Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday 1 December 2014

Sewing a shirt is like getting back onto a bike

Collar, cuffs, darts, yoke and plackets 
. . . not to mention buttonholes

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you may already know I've been sewing a shirt. It's not my first go at dressmaking, I started making my own clothes when I was about 10 but the habit petered out when life got busier. Apart from curtains and a pair of pyjama trousers, I have done no dressmaking since making my own wedding dress . . . it's been a while!

But the intention was there and about 2 years ago I bought some fabric – Liberty Tana Lawn with a design by Grayson Perry. (I now wish I'd bought all his designs in all the colourway, sadly they are no longer available.)

small detail of 'Flo'
by Grayson Perry 2009
(I think this is my favourite detail)

I dithered and couldn't find the right pattern, I just wanted a simple ladies shirt. Luckily Su spotted just the thing and recommended Simplicity 1538 – it was the kick start I needed . . .

The story of a shirt

Cutting out the pattern pieces brought all my dressmaking memories flooding back . . . this was going to be fun :-) 

I do love a bit of hand-stitching!

And then came the difficult bit . . .

I used my 1970s Singer Starlet electric sewing machine to sew the seams and do the top-stitching but what about the buttonholes?
Starlet does zig-zag stitching and her booklet has instructions for doing a bottonhole, BUT no matter how hard I tried on pieces of scrap fabric, the results weren't neat enough for me. So I got out 'THE book' and practiced hand-stitching buttonholes.

I must have had better eyesight 20 years ago!
Things improved considerably when I decided to use my illuminated desk magnifier! (the one I use when carving lino blocks)

And there it is

Just needs a final press . . .

and some pearls ;-)

I wore it while selling my cards and prints at our village Christmas Bazaar on Saturday morning . . . I'm not sure how many people noticed the quirky fabric . . .

But this exchange on Twitter is one to treasure!

What shall I sew next?
I fancy making a skirt . . . if you know of a nice pattern please let me know.

Celia xx


  1. It looks gorgeous finished and well done with the button holes. I'm so glad you liked the pattern, I'm sure you'll wear it over and over again. Skirt patterns - have you looked on Backstitch or The Village Haberdashery, they both have a good range of patterns by modern designers?

  2. What fabulous fabric, and your blouse really does it justice. I always think that handworked buttonholes look eversomuch better than machine made ones, yours look quite all right!

  3. Oh bravo to you, Celia! Your blouse has turned out wonderfully...yes, the fabric and pattern suit each other very well. You were wise to go the handworked buttonholes. And to accessorize with those pearls.

    I am treasuring my covered buttons. And thank you again for your thoughtful gift.


  4. It's gorgeous Celia - I love it! I love that pattern and the colours too.
    Well done :)

  5. It is fabulous Celia. Absolutely love it!

  6. Lovely shirt and beautiful fabric!

  7. It's a triumph Celia but as soon as I read the line 'making my own wedding dress' I knew it was going to be. Hand stitched buttonholes sounds like hard work but the finished result is perfect and I think that Grayson/Claire would love it, especially with that set of pearls!

  8. It's gorgeous! and tweeted at by Grayson Perry too - amazing!

    I have only recently been made aware that he had designed fabric and now it seems I am too late to get some, what a shame.

  9. Fabulous, both the pattern and the material. Isn't it wonderful to have something which is quite simply yours?

  10. The shirt and the twitter exchange are both wondrous things and to be cherished. And yay! for Ms Dilmont, she's my go-to to.

  11. Haven't seen a sewing pattern since school! You have brought back memories of all the things I made!

  12. A great bit of sewing Celia and you'll so enjoy wearing your lovely shirt. I made a dress last year and it was such fun to be dressmaking again but I had trouble finding a pattern I liked. Sadly I parted with all my patterns years ago, how I wish I'd kept them!

  13. Oh my! a tweet from @alan_measles! The fabric is wonderful, love your blouse. I used to make clothes for myself and all the family but haven't done so for ages. I suppose it's like riding a bike, and it comes back once you start! x

  14. Ooh lovely. I could never make anything like this but I enjoy admiring what other people can do. The print is a bit like a modern Eric Ravilious.


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