Thursday, 12 May 2016

Pattern Testing: The BHL Sarah Shirt

If you follow the By Hand London blog, you may have seen that I was included in their round-up of pattern tester versions of their new pattern, the Sarah Shirt! I was so flattered and excited when they asked me to test earlier this year, and it was perfect timing, because I was just starting second semester and not (too) busy with school yet. I'm definitely starting to embrace some looser, more casual styles, and I fell in love with the line drawings!

Having said that, my secret shame at that time was that I still hadn't bought a table to set up my new sewing machines, and I hadn't tried either of them yet! So, for that week, I took over our kitchen table at our apartment and finally used my brand new sewing machine machine for the first time.

Aaaand... it's amazing! It handled the drapey rayon so nicely (although the walking foot helped!), and the automatic buttonhole feature is just beautiful. Having only ever sewed on either a cheap machine or a machine that's 30+ years old, it was incredible to sew on such a high-end machine! I feel like this will be the start of a long, happy relationship. Now it just needs a name...

The fabric was from a place on St. Hubert, one of Montreal's fabric shopping districts. It's super cheap rayon and I don't know how well it will last, but I was a little pressed for time and didn't want to spend a ton of money on a shirt that I wasn't sure would turn out. This was only $3 a yard, so I bought lots, and I have enough left for a dress! I really like the pattern so I may whip up something simple with what's left - since it's not the best quality I wouldn't want to make anything super complicated with it. I bought the Sewaholic Nicola Dress pattern a while back and I might use it for a wearable muslin. We'll see!

As for the Sarah shirt, I made a size 2/6, view 2 (short sleeves, and a pointed collar). I also love the long sleeves, but I didn't think they would be that practical for me. I'm always cold, so I never end up wearing shirts that I can't layer a sweater over!

I'm not going to comment too much on the instructions, since I know that the ladies at By Hand London made quite a few changes in response to testers' feedback. The revised instructions have clarified a few points, and they're detailed enough that they're really easy to follow, even if you've never made a shirt before!

Since our kitchen table only had enough space for one sewing machine, I didn't set up my serger for this project, and instead finished everything with French seams. This is definitely my favourite seam finish for delicate fabrics, and it worked really well for this pattern, even the sleeves!

As for the fit, this one has a LOT of ease! It's intentional (unlike the Big 4, which add unnecessary easy to everything), but I thought that it ended up a little bigger than the line drawings suggested. The illustrations on the model show the ease a little more accurately, but they weren't done yet when I tested it!

I love the swingy-ness of the style, but I'll admit that I'm not sure it's the most flattering on me. I've seen lots of versions that look fabulous, but I just have a very small frame, and I think that the ease is a little overwhelming on me. The smallest size fits my full bust and waist measurements, but I think my high bust measurement better reflect the size of my frame, so I maybe should have sized down past the smallest size!

Having said that, I think it's a really fun style to wear! As I mentioned earlier, I've really started to like styles that are less fitted (even if they're not the most flattering on my body).

I think that if I made this again, I might make it a tiny bit more fitted under the arms and then begin the flare from there, possibly adding a bust dart. I think that on me, this might make the ease a little less overwhelming - I have a thrifted blouse that fits like this that I love!

I shortened it by 2", which wasn't unexpected because I'm a little short (5' 2", for reference).

The other alteration that I would make if I made it again would be to make the collar a little smaller. I'm not sure if it's just because I made the smallest size and the collar size doesn't change much from size to size, but I found the collar a little disproportionately big, and definitely larger than the line drawings suggest - it actually covers the pleats completely, which is too bad because they're my favourite part!

So, the final verdict on this shirt?

Looking at these photos, I LOVE it!

But, as much as I like it, it's definitely a stretch from styles I've worn before. I feel like I still need to just get a little more comfortable wearing it - I have a few pieces that I've bought second-hand that I loved, but were very different than the styles I was used to, and I needed to wear them a few times before I got used to the different style.

I really hope that I get some more wear out of it, because really do like it! I think with a couple tweaks I will definitely make the pattern again, and then maybe I'll find it a little more wearable.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I have actually set up a sewing space for myself in my bedroom! It still needs a little work but it'll evolve as I use it. So far my work schedule has been a little unpredictable, but I hope to have some more sewing time this summer than I had during the school year. It looks like I'll definitely have some knitting time if I keep a knitting project at the lab - lab work involves a lot of waiting!

Also, another huge thank you to my friend James for taking these photos for me - these were taken before it started pouring!

And, a final little disclaimer: I was given the test version (and later the revised version) of the pattern free of charge in return for my feedback as a tester. I paid for the supplies and for printing the pattern myself, and I was in no way obligated to post about it. All opinions are my own!


  1. Again, love the photos! I wish I had a friend like yours! ;-) I don't think I could pull this style off, but I like it on you.

    1. Thanks! I'm super happy with the way the photos turned out. It's just too bad he won't be in town over the summer! I haven't decided yet whether or not I can really pull off the style, but I do like it nonetheless!

  2. Au contraire, je trouve que ce style te va très bien. Je suis d'accord cependant que le col pourrait être réduit pour ne pas cacher les plis. Beau travail, surtout pour une version test! Ces photos sont prises au parc Lafontaine, non?

    1. Merci beaucoup! Oui, nous avons pris les photos au Parc Lafontaine il y a plusieurs semaines, avant qu'il faisait si beau!

  3. It looks lovely ! I do think that us smaller people walk a fine line when wearing swingy things. I love to wear them, and I've developed a hypothesis that as long as the shoulders and upper bust are fitted, we can pull them off. Because then they look like they're meant for us, not our older sisters (if they exist). Anyway, I love this shirt and its fabric. I might eventually make a collar-less one, or switch it out for a mandarin collar, as super sweet details aren't my style. You rock it though!
    (Also, your French is impressive! I've taken four years of Spanish and hope I can answer like that!)

    1. Thank you! You're right about anything swingy needing to be fitted at the top - it does fit at the shoulders but it could be a little more fitted at the upper bust. I like the idea of a collar-less one! I think I might also try a sleeveless one after looking at some swing tops online. And thanks about the French - I studied in an immersion program through elementary and high school. Despite living in Montreal, I still feel like I've lost a lot of it, though!