on buttonholes

18 January 2011

There’s a saying in knitting that you don’t knit a man a jumper till he marries you – because men’s jumpers take so much work and tend to be very plain (and therefore tedious) knitting, you want to be sure he’s not going to leave you and waste all that effort.

As I don’t intend to be married any time soon, Mr Machen will have no jumpers from my hands. I did make him a shirt for his birthday though, and here he is wearing it.

(apologies for the bad photo, he was only prepared to pose for one)

Erm, that’s his birthday as in the birthday he has in July. I didn’t quite get the shirt finished in July, so the one he got on his birthday had no buttons or button holes, but I did promise to provide same within a month.

And then disaster struck. My sewing machine had a tantrum over button holes. It. Would. Not. Sew. Nettie came to the rescue with a tip-off: a tailoring service that would sew buttonholes (TT Fashions upstairs at Bailey’s Corner, for those locals reading).

So after a few months of the shirt sitting in a bag in the hallway (‘Are you taking that shirt to the tailor this week?’. ‘Oh yes, this week for sure, I just didn’t get round to it last week,and the week before that, and the week before that’.) off it went to the tailor.

Now, this is the sad part. The lovely Mr Tran at TT Fashions gave me a discount on the button holes – usually he charges $4, he did them for $3 each. But a shirt has 13 buttonholes, so they cost me $39 in total. Mr Machen pointed out, that’s the price of a cheap shirt or half a nice one.

To me, $3 per buttonhole is sort of a bargain – I find doing buttonholes quite nerve-wracking and tiring, and I was kind of glad my machine refused to play along so I could hand the job to someone else. But if a whole shirt only costs $39 or so, designed, cut, sewn, wrapped, tagged and delivered, how much is someone paid to do just the buttonholes?  And by golly, buttonholes aside, there’s a lot of work involved in the rest of a tailored shirt too. There are many pieces to it, and there are a lot of steps. The collar, the cuffs, the slit in the sleeve, a yoke. But somewhere, someone does it all so that we can buy shirts for $39…

:: details ::

pattern: Vogue 8096, view B.

fabric: cotton-linen blend, purchased at Tessuti.

3 Responses to “on buttonholes”

  1. meririsa said

    I sewed a shirt in high school! I wish I’d kept it as proof! It was paisley. From memory the collar was a bit asymetrical, but I did wear it.

  2. Nettie said

    I’m glad the buttonhole tip worked out for you. And the cost? Irrelevant. You have, I mean, he has a gorgeous linen shirt made by you (with just a little help from the TT team).

    On the issue of cheap shirts, or even not so cheap shirts, made by cheap labour…. I can’t even put my feelings into words. Just not worth buying, in my view.

  3. Nichola said

    Great shirt! Lucky guy 🙂
    As for $39 shirts, makes you wonder how much the people making them get paid doesn’t it. I mean the wholesaler probably sells them to the shops for about half that and they obviously make a profit. So maybe $8-10 per shirt from the factory. At least a dozen people work on a shirt. Hmmm.
    Homemade all the way i say (with buttonholes from the local tailor)!

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