achievement unlocked: pink madras Archer shirt

Let’s take a deep dive into history & talk about a shirt I made sometime in June.


This is the Archer shirt from Grainline Studio, which is currently up for consideration as a plus-size pattern of the year over at the Curvy Sewing Collective. Um…what? Sorry, guys, this is really not a pattern for plus-sized sewers. The size range is fairly limited. I added multiple inches to accommodate my size, & my measurements when this photo was taken were 44″/39″/46″, which I consider kind of small-to-medium plus. This is pretty much the most flattering of the dozens of photos I took. I know we could have a whole complex discussion about larger bodies & the concept of “flattering”. My goal is not to somehow use my clothing to trick anyone into thinking I am skinny or in possession of a flat belly. But all other things being equal, I’m still not super-stoked about leaving the house looking like this:


Just for shits & giggles, let’s compare the above photo to this one:


From when I was 24 weeks pregnant with Ramona. Granted, she was a pretty big fetus.

This pink madras Archer was a “wearable muslin” I made in preparation for the white pintucked number I blogged about over the summer, so obviously, I did tweak the pattern some more after this & make it again. I even have a third version cut out & ready to sew. So it’s not like I think this pattern should be doused in kerosene & set alight. I just think there are other patterns that would probably suit me better. I am tempted by Chasmerette’s Harrison pattern. I think princess seams work a lot better for me than boxy shapes like the Archer.

Some plus-sized sewers who have made the Archer have added darts to accommodate curves & give a little more shape. I did not, because I was actually going for a boxy, slouchy look. It turns out that it’s not a look I actually like to wear, but it’s not the pattern’s fault that I sewed a silhouette I don’t like. I knew what I was getting into. The pattern itself is fine. I was annoyed by the fact that it has separate pattern pieces for the left & right fronts, because one side has a button band that is cut-on & folded under, & the other has a button band that is sewn on. Why? I’m sincerely asking if there is a legitimate reason for this, if it sets the stage for some sort of improved final product. I much prefer the construction of, say, the M6696 shirtdress, which has mirrored front halves & sewn-on button bands. I also found the shirt cuffs strangely fiddly to sew, but that ultimately didn’t end up being a big problem with this shirt, because:


Yeah. That is one excessively short sleeve. Totally 100% my own fault. I had read that the sleeves on this guy ran long, especially with the larger sizes. (That classic assumption that plus-sized sewers must have arms that are also proportionally longer.) I measured my arm & cut my sleeves accordingly, but I made two utterly idiotic mistakes: 1) I measured from my armpit instead of my shoulder point. I mean, how dumb can you get. & 2) I didn’t even stop to consider the necessity of ease for movement. When my arm is down, the cuff just brushes my wristbone (so, too short), but when I bend my elbow to actually, you know, use my arm, the cuff rides halfway up my forearm.

Honestly, this whole post is just a celebration of my sewing incompetence. You’re laughing with me, right? Not at me?

In case you wondered, that red tattoo on my arm says, “Don’t mourn. Organize.” More relevant than ever to our political climate, wouldn’t you say? I got that tattoo back in 2001. Little did I realize then how much worse things could get.

I made some other dumb mistakes with this shirt. I completely forgot to interface the collar. Not sure how that happened, since interfacing is generally the first thing I do after my fabric is cut, but it happened, so my collar is very limp & sad. It also may have been smart to use some some kind of interfacing, like a strip of Heat N’ Bond or something, on the hem, because the madras is VERY lightweight & the hem wants to roll up. I hemmed my white Archer with narrow bias tape, so everything stays very smooth & tidy. My sleeve plackets could be better. I really should have spaced my buttons better because my shirt needs a little help in the belly area (though I did manage to eliminate my usual bugbear, bust gaping).


I also intentionally skipped the breast pockets because I hate breast pockets. I have enough going on up there, I don’t need useless pockets drawing attention.

On the plus side, though, I did a pretty nice job with my plaid matching.

The nitty gritty: I made view A. No butt ruffle for me, thanks. I cut a size 16 & did a full bust adjustment of some inches (two? I honestly don’t remember) using the slide & pivot method. I kept the added width through the waist & tapered back down to a 16 at the hips. I added an extra inch of length (which was obviously not quite enough). I think I shortened the sleeves 3″, which was way too much. I got the fabric at Hancock before they closed. The photos don’t show it, but it has silver Lurex threads woven through it, so it glitters a bit, but doesn’t contain enough Lurex to be itchy. The fabric is really lightweight & fairly loosely-woven, so fraying complicated the process a bit. I used translucent pink plastic buttons.

I’ve worn this shirt a bit, especially since I got my cancer diagnosis & lost a bit of weight. But obviously the fit is not the greatest, the collar is terrible, & I can only wear it with the sleeves rolled up, which presents a challenge. The weather needs to be cool enough that I can tolerate a woven shirt, but warm enough that I don’t need a second layer. The shirt also kind of requires a tight-fitting bottom. I tried wearing it with my gray twill wrap skirt a few times, but the boxiness on top combined with the volume on the bottom just wasn’t working for me.

Moral of the story: I’m glad this pattern was purchased for me as part of the Indie Pattern Month pattern swap. & I’m also glad I tried it. Even though it didn’t turn out great, it shed some light on what I like in a button-down shirt, & practice with pattern-matching is always appreciated. Sewing the curved hem was really fun, & I think the shape of it is lovely, even though the shirt overall is too short. I don’t plan to use this pattern to make a standard button-down again, but I am willing to experiment with making it even bigger & slouchier for kind of a boyfriend/90s-style flannel silhouette, to wear over other shirts.

& this goes to show that even projects that didn’t turn out very well can be enlightening…& funny.



Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

11 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: pink madras Archer shirt

  1. I always appreciate when people log their fails. It never looks as bad as we think it does, but the amount of time invested in something you don’t love is so frustrating! Onwards and upwards I guess.

    1. I love the fail posts too! I don’t mind the occasional fail. They’re learning experiences! This shirt is really more or less fine. Kind of janky-looking, & I wish the fit was better, but it was technically a muslin. So it was kind of meant to be imperfect.

  2. Ngl, I teared up about your tattoo. And then swore because I remembered I STILL haven’t joined my union. Gotta get on that…

    Every shirt I’ve made had that double placket type treatment. I also wonder what the philosophy is? I always assumed it was because the added on placket is much better aesthetically and structurally (I think anyways) but the fold over is easier so they have you do that on the one that won’t show. Idk if that’s why though.

    Tbh I was kind of perplexed by many of the suggested patterns for the pattern of the year. But then, I don’t think I suggest any because although I have a bunch I liked this year, they weren’t ones many other people sewed and also weren’t particularly more friendly than the archer – being a tweenie I can get away with a restricted size range as long as I do an FBA and a broad back adjustment. So I wouldn’t nominate any of my faves because I am the top size, so I would consider that quite restricted sizing! I ended up not voting in the quiz because I either hadn’t made the patterns or couldn’t endorse the patterns I had made, and I don’t think voting for things I’ve seen someone else make is a worthwhile metric.

    Im glad you blogged this even if it was mostly a fail. That plaid matching is inspiring and it’s good to see when things don’t quite work out, and why.

    1. I only voted in the categories where I had made at least one of the nominated patterns & had positive feelings about it. I kind of felt like I should kick in some votes if I was going to link to the poll. But yeah, I feel you on being a tweenie size & feeling weird about positing which patterns work for plus sewers when I can fit into a lot of the straight size ranges.

      If I ever make the Archer again, I think I’ll just do the added plackets. I think they’re easier than the cut-on plackets, & they finish up some neat & clean. Plus you can fussy-cut both plackets, which I kind of like.

      Join your union! Though I confess, I got my tattoo in response to 9/11. I knew there was going to be a wave of racism, xenophobia, & Islamophobia, & I wanted to remind myself to keep fighting against it. I really could not have imagined how bad it would get…I’m trying hard not to think about the upcoming transfer of power in Washington DC. It’s just too horrific to contemplate.

      1. I think the local version might be Gough Whitlam’s ‘Maintain your rage’ which is a phrase I think about all the time and would be happy to have tattooed on my body.

        I am really trying not to devolve into ‘everything is terrible’ but I keep catching myself thinking ‘well I hope we just wipe ourselves out quickly so the earth has less to recover from’ which is… yeah. Anyway. Trying to find stuff to do that is local to me (like, the US shit is terrible but also our own government is terrible and that’s where my responsibility lies) and also meaningful. So far I’m only on small things but small things are better than no things, and maybe I’ll work my way up. I feel like… I’ve done a lot of marching and I feel like none of it did anything but also probably it did and ALSO, so what. I have the privilege of deciding whether or not to bother, lots of people don’t have that so I need to get over myself. And also find things other than marching that help.

  3. Oh, Ciara, I love love love your honest reviews. We are so in need of some “internet sincerity”. I’m too a bit surprised by some of the suggested patterns of the year (Colette Mabel skirt? really?)
    The shirt is lovely, and I like the fabric and matching plaid, maybe you could wear it open over a t-shirt? Anyway, thank you for your post and your pics, you’re brave and funny, I sincerely admire you! Best wishes for your surgery! Hugs!

    1. Thank you! Yeah, if I make it again, I’m going to make it a little bigger & wear it open. That might have been weird in this fabric, because it’s so lightweight…but maybe it could work over a tank top in the summer? I’ll try it!

      I’ve never made the Mabel because I am just not really a tight knit skirts kind of gal, but that was one of the first Colette patterns in the expanded size range, & it was drafted by someone halfways competent (Alyson Clair), so I think people have had better luck with it compared to a lot of Colette patterns. It is kind of an illustration, though, of how limited the plus-size pattern market is though, that THESE were the patterns nominated. A lot of head scratchers on that list.

  4. If I remember correctly, either Grainline or another pattern company that does this type of placket talked about why, and it’s because this is how RTW button-downs are made and it’s therefore considered the “proper” way. I just checked all of Ben’s RTW button-downs and can confirm that this is how they’re made. This is just speculation, but it might be the way people are taught to do it when they learn patternmaking for actual clothes production (which I think is Jen’s training because she used to have a RTW line), even though it’s not how home sewing typically does it. The last time I made an Alder, though, I just cut both sides the same and cut two placket pieces because it’s easier.

    I started muslining the Archer a couple months ago but haven’t gotten very far on it because I’ve been too preoccupied with election depression/anger and moving. I got front darts added, but I’m trying to make the back look better without adding darts or a CB seam because I want to make a loose-ish flannel shirt like you describe at the end of your post and I don’t want the interruption of darts/seams in the plaid on the back. But I have a serious swayback and unless I do something to address the issue, shirts look totally ridiculous and balloon-y in the lower back and then tight across my butt.

    I don’t think of shapeless garments like the Archer as being great for plus-size people, partly because of the flattering issue (not to look skinnier, but to just look like your body has a shape of some sort under your clothes) and also because putting plus-size women in gigantic body-hiding sacks is something we’re supposed to dislike, right? So I don’t get it being included in the CSC pattern of the year contest.

    1. I guess some people like shapeless sacks, but I know I prefer more closely-fitting shirts to try to show a little body shape. I’m also oddly-proportioned (you may have noticed!) in that I am busty & carry my excess weight in my belly, but I have kind of a flat butt & (comparatively) skinny legs. So if there’s too much volume up top, that really just amplified the cake pop effect. Different strokes for different folks, but that’s just not my preferred look.

      I feel you on election angst. I think if it wasn’t for this whole cancer thing, that is the big thing that would be debilitating me emotionally. I’m really scared about what the next four years are going to bring.

      If you figure out how to get the fit you want in the back of the Archer, let me know. I usually just get really aggressive with my swayback adjustment. I didn’t post a back photo of this shirt, but I think I did a 3″ swayback adjustment? I graded out to nothing at the side seams. There was still some pooling, but that may have been because this shirt was a smidge too tight in the hips. I added a little extra for the hips when I made the white tuxedo shirt, & it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad at all. It’s more or less the fit I was going for in the waist & back. It’s just a question of whether I actually want to wear that fit, you know?

  5. Totally laughing with you. 😊

    I love that fabric. I know it’s not really your style, but could you wear the shirt under a v-neck sweater? You could see the collar, but not the sleeves (or your belly button!) that way.

    1. That would be a good solution if I owned any V-neck sweaters. I am also learning that I prefer not to wear woven fabric if knits are an option. I spent most sweater weather wearing a long-sleeved tee & a hoodie. But maybe I should try classing things up a little.

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