Thrilled to see the introduction of menswear in the Simplicity Summer Sewing Challenge this year, I ordered my pattern and put my thinking cap on. I really enjoyed the competition last year and I was lucky enough to be awarded one of the runners up positions in the vintage sewing category.

Simplicity 8180 is a handy pattern for me to have as I seem to have collected quite a few girls patterns, but not many boys ones. I have a lot of nieces, but I also have nephews, and now I have a pattern to sew for them!

Except I’m making this one for me!

Earlier on in the summer one of my clients from the salon gave me a sizeable length of wax print fabric she’d picked up on her travels in Ghana a decade ago. I loved it so much I made a shirt and a pair of shorts out of it! Well, when I showed her what I’d made she was so pleased that the next time she came, she bought me more wax print fabric. Pretty cool huh?!

I wanted to make this fabric up into a summer shirt. I thought it would make a perfect woven tshirt. The ‘camp’ style collar on the 8180 always makes me think of Hawaiian shirts… bowling shirts… holiday/ casual shirts in general, just the feel this fabric needs. With a few simple adjustments it would make the perfect pattern for my new just-in-time-for-summer-to-not-quite-be-over-yet shirt.

My measurements put me at the smaller side of Medium, but there’s plenty of ease built in and even though I planned on pulling this over my head, I could still go down a size. So I made my adjustments to size S.



  1. Shorten body by 6cm.
  2. Narrow sleeve by 3cm.
  3. Shorten sleeve 2cm
  4. Make a horizontal seam 20cm down from the neck line on the front pattern piece and facing.
  5. Add seam allowance to the facing and discard the bottom piece.
  6. Re trace the top section of the front adding seam allowance.
  7. Mark seam allowance onto the top of the remaining (bottom) front piece. Cut at the centre front mark. Place this on the fold when cutting out.

I cut the collar and facings out of plain black cotton. I also cut the point off the pocket piece and used the remaining rectangles to put an inseam breast pocket in. (I sewed it at 1cm with the main seams at 1.5cm, so that the linings would sit inside the seamline).

The fabric had one small section with this black diamond pattern on it. The rest of the fabric is a wild pattern of stars and squiggles. (I’m such an idiot for not photographing the fabric…)

Recently I was lucky enough to receive a beautiful Elna Grasshopper sewing machine. I’d just got it working smoothly and was set on this being our first project together!

I didn’t keep it ‘strictly vintage’ though and used my Brother overlocker to finish the inside seams. I’ve kept it threaded with rainbow thread, so I don’t feel the need to change it with every make.

Here’s my top tip: put some fraycheck on any exposed overlocker seams. Normally I zigzag the tails back onto the seam allowance but there’s no zigzag with the Grasshopper.

The instructions were clear. Except no matter how many times I read it I can’t see where it says ‘stitch the shoulder seams’ … in these situations I assume I am going crazy and refer to the diagrams. By step 10, the shoulders are done, so there it is.

I almost forgot to cut the tab out in the first place, then I almost forgot to put it in. It’s a lovely little thing, I’ve not made such a skinny loop before. I dutifully followed the instructions and fed the threads through with my big needle…

… It was a bit of a struggle, but it worked.

Once the collar and facings are put together with the back and (augmented) front pieces, I stitched on the inseam pocket pieces, overlapped the centre fronts and sewed on the lower front piece.

I took a deep breath and sewed an hourglass shape at the base of the collar.

As if by magic, the ‘ankle’ from my (much loved!) Janome DKS30 fits the ‘knee’ of my new Elna, so he can wear all my existing ‘feet’! – I’ve ordered Elna his own bionic-ankle, it wouldn’t do to show favouritism. (I don’t know about you but I’ve found it hard not to humanise objects since reading that Marie Kondo book… annoyingly it’s the only lesson that stayed with me)

And I was able to avoid a bit of hand sewing by slipping on my edgestitch foot to catch the inside collar from the ditch on the outside…

I left the bottom of the sides open so I could add some simple side vents. I finished the seams on either side and pressed them in. Then I stitched the allowances, up one side, across the top and down the other side. I then strengthened the line across the top with a bar tack (I got my Janome DKS30 out just for those bar tacks!)

A double folded hem and it’s all finished. I love how it came out. It says it’s a 3hr shirt on the pattern envelope, and, you know, with out the time spent on the modifications and the time consuming constrictions of a small floor to trace and cut out on, I think it probably wouldn’t take much longer. Which is a good job as the Elna started to smell a bit like burning after taking on some of the longer seams…

I ran out of fabric for the sleeves, so as they finished on the selvedge I didn’t bother finishing the hems. I plan on rolling them up anyway, so it’s ideal.

… and the back, I love the design, it looks like fireworks!

So here’s to Simplicity turning 90 and their Summer Sewing Challenge! And to sewing gifts, fabric and machines, to pattern placement and modifications… to everyone…

… Happy Sewing!

(I wanted to get a decent picture of me in this shirt… this isn’t always easy in my tiny little flat… but we went to the Isle of Wight with our cousins and I took my new shirt along. If I look a little disheveled in this picture, I had just been swimming in the sea- the water temperature was 18°C!)

Notes to self:

  • Check where that burning smell comes from before getting in too deep with the Elna again!
  • Maybe trim down the collar a bit on the next one… although I like the way it echoes the pattern down the front of this fabric.
  • Always check the water temperature before swimming!