One Stitch at a Time: My Grainline Archer Button Up, Part 1

Before we get going…

I’m trying a little something new (though if you take a look around, you’ll see this whole blog is pretty new). One of the best things about the online sewing community is the tutorials. A few years ago when I considered taking up garment sewing again after a long hiatus, I was totally overwhelmed by the challenges associated with making clothes that actually fit. The internet-as-sewing-classroom wasn’t quite as developed yet, but one could find the occasional reference to a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) and the slash and spread grading techniques. While I had a sense that there were people with bodies like mine making their own clothes, I didn’t feel confident enough to take the plunge back into garment sewing. After a few more years of incubation and remarkable growth, the online sewing community has created a wealth of free fitting/pattern adjustment tutorials that have made it possible for me to take on garment sewing projects that I would have otherwise shied away from.

In an effort to highlight the sources I lean on to get me through new sewing techniques, I’m going to start including a resources section at the end of my posts. Each will include links to the patterns I’m using, sewalongs I’ve relied on and any tutorials that I’ve found helpful. I want to shine a light on the things that others have done that give me the courage to dive headlong into my own projects.

Now that I’ve dispensed with the formalities lets get to the sewin’


I know that this may sound a little silly, but damn this pattern has a lot of pieces.  It took me way too long to trace all of the pattern pieces.  I’m not sure I would have made it if I had to put the entire digital pattern together one page at a time.  It took me maybe two hours to trace and then cut out all of the pieces.  After that, I spent at least another hour on my fitting adjustments.  I don’t mind spending a fair amount of time sewing and pressing, and I love learning a new technique, but I can’t help but find tracing a little tedious after an hour.

I decided to try and make a wearable muslin and found some shirting that I had in my stash.  If it is too ill-fitting/poorly constructed to wear out of the house I won’t cry over the fabric, but if it turns out well enough, I’ll be happy to wear it around.

Fitting Adjustments:

So I made quite a few fitting adjustments before I even got started.  In an effort to get the right fit at the shoulders I picked my size based on my high bust measurement.  I used the “How to Choose the Right Size Pattern” tutorial from Workroom Social as a reference.  After doing a little back of the envelope math, I decided that even with an FBA, I was going to need to grade out a bit at the hips.  I decided to trace a 12 and grade to a 14 at the hip. From there I made a 2.5 inch FBA.  The Archer doesn’t have any darts, so I had to add my own.  While I’ve done an FBA before, I’ve always done them on patterns that were already drafted with darts.  Just to make sure I didn’t screw things up too badly I followed another tutorial from Workroom Social on the topic.

Even with all of my planning and research I did make a mistake with the FBA. By the time I was making these adjustments I had already traced and cut out my other pattern pieces, including the front button placket.  I was worried that if I didn’t remove the added length at the center front from the FBA, the button placket would be too short.  So I trimmed the front pattern pieces and continued along.  It wasn’t until I was cutting my fabric pieces that it hit me that at the side seams the front of my shirt was now about an inch and half shorter than the back… so much for not screwing the adjustments up.  In my effort to match the button placket I didn’t account for the length that would be pinched out on the side seam by the dart.  I decided to add that to ever-growing “lessons learned” list and try to fix it later.  If I work up the courage to make a second Archer, I’ll make the placket longer and keep the increased length.

In addition to the (semi botched) FBA I also added some extra width to the sleeves.  This is a pretty standard adjustment for me, but because I’m still building confidence in my ability to make pattern adjustments I referred back to the “Making Your Sleeves Fit” tutorial from The Curvy Sewing Collective.  To deal with the added width I just increased the depth of the pleats at the cuff.

Construction: Day One

During the construction, I went back and forth between the pattern instructions and the Sewalong and so far I’ve felt confident enough about each step.  I found sewing the button bands and setting the sleeves relatively straight forward.  After studying the video in the Sewalong, I used the burrito method to attach the yoke and I’m happy with the results.  WI will admit to more than a little bit of user error… I put the back of the shirt on inside out.  My fabric has two right sides, so I just have an inverted box pleat rather than a true box pleat at the back.  By the time I realized the mistake, I had already attached both yokes and done most of the top-stitching, so I decided to leave it as-is.  It’s a wearable muslin, amiright?  When it came to sleeve placket I was a little worried, but it all worked out.  It’s not the most beautiful sleeve placket I’ve ever seen, but this is a (hopefully) wearable muslin and I bet it will look better the next time attempt the technique.

By the time I started sewing, the sun had gone down, so I don’t really have any pictures of the construction process.  Even if I did, they would not be as beautiful or as helpful as the photos in Jen’s  Archer Sewalong.  Here are a few poorly lit pictures from the end of day one.  Below we have a minor parade of horrors: a wrinkled sleeve placket, an accidentally inverted box pleat and the mismatched front and back pieces at the side seam.

JPEG image-B7272738DE16-1


As much as I wanted to finish the shirt in one sitting, it just wasn’t in the cards.  After about 5 hours of slowly working on my Archer, I decided to put it away before making any more mistakes.  I’m hoping I’ll have time to finish it up next week and take it out for a spin.  I’m nervous about the buttonholes.  I’ve yet to master the use of the buttonhole foot and setting on my machine and I’m hoping that I can power through.  I feel cautiously optimistic about the collar and cuffs and I’m looking forward to taking them on.

Wish me luck!


Grainline Archer Button Up Pattern

Jen’s Archer Sew Along

How to Choose the Right Pattern Size by Workroom Social (includes information about choosing a size based on your high bust measurement)

Making Your Sleeves Fit (Large Bicep Adjustment Tutorial) from the Curvy Sewing Collective

How to Make a Full Bust Adjustment on a Bodice Without Underarm Side Seam Darts from Workroom Social (aka adding a bust dart)

Park Slope Copy Center (my local source for affordable large format printing)

P.S. – I’m still trying to figure out an image attribution policy that feels good to me.  When I’m working on a project I’d like to be able to use things like the designers line drawings to show you what I’m up to, but I don’t want anyone feel like I’m stealing their work.  So, in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, the line drawing at the beginning of the post is the one included in the Archer Pattern.


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