Sarai Mitnick from Colette Patterns joins us today with fabric ideas for men’s shirts. This is great inspiration for the men’s Negroni shirt in our Super Online Sewing Match Round Four challenge! (Psst: There’s a discount code for Colette Patterns when you follow that Round Four link.) Sarai is the author of the popular The Colette Sewing Handbook: Inspired Styles and Classic Techniques for the New Seamstress. She has also already taught us so much here at Sew Mama Sew, from All About Grainline to The Hows and Whys of Clips and Notches. What types of fabric do you like to use for men’s shirts? What fabric do you love for women’s shirts?
“This is my favorite shirt,” my husband said one morning as he buttoned up the Negroni I’d made him from a beautiful Liberty tana lawn he’d picked out, in subtle shades of tan and green.
I have always been a rather selfish seamstress, never relishing the idea of sewing for other people. You just never know whether they’ll truly appreciate the hard work. But hearing that from the lips of my picky husband, I was elated! I thought, “Now I get it!”
Sewing for men has other pleasures too. Men’s clothing tends to be very traditional and formulaic, so once you master the techniques to make, say, a button-down shirt, you can just keep cranking them out. Men’s clothing also tends to put the focus on subtle details, like the direction of stripes of the shape of pockets. Those small changes are a lot of fun to play around with.
Men’s clothing also tends to have a very specific language, where details convey a lot about the personality of the wearer, the formality of the occasion, and the quality of the garment. Of all the variables that go into a shirt, the fabric choice perhaps says the most.
If you’re ready to tackle a man’s shirt, I’d like to share some fabric options with you that you may not have considered. Each has a different message. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start, particularly when buying fabric online.
1. Cotton Shirting
Cotton shirting is the most common, and what many people first think of when buying or sewing a man’s shirt. These can be informal (think: homespun check) or quite dressy (think: fine Italian cotton). There are many classic patterns available, including stripes and checks.
Fabric shown: Cotton gingham shirting from Fashion Fabrics
2. Cotton Lawn
Lawn isn’t specifically sold as shirting, but I find that it makes an ideal casual men’s shirt, especially if the wearer is a fan of bold prints! Liberty tana lawns make especially lovely shirts.
Fabric shown: Liberty Tana Lawn
Seersucker has a crinkled texture, and is often patterned with stripes. It’s a comfortable, easy to wear summer staple. Look for lighter weight seersuckers for shirts, since the weight can vary.
Fabric shown: Seersucker from Hart’s Fabric
Rayon is a great choice for summer shirts, because it’s cool and breathable. Hawaiian shirts are often made from rayon. It often has a silky feel to it.
Fabric shown: Hawaiian rayon from Hawaiian Fabric Marts
Linen is another fantastic summer fabric, due to its breathability. It’s also quite durable and tends to soften and improve with time. It tends to have a classic look that’s casual while maintaining a look and feel of quality.
Fabric shown: European linen from fabric.com
Chambray has an obvious cross-weave and carries the look of classic men’s workwear. It can most often be found in cotton, though linen variants are even nicer if you can find them!
Fabric shown: Robert Kaufman Chambray from Hart’s Fabric
Oxford is a type of weave. The weave has a visible basket weave type appearance, and it’s very often used for semi-formal to more formal men’s shirts. It looks great on women, too.
Fabric shown: Blue oxford from B. Black & Sons
Another type of weave, with a zigzag look. This is a sturdy fabric, often made in cotton for shirts.
Fabric shown: Yellow herringbone from B. Black & Sons
The brushed texture of flannel makes it popular for the cooler months. Cotton flannel is the most common, and the easiest to wear and care for. Wool flannel can also be used for shirts, but can sometimes be itchy, and needs special care so it doesn’t shrink over time.
Fabric shown: Yarn-dyed flannel from fabric.com