I love patterns, but there aren’t many that make me buy them STRAIGHT AWAY. The day after, yes, or maybe even on launch day. But not immediately. I bought the Perkins shirt by Ensemble Patterns approximately 4 and a half minutes after viewing it on Instagram. I just loved the shape of the gathered sleeves and the yoke. I wasn’t too sure whether it was really for my shape, given that it was oversized with no waist shaping, but I didn’t really care.
There aren’t too many blog posts about this shirt that I’ve found. Anna from Noodlehead has made an electric blue version to die for and the rest of the examples I found were on Instagram. This is classed as an intermediate pattern and I think it deserves the classification, so I’ve made a few notes on construction, in case any beginners fancy taking it on and it helps.
The Perkins pattern
Firstly, let’s look at the pattern itself. There are tons of options and they’re all fairly significant features, which is excellent for making different versions, but makes the choice even trickier than normal when deciding what to go for. You can choose between:
- Cropped shirt, regular shirt, tunic or dress lengths
- Mandarin collar or standard two-piece collar
- Regular yoke back or open slit yoke back
- Patch pockets and/or inseam pockets
- Regular front and back or gathered front and back
- Regular placket or hidden placket
I swithered back and forth, but eventually settled on the regular length shirt with the gathered back and front and a two-piece collar. I generally prefer a standard collar and the gathered Perkins I’ve seen are definitely the ones that made me sit up and pay attention. The open back yoke is very cute, but I think I’ll save that until I make a summery dress version or similar.
The shirt is basically a raglan sleeve type shirt, so there’s no setting of sleeves or cuffs or anything of that fiddly nature. The beautiful thing about the design, and what also makes it more of an intermediate pattern, is the finishing of the insides. You do not have to finish a single seam with a serger, overlocker, etc. Every seam is either a French seam or fully enclosed during the construction. Even the sleeve hems are enclosed. It’s a high end finish and I really enjoyed working through the instructions.
Fabric and Pattern
Whichever version you choose, you ideally want a fabric with a bit of drape for this pattern (unless you’re going for a particularly structured and full style), and I chose to use a mystery substrate that I bought at a Style Maker Fabrics yard sale a couple of years ago. It has a brushed surface like peachskin or a sueded fabric and is very lightweight like a crepe or similar. Whatever it is, it’s a bugger and a half to cut! It’s that kind of sneaky little ratfink type of a fabric where pieces mysteriously change shape the second after you’ve cut them out. Of course, I could have been sensible and starched it, but where’s the fun in that? Ha, kidding. I’m totally going to do that next time.
Anyway, I had 2.5 yards of Shifty McShifty and am left with mere scraps, so that’s what you’re looking at for this version. The instructions are nicely presented, but very dense. There is a ton of information here, and it can take a while to spot everything as there are little tips and snippets all over the place. For reference, for the version I made, you need to cut pieces 1 Gathered, 3 Gathered, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11. I made the size 16, which corresponds fairly closely to my measurements and was interested to see how it turned out, given that there is significant design ease built into this pattern.
Plackets: I chose the visible placket option and the plackets are put together in a simple and satisfying manner. My stripes don’t exactly match, but that was unlikely given my lack of extra fabric. The interfacing is very important, nay, crucial when using a lightweight fabric like this. The plackets actually behaved themselves under the needle, which was somewhat surprising, but I’ll take it.
Gathering front and back: Next, the gathering. Don’t do what I did and staystitch at 3/8″. It means you won’t be able to put a 3/8″ gathering line in afterwards! Totally my fault for not reading in advance and assuming a typical woven seam allowance of 5/8″. I sewed the gathering stitches at around 1/4″ and 7/16″ in the end because of my error, lol. I wasn’t quite sure where to gather to initially, but then realised the back yoke and sleeve give you the perfect gathering measure (this was also in the instructions of course).
Sewing the sleeves – it’s burrito time! : As I mentioned, the sleeves are raglan-style, so there’s no fiddly gathering and setting. However, instead you are finishing the sleeves and yoke at the same time by doing a sort of double-burrito move. The instructions are quite concise here, so I’ve added a few photos for you. Hopefully they might help a little when used with the instructions – they may just confuse you further – but I tried!
First, you need to sew the sleeve shoulders…
Now it’s time to sew the sleeve hems – yep, you finish them off completely at this point…
There we go – that wasn’t too bad was it? Finishing the sleeves off with this enclosed double hem was an interesting detail. I like the effect, but my fabric doesn’t press exceedingly well, so I need to try and get a sharper finish somehow. I imagine in a fabric that takes a good press, it would be an immensely pleasing finish.
Pocket/s: The inseam pockets are mostly for the tunic and dress versions of Perkins, but I had originally considered adding (cut out in fact) one of the oversized patch pockets. I realised as I started working with the fabric that that probably wasn’t going to give me a satisfactory outcome, so I abandoned the idea, but wanted to mention that I couldn’t find any mention of the patch pocket in the instructions. Adding a patch pocket is not such a complicated thing, but I thought I’d mention in case you get too far in the process to do it easily or haven’t put one on before.
Collar: The collar is put on in the normal way and I used a shedload of pins to ensure my fabric didn’t slip around too much. I confess I did a pretty crappy job of topstitching the stand down at the end from the right side (I always struggle with that), so I think I will unpick and slipstitch it, which would have been much more sensible from the start.
Buttons and buttonholes: I used the old trick of placing a button at my widest point of gapeage and then moving up and down from there with equal measurements. I also tried using Fray Check on the buttonholes before I cut them this time (I have seen various tips about using it after) and it worked amazingly well. Seriously – they look perfect! I will doing this one every single buttonhole I sew from now on.
Hem: The hem is quite an exaggerated high-low shape and I wasn’t quite sure if it was too long at first, but in the end I decided I really quite like it. The features of this shirt ARE quite dramatic – the wide gathered yoke, the long curved gathered sleeves – that the hem seems perfect as it is.
I love this shirt – love it, love it. It’s hard to tell in photos of course, but it has great movement and is really comfy and airy to wear. I have to tell you though that my husband isn’t quite as enthusiastic. His exact words were “you look like a …. I dunno… a priest or something”. I think it’s possibly one of those garments that splits households up and down the country (any country). You know, like jumpsuits and harem pants. I know you know what I’m talking about.
In any case, from me, the Perkins shirt gets a 10 out of 10!