When it comes to making a pattern your own, one of my favorite details to add are tucks. They are simple to do, cost only a few inches of extra fabric, and add that couture touch! I added release tucks to my bicycle shirt (made from The Classic Shirt from Liesl and Co.) and this tutorial will walk you through how to do that! The first thing to do is to adjust your pattern by rotating the dart. I explained how to do that in this blog post. The next step is to make some design decisions.
You need to decide:
how many tucks you want to add,
how wide they are going to be,
the distance between the tucks,
and where you would like them to stop on the shirt.
Typically an odd number of tucks are added to each side - odd numbers are supposed to be more visually appealing, but it is your shirt and you are the designer so add how ever many you would like! I chose to add 7 to each side of my shirt. My tucks are each 1/16 of an inch wide (the width my edge foot stitches - I wanted to keep this easy). My tucks are 1/2 inch from center of tuck to center of tuck. My tucks stop 12 inches from the shoulder seam. Draw a horizontal line on the pattern where you would like your tucks to end.
Again this is personal preference - the key is to avoid a line of tucks stopping right at your bust apex. Since the tucks will add extra fabric to the design below where they stop, I wanted the tucks to release that fabric below my bust. You can also stitch the tucks all the way to the hem and have no extra fabric released. Once you have made your design decisions, find and mark center front on your pattern piece.
On the Classic Shirt, Center Front is 1/2 inch toward the body of the shirt from the "Cut on the Placket Fold Line". The tucks need to be the same distance from the placket on both sides. The Classic Shirt comes with two placket variations. The way to avoid problems and make sure that your tucks are where they should be is to work from Center Front. Center Front never moves despite the placket choice. My first tuck is 1 1/2 inches from Center Front.
Before cutting out the pattern, additional material needs to be added for the tucks. At 1/16th of an inch wide, it might appear that my tucks won't eat up much fabric, but don't let the width fool you! Each tuck eats up 1/8 of an inch of fabric and there are 7 on each side, so my tucks will consume 7/8 of an inch of fabric across the neck and shoulder area - an area of the pattern where there is not much ease! I find the easiest way to add the additional fabric for the tucks is to use the block method from heirloom sewing. Rather than cutting out the pattern piece, cut a block of fabric that is the length and width of the pattern piece, allowing several additional inches around the piece.
Above you can see that the block of fabric that I have cut is bigger all around than my pattern piece. My first tuck will be 1 1/2 inches from the Center Front line - it is farther from the pattern edge that you give it credit for! Using a fabric marking pen, draw the horizontal stopping line for the tucks on the fabric block and mark your first tuck. The block method gives you a fudge factor - the extra fabric at the side and above.
Move over 1/2 inch and mark the next tuck. I did this by making a mark 3 times along the length of the tuck and pressing that line. I then stitched the tuck from the neckline and stopped at the horizontal line that was previously marked. (You can see the line on the photo of the finished tucks below) Technically the tucks are not a true 1/2 inch apart by doing it this way, but since I am using the block method and cutting the shirt front once the tucks are stitched, that doesn't matter.
Do not backtack at the tuck stopping line - it doesn't give the tuck a nice finish, but take the tails to the back of the fabric and knot them as you would when stitching a dart. Stitch all 7 tucks and repeat for the other side. Remember to make a right and left side!
Once the tucks are stitched, lay the Shirt Front pattern piece over the finished block lining up the horizontal tuck stopping mark on the pattern with the line where the tucks end on the block of fabric and cut out the shirt fronts. Make sure that the center front of the shirt lines up with the vertical grain of the fabric and any additional fabric from the release of the tucks is toward the side seams. Here are the fronts cut out.
Now just follow the pattern directions to finish the shirt!
You can read about how I added the bias binding to the sleeve in this post and the other changes made to the pattern here. And don't forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter for sewing news and tips. Receive the Daisy Smocking Plate as my gift when you do!