Thoughts on men's shirts (Negroni: Part 1)

Last week it was exactly ten years since I married my lovely husband. I have always known that he was bigger than me, but it wasn't until I started cutting out the pattern pieces to make him a shirt that I realised that men, all men, are just big...a different beast entirely when it comes to dressmaking (or should that be tailoring?). When you look at the grading lines on a men's pattern, they aren't just a fraction apart, they are whole inches apart, as if man's very maleness has trickled (or stamped) its way onto the pattern and refused to be effeminised by any curves closely following one another, one size ready to be easily merged with another. Each line stands alone: certain, distinct and self-assured.

The moment I saw the Colette Patterns Negroni shirt I fell in love with it and was quite desperate to make one for my husband. I'd had it in my mind to make him a shirt to celebrate our anniversary, but unfortunately the Negroni pattern took its time arriving in England, so my start on it has been a little delayed. However, that has ended up being no bad thing, as Ian has really enjoyed seeing the shirt coming together and deciding on some of the details. There's something special about a handmade shirt.

Silk Matka
Over Christmas I started researching fabric. My first thought was Anna Maria's voile, but I worried that some of the magic of the gift might have disintegrated in the wardrobe if he had to wait for four months before it was warm enough to wear it. However, Ray-Stitch have an amazing collection of apparel cottons and Rachel sent me a beautiful selection of samples to choose from.

Organic Cotton Crossweave
Organic Handloom Cotton
These are some of the fabric samples that I considered, before choosing the pale blue Organic Crossweave in the second photo. It was a close call between that and the soft grey organic handloom cotton.

A man's shirt is beyond my own pattern drafting skills and I had impatiently begun to think about whether I should buy an envelope pattern when the Negroni spent so long making its way to England (the very thought now makes me want to sit in a darkened room weeping at the fun that would have passed me by) - I'm so pleased that sometimes it takes a while for me to act on a thought, because the Colette pattern has been so worth waiting for. The techniques involved in making a shirt are far more complex than many that I've tackled before using an envelope pattern, and yet they were all undertaken without the strokey beard moments that one would usually expect because the instructions and diagrams are so transparent - I am in love with how Sarai writes a pattern - it feels to be part pattern, part masterclass with an expert seamstress. Perfect.

Working through the pattern has taught me so many new techniques: how to flat fell seams on both a curved and straight seam; a fiendishly clever way of putting the back facing into a shirt that I would just never have guessed at; how to make a sleeve placket, which is something that I've been longing to learn as I will be able to use this so much in the clothing patterns that I draft for myself. 

I can't wait to show you the finished shirt, but it could be a few days as during winter my husband leaves for work in the dark and arrives home cloaked in it too. I am thinking that it would be inappropriate to ask him to go in later one day for blogging purposes, no...?

Florence x


  1. When I was making shirts for my husband, I was always amazed at how wide they were across the shoulder - and yet he was incredibly slim at the time. I know what you mean about the back facing - neat isn't it!

  2. I hope you photograph the shirt at the weekend! I have a colette pattern waiting for the right fabric. I'm looking forward more and more to making it up now I have read your endorsement.

    C x

  3. My OH has always stubbornly refused to let me knit anything for him and it has always upset me that I am making things for everyone except him. However I showed him this shirt pattern and he has stated that "it's alright, I'd wear that". I nearly fainted with surprise. Now you have said how well written the pattern is, I might have the courage to give it a go.

    Thanks for the detailed review, it helps when you are going to spend quite a lot of money on a pattern, to know what you are getting.

  4. You might be interested in this blog. He is doing a men's shirt sew-a-long and the negroni pattern I believe is one that was mentioned.

  5. Hi Florence.I am half way through making a shirt for Dave spurred on by the success of the grandad shirt I made him years ago now. Unfortunately, I hd to leave it part way through as I was so busy with orders and now I just can't get going on it again as I feel out of touch with it all. I saw the Negroni shirt pattern and was tempted to ignore the other and start again! Lookingg forward to seeing how you get on with it Florence x

  6. I am so glad you like the pattern! I think one reason there aren't many men's short patterns out there is that the techniques are so specific. So that's why I put a lot of effort into making the instructions comprehensive. Would you mind if I saved some of your thoughts? Some day I'd like to include testimonials like yours right on the website!

  7. Jane, yes, my husband is quite slight too...but nice broad shoulders.

    Catherine - I really enjoyed using the crossweave cotton that I chose - it's the perfect weight for this kind of weather as it has more weight than a regular cotton (think heavier than quilting weight, but more refined than linen).

    Chrissy, I've just seen your beautiful knitting, and am wondering how your other half could refuse to wear it...surely everyone is in need of a jumper? However, in the absence of a woolen jumper being well received then this pattern is really wonderful and I can't recommend it highly enough - and the lovely thing about men is their clothes just seem to fit so dart or bust adjustments needed.

    Dayna - I've kept seeing his blog mentioned in the last week or so - what a fantastic name! Thank you so much for leaving the link - I've now added it to my google reader. I'd love to be disciplined enough to take part in a sew-along, but I'm afraid I'd be the person trying to persuade everyone that we should just stay up all night and finish it in one go...I am not very good at turning the machine off when there is fun to be had!

    Hello dear Pipany - I find it so hard to reignite my interest in a project if I've let it drift like that, so I can see exactly why you're wanting to just start it over again...hmmm. I think that you should pencil in some holiday time and close the shop (my clients would be happy but poor if I were a financial advisor...).

    Sarai - yes, you're completely right - they do feel very specific - doing this pattern I felt like a beginner all over again as so many of the techniques were ones that I hadn't come across in dressmaking. Please do save away - I'd be delighted for you to use any of my words in a testimonial section!

    Thank you so much for commenting,
    Florence x

  8. Congratulations on your anniversary! We've just celebrated 10 years together (not married; I imagine you two met a while before your wedding day :-)) - don't you feel too young to be into double figures?!

    I take your recommendations *very* seriously after discovering the wonder of vegetable cakes and using your make-up bag pattern, so I'll see how my boyfriend feels about a home-made shirt. I have the Raystitch samples; aren't they nice? I've also bought yarn to knit a tank-top for the man and I had to buy a surprising amount - he too is pretty slim but the same amount of wool would make a long-sleeved jumper for me.

  9. Oh congratulations on your anniversary too, Nina. Yes, thankfully we did know one another before the wedding - I met him when I was 18 and we married at 23. Which means that in a few years I will have spent half my life with him. It is indeed very odd to be in double brings an unwelcome feeling of being aged to an otherwise very happy idea!

    I'd love to know which of the cakes you've tried as I'm still working my way through the book (favourites are the coffee cake and the chocolate mint cupcakes).

    If it sways your boyfriend (and that by contrast makes you sound wonderfully youthful) my husband told me last night that a handmade shirt is only comparable to the feeling that having a custom made guitar would bring. I think this translates to mean it's really rather wonderful...

    Florence x

  10. Hi Florence,
    This pattern and the others on the Colette pattern site look fantastic! I am a tentative novice wanting to start sewing garments and it is always interesting to hear of patterns that have step by step instructions.

    Do you mind me asking one thing though (and it's nothing to do with the sewing!)? I've always been wary of buying something from abroad because ..... do Customs and Excise in England slap an (unknown?) amount on for tax? If they do, how does the process work?

    I did once try to understand the Customs and Excise website but it was an eye-glazing experience :)

    Thank you :)

  11. Hi Elaine

    Firstly, there's no need to order the shirt pattern from the states as it's now available all over the internet in the UK. When I said I was waiting for it to arrive in England I meant that it hadn't yet arrived with any of our online sewing shops. However, the pattern is quite involved if you're new to sewing, so I'd look for a Colette pattern that's listed as a beginner pattern (the shirt pattern is intermediate).

    However, for future reference, the custom charges seem to be very random - sometimes things sail through, arrive quickly, with no charge to pay, other times they take weeks to arrive and incur a hefty customs charge.

    If your seller ticks the 'gift' box then you won't pay customs on your package at all, but it's actually illegal for them to do that.

    Although they tend to take a little longer to get things in stock our online shops now stock most things you could want, so I'm increasingly finding that there's less need to order from overseas. If you go to this link below I've listed lots of lovely UK online fabric suppliers.

    I hope that helps,
    Florence x

  12. Thank you Florence, that helps a lot!

    I certainly wasn't going to try the men's shirt right at this moment! Perhaps in ..... umm ..... a zillion years time :)
    It was just your description of the good instructions promted me to look at their easier patterns.

    I'll have another look over the shops on your links page. Already found Gone To Earth that way and they give fantastic service.

    PS Congatulations on your Anniversary. This year my John and I will have been married for 28 years and we knew one another for about 2 years before that. Think I now feel old .... but perhaps young at heart :P

  13. Yes, I must be getting old because 'boyfriend' is sounding a bit too juvenile and casual after a decade! We've experimented with 'partner' but not sure that's quite right either.

    Having been in the bass shop with him only yesterday, I imagine thoughts of a custom-made bass guitar could well swing the shirt deal for me - thanks for the tip!

    As for the cakes, I've done Birthday Cake, Beach and Blanket Fruit Cake, Sunken Apricot and Almond Cake (actually my sister made it for me), and the Forbidden Chocolate Brownies. All excellent - email me if you want my in-depth analyses!


Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x