If you read yesterday’s post on fitting and pinning, then you should be ready to sew!
Take a few notes on how much fabric has been pinned out on the side of the shirt. Notice how far down the sleeve you’ll be sewing also. You’ll need to mark both sides of the shirt with these alteration lines, on the inside of the side and sleeve seams, as soon as any topstitching is removed.
At this point, you may notice that the shirt has flat felled seams. Even if they are only serged, they will likely have two rows of topstitching that will have to be taken out on the sleeve so your new seam line can be united with the original one. Rob’s shirt was done on an industrial machine set up to make modified flat-felled seams. The seam was turned under, sewn, and topstitched all at once, without the assistance of glue or basting to keep the seam together. Whoever sewed it has had quite a bit of practice at their craft!
If your shirt doesn’t having topstitching, lucky you! If it does, you may find that the topstitching is actually chain stitched (like Rob’s), which means that removing it will be a breeze. You do not have to remove ALL of the topstitching! Keep it intact near the shirt cuff, and don’t worry about any of the stitching that will be cut off, unless it is going to interfere with your new seam allowance. Why waste time when you can attack it with Ginghers later?
Here are Rob’s original shirt seams. I took out most all of the topstitching because it was ridiculously fast and easy due to the chain stitching. Also, I think that might make me a nerd.
You may find that the shirt seam is actually kept together with a long strip of glue. Good luck with that. It’s a pain the ass to pick apart, but it’s got to be done for at least a few inches on the sleeve seam. That’s the part where you take a picture and let your significant other know what a saint you are for altering their shirt, and demand chocolate.
Once the topstitching is out of your way on the sleeve seam, you can fold and pin the shirt seam (right sides together) and mark the new seam line. Make sure that you measure from the original seam line, so that it will be taken in evenly on the front and back of the shirt. Be sure to pin and line up the armscye seam so the armpit will have a clean seam line. I marked my line with white chalk, so it was hard to see in this photo. The green line I drew isn’t perfect, because the shirt sleeve wasn’t completely flat. In other words, I fail.
One key thing to remember is that armscye seam. When the sleeve and side seam match up, you want them to come together here at a 90 degree angle as best you can.
Measuring from the new sewing lines, remove 1″ extra of the hem on both sides of the bottom of the new side seam markings. This will help you to have room to sew your seam all the way to the raw edges of the hem.
Once all of your marking and pinning is done, I would recommend that you start sewing the shirt on the sleeve and ending at the hem. This way, if your seams don’t match up perfectly, you can easily fix them at the hem, whereas if you end on the sleeve, that could pose an issue.. When you reach the armscye seam, pivot the shirt with your needle down, and continue all the way to hem of the shirt. Cut off any excess fabric, but leave enough for you to put back the original seam finish. This is Rob’s new side seam after it has been sewn, trimmed, and pressed back into a flat felled seam:
By finishing the seams the same way that they were originally done, any topstitching left on the garment will match up, and the shirt will appear unaltered. Before you put back the topstitching, adjust your machine so your straight stitch matches up with the original topstitching stitch length. It is most always very short, so make sure your stitches are also tiny. Roll up the shirt so that you will start the topstitching way up on the sleeve. I promise you can make it work!
Only worry about the next 2″ that will go under your needle at a time, not the entire side seam.
Once both rows of the topstitching are done, resew the hem as it would have originally looked. No, it hasn’t been sewn yet in this picture:
Iron the shirt and then tell everyone how freaking awesome you are. The only sign that the shirt has been altered will be the tiny amount of overlapped stitching on the sleeve topstitching.
Even the underarm seam won’t be a tell-tale, because you lined it up so nicely.
Now go eat that chocolate!