Cave Painting Negroni Shirt for my Brother

*wanders in, dusts off blog*

It’s been entirely too long since I updated. Case in point: The shirt I’m writing about I made for my brother for Christmas 2014. That’s a while ago.

Negroni Shirt Front

This shirt started when I found the main fabric while browsing colorgrown cottons at Organic Cotton Plus and found something described as “Cave Drawing” cotton dobby. Amazingly enough, as I write this there are still three yards left. The photos, as is sadly characteristic of Organic Cotton Plus, are terrible – you can see about half of one cave animal’s rump, with no indication of scale or what the overall print looks like. The photos irritated me so much I sent them a grumpy email, because how can they expect people to buy their product when doing so is some kind of guessing game? And then I waffled over the purchase for quite a while, before biting the bullet and ordering enough to make a shirt, because my brother like cave painting and creates really really cool cave-painting inspired art. Thus, a cave painting shirt was too good to resist.

The contrast fabric for the yokes, pocket flaps, cuffs, and plackets is a bamboo rayon/linen blend, the source for which I have forgotten. It was not really the best combination of fabrics to sew with – the cotton dobby was thick, soft, spongy, and extremely prone to stretching out, and the bamboo/linen was thin, crisp, and didn’t stretch at all. One of the drawbacks of Colorgrown cotton – which is a trade name for naturally colored cottons – is that colored cottons are short staple cottons, and that makes for a fuzzy, almost flannel-like fabric that pilled a little even in the first wash. Crisp Egyptian cotton shirting this is not. However annoying it was to sew, I think the tiny bit of extra stretch probably makes for a pretty comfy shirt.

For the pattern, I settled on the Colette Negroni, with a few alterations: I wanted a proper front button placket and a stand collar, a more interesting yoke, and pleated pockets.

Negroni Shirt Front 2

Modifying the yoke was easy enough – I made a very rough mockup of the front, back, and one sleeve, and drew on what I thought the yoke should look like. The I made my husband try it on (he’s nowhere near the same size/shape as my brother, but he was three dimensional and that was enough for my purposes) and checked to make sure everything looked good.

Negroni Shirt Back

For the back yoke I just extended the center of the existing pattern piece a little bit, and drew in a gentle curve between the pleats and the new center back point. The front yokes were similar – I decided on a point slightly off-center on the front pattern piece to be the point of the yoke, and drew in pleasing curves.

Taking a time out from yoke discussion to say – look at those beautifully parallel lines of topstitching! I am very, very pleased with how it turned out. I used heavy weight gold thread (which my machine HATED – hence no photos of the inside…) to add a little color to the otherwise monochrome shirt. A topstitching needle was very helpful for dealing with the thread, but I still had tension issues. And I have to say – no twin needles here! Just very slow and fussy stitching.

Negroni Shirt Shoulder - Detail

The sleeve yoke was a little more annoying, and I don’t think I got it perfect, but same general principle, except this time I made sure that the curves extended naturally from the front and back yokes, and that everything would meet up at the seams.

Making new pattern pieces was a matter of comparing my drawn-on mockup to the pattern pieces, tracing the final lines off the mockup, and then adding seam allowances to both the new yoke and the new body pieces.

After that, I sewed the shirt up mainly according to the Negroni directions, until I got to the collar – at which point I used Male Pattern Boldness’ Men’s Shirt Sewalong directions for drafting a new collar for the Negroni. I borrowed the collar stand and collar pieces from the Grainline Studio Archer.

Negroni Shirt Pocket - Detail

I downloaded the free Negroni Pocket Variations (which Colette should really link from the main Negroni page…) and used one of their alternate pocket flaps, because I thought the asymmetrical shape nicely echoed that of the yoke, and then altered their pleated pocket to give it squared-off corners. Also, I attached the pocket with the pleat facing the opposite way from what they suggest, because I think it looks better this way (and it’s what most of my father’s work shirts look like.) The edges of the pleat are topstitched, because there was no way this fabric was ever going to hold a crisp crease. The buttons were salvaged from one of my brother’s old, worn-out overshirts.

Negroni Sleeve Placket - Detail

Placket Detail. Not much to say about this, other than that I continue to be very pleased with all the topstitching.

The Negroni was a pretty good pattern to work with. I made my life harder with all my changes, but besides the aesthetic differences the fit was pretty good. As I recall, I lengthened the sleeves slightly because my brother is very tall, but other than that didn’t make any fitting changes. I do, however, wish the Negroni had a proper stand collar. *sigh*

I’m happy to report my brother likes the shirt – he put it on immediately after opening the present, wore it for the rest of the day, and continues to wear it. 🙂 Use is the best praise.

Finally, special thanks to my brother for gamely changing back into his shirt right before he was supposed to go hang out with friends, and insisting we run across the field to catch the very last of the evening sun. The photos would have been much more blah without that light.

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