A Spiritual Lesson in taking the new shirt apart and putting it back together a new way

shirt-plaid-flannel-darkA couple of days ago, I managed to rip the sleeve of my favorite nightshirt. It’s been on its last legs for several years but it’s a favorite so I continue to wear it. It looks like a long buttondown shirt. At 38″ long, it’s a dark plaid flannel and it hits just above the knee.  It has a shirt tail hem, which means it is curved higher on the sides and longer in front and back. I thought it’d be as easy as looking online to find another one. Not so! Even the men’s flannel shirts in an extra tall were only 35″ long and most had a straight hem. That’s a crucial 3″ when I’m wearing it out in the yard and bending over the garden. I began Googling “night shirts” and “sleep shirts” and came upon many that were nice and long, but not buttoned all the way down the front. Phooey.  I had to look at mostly mens’ shirts or plus sizes due to bust size. I went to WalMart and even their longest men’s flannel shirt was just 35″, with a straight hem. Drat. I’d have to go to a real store.   

I went to the Big and Tall store across from the mall and they had three XLT plaid flannel shirts to choose from. I held the navy and green one up. It was a nice plaid, it had a shirt tail hem, and at size 2x it was wide but it looked long enough. It was on sale for $18.55 so I bought it.  I could return it if I found the right shirt, but now I wouldn’t go home empty handed.  I headed across the street and into the mall.

I hadn’t been to the mall for several years.  The last time I was there, I was running errands with Ma Yoga Shakti and she walked us through the mall.  But to shop?  The last time was in 1992, shopping with my husband.  He was the big shopper.  I shop when I need something.  A fashionista I’m not.

I parked near one end and went strolling into Macy’s.  At the first mirror I wished I’d worn better jeans.  I quickly walked through the departments, and could see they did not have what I wanted.  I walked out in the mall and began going in and out of the line of stores.  I thought I’d have a lot of choices, but no one had what I wanted.

I came home and began to assess the navy shirt I bought at the Big and Tall store.  When I put it on, I saw it, too, was about 3″ too short.  But the sleeves were nice and long… and wide.  I began formulating my plan.  I like sewing and enjoy taking one garment and making entirely another out of it.  And I knew not to begin cutting until I worked it out in my head first.


In the meantime, I began using a seam ripper on the hem and sides.  I took the cuffs off.  I ironed all the seams flat.  I knew if I just got into it, the ideas and intuition would begin to flow and I’d be shown what the next step should be.  No, I wouldn’t be given the entire design all in one thought, rather (just like in life) I’d be given the information one step at a time.  I’d have to reach Point B before I’d be directed to Point C.

As soon as the seams were flat, I cut off the arms just below the elbow.  I ironed those pieces flat and measured them.  I measured the width of the shirt in front and back.  I lined up the plaid pattern and measured again. I saw I could create a net 4″ extra to add to the length.

It’d be easier if it was not my beloved shirt tail hem.  Now I’d have to design a triangular patch of sorts to add length to the sides, to make a straight hem to sew the additional 4″  length to.   I could take the patch from the cuffs, or I could take it from the sides.

Since I had the side seams open, I was going to narrow the shirt so it wasn’t so boxy.  I like a big shirt but not a gigantic one.  I’d meditate on cutting the sides before I took the scissors to it.  I didn’t want to mess with how the shoulders fit.  In sewing, same as in life, I have to remember that what I do here also affects there.

I can make pockets and put the cuffs as the top band for the pocket as a design feature. Since that will alter the plaid pattern, I will skew the pockets at an angle so it doesn’t look mismatched. I’ll also add one more button and buttonhole.

So that’s going to be the project of the day.  Thinking about how to make the pieces fit together so they most match up and give me my extra length.  The hard part was taking the seams apart since it’s a well made shirt.  My seam ripper is 30 years old and after this I will buy a new one.

Isn’t that the way it so often is?  The hard part is not designing the new shirt or the new life, the hard part is getting unstuck from the previous pattern that’s often so tightly sewn shut.  Once you can unloosen the threads one by one, you can iron it all out and see what you’re left with.

Unloosening threads is so much easier than unloosening ourselves from people we’ve allowed to become dependent upon us, isn’t it? Easier than breaking old habits and routines with people we’re used to being around.  Putting the pieces back together in a new way takes time and patience.  It takes conscious thought and planning.

If I’m working with just so much time and space, I want to make the most of it.  And if that means unravelling some old favorites before the new next stage, so be it.

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