About me

My photo
I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


Follow by Email

Follow me on Instagram


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Craftsy review: Pam Howard's Classic Tailored shirt

One of the many things that happened to me over the summer was that my male relatives got a look at the shirts I have started to make for my sons and put in orders.

So many in fact that my fall sewing is going to involve alternating between projects for myself and projects for other people - with a required trip to NYC (great) for supplies.

I usually am not all that crazy about sewing for other people, because non sewers can be incredibly picky and request things that can't really be done (can you let out this wedding dress 4" - I forgot to tell you I was pregnant) but family, and those who want basically the same garment, are different.

Also let's face it my vanity took a nice boost to actually have requests for my sewing when the response around here to some of the things I make for myself can run along the lines of "well I wouldn't wear it."

Since I appear to be on a shirt making roll I decided to sign up for Pam Howard's shirt making class on Craftsy.

I will be honest with you, my Craftsy experiences have been mixed, ranging from a fabulous beginners crochet and some interesting cooking classes to a design your own knitwear class that, I should have known better, seemed to require a Phd in advanced mathematics - something that a person who was bribed to finish her grade 10 algebra by her teacher father with promises of pickled herring (I will pretty much do anything for pickled herring) is unlikely to ever get.

Back to Pam Howard's class.

It really wasn't what I was expecting.

In my mind, based on no evidence, I was hoping for some more tricks and tips - industrial methods or maybe a new way of doing the tricky parts, sort of an expanded Off the Cuff style.

I was surprised to find instead that Howard uses fairly conventional techniques and this really is a woman's style shirt, as opposed to a classic man's shirt (which is exactly what the course description promised).

For instance she hand sews down her collar bands and cuffs (no burrito method here) and uses a continuous placket rather than a real tailored placket. I was also surprised that she does her final press with sizing, which I am pretty sure is hard to get in Canada.

So at first impression I was a little disappointed.

Then I watched more closely.

What makes Howard's sewing amazingly precise is her technique at the machine and the ironing board. Like the best of professional sewers she really knows how to manipulate fabric with her hands and that is the secret to her accuracy.

She also has an amazingly calm and serene style and approach - you just feel yourself relaxing when you listen to her - and this, I realized, the perfect anecdote to the mentality of the quick and very experienced sewer who has got into the habit of rushing through sewing.

Pam Howard's message is - slow down, be careful, try holding it this way, enjoy the process - exactly what someone who has been sewing forever, like me, needs to hear.

So this morning as I took it a bit easier and used her simple but careful "finger felling" technique on the current shirt, I actually produced my best ever flat felled seam, no mess, no fuss and no stress.

So my verdict: great class, great teacher, more for even an experienced sewer to learn that may first appear, a great way to get back to some precision sewing and, most of all, find the zen in the process again.

Thank you Pam.


Mary said...

I have this in my class list and am looking forward to using the class to make up a fall shirt. I think I'll use her methods, along with the famous Shirtmaking book by David Coffin. Thanks for the review, and happy sewing!

mrsmole said...

I too bought that class a while back but didn't start to watch...go involved with a couple others but I will surely start the process now...thanks for such a great review!

theresa said...

Agree with your assessment. This was the first Craftsy class for me and I was expecting more tips and tricks but you are correct, she is an accomplished sewist and a great instructor.

Sewing Princess said...

I also took the class last winter and made two shirts. At the beginning I found her too slow but enjoyed it in the end.., and learned heaps. btw you're very funny!

Robin said...

I, too, enrolled in this class months ago but never followed through watching the videos. Thanks for the review. I am always amazed when I see a beautiful handmade shirt. Patience and practice are virtues in any endeavor.

Linda said...

I have signed up for several classes on Craftsy. I have enjoyed most. I am not a shirt sewing person so that class may not be for me; I am finding that even though I have sewn for many, many, many years I can always learn something new and have from some of the classes.

debbie said...

I haven't taken this class but I sew the same way you're describing Pam's sewing. Slow. Not slow in the time sense but slow as in even the most basic garment gets my full attention. I'm (usually) not in any hurry when I sew and try not to short change any aspect of a garment.

Jodie said...

Hi Barb:
I'll go back through your blog (in case you've already answered my question) but I wouldn't mind a recommendation of a men's long sleeve shirt pattern. My husband wears them to work in...and would appreciate a hand-made/tailored one. He's a traditional guy and likes button downs. Any advice would be appreciated. I of course am teaching full-time high school foods studies and am costuming/set design for the musical there this year so this shirt may not happen anytime soon, but a girl can dream!

Barbara said...

Hi Jodie, For a button down I like McCalls 6613 although I do not interface the band, enough layers without that.

Good luck with your term and your sewing. I completely know what it is like to try to fit both into one life.


Sharon said...

Good to hear your thoughts about this class, it is one of the many in my Craftsy cupboard. A bit worried about the knitting one now, looks like I need to brush up on the maths!!

Lynn Barnes said...

Once I started felling seams the way recommended by Threads magazine some 20 years ago (or more) in an article about Angelhart (not sure of spelling) clothing, I never went back. You offset the seams by about 1/4" for the first sewing pass, in which you put the farthest edge against the 5/8" mark on your machine. Then finger-press the seam open. Fold the longer edge over the shorter edge, flip, and sew down the second pass. Seems counterintuitive, but you end up having only taken 5/8" total for your felled seam -- with no fiddly tedious trimming of excess fabric before the second pass!

Sew Maris said...

Hi Barbara,
I am going to be hosting an Archer shirt sew-along on my blog soon - maybe you would be interested in joining us? Might pick up a trick or two! Or atleast have fun with us