My husband is resolutely a t-shirt kind of man. Which is something of a shame, as he looks splendid in a shirt, particularly a short-sleeved one. Therefore, I was more than delighted when he mentioned offhandedly that he was considering wearing a shirt to work now and again and might need to find some new ones. I immediately thought about the shirt patterns I had and decided to give the Negroni a go. It’s my first man’s collared shirt and I’m really pleased with how it turned out!
I bought this lovely soft shirting from District Fabrics in Seattle. (Indeed, I got the pattern there as a free anniversary sale giveaway). It has a subtle grey check and feels soft and featherlight on the skin. It does crush quite easily, but in a good way – more “crumpled Colin Firth” than creased.
The Negroni shirt from Colette Patterns is described as “a classic, slightly retro shirt with a more modern cut”. I’m not entirely sure what that description means, but you can see from the picture that it’s a little different to your average department store shirt. The collar has no stand (it’s apparently known as a camp collar), the sleeves are long and quite wide, and the whole thing has a definite 50s feel to it. I think it’s a perfect shirt for men who don’t like wearing shirts very much. It’s a little more casual, more laid-back and you wouldn’t tuck this guy into your trousers either.
The shirt features felled seams, a lined back yoke, and sleeve plackets on the long sleeve version. As well as the camp collar, there’s a midcentury style collar loop detail, but I didn’t bother with that on this occasion. I also went for the short-sleeved version, since that’s my husband’s preference, but I’d be up for trying the long-sleeved shirt too. I made a couple of changes and these were virtually all around the sleeve area, which I’ll cover later on.
Alright, so onto construction. I used a combination of Colette’s excellent instructions book and the Negroni sewalong from Peter of Male Pattern Boldness. I actually forgot about the sewalong until halfway through, but was glad I remembered it as the extra photos are really helpful when it comes to the facings and yokes construction, amongst other things. Peter also covers things like fitting and adaptions to the pattern, but I haven’t got that far yet. I’ll definitely go back and read it now I’ve made the first shirt though, since I’m sure it will all be useful stuff.
I made the XL according to my husband’s measurements and I’m still trying to figure out if I should have gone down a size. He’s pretty tall and rather broad-shouldered, so I was surprised to see that the shoulders almost look a tad wide on him. I’m still mulling over whether it’s just the looser fit of the style of shirt or not. It’s interesting, because he has a long torso and so I often have to lengthen this on tees, but you can see clearly from the photo that that wasn’t necessary this time.
The shirt is meant to be worn outside and so it is a little longer anyway, but I do just wonder if the XL is just a little, well… XL in proportions. This is most evident in the sleeves, which I promise I will get to presently. But I looked at various versions on patternreview.com and my impression was that the S and M all seemed to be a reasonably good fit, whereas the L and XL were a bit oversized. Now, of course, I am not taking individual fitting corrections or exact body shapes into detailed consideration, but that was just my impression, so it might be worth checking out. If you’ve made this shirt, what did you think? Did you find the sizing okay?
For once I had a paper pattern, so I traced out the XL as was and got to cutting pieces. It was fairly straightforward and there were even fewer pieces than normal for a shirt, given the lack of collar stand and so on. The front facings and one side of the collar are interfaced, but nothing too finicky.
Pockets and flaps
I followed the general order of Colette’s instructions and that meant constructing the pocket flaps and pockets first. I will keep this short, but basically because of a power cut and subsequent repowering of sewing machine set at a different needle position (honestly!), I ended up with pockets that were smaller than the flaps. I only realized when trying to press the pockets around a cardboard template I’d made to get a smooth finish and they wouldn’t fit. I sewed them on anyway and hummed and hawed and nearly redid them completely. But… I think they’re okay. My topstitching wasn’t marvellous either to compound the issue, but I just. can’t. face. it. again. And I don’t think you’d know if you didn’t know. My husband certainly didn’t notice and he notices everything.
Next in the process, the collar and facings are assembled, which was very straightforward and worked well. The shirt back is sewn with two pleats, which is a nice detail (although I could have pressed the back a little better for this photo, argh).
The collar is attached and I really thought the instructions were good here. For the facings and yoke I used the sewalong as well, as it does get quite complicated and the photos show more clearly which part you’re sewing where. I did still take a leap of faith a couple of times, but it all worked out first time, thanks in part to the handy burrito method of yoke construction. I did make a note to clip and grade the various seams you run into as it’s not always explicitly mentioned, but does make quite a bit of difference to the final product I feel.
Okay – the sleeves! As mentioned, the sleeves are unusual because they’re sewn on flat, rather than eased in the round. I’ve never seen that before on a woven shirt, but I’m used to the technique from making t-shirts, so just approached it the same way. I’d been just ruminating over how I always find that notches and seams on Colette patterns always match up perfectly for me. The same cannot be said for every indie pattern I’ve made, but even in complicated Colette pieces, they are millimetre perfect (see above photo when pinning a complex part). Anyway, I pinned the sleeves on, but there suddenly seemed to be a HUGE amount of extra sleeve cap to ease in. I quickly consulted the sewalong, but Peter mentioned the ease was good, so then I worried I’d made a mistake.
I decided to push ahead and just sew it. I made sure the sleeve side was on the bottom and sewed the seam at 3/8″ slowly and whaddya know – it just eased in! I guess it’s to do with the curvature and how you sew it, but it sewed together beautifully. What a relief! I actually found turning and adding the flat felled seam a LOT trickier than the initial easing in, (I will need to practice that!) but the result from the right side is pretty nice. Speaking of flat felled seams, I really appreciated the direction on this from Colette, and I do think the final result is worth the effort. It looks very polished.
Having said that the shoulder cap worked, I then decided to cut two inches off the bottom of the sleeve and increase the hem to two turns of an inch each. Even then, I still think the sleeves look a lot nicer with an additional roll turn-up to them. I noticed the same issue with quite a few of the short-sleeved and particularly larger-sized Negronis I saw. You can see the difference clearly from the back in the pics above, and this was after I reduced the sleeve. So, I don’t know if I just prefer a slimmer sleeve, or if these are actually oversized, but my husband and I both like them a lot better with these adjustments. I would definitely look at using a slimmer pattern piece next time.
Finally, just the buttons, final hem and finishing. I used 5/8″ buttons rather than 1/2″ and I like the effect of the black on grey. The top button sits in just the right place for me. I did mull over whether to add another at the bottom, but I think that would just emphasise the length of the shirt. For me, the balance is okay between length and buttons as is. The hem I kept as per the instructions.
And that is the Negroni shirt! Quite a long post, but lots to remind myself of. My sewing wasn’t perfect, with a few little mistakes here and there, but nothing a bit of practice won’t fix. Most importantly, my husband seems to like it and wore it out the first night I finished it, so that’s all the assessment I need! 🙂 Negroni – you’re a win!