Silk noil Kalle shirt

· sewing ·

While I was on holiday, I made another Closet Case Patterns Kalle shirt. It’s fair to say that this pattern is becoming what sewists refer to as a ‘TNT (tried ’n’ true) pattern’. This shirt is now the fourth Kalle I have made. However, the various pattern variations (length, button placket or tunic, collar or collarless, and so on), combined with the way that garments made from the same pattern can look completely different in different fabric means that my obsession with this pattern is not immediately obvious to the casual observer.

I didn’t expect to like the shape of the Kalle as much as I do. Usually I prefer tops that I make to be a bit more fitted so that I don’t end up looking cylindrical, but there’s some magic to the lines of this shirt which means that I really enjoy the way it looks on me. My first attempt at the pattern used the tunic length variant with a half button placket and a collar, using a lovely floaty, printed cotton. The tunic length is almost dress-length on me, but the lightweight fabric worked well with the length, and I have worn this shirt to death over three summers now.

The next version was an experimental attempt at the cropped length to use up a little scrap of Japanese double gauze fabric (printed with cats!) which I had left over from a present I made. I only had enough to to cut out the front of the shirt, so I made the rest out of remnants of the chambray fabric used for my Megan Nielsen Flint trousers. That version was collarless and also had a pop-over button placket. It worked out well, but this is my least-worn version as the cropped length is very cropped so I have to choose what I wear it with to avoid flashing passers-by with my middle-aged midriff. I tend to wear it with a close-fitting long-sleeved t-shirt underneath, and that works quite well. I also decided that I prefer it with a collar, so the two subsequent versions have had a collar. It also confirmed for me that the shape of this shirt works best on me in fabric which has a lot of drape. Fabrics with more body are fine, as long as they drape.

I decided to make a change to the length to get the perfect ‘Goldilocks’ Kalle shirt length for me: not too long and not too short. I liked the faced hem of the cropped version, so I opted to lengthen the cropped version by about 10 cm, and made a version with a collar and full length button placket in a lovely drapey linen/viscose blend fabric which is indigo coloured with irregular small white confetti print on it. That fabric also had a Japanese feel to me, so I used white cherry blossom shaped-buttons with it. I have worn this shirt to death too. It is so comfortable and soft, and looks great dressed up with slightly more formal skirt or trousers, but looks equally good with scruffy jeans. The fabric is looking better the more I wash it, as it gently fades, so I hope it will get a lot more wear out of it yet.

This brings me to the Kalle shirt number four. I had a short length of silk noil fabric hanging around from the Victoria blazer I made more than 4 years ago now1. There was just enough to make a Kalle at this lengthened cropped length, and I thought it would make for an interesting textured shirt with a great drape.

Silk noil is the opposite of what you might picture when you think about silk: it has a lot of body and is rough-textured and slubby, like linen. However, it has a wonderful drape despite the weight of the fabric, and because it is silk, it is magically warm or cool depending on the outside temperature. It is also quite an easy fabric to cut out and sew, because it is not slippery like most silk fabrics, and it is relatively stable. I sewed the shirt on my 1945 Singer 201 in the treadle cabinet (except for the button holes) so it was also made using my leg power, not electricity!

This time I decided not to use fusible interfacing (which you iron on) for the collar and button plackets, but instead to use scraps of black cotton and sew them in. That worked well, and has resulted in a much softer and smoother finish, but my collar went a bit wrong. The trouble with collars is that you need to make sure that the collar stand is even and has the same curve on each side at the centre front, and that the collar itself is sewn evenly into the stand so that collar points are the same length and symmetrical either side of centre front. Finally, you need to ensure that the seam allowances get tucked away neatly inside the shirt, which is difficult at the bulky junctions of collar and collar stand. As a result, there are lots of different techniques you can try which all claim to be the ’easy way’ to sew a collar.

My linen version worked out well (perhaps more by luck than skill), but I decided to try a different technique this time. The collar pieces themselves (and the topstitching around the collar) worked out very nicely, but something went very wrong when I joined the collar stand and collar to the shirt body: one collar point is noticeably longer than the other. Ooops. I didn’t notice this until the whole thing was constructed, so I just had to live with it. In practice, the dark colour of the shirt and the fact that I prefer to have the top button unfastened anyway means it doesn’t jump out at you. Either way, the world isn’t going to end because my collar points are uneven, so I will just learn from the mistake and enjoy wearing the shirt.

A while ago, I had bought some beautiful mirrored shirt buttons on Etsy from Arrow Mountain. I had been hoarding them but realised that they would look wonderful on this black shirt, and bring a bit of pizzazz to what would otherwise be quite a plain garment. The added bonus was that the shiny buttons might also distract the eye from the aforementioned collar snafu…

I love this shirt. I have already worn it several times and got compliments on it. Like my other Kalle shirts, it can be dressed up or down very easily, and is really comfortable to wear. It’s classic, but very slightly quirky. I’m sure it won’t be the last one I make.

  1. Looking at that post, I am still fairly regularly wearing all of those garments, particularly the red dress and the blazer, which is pleasing. It confirms in my mind that if I choose good quality fabric which will last, and make something that suits me and goes with my other clothes, sewing your own clothes can be very eco-friendly as you end up getting many more wears out of them. ↩︎