Adventure in Fabricland

Adventure in Fabricland
Saturday — April 9th, 2011

Making A Dress Shirt

Last weekend I decided to make my own dress shirt. I started looking online for instructions, but none of them were any good. I did find this one site called which had some awesome designs. However, they didn’t tell me how to start, what fabric to buy or how long it would take.

So I decided to just wing it. I would go buy a bunch of fabric and design my own original shirt from nothing but my imagination. I stated this idea out loud and my girlfriend’s 90 year old grandma over heard me. Grandma happened to be a master seamstress, the kind that wore only clothes she made herself. She told me that it would be wise to go buy a template from fabric land, and even offered to help guide me through the task.

I was shocked to hear that they had “Templates” or patterns. Somehow I always though they did it from scratch/memory or something. Then I realized most trades have a method to the madness, such as bakers with recipes, or bloggers with WordPress templates.

Off to fabricland we went. I have a personality of mentally cataloging everything so going into a new environment with all this new stuff to catalog was like going into a candy store with a pocket full of cash. After wondering around oooing and ahhing everything, we finally found where the templates were kept. It turns out, they have dozens of magazines full of female clothing, and only a page or two of guy clothing. I was shocked at first, but seeing as I was the only dude in the store I came to realize they were just catering to the crowd.

After making friends with a fellow customer at counter, she taught me about the process. She taught me how to pick a template, by picking a size based on my usually clothing measurements. She even told me that some template companies have tighter fits. She taught me how much fabric I would need, by converting the cryptic numbers on the back of the template. There is nothing quite like learning from professionals. By the time I left the store, I had my soft cotton paddington bear rain boot patterned cloth, with a dozen red buttons and dress shirt template ready to go. I had decided that my first dress shirt would likely suck, so I mind as well make it something I can wear to sleep.

I arrive back at my girlfriend’s house and immediately get to work. I open the package to find 2 thin large pieces of patterned paper, and 2 large newspaper size instructions. I think to myself, I’m in trouble. But having constructed many a Gundam in my day, I am not one to shy away from building something without knowing the language. I layout the pattern, and start cutting. Mid way through my paper craft I realized that they may have already laid the pattern out in an optimal way. So I try to piece together the puzzle I just took apart to take a picture. I become horribly confused. Thats when Grandma came and told me that I didn’t need all the parts.

You see, templates come with all the parts for making all configurations of the shirt. This includes long sleeve, short sleeve, pocket and pocketless versions. She was able to tell me, by simply looking at the my cut out piece of paper that it was the sleeve for the short sleeve version. That’s when I realized how pro she was, and when I realized that I needed to look at the instructions more carefully. Turns out that in the instructions they have optimal pattern layouts depending on the shirt you are trying to make. They actually teach you how to lay the pattern out, and if you should lay it out on the fold of the cloth or not. Lucky for me cutting out all the pieces was the first step before laying it out. After about 2 hours with the scissor, I finally finish cutting out all the patterns from the cloth.

It then dawned on me that I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine. Grandma to the rescue. After stubbing my thumb on the machine, being yelled at for not listening to her and trying to follow the instructions, which she claimed were wrong or stupid (she was right of course), she managed to teach me how to use the darn thing. I also learnt about interfacing, the need to add an extra piece of cloth in-between two other pieces to give it body.

After about 5 hours I finally managed to construct a shirt, minus the collar, buttons and pockets. I plan on finishing it this weekend. I’ll upload the photos when it’s done.



If you’re Canadian, you know the jingle:

– Alex

Pics or it didn’t happen



  1. Delta Pangaea

    Your stories can be just as interesting as your comics.

    I worked at a… ‘Homemaker’ store for a while, filling shelves. Granted I was in the curtains and blinds stuff, since all fabric looks the same to me, but I was there.

    Then they stopped giving me shifts… but I think I’m still technically employed there, so I think I still get a staff discount. XD

  2. Danny

    Thanks Delta, it’s the only way I can keep giving Alex things to draw. You should totally make use of that discount :D


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