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The Shirtmaking Workbook – Our feature and a giveaway! (Giveaway closed 24/07/15)


Shirtmaking Workbook review (1 of 1)

Quite likely, if you are interested in sewing menswear, you will have heard of David Coffin by now.  If you haven’t you will likely want to find out about him!  He is the author several books that could be considered essential resources within a menswear sewing library (or any sewing library for that matter).  Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing and Making Trousers for Men & Women: A Multimedia Sewing Workshop are both filled with excellent construction guides.  His newest book, which was just published this Spring, is called The Shirtmaking Workbook: Pattern, Design, and Construction Resources.  David has taken a different approach to this volume on shirtmaking and has focused much of this book on design through the manipulation of pattern blocks.  While you would find his first book on shirtmaking to be very useful during the actual construction process of a button-up shirt, you would likely use his newest book as a reference and as inspiration during the planning process of your projects.

Shirtmaking Workbook (1 of 15)

David interviewed me well over a year ago during his research for the book and included a segment of this interview within the hardcopy book under the “Featured Designer” sections included within each chapter.  I was very flattered to be included amidst some extremely talented designers and tailors – how exciting!  Once the book was published, we were sent two copies – one which I’ve happily added to my library and one that I will be giving away to you!  (See details on the giveaway at the end of this post.)Shirtmaking Workbook (6 of 15)

I have come across several extensive reviews of The Shirtmaking Workbook since it’s publication date.  Be sure to check these ones out:

Instead of reviewing the book completely, I’d like to talk about how I have been using this book within my studio and show you how it has been helping me as we begin the development of our upcoming menswear button-up shirt pattern (yay!).

In order to become acquainted with the book when I first received it, I took it as my only reading material on a camping trip and read it systematically from cover to cover.  For this kind of book, this style of reading is just enough to glean some of the basic information – this book certainly warrants an in-depth, hands on approach!  For example, throughout the book there are symbols indicating online content that accompany each piece of written info.  While not all of this online content is available yet (the book was published earlier than expected), David is working doggedly on assembling it.  During my first reading I familiarized myself with David’s approach to shirt patterns (he works with basic blocks that he manipulates into any style imaginable) and made note of what online content I might find interesting to explore right away.  I enjoyed the beautiful detail shots of ready-made garments that are profiled throughout the book to illustrate how certain collar styles, construction techniques and placket varieties can be integrated into shirt designs.  I carefully read the designer bios and, lastly, checked through the construction and pattern manipulation tips to see how they compare to my own practices.

Shirtmaking Workbook (15 of 15)

My second reading of the book is going to need to be far more hands on.  The book focuses a lot on the huge variety of collars and plackets that can be added to basic shirt blocks to create every design imaginable.  David has created full size collar and placket pattern pieces for every style that he discusses within the book.  These patterns are accessible online along with relevant construction information.  Once you have found the blocks that work best for you (David describes various approaches to doing this – one great one is to find your favorite existing pattern and simply use the main body pieces while switching out the collar, placket, pockets and any other design details whenever you want to achieve a new style of top), you can use these online pattern pieces to create your own shirt designs.  While I won’t be using David’s pattern pieces for our shirt pattern obviously, I look forward to examining their shapes and comparing the various collars to each other as a way of researching my preferences for our patterns.  I have found the section on dress collars to be especially helpful – David has systematically compared the subtle shape changes to the collar stand, undercollar and collar and explains how these three pieces relate to each other in a way that is far more straight forward than I have ever seen before!  He calls this “Dress Collar Geometry” and discusses the results of each pattern manipulation “experiment” very frankly and scientifically.  In order to fully assimilate all of this information I think it might be necessary for me to perform at least some of these experiments on my own while following along with the book – David recommends this hands on approach and I know, from my own experience, that this is the only way I will retain all of the information permanently!

Shirtmaking Workbook (8 of 15)

The third way that I hope to use this book is as a design inspiration reference.  David has used the book research process as an excuse to get his hands on all manner of vintage and designer garments so that he could photograph and analyze them.  Since I don’t have the funds (or closet space!) to gather my own library of inspiration garments, I’m excited to be able to flip through the photos within this book and online whenever I am curious about ready to wear designer finishing techniques or fabric choices.  Would you like to see what the inside of a Swanndri Wool Bush Shirt looks like or would you like to examine the ingenious double layered sleeve of a Filson Double Mackinaw Cruiser?  I have wanted to for years now!  David’s photos and accompanying text tour are almost as nice as having these elite garments at my sewing table to examine on my own.Shirtmaking Workbook (12 of 15)

Shirtmaking Workbook (14 of 15)


Now that I’ve told you how I plan to use this book, I better get busy actually using it!  I’ve downloaded a few of the collar varieties and look forward to comparing them with our own freshly drafted shirt collar today!




If you are interested in winning your own copy of The Shirtmaking Workbook, leave a comment below.  In your comment, I’d love for you to answer one of these questions to help me with my menswear button-up shirt pattern development:

  • What style and fit are you looking for in a menswear shirt pattern?
  • There are several men’s button-up shirt patterns already on the market.  What elements are not included in them that you would like to see in a shirt pattern (A certain collar style? A certain placket style?  A certain fit? A certain level of detail within the instructions)?
  • Who do you plan to sew button-up shirts for? (i.e. the person’s approximate age, their approximate body shape/size, or their style preferences)

No need to answer all of these questions or to write an essay!  I’d just love to hear your thoughts on menswear shirt patterns.  The giveaway will close on 9am (PST) Friday, July 24th.  A winner will be chosen at random from the comments on this blog post.  We will mail the book worldwide!


131 thoughts on “The Shirtmaking Workbook – Our feature and a giveaway! (Giveaway closed 24/07/15)

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  3. Oh but here’s my reason for wanting the button up pattern: my husband is tall and slim and it’s impossible to find him a shirt that’s long enough in torso and sleeve but isn’t too big for his chest.

  4. I’m late to the giveaway party but OMG I’m so excited you’re coming out with a men’s button up! I’ll be in line for the day that releases!

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  6. Too bad I missed the giveaway, as I don’t have DPC’s new book yet, but I sure have lots of feels about shirt making!

    I finally drafted a block from Winifred Aldrich for my guy, to get the options & fit I (ok, we) wanted. Commercial patterns were very disappointing, mostly in the very-dropped-shoulder department–I suppose because a dropped shoulder if looser and doesn’t have to fit? In RTW we struggle with proportion–sleeves too short and body too short mostly, and shoulders nearly always too sloped, although the figure I mostly sew for is 5’10” and 180, just about as average as it gets.

    Details-wise, I prefer a collar with slots for stays, an interesting side gusset finish (thank you David Page Coffin for getting me addicted to those!) and a dartless but fairly slim fit. But that’s just personal preference, and interesting details are always appreciated, as long as there’s a “classic” option or it’s easily reverse engineered (like a CB pleat for instance) to a plain style. Check out the Mister Freedom shirts for lots of interesting detailing.

    Oh, and re: front button bands, folded (“french”) are just natively better. 🙂 My sewing machine and I really dislike trying to work buttonholes around the seam allowances in applied front bands, especially in thick flannels and chamois. *shiver*

    • Thanks for this feedback! I like the idea of side gusset finish too :). I will keep the shoulder fit issue in mind as this would be a very good fitting tutorial to provide as I’m sure many people have shoulders that are shaped more straight or sloped than rtw shirts accommodate for. And yes – the button band on our drafted shirt is folded so far so your sewing machine will be quite happy!

  7. Enter me in the giveaway please. I would make shirts for my husband. He is 52 years old, 6 feet tall, medium build with long arms and a bit of a tummy. I’m all for a slim cut, but it has to have space over the tummy.

  8. I have a husband who is 6’2 – broad shouldered and lanky built , id love a pattern that tackles these fit issues, mens Patterns are hard enough to find and when they are available they are so basic. Detailed instructions on how to fit the pattern to a make body would be worth their weight in gold!

  9. I’m like many others with a husband who is slim in the torso so am looking for a slim fitting shirt that can be worn to work for a dressy casual look.

  10. Sounds like the book is a private course in all things shirtmaking.

  11. I like David Coffin books, so I ordered my copy (so count me out from the giveaway…).
    I sew button-up shirts for myself (I will try to do so for my wife too).
    Anyway – what I think could be added to the shirt pattern would be :
    1. Some seams options in the fronts to help people with a beer belly.
    2. Mandarin\band collar option, with some good instructions (did I hear a sew-along ???)
    3. Front pockets : maybe a place for a pen.
    4. Fronts again : facing for the buttonholes, this is quite common, but it gives an option of adding a new fabric to the front instead of a stabilizer (not that I ever sewed a stabilizer there, or a pattern with a front facing…).
    If I’ll think of anything else, I’ll comment again.

    I look forward to see your pattern 🙂

  12. Of all the shirt patterns, I dig McCalls m6044 the best. It has a vintage flare and the fit seems just right for me. All button-up shirts are very very similar. While I’ve gotten pretty good at it, I wish it better explained the flat-felled seam. I actually learned from the Jedidiah pattern and YouTube. I also wish it had more pocket, collar, and detail additions. I totally do these different each time I make one, but having options in the patterns would’ve helped.

  13. I sew for my husband, he has a long torso and short legs, so it can be hard finding shirts that fit properly. He doesn’t need a lot of dress clothes since he is a lobster fisherman, but it’s nice to have a few things that are on the nicer side of casual.

  14. I would love to be able to make a shirt for my husband. He is a very husky build. I do not know of any patterns that exist for a dress shirt in his size (6XLT). I have even considered getting a custom shirt made for him then doing a rub off. Shopping is expensive and demoralizing for him. It makes me sad to watch him walk into a store and have 3 items to choose from…in the entire store…even a specialty big and tall store.

  15. I would like to sew shirts for my husband, since it is impossible to buy rtw (200cm 80kg and arms like an orangutang), He loves to wear slim fitted dress shirts but most patterns for slim fit shirts are intended for mor casual looks and lack many of the details that I like in dress shirts; tower plackets, and shaped hem

  16. Who do you plan to sew button-up shirts for? (i.e. the person’s approximate age, their approximate body shape/size, or their style preferences)

    I plan to mainly sew button up shirts for my husband – 25, 5’10, slim build with broad shoulders. He likes various styles of clothing but I think a ‘smart casual’ type of shirt will be mainly what I will be making. Something that he can wear to work in an office, but not too formal. That being said, I think that a shirt pattern that included formal elements (full collar and collar stand, french cuffs, etc) would be a great resource that could be customized to be more casual if needed. This book looks like it is full of amazing resources!

    Really looking forward to your new pattern, have been delighted with all of your patterns this far!

  17. I’m sewing for my husband (5’9″, 42) who prefers a slim fit dress shirt. He’s got such a small waist it’s hard to find shirts that don’t bag out at the sides or when tucked into pants.

  18. I have the fabrics to sew two dress shirts for my husband – I just don’t have the pattern. He is 25, and the shirt style I am after is a slim fit with French cuffs. I just love the look of a fitted, tailored shirt on a man!

  19. I’ll be sewing for my husband Guy (29, 6’3″ or so, slim, fits the Thread Theory medium size pretty well!). I’ve made him two camp-style shirts already and he much prefers a collar stand and collar. I think it would be idea to have a Fancy Schmancy dress shirt pattern that we can customize to be somewhat more casual if we want – e.g. regular (with buttons or for cufflinks) and french cuffs, add-on and fold-over button plackets.

    But I’m sure whatever you decide to make will be great!

  20. I like to create, I gravitate towards projects that I can customize to work for me(us). R. comments that Thread Theory styles are ones he would have worn back in the seventies camping in Alberta, is happy wearing them now hiking, retired in Nova Scotia and can see no reason why they won’t be worn into the future. I like a good/basic/ classic pattern paired with the knowledge/ resources to tweek. The knowledge is often sketchy so the resources to either set me straight or confirm are important items in my sewing space. These are some of the fitting issues I have run into with him or heard others complain about. The tall thin man, has to always roll up sleeves , retuck shirt tail or have a blouson effect. The body builder who likes a slim V shape. Large necked men who find it difficult to button the top button for a tie. Short men who always feel like they are wearing their fathers shirt. The standard for R . Who is just under 6’3″ and abt 210 is to add length, have it fitted in back and slightly loose in front! The neck needs to be larger due to thyroid. A slight taper is flattering while a boxy fit adds pounds:(. In Thread Theory I don’t add length I have even subtracted it. The type of shirt I would make runs the from Dress shirts to wear with suit and Tie, wool / flannel/ cord to wear hiking and Cotton/ Linen causal. Looking forward to the new pattern!

  21. I would sew button up shirts for my husband, sons. and grandsons.

  22. IM 6’0, 28 y/o and I mostly sew for myself, although I also make for friends and family So the body types rage from athletic, to slim, to a little extra. When it comes to rtw i love the fit of the Express Modern Fit. I’ve tried a few different patterns but many just don’t have a professional finish and I find myself having to alter them. I cant stand the camp collar without a stand, or plackets that just aren’t placed right and i have to change the placing, or the boxy look which I later choose to take in. Something I appreciate of Thread Theory is the finished project looks well made, as close to professional as you can get, and the directions are always so clear and easy to follow. I’ve done your strathcona, finlayson, jedidiah, comox, and hope to tackle the goldstream peacoat soon and not disapointed with your patterns yet, neither has anyone else that I’ve made stuff for. Would love to see a shirt pattern come from you guys.

  23. Being a man sewing for himself finding quality patterns or books has been a challenge, so finding this site has been a blessing. I am not a “fit” male so finding things to fit my shape are hard so I have started delving into making patterns that specifically will fit me. This book would be a godsend. Great blog and great patterns keep up the good work!

  24. i sew for my husband 5’10” and 170 lbs. i’ve had a hard time finding a pattern that he likes. i tried colette pattern but i wanted a collar stand detail for a more polished look. macalls were too baggy as well. i have been using burda 6874 as a short sleeve but i don’t like the long sleeve plackets! poor instuctions too so i follow grainline’s archer shirt sew a long. looking for a slim fit polished lond sleeve shirt that can be made with shirting or flannel fabric. looking forward to seeing your!

  25. I am looking for a slim flit dress shirt. My husband is on the slim side and doesn’t like a lot of fabric bagging out on the sides of his shirts which also makes it harder to tuck into pants. My husband is in his late 30s and dresses fairly conservatively preferring solid colors or stripes. He would probably like a more traditional collar or placket, but his main issue is with the slim fit of the torso.

  26. I sew for my 26 year old boyfriend. He is 6’4″ and athletically built. He has a lot of trouble finding shirts that are long enough in the body and sleeves. He is also quite broad in the shoulder and narrow in the waist, which makes finding shirts that fit just right tough. His style is pretty relaxed so I would most likely be sewing up a more casual button-up, maybe in a plaid. I haven’t attempted a button-up for him yet but I would really like to in the near future. I’ve loved your patterns that I have used before (Comox trunks and Strathcona henley) so I’m excited for your take on this!

  27. I find that the ‘larger’ men are left out of sewing patterns much like the same as women. My husband is an XL or XXL, and loves Hawaiian shirts. He said he wanted one in a 4th of July festive fabric.

  28. I like to make my boyfriend a manderin collar shirt with an athletic fit. He has real broad shoulders so nothing ever fits him. Quite new to sewing menswear so i would love the book!

  29. My 6′ 3″ , athletic hubby loves the Hawaiian shirts I make for him (airline pilots will compliment him) but dress shirts don’t quite compare. Using a block and unusual details is what’s needed for those dress shirts. So glad to see you included among the designers – what a compliment from David!

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