Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The completed Olya Shirt - along with some more observations about the drafting and instructions


Aaaaand here it is. 

Disclaimer - the shirt might look better if I had chosen a drapier fabric, perhaps linen. This is fairly stiff chambray from deep stash (chosen to test the pattern and not because I love it) and I doubt it's pure cotton. However, this fabric, being less forgiving, highlights some features (issues) of this pattern arising from the unusual draft.

I could also probably have chosen nicer buttons in a better colour but ... stash. I have a million of these. 

So let's talk about these features.

After I let loose my frustrations regarding the pockets, I moved on to the "interesting" task of assembling the sleeve/yoke/body combination. 

The back pattern pieces (yoke and lower back) look about how you'd expect for any shirt pattern. However, the lower front and yoke/sleeve combo do not.

You can see how the yoke piece and lower front join up above the pockets. And that inside corner? Well, it wraps around the shoulder seam and armscye edge of the back yoke piece. And then, the sleeve does a bit more wrapping under the arm until the pointy bit at the top in this image joins along the veeerrrrry tiny armscye curve of the lower front and then operates as a continuation of that yoke seam. It extends right to the shirt cuff. 

So there are a couple of tricky bits of sewing associated with this. The first is joining the inner corner of the yoke/sleeve piece to the outer corner of the back yoke. 

I have joined this type of seam many times in my sewing career. In fact, there was the same type of inside outside corner in the dart of one of the first dresses I ever made

Until now, the instructions I've seen go like this: 1. Sew a line of stay stitches just inside the seam line (on the piece with the inner corner) for a few cm either side of the corner. 2. Clip from the inner corner up to the pivot point of the stitching, but without cutting the thread. 3. Line up the pieces with the edges even. Sew along the seam line, pivoting at the corner. 

Sometimes, especially if the inner corner is sharper than 90 degrees, you are told to reinforce this with a tiny square of bias cut fabric. Here is a Style Arc tutorial adopting this method and one from Threads Magazine

A key element is that during sewing, the stay-stitched inner corner is on top so you can see what you're doing. I usually put a pin at the pivot point and sew (carefully) right to the pin before removing it and (with needle down) turning the corner. Or you can do this in two passes, as Kenneth King instructed for Threads Magazine.

Cranky old lady warning!

I do not understand why the Paper Theory abandoned this tried/true approach in their instructions for the Olya Shirt.  

They tell you instead to sew this seam without any form of stabilization for the inner corner. Moreover, they think you ought to sew it with the yoke (outer corner) on top. Sew merrily along until you get to the (concealed) pivot point. Then, with needle down, "rotate the whole garment until the next seam is lined up in front of the presser foot in the correct position to sew. You will then need to cut a small slash line from the inside of the bottom corner. Don't cut it right to the needle, stop about 1-2 mm away from the needle."

The photo is from Paper Theory's sew along tutorial.

No thank you. The likelihood of sewing in a hard little pleat or (worse) leaving a small hole at this critical point is far too high. 

The other "interesting" bit in the Olya pattern is its very small (really vestigial) front armscye. This is a truly atypical underarm/armscye. 

In a typical garment (illustrated at left) the lower front armscye and the lower back armscye may look a bit different but they each feature a right angle corner at the side seam. Once the seam is sewn, there is a smooth continuous curve under the arm. 

Then the armscye continues its curve up towards the shoulder. In the front, the inset of the armscye recognizes that your arms take up space at the side of your body, typically more space in the front than the back. Moreover, they move most naturally forward. So the inward curve of the front armscye lets your arms move naturally while you are wearing the garment. 

In the Olya, the lower back armscye looks pretty normal. 

However, the armscye in the lower front is a really tiny and barely curved indent. It looks nothing like the back. When you sew the side seams, the front armscye is so minimal that it practically disappears. Where there would usually be a somewhat horizontal curve under the arm in a typical garment, in the Olya there is an acute angled corner. 

In the photo at left, the lower front pattern piece is sitting on top of the lower back. The front armscye is barely there.

Initially I thought it would be impossible to sew these two pieces together to produce any kind of armscye that would work. The front armscye curve is so shallow that it's less than the 1cm seam allowance in depth. In other words, if you ran the side seam straight up from the bottom of this curve, you would still be sewing on the fabric of the front yoke. 

I went to the trouble of drawing the seam lines on both pieces and measuring the length of the entire armscye seam and comparing it to the length of the sleeve cap seam from the pivot point. They matched, so I proceeded, suspending judgment.

At right is a photo of the two pattern pieces with the side seams aligned, on top of the actual shirt body after the side seams were sewn. 

See what I mean about an acute corner under the arm?

To sew the sleeve around that corner without puckering was not easy. If memory serves, I did a line of stay stitching along the armscye and then I needed to clip into the bottom of the underarm "curve" near the side seam to facilitate sewing the relatively much shallower curve of the sleeve. 

The last thing to do in assembling the shirt body is to sew the rest of the yoke/sleeve seam. 

The lengths of these pieces matched (thankfully) but the front yoke/sleeve nevertheless seems to me to have too much fabric relative to the back. Have a look at these photos of the shirt when it is spread flat on the floor.

This first picture is lined up just like the line drawings in the pattern. The front yoke is perfectly flat. The lower back sleeve wraps up under the armscye to the lower edge of the perfectly on-grain edge of the front yoke/sleeve piece. 

But notice where the side seam is. It has wrapped around to the front of the shirt. The line drawing does not show this happening. Presumably, the illustration is meant to show the shirt folded flat along the side seam.

If I reconfigure the shirt so it is folded along the side seam, see what happens in the front yoke? It bubbles. It will not lie flat. This seems to me to demonstrate that the upper front of this shirt body/sleeve is actually wider than the back. 

Which would be exactly opposite to the usual human body (anyway, mine), which needs more width in the back than the front (because arms typically sit forward of the midline and mostly move forward).  

Maybe the pattern could be adjusted so that the front yoke/sleeve seam would be shorter than the back sleeve seam. Or maybe there could be some kind of fisheye dart that would remove fabric in a vertical line from the point of my shoulder down to the bottom of the front armscye. 

OH WAIT! That would start to look like a conventional sleeve/armscye combination. Which would kind of miss the apparent point of the Olya Shirt pattern.

Which brings me to the question. So Olya, what about the fit? 

Well, it's a baggy shirt. Which is as advertised. I will probably wear it open most of the time, as an overshirt. 

It looks OK. I like the collar. The cuffs/plackets turned out well. The length is right.

But there's definitely extra fabric in the front sleeve/shoulder area. It generates diagonal folds in the sleeves. Even when I am sort of trying to hold my arm out straight and slightly back I can't really get the yoke to lie flat.

The sleeves are too long for me, but this is normal. I can roll them up, and probably will. I could shorten them, if there's to be a next time. 

The back looks like a normal loose fitting shirt. 

By the way, I sized down and made the smallest size (6) even though my bust is closer to the body measurements for size 8 and my hips are closer to size 10. 

The final verdict is that I do not love the Olya Shirt anywhere near as much as some others apparently do. It is merely OK. Too bad. 


  1. Me either! I don’t quite get why it’s worth the trouble. Something different i guess.

  2. I was practically in tears with that corner you described. Also, the sew along with white fabric (right and wrong side identical and white thread)--terrible. Good for you for sorting the whole thing out.

  3. I’ve been eyeing this pattern for while but never bought it. I’m glad of that now. Thanks for the great review.