About my books and other works about making shirts

My first book, originally self published in 1985 as The Custom Shirt Book.  It's essentially a book about making traditional men's button-up woven-fabric dress shirts, with a lot of little extra ideas and styles thrown in at the end, especially in the re-published version, but it never really explores the many other styles and details shirts for men, women, and children can have.

It's both a detailed exploration of classic dress-shirt details and features, and an extended discussion of the sewing skills and tools needed to produce a top quality dress shirt and similar garments with those details. So, compared to my later work it's an introduction to shirtmaking, not encyclopedic, like the Workbook, nor fitting or pattern-making oriented, like the Sewing Shirts with… book.

A little personal history: Within a week of having the first copy of the self-published version in my hands, I got a flyer in the mail announcing the launch of a new magazine by the Taunton Press, to be called Threads. My first thought on seeing it was, "These guys need me!" I immediately sent them a copy of the book, hoping they'd review it, do an article with me, hire me as an editor, and republish my book. And that's exactly what happened, my personal proof that following one's bliss actually can work. My job at Threads was in every way a dream job, and I loved it.

This video was produced by me and the video team at Taunton, shortly after my Shirtmaking book was published by them, and it covers all the core techniques described in the book, except for fitting. It won the top award that year (1993) for a Crafts Hobbies & Home Arts instructional video from SIVA, the Special Interest Video Association, and it remans the best available video demonstration of that first book's contents.

Originally conceived of as a printed catalog for a collection of detail patterns for all sorts of shirts and shirt-like garments, to be delivered online in digital (pdf) format, this project eventually grew to include a huge collection of technical construction guides as well, also delivered as pdfs, for every sort of detail (including collars, pockets, plackets, closures, cuffs, etc.) likely, or even remotely so, to be found on sport shirts, dress shirts, folk-wear tops, knit shirts and pull-overs, and over-shirts, lab and field coats, shirt-jackets and shirt-like outer-wear.

The package is essentially a mega-pattern collection for shirt details, including a 176-page full-color printed guide book, hundreds of full-size printable pdf patterns, and over 150 double-page, full-color pdf guide sheets with all the construction details, in other words, another over 300-page book if printed.

This Craftsy class is basically the video version of my Workbook, demonstrating selected core topics from that huge package and including a small selection of printable patterns to support the demos. It's gotten 24 5-star reviews and over 5000 sales, and you can watch with a monthly subscription or purchase the class for lifetime access.

Except for the few brief pages about my drape-to-fit method for shirt fitting that appeared in Shirtmaking, I've never before written about fitting, always feeling out of step with the prevailing and already well described methods for measurement-based fitting, by flat-pattern alteration, which I simply never could make sense of. But now, at long last, I've taken up the challenge and after 2 years of intense exploration and experiment, I'm finally ready to offer my own methods—the ones that do make sense to me—based entirely upon direct fabric (and garment) manipulation on a body or body form, involving no measurements nor pattern alterations, relying instead on observation and adjustment, response and re-adjustment, with hands and pins, not paper, pencils, and rulers. Maybe not for everyone, especially as it really requires either willing-to-be-draped-on live bodies or customized upper-body dress forms, at least now there exists a detailed account of how it works and can be done, by home sewists and non-professionals.

The book ends with a collection of 4 shirt-like garment projects, 2 for women, 2 for men, with detailed instructions covering how the draping process can be integrated into the construction process for unique garment projects, as well as step-by-step coverage of all the specific techniques I chose to incorporate into these 4 designs.

So, the package in this case is essentially another mega pattern, this time for fully custom shirt bodies, as it comes bundled with already printed full-size pattern sheets covering everything needed to produce the one thing missing from the Workbook: the shirt itself, from XXXS to XXXL. Thus, the 144-page print book and the 90+ pages of online material together form the guide sheets for the already printed pattern shapes.