13 Senior member

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    I was browsing the forum Amazon bookstore just as a way of supporting the forum and noticed the shirtmaking book. I'm not a tailor and have not made any clothing of my own, I don't even have a sewing machine. I'm fairly good with my hands but I guess that doesn't mean much. I'm just toying with the idea of trying to make shirts as a hobby. I can see that collars and cuffs are going to be a challenge; I wish that I could see what would be on the 'recommended requirements' list similar to what one gets on the side of computer software/hardware [​IMG]


    To get a start, you could go to a fabric store, pick up a pattern and the required fabric and make a shirt. It would be that easy. You should get thread, a fabric shears and a couple of other tools.

    If you want to make your own custom shirt, you could do that but it would require patternmaking experience. Patternmaking is quite a skill and requires some work.
     


  9. lefty

    lefty Senior member

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  10. william

    william Senior member

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  11. j

    j (stands for Jerk) Admin

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    What I know about sewing I learned by watching my mother and grandmother. I bought a machine to do some very simple alterations and also made a couple of things -- fleece hats, sox, and gloves, fleece pullovers.

    It is also not as simple as it would frst appear. There are speciality machines for more complex work. One such essential machine is a serger [sp?]. Even as a hobbiest you will need one. They are not prohibitively expensive, ($400 and up) but you should plan on taking classes to learn how to use it. Most big cities with stores that sell them also hold classes.


    Actually you can do quite a lot without a serger. Remember that the serger was not even available for many years after sewing machines, and the patterns designed for them, became popular.

    They are definitely nice to have and make some things much easier, but definitely not essential for a hobbyist.
     


  12. lefty

    lefty Senior member

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    Thanks lefty! I've found several classes in London, but alas I live in Atlanta, GA. The dimlights link is helpful though. Maybe I could take a short summer course or something.

    The focus seems to be cowboy boots but if you make like Jack Nicholson ordering toast in Five Easy Pieces you should be able to get what you want.

    Good luck,

    lefty
     


  13. whatsinaname

    whatsinaname Well-Known Member

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    As someone who did teach himself shirtmaking using Coffin's book, it's definitely possible. When I started, I didn't even know how to thread the sewing machine. Now I've probably made a half dozen nice shirts (and one for my girlfriend --- don't underestimate how wonderful handmade clothes can be as gifts). Not surprisingly, there were about 10 shirts that I made at the beginning that were throw aways for various reasons (pattern problems, cutting mistakes, sewing mistakes, etc.). I think it's been about 2 years since I started.

    To make a shirt doesn't require much equipment: a sewing machine (a new Kenmore is about $100-150), scissors, thread, pins, fabric, interfacing (gives cuffs and collars body), an iron, and a pattern. Oh, and buttons. And a seam ripper and patience. [​IMG] My first shirts took forever to make, but as I've progressed, I've developed my own "system" for doing the tricker parts faster and better. I'm probably in the 6-8 hour range now.

    Start with inexpensive fabric and a less fitted shirt pattern (the more fitted, the more precision is required) and be prepared to make mistakes. Good luck!
     


  14. william

    william Senior member

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    As someone who did teach himself shirtmaking using Coffin's book, it's definitely possible. When I started, I didn't even know how to thread the sewing machine. Now I've probably made a half dozen nice shirts (and one for my girlfriend --- don't underestimate how wonderful handmade clothes can be as gifts). Not surprisingly, there were about 10 shirts that I made at the beginning that were throw aways for various reasons (pattern problems, cutting mistakes, sewing mistakes, etc.). I think it's been about 2 years since I started.

    To make a shirt doesn't require much equipment: a sewing machine (a new Kenmore is about $100-150), scissors, thread, pins, fabric, interfacing (gives cuffs and collars body), an iron, and a pattern. Oh, and buttons. And a seam ripper and patience. [​IMG] My first shirts took forever to make, but as I've progressed, I've developed my own "system" for doing the tricker parts faster and better. I'm probably in the 6-8 hour range now.

    Start with inexpensive fabric and a less fitted shirt pattern (the more fitted, the more precision is required) and be prepared to make mistakes. Good luck!


    Great story! I may seriously get into this in a few years. Thanks for the writeup.
     


  15. Despos

    Despos Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Many fabric shops have sewing classes or continuing ED or colleges. Instruction to sewing a shirt could easily be found in most cities.

    I took a continuing ed class when I was 18 and made a navy blue with white windowpane, very fine wale corduroy shirt.
     


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