Skip to content

A Tragedy of Errors: Wearable Muslin of the Grainline Archer Shirt

2013 November 2
by elizabeth_admin

With more time and distance from this sewing “event”, I think this could become a comedy, but right now it’s feeling rather tragic to me.  I am not writing a review of this shirt just yet.  This pattern deserves a great send up.  Truly.  It’s well drafted; has deceptively simple style lines with great fun design details like the gathered lower back.

As you know I muslined this shirt about a week ago.  Truth be told, I muslined it a lot.  I didn’t want another “can’t raise my arms to drive” shirt again.  I wanted to ensure that I could actually walk around like a fully functioning human being in this shirt.  Shams and Sherril helped me along this muslin process, but are not to blame for the fit of this shirt or any of my mistakes made along the way — all that’s on me.  They were very generous with their time and expertise.

I started with a 1/2 in FBA.



Then I made a 3/4 inch FBA and slightly wider side seams.  Better, but I still had the back/arm strain.



Then I added a pleat on the back under the yoke.  Eureka!  I could lift my arms up and about and all around.  Freedom!  I thought I had reached Nirvana.



At which point, I confidently made it up in my fashion fabric, a cotton that I dyed with Claudine last year (fun!).  Before I talk about how it turned out, I must confess my long list of user errors made during the construction/deconstruction of this shirt, the length of which would be comedic if it wasn’t so tragic.    First I sewed part of the shirt inside out when constructing the yoke, so I had to redo all that.  Then I put the back pleat on backwards. Then I had to resew the plackets so they looked nice instead of becky-homecky. And then I inserted one of my sleeves inside out. Seriously, have you ever had that many user errors in one project before?  My stupidity knew no bounds.  Oh and then I ran out of thread while top stitching.  And let’s not forget my personal favorite of putting the buttonhole on the wrong cuff end — the cherry on top!

And then, to add insult to injury, it turned out to be a tent.  A big top circus tent.  I could fit a whole herd of elephants in my shirt.  I did not take any pictures of the shirt in this sad state due to my horror and despair.  But trust me, it was horrific.  And I bet you’re wondering why it was so big?  Because I forgot that because the back was cut on the fold, I would need to halve the amount of fabric I added with my back pleat in the muslin.  So by adding the entire amount of fabric added with the pleat, I effectively added quadruple the amount I intended to add.  Fun!  Not.

The thought of ripping out serged side seams and opening up the yoke, basically resewing the entire shirt over again, made me want to slit my wrists.  But after an afternoon of moaning and whining and a stiff glass of cabernet, I got out my seam ripper and opened up the yoke.   I removed all of the extra fabric I had added to the back with the pleat and sewed up a center back seam.  The shirt’s measurements are now exactly as drafted (except for the FBA in front of course).  I tried the shirt on and it was…

Fine, perfectly fine.  How could that be?  In the muslin, I could barely raise my arms without feeling the bicep and back areas strain.  Now I felt minor pulling, but it really was minor.  My shirting was cotton, thin but no stretch.  How could it fit so drastically different from the muslin?  I just don’t get it.  And I question the efficacy of muslins now.  Really question it.

The end result is a shirt that looks pretty decent.  But I don’t like the janky CB seam I had to add.  It was hard to finesse the seam across the gathered lower back section, so that join looks a little funny.  The fish eye darts I added in front under my side bust dart for the FBA need to be a mite deeper and longer, but I was just guesstimating that.  And the sleeves are too long.  I forgot to check the length at the muslin stage as I was so concerned with the back/arm tightness issue.

At any rate, I have a wearable shirt.  I will make some modifications the next time to tweak the fit for my body (shorten the sleeves, deepen and lengthen the fisheye darts, and raise the gathered back section about an inch maybe).  And, yes, there will be a next time, because, despite my tragedy of errors in the making of this shirt, I love this pattern.  And I love the layering you can do with a good shirt.  And winter in San Diego is all about layering for the differently climates throughout the day.  It can be 70-80 degrees in the heat of the day, but fall to 40-50 degrees at night.  I think a good shirt pattern is de riguer here.  But enough of the moaning and groaning.  Here’s the finished wearable muslin…









I hope to make another version again soon, because this is a great pattern and I hope to do it justice.


16 Responses leave one →
  1. November 2, 2013

    I have most definitely made those patterns where I mess up EVERY element of the construction. Eventually, it’s almost funny, except for the part where I want to kill myself because I’m SO frustrated. 🙂

  2. November 2, 2013

    I don’t make muslins because I have found that how your muslin fabric behaves and how your fashion fabric behaves are usually different. Unless you use the exact same fabric. A thought which makes me want to not sew altogether. So I just hope for the best!

    That is a beautiful color on you, and I think you ended up with a great shirt. Just shorten the sleeves next time, and I think you have your perfected pattern!

  3. Creative Hormone Rush permalink
    November 2, 2013

    I love this color on you! You deserve kudos for gritting it out and making it work. I wouldn’t shorten the sleeves too much, though. Cotton shirt fabrics especially have a way of shrinking up a bit that just frustrates a perfectly planned cuff length.

    Your sheer determination is so inspirational! I’ve been putting off buying this pattern because I’m very broad shouldered and have long arms, but now you’ve got me thinking that maybe I can actually get it to fit. Perhaps a good bottle of wine during the process would help!

  4. November 2, 2013

    I rarely make up a muslin too. However I don’t need to make as many alterations as some ladies and a precise/close fit is not my goal. Plus I use patterns with enough design lines for fitting as I go.

    Except my wedding dress – that had a calico muslin. I was so fed up of it that I used the muslin for the lining instead of making a THIRD dress in lining fabric. Looked fine, no one knew on the day, actually probably helped as the actual dress fabric needed a stable support.

    Back to you – the shirt is lovely. The blue is really beautiful and complements you to perfection.

  5. Jessica permalink
    November 2, 2013

    I feel your pain! But this shirt is looking great, and the color is really lovely on you!

  6. November 3, 2013

    This is yet another thing I love about the online sewing community–sharing all the goofs and mess ups is so validating as we ALL do this stuff. As for the shirt–well done! Glad you persevered as the end result looks great–and the color is gorgeous!–and very flattering. You deserve another glass of wine 😉 cheers

  7. Jodie permalink
    November 3, 2013

    My senior high school sewing project….lined blazer. Early 90s so big (BIG) (I’m 5 ft and was barely 100 pounds at the time). That project gave me fits (FITS!). I recall I put the sleeves in backwards more than once. By the time I was done (cause there was no leaving it). I hated it. Still have it nearly 20 years later and show it to my own high school Fashion Studies students. Sometimes survival is its own reward. Funny is that it’s now back in style!

  8. November 3, 2013

    I so had that kind of a sewing day while I was working on my recent jacket project – I can’t tell you how many times I had to rip out that collar (and then hand-stitch it because I accidentally ripped the fabric… ooops) and re-set the sleeves. So I understand your pain.

    As far as muslins go… I think they are helpful up to a point. I often have to do insane alterations to the backs of my patterns (*grumbles about stupid swayback*), and muslins often help me figure out a good starting point for those alterations and where I need to place them. However, I do often find that sleeves feel tighter in muslins than they do in regular fabrics. And for some patterns the drape of muslin is so different from the fabric that it is hard to decide if the pattern really needs an alteration at all.

    As for your shirt – I am glad you were able to save it! The fabric color is gorgeous. And the front of the shirt looks perfect – the hem length is just right on you. I tried to make a button front shirt a few years ago – four muslins and two patterns later I still have not yet made a wearable shirt. So I am always appreciative when I see anyone else making button down shirts. I agree that this has the makings of a great shirt pattern for you. I am sure with a little tweaking you will have a great TNT pattern.

  9. November 3, 2013

    I absolutely love this color on you, and am thrilled to see another pretty Archer shirt. You did a wonderful job, and many of your challenges will pay off in the future.

  10. November 3, 2013

    thank you for sharing all the sewing bloopers… and I can totally relate…
    But now you have a wearable shirt that Looks GREAT on you!

    PS I put off buying grainline’s scout tee for the longest time, because I thought why buy a pattern that’s so simple. Well, it is SO well drafted – it has become my TNT… Love grainline! There’s an Archer in my future…
    🙂 Chris

  11. November 3, 2013

    I make muslins on occasion, but my mother never, ever, muslins. Not even when she made my wedding dress. She makes flat pattern adjustments, and then pin-fits the fashion fabric. She doesn’t even bother to machine baste. She’s brave, but very effective.

  12. November 10, 2013

    I’ve struggled with muslins. I want to get to sewing right away and so often the muslin doesn’t fit like the actual garment. I haven’t given up on them yet, though.
    Your shirt looks great and I agree with the rest that the color is fabulous!

  13. November 20, 2013

    Elizabeth, you look smashing! gorgeous color, really really really nice shirt (yum), plus outstanding hair and lips – yowza woman! I for one am very glad and impressed you stuck it out, and oh yes we have been there also. It’s just part of the territory – keep your seam ripper as sharp as your pins 😉

    re: worth of muslins. as T. Sedai says, they are very good at some things and not for others. First, if you use actual muslin to fit anything but a very structured jacket or blazer (and even then) the drape will be all wrong. Better to use an extreme sale of an ugly apparel fabric with similar drape. But still, muslin can be indispensable for figuring out the 1) lengths you want ie. of the yok, depth of armhole, where bust point should hit and 2) the overall shape of the garment (do you want a smooth even waist shape on the side seam or a sharper deeper one? etc.). Not so good for final aroundness measurements and also, how will garment feel to wear. A muslin is a tool and like all tools you have to learn when/how to use it. That darn learning curve again ;P

    I measure the flat pattern, i do flat adjustments, i pin fit the tissue pattern, i compare existing garments to flat pattern in shape and measurements, i make muslins (full or partial), and i ***always always always*** fit as i sew my final garment.

    And i still screw up 🙂 heehee, hope this helps and so very glad Magic Closet worked wonders on your vest – that fur is just drop. dead. on you and i cannot stand to think of you not having that fabulous around your killer bod. Go SEWN!!!!! take care, steph

  14. Karen Logan permalink
    November 29, 2013

    Thank you so much to sharing all the mistakes you made on this blouse. When I do that, I really lose hope and confidence and think no one else would do that!!! Thanks for reassuring me that’s certainly not true! I so appreciate it!!!!!

  15. Kathleen permalink
    November 30, 2013

    I just made my fifth Archer and after a number of fit tweaks I’m happy. I tell you this because I, too, find so much to love about this pattern that it was worth the effort. So hang in there!! Just for the record, I had to go one size up for a better shoulder and neckline fit, then raised the armholes (for better range of motion), made a SBA, and a broad back/shoulder adjustment. And I do see more Archers in my future! I think your version looks fine as is, and I wear all my “muslins” even if they aren’t perfect. I’ve learned so much from the process of perfecting this pattern.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Grainline’s Archer Shirt — The sleeveless edition | SEWN

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

  • Follow SEWN...
  • My Weapons of Mass Construction

    Singer Featherweight 221 (1938)
    Baby Lock Imagine
    Brother 2340CV
    Husqvarna Viking Emerald 183
    RIP: Brother 1034D
  • Translation

  • I’m a proud member of

  • I support

    Project 95
  • Archives

  • Categories

  • The Trench Sew Along