How-To: Making pullover-type shirts in 1:6
This is probably one of the EASIEST garments to make in 1:6, for those flexing their tailoring skills for the first time. We can always cover a button-front shirt another time.
DO TRY THIS AT HOME!!
YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL TO GET GOOD RESULTS! (Given the overall skill level of the members here, your results will be better than mine!)
THE ONLY THING YOU NEED TO FEAR IS: forgetting the name of the guy whose famous quote began with those same words.
TO BEGIN WITH:
A wide selection of materials is available in “fat quarters” bins in the quilting section of most fabric stores. I like to choose THIN fabrics with a small pattern (the smaller, the more in-scale it appears).
If you can’t find any, ASK the sales ladies, they know what is in their store far better than you. (that’s how I came across this item, and it was on sale to boot - thanks, Tanya!)!
NOTE: If in doubt about the scale, and measure out six cycles of the pattern - you'll have a better idea how big it would be in 1:1.
(A brief word about patterns: a generic, “How to make patterns for 1:6 uniforms” could be a tutorial in itself, and beyond the scope of this article. One quick and easy way to make a pattern is to “deconstruct/disassemble” an existing garment, utilizing those pieces for your pattern. However for argument’s sake, let’s presume a pattern already exists… Much like a Tarantino movie let’s just jump right into the action…)
1. Begin at the beginning:
If you’re going to cut one shirt, you might as well cut for two:
* If a cut piece is lost, you have a replacement ready
* You can discolor or re-dye the second garment for variety
* There’s not much else you can do with a piece of fabric this size, so you might as well…
Fold the cloth in half. Cut the front, back and sleeves along the grain of the fabric. Cut the collar, cuffs & plackets (or any other sections that will be stressed) against the grain.
(TIP: One easy way to tell the direction of the grain of a cloth: take a cut edge and pull on the threads. If it comes apart easily, then those threads run the length of the grain; if it doesn’t, then it’s running against the grain.)
With this fabric, I use the squares on the cloth like a grid – it will help out as a guide while cutting. I make all my cuts at this point, including shirt front cutout for plackets (the fold of fabric along the opening at the neck where the buttons/buttonholes overlap).
(TIP: Label all pieces on the back in pencil because small parts ARE easy to mix-up.)
2. Start with the most difficult section – Shirt front:
Run a stitch line along the length of the placket (keeps it from shifting later)
Shift the placket slightly up or down, so that the squares match. Then run another stitch line to sew it in place (REM: use the grid to keep the seams straight)
This picture shows the right placket in place; it gets folded over towards the left, and tucked inside. The left placket is next and gets folded over towards the right. The excess gets folded under/trimmed, and (either by hand or machine) tacked in place with an “X”
(NOTE: If the finished plackets are left-side over the right-side you’re over the biggest hurdle; if it’s right-side over the left-side, finish it anyway – you can always use it for your “Rosengirlte Baumgartner action figure (not doll).”)
Take the long strip that will become the cuffs and fold it in half lengthwise. Match up and pin it to the sleeves. Pinch off ¼ inch total for pleats (NOTE: Pleats on these old-style men’s pullover shirts ALWAYS goes to the back. The pleat also helps you distinguish R sleeve from L.)
Run a stitch line across the edge, using the grid to keep the seam straight.
Now is a good time to iron the pleats and cuffs flat
(TIP: cuffs come out neater that way; looks more to scale when finished)
Cut an oversized square for the pocket; fold it and trim to shape. Since for this exercise I chose to match up the pattern for an angled pocket, it’s time to bring out the “Fray-check (or any brand of colorless fabric adhesive – NOT “Fabri-tac”),” and tack the top and bottom in place. Iron it flat, then run a seam across the top of the pocket
Fold, trim, and iron it flat.
Pin the pocket in place, so that it matches up.
Hand- or machine-stitch the pocket in place.
(WHOOPS!!! That picture was supposed to be in focus folks, sorry!)
5. Stitch Front & Back Together:
Place the front and back together (with the insides facing out), and run a seam along the TOP of the shoulders.
At this stage the shirt seems to be HUGE; if it does, then that is a GOOD sign that it will fit when done.
On the reverse side of the fabric – fold the collar in half and run a stitch line lengthwise along the TOP seam of the collar as you did for the plackets. Turn it inside out and place it, bottom-end-up, along the collar edge. Run a seam along the edge to keep it in place; the top shoulder seams go towards the back..
7. Sleeves (again):
Sew the sleeves along the shoulder curve (REM: the pleats face towards the back on this one)
[I]TIP: After this step, you can touch-up the shoulder seams if you’d like, with a steam iron.[I]
8. APPROACHING THE FINISH LINE:
Fold the item in half (outsides facing in); sew the side seams beginning at the cuffs, and going towards the shirt bottom.
Turn the shirt inside out:
A final seam along the bottom to hem the shirt – AND YOU’RE DONE!!!
A couple of final images:
At this stage, there are a couple of adjustments I’ll make note of for future production:
* Decrease the height of the collar by 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch before sewing it in place.
* Hand-sew to pocket slightly more towards the midline (even though there were variations in pocket placement, I just think it looks neater that way)
Finally, the buttons and buttonholes will be hand-made to 1:6 scale; But as the narrator said at the end of the Conan movie, “That is another story…(or another article)”
Just a brief historical note about this style of garment:
During the American Civil War, the individual states provided the uniforms, but the soldiers (especially in the Southern States) often wore homemade checkered shirts.
When fabric was scarce, they were made from blankets, or whatever material was at hand. There’s certain poignancy about the fact that these shirts were made by mothers for their sons, by daughters for their fathers, by sisters for their brothers, and by wives and sweethearts for their beloved, to wear into battle.
Rarely, were any two shirts exactly alike in pattern, and in some cases, it was the only way to identify a fallen soldier.
For the soldier, it was perhaps his only memento from home; a connection with his loved ones. An interesting fact is that I’ve read many different accounts where the dead were scavenged for weapons, ammunition, shoes, and pants, but NEVER for shirts.
I am one of those folks who prefers to display ACW figures “in battle-line” formation, and one of the shortcomings of the uniforms sets for this purpose is the ironic uniformity of the checkered shirt!! That’s what prompted me initially to re-create 1:6 scale models of this item, in a variety of cloth (NOT doll clothing). Since the “pullover” style was very popular at the time, as well as easy to make, I initially focused on the construction of this type.
Hope you guys enjoyed this, esp. my fellow ACW collectors/customizers. (Yes that was a custom-made wool Union sack coat). For those of you seeking to make WW2 Soviet “gymnastroika” tunics, the construction is almost identical (2 vertical pockets instead of 1 angled pocket)
If this article was useful to you, let me know.