Thread Theory

Welcome to the new era of menswear sewing. Go ahead and create something exceptional!

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)

  1. I would love to start sewing some button up shirts for my husband. He likes a slimmer fit to wear to the office, and slim fit button ups seem to be his choice for casual wear these days. As for instructions, details are most appreciated on collars and cuffs. I’m glad I read this post and will definitely be checking out the book. I just made a button up for myself and need some resources on fit, collars and cuffs. Thanks!

  2. I haven’t heard about this book previous, but I’m sure that I’ll check it out, no matter if I win or not. I make shirts for my husband and I had to draft my own pattern as I didn’t really find one I (or he) liked. He wanted something to go with jeans and cargo pants and it needed to have a slightly rough look but be quite fitted. He also wanted a front and back yoke that was slightly pointy, but didn’t make you think of cowboy shirts. He asked for snap buttons with a pearly shine and got it one I found a source. I don’t know if this helps you much, but I will definitely check out any shirt patterns you release ad I have several of your patterns already and the are much used.

  3. I’d love to win a copy of this book, I own the two other books DPC has written and find them useful resources. For my boyfriend I like a relatively slim fit for shirts because he usually wears them tucked in and if they don’t have a slim fit they tend to billow a bit at the sides which I think looks odd. My boyfriend is in his early thirties.

  4. I enjoy sewing for my husband and I find quite unfortunate the limited choice of available commercial patterns. This is why I always look up to those that take on that task of thinking about menswear patterns and encourage them to be creative.

    I look for those patterns that have one or more appealing features that makes the garment stand out of the crowd when you add your own personal touch, be it only the choice of fabric or buttons.

    What style and fit my husband (including myself) would look for? A casual chic semi-fitted shirt that can be worn at the office and, with that unique pattern feature that you will have come up with, will also pleasingly stand out when worn with a pair of jeans.

    How about coming up with a fresh new distinctive collar or placket?

    The man in my life wears medium, has a well proportioned muscled body shape, and welcomes stylish clothes.

    How’s that for a challenge?

  5. I just did a shirt making class at the weekend. The pattern we used was a simple one as we only had a day. There are a few things I would like to see in a pattern; one piece sleeves, proper cuffs and plackets, and a yoke. I am already looking forward to seeing the design!

  6. Ohh, I would make a shirt for my husband, who is 38 – I’m not sure what size shirts come in (I don’t buy them, first help needed is obviously mens shirt sizes!) he’s probably a Large and has wide shoulders. I’d definitely want one with a proper collar (i.e. one with an collar stand, not one of those open necked shirts, which is one reason I haven’t tried the negroni pattern). I’d don’t think I could be bothered to make a proper smart office shirt, more likely to be something he’d wear at the weekend, he likes flannel/twill/cotton and wears them over t shirts much like you’d wear a cardigan (button up if cold, open if not). So not too baggy, not to tight.

    Basically I want a pattern that looks like a “proper” shirt (rather than more of a beach style shirt which many patterns I’ve seen are), but is not too intimidating on the sewing up detail (nice and easy request then!) An option of a grandad style shirt with just the collar stand and possibly just buttoning half way down would be good too.

    Advice/links to fitting advice would be good in a sewalong. I know how to do a FBA for me, but no idea how to deal with hubby’s rugby player extra wide shoulders (and don’t see mens fitting advice online so much).

    Hope that helps. Good luck.

  7. Very excited to know you’re working on a men’s shirt! Personally I would like to see a classic slim shirt (but not fitted) with all the traditional details (collar/stand/yoke/tower placket). It would also be great to include a few different options like different cuffs, collar shapes, and pockets. My husband is on the small side, so having sizing that would include shoulder width, neck size, and sleeve length would be a huge help! Can’t wait to check out the new shirtmaking book, congrats on being featured in it!

  8. I would like to start sewing for my boyfriend. I wish there were more modern looking sewing patterns with a slim fitted style, modern collar form etc. The person I have in mind is as I said, my boyfriend who is mid 30s, tall and slim. I would be glad to see waist shaping and perhaps different collar styles and cuff styles to mix and match. Anyway, I am sure, the pattern you’ll come up with, will be great and I am looking forward to seeing it.


  9. I have both of his previous books and would love to add this one to my library. I sew for my husband and two teen sons, need to keep making interesting things for the boys or I may lose my license to sew for them. As long as I keep it interesting I’m still the go-to place for new clothes.

  10. Funnily enough, I’m actually interested in tranferring the menswear details into a shirt dress for me! But if I were sewing for the men in my life, it would be for a tall, skinny sportsman. So the shoulders are pretty wide, but everything else is slim. A real pain to find something RTW.

  11. I am so excited about a buttondown shirt pattern! I would love to see it have a true collar stand and not just a roll over collar. I also would love to see options for a classic and slim fit. I sew for my husband (the classic fit) and 3 teen sons (who need a slim cut).
    I really enjoy your other patterns and can’t wait to see what you do with this.

  12. I’m just begining to sew clothes for my husband using your patterns, I love the modern styles and how they fit him. I’ve never attempted to sew him a button up shirt but I’d love to learn how to! The book looks very interesting and congrats on the feature!

  13. My preference for a men’s button down shirt pattern would be a slim/sport fit and a longer detailed yoke option (Im such a sucker for a yoke with some flair like your Newcastle Cardigan, it offers so many opportunities for subtle individual style). Once I made a “lightning bolt” motif on the yoke as an ironic kind of joke, but everyone loved it! Im also interested in mixing up pocket details and placket variations. Sleeve cuffs….also a nice place to add variety although my preference is for smaller cuffs and a rather slim sleeve.

    Many of my men’s shirt recipients request technical fabrics so they can serve double duty as a cycling/hiking shirt… of course I would selfishly love to have a go-to pattern that incorporates this type of styling….maybe even a hidden pocket on the back or side seam. I also usually sew shirts for men between 30-50 years of age and generally the “outdoorsy” type.

    Have fun creating!

  14. awesome, what a great giveaway! I would like to sew some shirts for my boyfriend…one with a proper collar, one he can wear to the office in a crisp shirting fabric, and wear to go out for a casual dinner in a tartan…not overly casual or overly formal in design, so that fabric can be the decider!

  15. I’m sewing for my 28 year old husband. All of his shirts are already tailored and very fitted for his slim build. Off the rack he is a 14 1/2 and then he has them taken in. He prefers made to measure and that is $$.

    Anyway, I’m hard pressed to not go out and make him a pattern from scratch. Most are missing a flattering collar style or at least lines on the body to adjust from.

    I love the spread and cut away style collars and tips on finishing the packet and collar so that they look just like his made to measure shirts.

    French cuffs would also be a cool feature.

    Thank you!

    • speaking of French cuffs, how about a blog post on how to convert French cuffs to regular button cuffs….I tried to get it done at an alteration shop and they said I would never pay them for the work it would require…..really?

  16. I’d love to make some shirts for my husband but haven’t found a pattern I love yet. Definitely keen for one with a proper collar and stand. Most of his current shirts say they’re “euro” style – whatever that means?! I think it’s a slim fit. He’s a large in the Strathcona (for indication of size). Thanks for offering the giveaway – I’d love to learn more about this 🙂

  17. My husband likes a slim tailored fit in his shirts. Thanks for the giveaway x

  18. I’d love to sew shirts for my partner. I haven’t been brave enough to tackle one yet. He’s in his late 20’s, quite broad in the shoulders with a slim waist.

  19. I’d love to see shirts for my partner. I haven’t been brave enough to tackle one yet. He’s in his late 20’s, quite broad in the shoulders with a slim waist.

  20. I’d like to make shirts for my husband…. He likes fitted shirts, but he’s broad across the shoulders and slim fitting cuts don’t work for him. He also likes short sleeves but a lot of short sleeve shirt patterns seem to have a very boxy look. This book looks great for trying to make a shirt that would be perfect for him.

  21. I’ve just started sewing my first men’s shirts, and have been ogling David’s books for a while now (but haven’t made the purchase… yet!). One of the things I’m looking for (to sew and to buy) are men’s shirts designed for trim, but not skinny, guys. It seems that so many shirt designs assume that a guy likes to wear very baggy shirts or has a body like a 14-year-old adolescent: all beanpole.

    I was that 14-year-old, once, but today I’m a different kind of trim. A little more chest, a little more around the waist… but still slender. So it’s a struggle to find that happy medium between a sleeping bag and a catsuit!

  22. I would be making shirts for my husband, he likes casual fit shirts with grandad collars for everyday wear. I would like to make some tailored shirts too for more formal occasions. I know my 9 year old son will probably start demanding I make him some too!

  23. I would like a casual shirt – long sleeves that can be rolled up and a slender fit – my husband has requested a shirt just like Joel’s from the Last of Us video game haha!!

    I would sew these for my husband and teenage boys – all of average – tall height, and slender build.

    Congratulations on being featured in David’s new book! X

  24. What an interesting looking book! I sew for my husband who prefers his shirts slim but not too fitted, and definitely prefers a two piece (collar and stand) collar to the one piece camp collar

  25. I would love to sew some shirts for my husband. He is hard to fit and in need of some new shirts!

  26. I want to sew shirts for my husband. He’s in his thirties and tends to hold his weight in his midsection so I want to make sure I get an optimally fitting shape for him 🙂

  27. Im interested on new details on shirt making, my next project is a shirt for my husband. 😊

  28. I would like to sew shirts for my boyfriend (when I have one again!) Great book – thanks for offering the giveaway.

  29. I am constantly sewing shirts for my tall and thin husband. I’ve been making the same pattern with very slight design variations for the past year, and it fits him beautifully, but I think it’s time to spice things up! Congratulations on the feature–you deserve it!

  30. Thanks for the great review!

    Is love to see a mandarin collar and/or roll-up sleeves (with the button-down flaps to hold them up).

  31. Hi,

    Thanks for the great review!

    I would be sewing the shirts for myself (24 y.o. male with a stick figure and noticeable belly).

    There aren’t many shirt patterns with mandarin or band collars which I think would be cool. I also would love to see a variant including roll-up sleeves with the button-down flaps that hold them in place (I suspect there’s a word for this, but I don’t know what it is).

  32. Congratulations in your feature in the book! Love the style of your patterns and make the guys (boyfriend, brother, father) in my life happy with it. At least in Germany there are not a lot of good-looking AND good quality patterns on the market (to the best of my knowledge) so I was very happy to stumble over Thread Theory!
    I mostly sew for my boyfriend. He is at the beginning of his thirties. The problem with button ups for him is that he has a little belly. Button ups with a more modern style are usually ‘slim fit’ and it’s impossible to find a shirt that fits him in the shoulders and the belly and has a more modern style.
    I would love to see a mandarin style collar for example. I think it’s an easy way to ‘downgrade’ a button up from business to free-time.

  33. I’d be sewing them for my husband (and three boys but they’re 7 and younger!) I’ve never sewn a button up shirt for my husband and in all honesty, the short sleeved ones he wears right now are all from the thrift shop! I love interesting details–different yoke options (as in the shape of the yoke on the bottom) Congratulations on your interview in the book!

  34. I sew for my husband and my two young adult sons. I’m always looking for a trim, modern fit but stylish details. I seem to always have to trim collar shapes down so I’m interested in the dress collar geometry section for sure!

  35. Thanks for all the work you do to make men’s patterns more up-to-date and the way you always try to bring the “younger” look that is put together to look good on anyone of any age. I like casual shirts with stand and collar. I do not like my shirts to be tight across the chest or stomach, but neither do I like them so loose that the blouse out over my belt. Always remember to include in your instructions all the newest ways of doing things (collar, stands, cuffs, etc.) as the big pattern companies take decades to make any changes in technique tips into their instructions. I am 63 y/o with an average body. My chest is larger than my waist and hips, so I have to taper almost everything I make for my upper body. Also I have to shorten all the sleeves if I do a long sleeve shirt.

  36. Congratulations on being included in the book. It looks to be an amazing resource. I will be sewing shirts for my husband. It’s time to stretch my skills beyond tees and the henley. My husband is slim with broad shoulders and longer arms then the average 6ft tall man. His store bought shirts rarely have long enough sleeves. Thanks for the opportunity!

  37. I sew mostly for my own wardrobe or small things as gifts for friends! As one of the few male hobby-sewist I find it often a bit challenging to even find good sized patterns, let alone fitting ones! XD Luckily, my girlfriend (who taught me sewing in the first place) also helps me with resizing patterns as most of the big brand standard ones are way too large 🙂 A good book about men’s shirts would be a very welcome addition to my growing sewing-library!
    And congratulations for being featured in the book!! Must be a awesome feeling!!

  38. Congrats on the feature.

    I sew shirts for my s/o who is in his mid 30s.

    I’d love to sew up a shirt with a mandarin collar. Including a sleeve tab for rolling up would be a grat
    option. A short sleeve option would be greatly appreciated.

  39. I plan on sewing button up for my husband he is long bodied and armed, 6’2″ and fussy! This book looks like it would be a great help in getting it right. My fingers are crossed.

  40. My friend is fit so to get his arms and neck the rest of the shirt is large. Also he prefers a bit of a fit, one that stays tucked in and can be versitle for casual and work. Congrats on the new book!!!!

  41. Hello, love this post. I’ve just finished my first shirt make. It was for my husband. He wanted to be able to use collar stiffners but couldn’t find any patterns with them built in. Look forward to more shirt patterns 🙂

  42. I think the MOST important information and process you could include in a pattern is a thorough “how-to-fit” section. I have gone through this process on women’s garments and the how-to process takes a good bit of time — but once it’s done, it’s so fast and easy to make a well-fitted item. Instructions might include: how much fabric to buy for the fitting garment; how to cut pieces for fitting purposes, what is the right order for adjustments/alterations, what to do (and when) to get rid of too much/too little fabric in any given area, etc. This kind of fitting process is what changes homemade into “custom”. Then to have a variety of collars, plackets, etc would be wonderful. Most interesting blog post and book review. Thanks.

  43. Bring on the shirt pattern!! I have made 2 shirts…one for my 6’4″ son. and one for myself. My problem is the button on the collar!! so small and difficult . also the new computerized sewing machines come with these “fabulous” automatic buttonholers….except they are so finicky they don’t work…the plackets are too narrow and tend to upset the computer. so maybe a wider placket to accommodate automatic buttonhole feet would be a good idea for beginners to succeed. And some kind of collar design that eliminates that little button (of course I need those because my son must wear a tie, but I am not thinking of me, but design ideas for a successful beginner shirt) . I am also of the not slim but not boxy camp!

  44. Hi! What a generous gift! Personnally, i’d like to sew a shirt for my dear husband. For his job he needs to wear suits everyday, and do not have many opportunities to stand out in terms of clothes. I found many patterns but I am looking for fitted long sleeves shirt, with hidden details such as a contrasting facing, or biais cut placket, and/or double collar (compatible with a tie). My man lost more than 20kg in a year, and has now a very sporty shape, so it would be nice for me to be able to give him a very well fitted, nicely finished workstyle button-up in a precious fabric. He likes good quality and small details he only knows about, like De Beers jeweller who put a small diamond in the inside of the men rings. It would be so useful to have shirt making tips as I never sewed a shirt, even for myself, and it’s kind of my dream project! Thanks for the contest

  45. I’d like to sew a nice dress shirt for my husband. Something fitted but not tight. He’s got broad shoulders so if I do a regular fit shirt, it makes him look pregnant. The idea of a shirt that I can dress up (e.g. A tux front) would be great. Cuff options would also be nice for a dress shirt – regular and french. Thanks for the giveaway! It would be awesome to win as I could really do with help pn collars and the finishing touches.

  46. Ooo, how exciting! Both David’s book, you being featured there, and the upcoming shirt pattern! Tripple yey!

    Alright, questions:
    I’d look for a fairly modern classic and slim fit menswear shirt pattern, intended to sew for a significant other (age 30ish, slim to medium build). When I say classic I mean a non-western flair (which I feel I’ve seen in a fair amount of other contemporary patterns), I’d expect a collar *and* a collar stand, a yoke, full-on top-notch “house” placket (if you’re going to make a shirt, make a shirt – no bias binding slit plackets please!), flat-felled seams, maybe even darts in the back (slim fits often require that in my experience), and probably not a pleat in the back. Instruction level – expect an intermediate level sewer. I wouldn’t want to have to get lost in instructions aimed at beginners, it would be too much information!

    Oh, I’m so excited for your next pattern – congratulations! Now, only to find someone to sew shirts for…!

  47. This is a very exciting post, thank you! I am just at the toile stage of making a shirt for my boyfriend, who is a 6’6″ former rugby player with a now-expanding waistline – he has huge difficulty finding RTW to fit, so I have bought 2 or 3 possible patterns and avidly reading the first David Coffin book, which I love, while constructing a preliminary toile. I would be so excited to win his new book, as I have a feeling that I will be making many variations of this shirt over the next few years…I adore your intelligent and informative blog, BTW, and when I move on to trousers for my lovely giant, I have my eye on your gorgeous designs!

  48. I would sew for my husband, he’s little but well proportioned with a wide neck. When I’m looking for shirts for him I’m always drawn to the ones with unusual details on the collar or cuffs. Something that makes them stand out.

  49. Hi Morgan, congratulations on being included in this book! It´s well deserved! I´m sewing quite a bit for my husband who is very tall and slim. I haven´t found a slim fitting shirt pattern yet so that would really interest me. I have made some shirts before, however only with short sleeves so far. Thanks for your work! Marlise

  50. Thanks for an amazing giveaway! I sew for my husband and the fit that looks best on him is what RTW brands call ‘natural fit’: slimmer than regular but straighter than skinny. Impossible to find in patterns! Also length is a real issue, so I’d love a pattern that I wouldn’t need to lengthen 🙂 stylewise anything goes as far as my husband is concerned, he’s well in his thirties so classic and casual are all great! Can’t wait to see what you come up with, it’ll be amazing, I’m sure!

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