Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to Make a Quick and Easy Renaissance Poet Shirt

I've always wanted to make a poet style shirt. I purchased this pattern some time ago because I love the Medieval and Renaissance style costumes.  I've just been waiting for a play set in the Renaissance period to make a few of these. 
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My chance to make a poet shirt arrived while costuming "Much Ado Ado About Nothing."  Unfortunately I had just finished one play and volunteered to costume "Much Ado" with just 2 weeks until dress rehearsal.  We focused much of the time we had toward borrowing and renting (cringe) costumes.  By the time we got to the shirts, I had less than 24 hours to make two of these, while working two jobs. 

The Costume MomTM Solution!
I quickly realized that the collars and yolk portions of this costume would be the most time consuming. I found two white dress shirts, cut off the lower half of the shirt and sleeves and added on the poet style shirt and sleeves. It took me 3 hours to make the first one - including the time to purchase the fabric. The second shirt took me less than 2 hours. 

Here is the approach I used:

I started with a men's white dress shirt.  For this first shirt, I removed the collar.  I laid Simplicity Pattern 3519 - Piece number 4 - the yolk piece - on the shirt, lining up the center seams and shoulders.  Note, the pattern piece is right side up when cutting the left side of the shirt and face down when cutting the right side of the shirt as shown below.

I cut the shirt (through both the front and back layers) following the pattern piece.  Above you can see the front and back of the shirt after I had cut it along the pattern piece.

I then cut out pattern pieces 1 (shirt front), 2 (shirt back), 3 (sleeves) out of matching white fabric. I finished the raw edges of the shirt and the newly cut fabric on my serger machine, but you could just as easily use a zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine.

I followed the pattern steps to join the sleeves to the front and back of the shirt pieces. I used my favorite method to gather the shirt. (Zig-zag stitch over waxed dental floss - works like a charm. No broken threads and easy to re-thread through the zig-zag stitching, with a large eyed needle, if it gets pulled out.)

I then lined up the seems of the sleeves and sides, pinned with right sides together and adjusted the gathering as needed. Stitch the yolk to the lower half of the shirt and sew up the side and sleeve seems.

Following the sewing pattern instructions, I created a casing at the bottom of each sleeve and using the elastic guide provided in the pattern, cut the elastic to length and fed it through the casing.

Costume MomTM Sewing Tip!
Hand stitch elastic closed. I find that my sewing machine sometimes jams while sewing elastic or the stitching does not hold.  Hand stitching has proven to be stronger and longer lasting.

 Lessons learned:
I was so pleased with how simple these shirts were to make!  The most time consuming part was adjusting the gathering.  Here are a few time saving tips when you are ready to make a Renaissance shirt:
  • I recommend using Simplicity 3519 sewing pattern.
  • Take your starting shirt with you to the fabric store. "White" fabric varies greatly in color. I was able to find $2.99 and $3.99 - 44" wide white broadcloth at Joann Fabrics that worked perfectly. (Then I used a 40% off coupon!) 
  • You will need 2.5 - 3 yards of fabric for the front, back and sleeves.
  • Gather each piece individually, not as one long, continuous gather.  This is a definite time saver!
  • Next time I make a poet shirt, I think I might make the sleeves and shirt a little more narrow.
The second shirt:

For the second shirt, I found a blouse at a local thrift shop that already had the gathered sleeves. I did not remove the collar on this shirt.

Instead of lining the pattern piece up with the shoulders and the center seam, I used the gathered sleeve line as a guide.

This is the remaining shirt yolk and sleeves.  I only had to add the poet shirt front and back.

 Lessons learned:
  • The second shirt I made proved to be much more challenging than the first.  If I had to do it over again, I probably would have saved time by cutting off the sleeves.  I spent a lot of time making adjustments to accommodate the existing sleeves.
  • Keep the collars.  The shirt with the collar looks just as great as the shirt with the collar removed.  (Of course, if the collar is stained, removing the collar may be an improvement!)

1 comment:

  1. Very impressed! I'm just a beginner at sewing at the age of 49. I'm also handicapped at sewing just because I'm male. I'm currently attempting Simplicity 3519 and the collar and neck opening pieces are giving me massive trouble. Love the way you incorporated existing shirts into the finished product!