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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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!