Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shirt Tales

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. –Erma Bombeck

One year, I had this really great idea for Christmas gifts for my family. I decided that I was going to make everyone a shirt, get them a new pair of jeans and that we were all going to have our pictures taken wearing our new outfits. Aren't we a cute bunch?
Back, l to r: Elizabeth, Mark, Julie
Front, l to r: Robin, Andrew, Jill
December 1993
There is a 20x24 of our entire family {I made shirts and got jeans for my mom and dad too} hanging on my parent's living room wall, but that was impossible to scan. This picture of my brothers and sisters and me was the only print from our photo session that was small enough to scan {right click on it for a closer look}.

I started working on this little project in the summer of 1993. I had all the jeans bought and tucked away by September. I'm not sure how long it took me to finish the shirts, but I know for certain that I was not up until 2:00 am on Christmas Eve finishing them up. Those were the days when I was on top of things.

In a large family, it is hard to do something of this magnitude and be sneaky about it. My sewing table was set up in the far end of our downstairs family room — the room where the TV and all of the toys were. I think my mom was in on the secret, but I wanted everyone else to be surprised. So if there were people around when I wanted to work on the shirts, I would work on one that was definitely the wrong size for whoever was in the room to throw them off the track. And it worked reasonably well, as everybody was pretty surprised on Christmas morning.

I still have my shirt, although I haven't worn it in years. I pulled it out of the closet to have a look at it. Because the shirts were identical, I put the first initial of each person on a little label and then sewed the label into the neck of the shirt that belonged to them. That way, there'd be no confusion about who's shirt it was. This is my shirt because it has a little "E" on the label.

I smiled when I opened it up to have a look at the seams. I'd forgotten that for a while after I got my serger, I still pressed the seams open and serged down both sides of the seam allowance. Open seams just looked nicer to me, plus they are easier to line up in places where you would press your flat seams both the same direction.

And here are some of the details. I probably should have pressed this shirt before the big photo shoot, but it's just going to go back into the closet, so I skipped it. I used the same adult men's pattern for everyone 15 and over and then the three smallest shirts were a child's pattern which was similar to the adult pattern.

My sister, Jill, and I were talking about this picture and she said, I still have my shirt. Then she laughed and said, no, I think I have Mark's shirt. Mine would be too small. But not by too much. Grasshopper, who is 11, is almost as tall as she is now. And I'm pretty sure that Grasshopper wore the little shirt that Andrew has on when he was little too.

9 comments:

Impera_Magna said...

What a great idea... and what a great photo! You did a FANTASTIC job on the shirts... the top stitching is fab!

Shay said...

Amazing! It looks just like something out of a shop - but only better. Cant believe you made 6 shirts -and managed to keep it a secret!

P. said...

Niiiiice! So your stealth sewing has its roots way back then! I can't help but chuckle at old family photos, because I remember the one we did in 1993 (I should email that so you can laugh too). We didn't dress alike, but it was quite the production nevertheless. I do remember my sister, mom, and I all showed up wearing black pumps--and we hadn't consulted each other beforehand. I wish someone would have gotten a shot of just our shoes.

Vicki said...

Wow. I have to say I never made anything matching for my 5 siblings. And how lucky were you, to have a serger back then? I've only had one for about 6 years. :)

Quiet Quilter said...

Shirts! You did so well..and such a nice memory...

JazznJenna said...

Definitely an adorable group! I had forgotten that you had the same number of siblings as I have. I have always loved the matching shirts photos of our family too, though my mom was the seamstress, not me. How cool are you!!

Lisa said...

That looks like a lot of work, and they all look store-bought!

Wanda said...

Yes, all those shirts look store bought...even better. What an undertaking! I would have done well to make even one shirt! And even then it would have been covered with flaws. I'm not sure I have the patience for it. You are my sewing hero!

Angie said...

I wish I could sew clothes but I just can't. I made matching dresses for me and Aubrey when she was a baby and that is the last time I even tried! Kudos!