After my overview of the dressy, hot weather outfit I sewed for my son using the Oliver and S Sketchbook Shirt pattern, it’s time to explain exactly how I added some of those guayabera-like details to his shirt.
Please keep in mind that this was my first attempt, and although I’m pretty happy with the outcome, I made some mistakes which I’ll definitely improve upon if I do this again.
Pintucks vs. Pleats
As I mentioned before, most guayabera descriptions I read mentioned pleats. However, pintucks made more sense to me because I felt they would lie flatter and give the finished garment a crisper look. I did experiment with pleats, but because they were only secured at the top and bottom it just didn’t look right.
Before I actually started sewing I watched several videos and read posts on pintucks. The following were super helpful and I learned something from each one:
Here’s what I did–let’s get started!
Trace Pattern, Square Shirttail, Add Length;
Find Center of Pocket
You’ll be slashing pattern pieces in half, so save your originals and trace everything off in your desired size (I made a size 7).
Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos of this complete step. First square off the curved shirttail by drawing a straight line on the shirt front between the center front and the side seam at the point where the curve is the highest. Removing the curved tail takes off around 2 inches of length from the entire shirt front, so add two inches back in between the pocket and the new bottom of the shirt.
Two things to remember for next time:
- square off and add two inches of length to the back of the shirt, too, at this point–not just the front!
- my boy is tall and lanky–I should have added a total of four inches of length to the front and back for him
After deciding that I wanted 5 pintucks on each shirt front and their corresponding pockets, it seemed best to base their position off of the center of the pocket so that the middle pintuck of each front and pocket would line up. The finished pocket is 3.5″ wide (8.9 cm), with half of that being 1.75″ (4.4 cm).
(See photo above) Draw a vertical line at the 1.75″ (4.4 cm) position on the pocket placement on the shirt front and extend the line for the entire length of the shirt front. Also, draw a vertical line at the halfway point on the pocket piece:
Cut Shirt Front & Pocket Pattern Pieces in Half
You’re almost ready to pin, but first cut the front pattern piece and the pocket pattern piece apart along the lines you just drew.
Pin Left Side of Front; Draw Pintuck Lines
Pin the left side of the front pattern piece to a single layer of fabric. For ease in maneuvering and drawing pintuck lines, I cut a piece of my fabric to the length of the front pattern piece and just worked with that (as opposed to trying to wrangle all of the fabric yardage for the whole shirt).
Starting at the edge of the pattern piece, draw 15 lines, .25″ apart from left to right. This will give you five .25″ pintucks when you are finished. To adjust this for a different number of pintucks or a different width, follow this formula: # of pintucks x 3 = # of lines to draw; finished pintuck width = spacing between each line.
An aside: (I struggled here with finding a marking tool that worked with my fabric. My thin cotton lawn wanted to shift around a lot and I had to redraw lines later to make them straight. Chalk markers didn’t work so well because the lines were being handled so much; a water soluble pen would have been great, but mine were all dry. I ended up using an inheirited marking pencil from the 1950’s or so which made a nice dark line, but still caught and stuttered because of my fabric.)
Next, pin the right half of the front pattern piece in place, matching its edge with the last pintuck line. Make sure the bottom edge of the pattern piece is aligned with the bottom of the left pattern piece.
Now cut out the shirt front as you normally would. At the top and bottom you will need to eyeball things as you cut across the gap or draw a nice straight line to follow with your ruler and fabric marker.
Repeat the above process to draw pintuck lines for the second shirt front–be sure to place pattern pieces face down on the right side of the fabric so that you end up with a correct left and right shirt front.
Pockets–Draw Pintuck Lines and Cut Out
Ah, the pocket. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I finally realized what I did wrong. Riding the wave of success after drawing the front pintucks, I didn’t stop to think that in so doing, I had added an inch of width to each front. I kept thinking that the width I added in when drawing the pintucks was removed when it came to sewing them–sadly, so not true! With the fronts this was not a big deal since a guayabera is supposed to be a little more loose and airy. (How/why this didn’t throw me off with the yoke, I’m not sure!–Shouldn’t I have added an inch to each side of the yoke width?)
I drew the pocket pintucks in the same manner as those on the fronts, and only realized the pockets were an inch too wide when I went to sew them on the shirt front. If you try this and prefer your pockets to be less rectangular in width, just cut 1/2″ off of the left and right sides of the pockets after you’ve sewn the pintucks. I thought the rectangular mistake made them look a little more guayabera-esque, so I just went with it (and, let’s be honest–it was easier).
Sew Pintucks (Fronts and Pockets)
Pin, sew, and press those pintucks–on both shirt fronts and both pockets. Then press them some more! Press all pintucks away from the center front (toward the side seams). If you’re not sure how to actually sew pintucks you have to watch this video–she makes it look so easy (and it really is!)!
Sewing the Shirt & Other Thoughts
Once you have sewn pintucks in your shirt fronts and pockets, you’re ready to sew the shirt as outlined in the pattern instructions.
- When sewing the pockets on the shirt fronts, be sure to match up the middle pintuck on each shirt front with the one on the pocket.
- Take your time when joining the yoke to the fronts and sewing on the pockets. Go slowly over the pintucks to adjust for the extra thickness in those areas.
- Traditional guayaberas have four pockets on the shirt front and pintucks/pleats on the back as well as the front. Often, they also have intricate embroidery designs on both the front and back; I think it would be fun to attempt a similar look with embroidered ribbon or a handcarved stamp and fabric paint.
Have you ever sewn a guayabera? How would you interpret the pintucks and traditional details?
P.S.–The Thimblenest newsletter arrives in email inboxes each month and includes a free hand embroidery pattern. Join us today if you haven’t already!