Thursday, 16 February 2017

Handmade Gifts: McCalls 6614 Hoodies for Men

I have been desperate to post about the dress I worked so hard on to wear to my step-sister's wedding last week but the gloomy London winter light is making it impossible to get any decent pictures. Fingers crossed for the weekend! In the meantime I've got the next in my series of posts about gifts I sewed for loved ones for Christmas and birthdays at the end of last year. Well actually this is a trio of hoodies, the first of which I sewed back in 2015 for my brother for Christmas. The second was my stepdad's Christmas present this year and the third was for my brother's birthday; identical but a different colour as he loved the first so much!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

In my last post I wrote about the challenge of sewing clothing as gifts being the difficulty of getting them to fit but remain a surprise. Hoodies are a little risky in that you want the right amount of ease and don't want the waistband ending up too snug or the sleeves too baggy. However they are quite forgiving in that they are a relaxed fitting knit garment and in general men have less curves to work around than ladies! The initial idea of making a hoodie for my brother actually came from him. He asked me for one for Christmas 2014 and jokingly suggested I could make it. At that time I didn't feel like my sewing skills were up to the challenge so I decided to surprise him with one the following year. Surprised he was; he didn't even realise I had made it until I told him!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I spent quite a lot of time looking into hoodie patterns and found it difficult to find one in the relaxed classic mens style I was after but settled on McCalls 6614 in the end. I definitely wanted a zip up the front and nothing too unusual in the details. There's actually a better selection around now than when I first made this but menswear patterns can be so hard to come by. This is definitely one of those patterns where you have to look past the photos on the envelope to the line drawings! I used view D by the way; the other versions all pull on over the head and feature princess seams which I think make them more suited to a female figure.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I did a lot of research into other bloggers' experiences of making hoodies looking for tips and tricks. I was a bit nervous about making my very first garment of this sort as a gift and I wanted it to be the best I could make it. I found Novita's post on the hoodie she made for her husband and it was that post which swung the decision to use this pattern. In the end the only thing I changed about the pattern and instructions was to omit the facing pieces. In these plush sweat-shirtings I think it adds too much bulk and I would have needed much more fabric to get these bits out. I felt certain that I'd never seen a facing on a RTW hoodie or similar knit garment but lo and behold I've seen them everywhere in the shops since! Instead of the facing I copied Novita's genius idea to add cotton tape along the edge of the zip for a neat finish. I simply stitched it along the zip tape before turning that edge under and top-stitching. On the versions I made this year I found twill tape to match the hoodie colour which looks super clean but I think I might actually prefer the contrast of the cream tape on my brother's first one. Combined with the white fleece inside it looks like a specially considered design choice and is one of those unique little touches you can add when you're making your own.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I think the 2016 versions turned out ever so slightly better just because of my increased sewing experience. But I am still unbelievably proud of the first one. Despite not being one of my most ambitious or well made makes this is still one of the projects I am most proud of. He wears it ALL the time (and now he has the second 9 times out of 10 when  I visit he's wearing one of them) and although I love being able to tell people I made my own outfit for me nothing beats the feeling of seeing one of your favourite people wearing something you made and looking so good in it! I love how much he likes it and I was amazed at how well it fit and suited him when he first put it on. I actually took these pictures this Christmas so a year of heavy wear is responsible for those bobbles. I unfortunately failed at persuading any modelled pictures!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I was confused by the shoulder darts when I first cut the pattern. When I'm using a stretch fabric why do I need a dart? In fact to ensure a good shape and fit especially in thicker, more stable knit fabrics like this darts are often essential. In fact just yesterday I was in a fitting for some lycra all in one costumes and despite being a very fine clingy stretch fabric the costume maker was carefully considering where to place seams for shaping and where darts might be needed. This sweat shirting have any of that 'cling' that means it can rely on stretching around the body so the garment needs to have shape within its construction and shoulders are a particularly awkward body part to fit a garment around. The shoulder shape is lovely (although it is a unisex pattern so I wonder how it looks on a lady) and I also really like the cut of the spongy lined hood and slim fit. Both my brother and step dad are fairly average in height and build and I cut the size medium. Everything about it is spot on as I wanted including the length of the sleeve and in the body.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

I REALLY enjoyed making all three of these. They require just the right amount of concentration and are so satisfying to see come together. I love a garment with a raglan sleeve! The most difficult part of construction is probably the insertion of the zip. Inserting a zip into a knit fabric can be tricky as you don't want to stretch the fabric out along the tape and forever distort the shape. I had real trouble with this on my Sangria Dress but luckily this stable sweat shirting is much more forgiving. Getting the front pockets and waistband to match up either side of the zip is essential as that area is such a feature. I will admit to unpicking and restitching a number of times on all three but it was so worth it!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

The top-stitching is also well worth taking your time over as it makes it look super professional and stops the seams looking puffy which can be a home-made giveaway. I constructed the main seams with a narrow zig zag stitch on my machine and finished them on the overlocker but did all the topstitching with a standard straight stitch as this is a relaxed fitting hoodie that goes on like a jacket so doesn't really require any stretch.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

The one thing to bear in mind if you are going to make this pattern is that only one zip length is listed for all sizes. Of course as the size increases the length of the front does too so this length of zip only works for one size. Quite a glaring mistake! I'd recommend making the garment up and measuring the length of the opening before you buy. Its frustrating as you have to wait to finish your garment but at least your zip will be the right length. I think I ended up needing a 26" zip but as I got mine from John Lewis I bought a few and returned what I didn't need. The open ended zips were actually really difficult to find in a decent selection of colours but I'm really pleased with all three of my choices. I like the contrast on the grey and the green (I went with beige for the green as the white looked too harsh) but a pale colour against the black was too stark so I kept it simple with black. John Lewis are pretty averagely priced for a UK supplier of these but I couldn't believe how expensive they were! The cost of notions like these can really whack up the cost of a garment but its always worth investing in good quality zips.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

The grey fabric with the white fleece back came from A to Z Fabrics on Goldhawk Road which is the one next door to the Costa when you come out of the tube. This shop often has some hidden gems if you rummage hard enough and know what to look for. I have since realised that sweat shirting with a contrast colour reverse like this can actually be quite tricky to come by so I'm very pleased with my impromptu choice! The fabrics for the green and black versions both came from Rolls & Rems in Lewisham who have a good selection of knits upstairs. These are again both fleece backed rather than loop backed.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

All three fabrics are of a very similar weight and stability with actually quite limited stretch so I was confident the fit of the second and third would be similar to the original. The one change I made to these two was increasing the size of the cuffs at the request of my brother. He can get his hands through the grey cuffs but likes to push them up to his elbows when wearing which the knit didn't have enough stretch in to do. I added 1" to the size of them this time and apparently that is 'spot on'. I didn't increase the width of the sleeve, it just meant less easing needed to be done when attaching the cuffs. I did consider using a ribbing for the cuffs and waistband instead but I knew both recipients would prefer a solid colour to wear with everything and I couldn't find a decent ribbing to match (which might sound ridiculous as one of them is black but have you ever tried to match two blacks, near impossible!).

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: McCalls 6614 Mens Hoodie in Fleece-Backed Sweat-shirting

To sum it up I'm incredibly proud of all three of these presents and hope the wearers enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them. I highly recommend a hoodie as a handmade gift (I'd actually love to try making a lighter weight one in some super soft merino) and this pattern is a cracker if you want a fairly slim zip up style. I definitely see more of these in my future! 

10 comments:

  1. They all look fabulous! It's great to see more menswear being sewn these days. I wish some more menswear indie pattern companies would pop up! I also just wanted to say I love reading your posts. They're always so informative and cheerful - your love of sewing really comes through!

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    1. Ah thank you for that really lovely comment Lindsay! I do really love it and love reading about all the little details and techniques in other posts so I'm glad that shows through.
      I do agree that there's not enough menswear patterns, especially for casual, modern, everyday wear. These were a breath of fresh air to sew!

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  2. Thank you so much for posting this and for all of the helpful advice. Almost all of my special people are men (3 sons, husband,father and brother). It is really difficult to find good patterns to make things for them. There are only so many pairs of pyjama trousers a man needs!

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    1. I absolutely understand your feelings on that! Hoodies and sweatshirts are a great option as gifts I think because of the relaxed fit but in the fabric choice and details you can make them really personal to them. You're very welcome, I hope you enjoy sewing for all your special men!

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  3. This looks so professional!! Amazing quality

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    1. Thanks Amy! I was really chuffed with them!

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  4. Great work Fiona! Lovely hoodies - and fleece lined is the best, IMHO :). I find raglans without darts only work in very stretch jerseys - otherwise the fit round the shoulder is clunky.

    I have the same feeling as you right now - I made my sister a long sleeved tshirt and leggings to wear as a layer base in merino with 20% silk. Sort of luxury long johns:). She hasn't taken them off since! And it is such a great buzz:).

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    1. O my goodness I'm having a total live affair with my merino knits at the moment...those base layers sound amazing!
      Thank you for the lovely comment. You've put the dart fitting into words better than I could!

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  5. So nice! I made a hoodie for my boyfriend in the Autumn - pull-on rather than a zip-up one - and I couldn't find a good pattern so I 'rubbed off' one of his American Apparel ones. No shoulder dart but perhaps I should add one next time... By the way, organiccotton.biz has some really nice sweatshirting with white fleecy backing, and Village Haberdashery has posh German organic sweatshirt knits with matching ribbings.

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    1. O wow thanks for the tips Nina, I'm going to be checking them out for sure!
      Great work on rubbing off the hoodie. That's an excellent idea for all kinds of men's clothes actually. There are such limited pattern options around and I guess that way you are guaranteeing a successful fit straight away!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!