Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Good Men's Shirting Is Hard to Find

Cartoonist Husband, being the creative and artistic type, has always been a big fan of my sewing--how else would he have obtained these custom Two-Face and Reno 911 Halloween costumes?

Two Face from head to toeMasheka dressed as Deputy S. Jones from Reno 911

Considering how smashingly those efforts were received, I've always meant to sew him something he can wear in everyday life. Modern men's sewing patterns are nearly as scarce as maternity patterns but luckily Masheka isn't looking for anything wild--just a nice hoodie or two and some woven sports shirts.

I've owned a copy of David Page Coffin's Shirtmaking: Developing Skills For Fine Sewing since it came out and together Masheka and I selected Kwik Sew 3422 pattern as the most promising starting point for a woven men's shirt:

Kwik Sew 3422 Mens Shirts

That was the easy part. Have you ever tried to find good men's shirting fabrics at reasonable prices? I don't feel like Masheka is asking too much--he's looking for something fun, but not too fun, in a striped 100% cotton men's shirting. No blends (he gets easily overheated), no checks or plaids or florals or Western-style fabrics (not his style) and nothing too boring or stuffy (he wears those kind of shirts for work, not for weekend). Which pretty much eliminated every single fabric I found online or in my Garment District wanderings for under $25/yard.

Here's an example of one of Masheka's few favorite weekend shirts, from Brooklyn Industries (depicted here on one of our trips to Merida, Mexico):

Masheka passing by the Hobo Hostel, Merida

And here's a closeup of the fabric for this shirt and another favorite (the stripes are actually blue on the second one):

White and orange striped men's shirtingBrown and blue striped men's shirting

Getting desperate, I decided to put aside cost for the moment and just try to figure out what exactly he liked. Enter Beckenstein Fashion Fabrics (aka Fabric Czar) on 39th St. This venerable institution makes custom-fitted men's suits and shirts, but also sells their high-quality men's fabrics retail. They must have nearly 1,000 different men's shirtings on display, all with a dozen swatches or so pinned to each bolt for easy sampling. The trouble is the price--$25/yard. I think the most I've ever paid for a fabric was $18.50/yard. But anyway, the swatches:

Men's Shirting Swatches

So what did Masheka like? And how did I find it for under $25? Answer after the jump!

Here were the results (click to enlarge):

I had a better idea of what he wanted, but the price was still an issue--I'm not trying to be too cheap, but I hardly think it's wise to spend $25/yard on a first shirt project requiring 2 1/2 yards when I've never so much as made a buttonhole in my life. I poked around the web a bit more, and finally found this $3.95/yard shirting from Denver Fabrics that bears a slight resemblance to the purple striped bit above. Masheka was agreeable, and I ordered 2.75 yards:

Purple Striped Cotton Shirting

When I'll actually find the time to sew this what with Cartoonist Baby so close to arriving and all the other projects in my queue is another matter...


  1. Those are some awesome costumes you've constructed! And the Kwik Sew model is cute (for a change). I'm really impressed by the amount of energy you are bringing to sewing so close to having a baby. Seriously, I was a sick, miserable wreck who always felt vaguely invaded by an alien. (Note: Now my baby is 10 and she's much more human seeming :-))

  2. Well, all my nesting instincts seemed to have gotten channeled into sewing... but we really DO need to get that nursery going in the next few weeks, although she'll be sleeping in our room for the first four to six months...

  3. Go to either H&M fabric store on 35th (between 7th & 8th or 39th (between 7th & 8th). They have some nice cotton shirting for $2/yd. I kid you not.

    Metro Textiles has a LOT of stuff for $4/yd: excellent quality too. You might start with Metro, actually. Their selection is quite good.

  4. I did actually go to both H&Ms (which I found when you showed them at the PR NYC meetup) but sadly none of those lovely $2/yard shirtings met with Masheka's approval--I did get one for myself for a shirtdress, though. I'll try Metro, though!

  5. Wait -- that "maybe" stripe on the lower left hand corner: I bought that at H&M a few months ago:

  6. Oh, you are so right, Peter--I will have to look again. I definitely didn't see it when I went there!


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