Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The NJ Devils, beer and plackets don't mix

I had the best of intentions last night.  I laid out all my sewing aids to making sleeve plackets, cut two plackets, and started sewing.  I thought I'd be done in 15 minutes.  I made two mistakes straight off.  First, I had a 16oz can of 8.1% Alc High Gravity Steel Reserve beer with dinner.

Second, I flipped on the Devils v. Philly Flyers Stanley Cup game on TV.  Of all the parts of making a shirt, plackets require my complete attention.  You see, I'm a left-right challenged guy, constantly mixing the two up.  I'm better with right-side wrong-side, but only if there is a print on one side.  Between left-right and right-wrong, I get hopelessly lost fast.  I am so bad that to know my right from my left I have to look at my wrists.  My right wrist has a large U-shaped scar that took years off my mother's life when as a small boy I rammed a french door chasing my sister in our apartment.  "Mommy, I cut myself!"  Oye!

To compensate, I have some guides and templates that I pull out every time I make a placket.

My mother and I both use David Coffin's method for shirt plackets.  It's less fiddly than the usual pattern instructions and more reliable.  Ignore the placket that comes with your pattern, and make one of Coffin's templates on cardboard.

Coffin's template calls for a simple square with a smoke stack on it.  The square is folded 7 times.  It is sewn to the sleeve on the wrong side, slit, and pushed through to the right side where it is folded and sewn down into permanent shape.  My mother made a sample for me on a piece of scrap fabric.  I have used her sample endlessly as an aid.

To begin, my arms are not the same length.  My right arm is a full 1" longer than my left.  This is a huge difference in the world of RTW apparel.  It's such a difference that I make a pattern paper for each arm and tweek the ease a little so that the cuff width is the same.  All my life, my right arm has dangled below my shirt cuff.  My suit tailors have all wept at the prospect of altering my jacket cuffs.  Since I make my own pattern papers, the 'print' side is always the right side of the fabric, which is a little different than working with one pattern piece print-side-up and print-side-down.  Assuming one hasnt had a 16oz beer, my paper pattern should be simpler.  It's terribly easy to mix on the left sleeve and the right sleeve on the table, and it's very important to place the plackets on marks corresponding to the opposite position on the right side. A right placket goes on the right sleeve on the left side on the right side.  Get it?  I never do.  I have to lay out my pieces very carefully matching to my xerox copy page from Coffin's book AND compare to my mother's sample.  I can only image this is what a dyslexic reader must feel like.  I carefully transfer marks to my fabric from the pattern.

Then I pin the gathers in the correct direction, sew them, take a deep breath, flip the sleeves to the wrong side, and pin my cut plackets to the sleeves. [nerves of steel]
The above picture shows that for all my care, I still pinned the plackets incorrectly.  This after staring at them for 5 minutes.  I took them off, drew the stitch lines on the placket, and pinned again.

Once I was totally convinced I had it right, I stitched the plackets down, swallowed and slit the fabric passing the point of no return.
Once the placket is stitched down and slit, it is simple enough to pull it through to the right side. Ironing is an essential step in making the placket.

On the ironing board, I can see that I've got it.  The first stitch line is on the inner placket half, trying to get close to the edge. The second stitch line is on the outer placket, up the body side edge, over the peek, and down to the top of the placket opening.  I strongly advise stitching in a 'needle down' mode if your machine has it, otherwise make sure your needle is down on every turn.
At the top of the placket open, one sews across, turns and sews diagonally two times.  On close inspection, you can see my stitch lines drift.  The Devils were 2-0 over the Flyers in the first few minutes of the game.  The battle raged through the rest of the game as the Flyers fought elimination.  I couldn't resist looking at the tube, even for an instant this is a bad thing for plackets.  These two have to be the worst I've done in a VERY long time.  As a consolation, I'll always remember the game when I look down on those plackets ... "and you see this crooked line.. that's when the 40-year old goalie Broduer saved the power play shot in the 2nd period.."
It's right there.. a record of the game. I think I will add a couple of red, white and black bar tacks next to the X stitches. 

All of the above said, I really do enjoy making plackets.  They are a joy for me.  Once you've mastered sleeve plackets, the same placket can be used for a collar opening.  It's just longer.  In his book, Coffin includes a pattern  for extending a placket into an elbow patch. 

Next, I'll attach the sleeves to the body and my next post will be about the cuffs.  Yet another Coffin innovation.  G'night!

1 comment:

  1. Ah! drinking and sewing. Been there, done that. I love that sleeve placket construction, but it's always such a mindbender. I keep checking and rechecking myself before slashing the fabric. Of course, if the written instructions in the book corresponded with the illustrations it would be easier. Who the hell edited that book? I think the "x" detailing is a nice touch. I may have to steal that look someday. :)