Agnes PJs by Paper Theory

Paper Theory describes the Agnes PJs as being a “relaxed loungewear suit”, and that’s pretty much all I needed to know; I bought these instantly. Like many (all?) Paper Theory patterns, they are comfortable, classic, and a little bit unusual. Patterns like that always make for the best sewing projects and Agnes does not disappoint.

Agnes is a versatile pattern, too. I’ve seen several examples of the shirt pattern being used to make a jacket (Tara’s denim chore coat is something I am definitely going to copy), and the shorts could easily be a summer staple if you add some patch pockets. So with one pattern, you can cover a lot of ground.

I sewed this sky blue set in a 200 gsm linen from Merchant and Mills, but I’m also dreaming of a flannel version for winter and a silk version just for fun.

Fit Adjustments

For the shirt, I measured into the size 16 but sized down to a size 14 given the generous ease. Because of the dolman sleeve, the hip measurement is the most critical. In the size 14, I have 5 inches of positive ease at the hip.

After a toile, I decided to take in the underarm curve by 2 inches, effectively making curve of the dolman sleeve slightly more acute (see diagram below). This provided just a little bit more shaping and definition, but not so much that the relaxed fit was compromised. If you make this adjustment too, it’s important not to raise the armpit curve too much, since that could restrict your arm movement. Keep the curve below your bust for best results.

I also did a forward shoulder adjustment, because I noticed that my toile had a shoulder seam that wanted to fall behind my shoulder, pulling the front of the shirt up toward my neck. This is a standard adjustment for me, and I usually have to move shoulder seams forward by about 1/2″. To do this, I measured the distance between the base of my neck (marked as point A, below) and the ball of my shoulder (point B). On my body, this is 4.5 inches. I transferred this measurement to the pattern, then shifted point B down by a half inch. Next, I drew a line from the neck to the new shoulder point, then to the cuff (point C), as shown in red below.

For the back piece, I performed the opposite adjustment, moving point B up by 1/2″ and adding the same amount of fabric that I removed from the front.

For the shorts, my hip measurement puts me at a size 16, and my waist measurement puts me at a 14, so I cut the size 16 and then graded to the 14 at the waist.

Construction

Paper Theory patterns are a thing of beauty. Lines that you think are straight are actually slightly curved to fit the body. They also include LOTS of notches, which helps construction go quickly and smoothly. The pattern illustrations and instructions are very good, although I deviated in a couple of places:

  • Seam finishes: The instructions call for either French seams or serging, but I opted for flat felled seams throughout because I wanted a smooth finish on the inside for maximum comfort. The seam allowances for Agnes are 1/2″, which is just enough for a narrow flat felled seam.
  • Pockets: Agnes has patch pockets on the front of the shirt, no pockets on the shorts or pants. I lengthened the pocket piece by about 3/4″ to comfortably fit my phone and added it to the back of the shorts.

Note that on the pattern piece for the Agnes shirt front, there are outlines drawn to illustrate pocket placement. The actual pocket piece is about 1/2″ longer than the outline drawn on the front pattern. If you follow the instructions, you may not even notice the difference in length because you are instructed to align the pocket by using the drill holes at the top of the pocket outline. But your pockets will extend slightly lower than drawn on the top.

  • Collar: The instructions have you cut two identical collar pieces and sew them together. I trimmed the under collar by 1/8″ on the two short sides, which is standard practice for constructing more formal shirt collars. When I sewed the two collar pieces together, I gently stretched the under collar to meet the top collar. Cutting the under collar slightly shorter helps roll the collar seam to the underside for a professional finish.
  • Front Facing and Lapel: When attaching the facing to the front shirt, I trimmed the seam allowance around the lapel curve down to about 3 mm. The instructions don’t tell you to do this, but it is a similar curve to the collar and the instructions DO tell you to trim that.

Agnes has a really nice method for creating the front facing and lapel, and I prefer this construction method (and instructions) to others like the Carolyn PJs. There is also a really nice method for creating the lapel “break point”, where the front edge of the shirt sweeps across the button placket to create the lapel.

  • Buttons: The instructions don’t specify how to attach your buttons, but I sewed mine through both layers of the shirt (so, through shirt + facing). Although you will have some visible stitches on the inside of your shirt facing this way, I figured this helps to keep the unfinished seam allowance where the shirt meets the facing securely tucked away so it won’t fray over time.

I really enjoyed making this Agnes set and would give this pattern a slight edge over the Carolyn PJs if I had to rank both. The whole set comes together relatively quickly, and I really liked the method for constructing the lapel. These PJs are easy to fit and overall very satisfying to make.

Olya Shirt by Paper Theory

Olya, a modern classic

After making a slew of Grainline Archer shirts last year, I started branching out into other button up shirt patterns. I wanted to try the Olya shirt by Paper Theory for two reasons. First, it has a reputation for being a unique, well-loved, and well-drafted pattern. And second, its status as a right of passage for many intermediate sewists intrigued me. I was up for the challenge.

Sizing down 2 sizes still leaves me with plenty of ease.

Due to the generous amount of ease, I sized down two sizes to a 12. My measurements put me squarely at a size 16, but that would give me 11″ of ease in the bust and 8.5″ of ease through the hip. The size 12 gives me about 7″ of bust ease and about 5″ hip ease, which is still roomy. I also double checked the size 12 neck circumference of the collar stand to make sure the neck wouldn’t be too small for me. Luckily I didn’t need to make any adjustments to the neck, and since I had plenty of ease, I chose not to make any other fit adjustments to the pattern before cutting it.

This gauzy cotton voile is perfect for summer.

I picked a crinkled, cotton voile that is light and airy with great drape. If you are like me and on the fence about the oversized button up shirt look, try a lightweight cotton voile or silk to soften the silhouette. This version turned out to be the perfect summer cover up, and there’s a subtle rainbow stripe running through this fabric that makes me smile every time I see it.

Subtle rainbow stripes and my favorite label.

For the construction, I omitted the front pockets because I wanted a sleeker front and less emphasis on the boxy shape. I read that even Tara (the designer) herself recommended omitting them, although I never found an original citation for this. Removing the pockets also saved me a few steps, and as a result, this pattern sewed up even faster than a traditional button up because I didn’t have to ease in two sleeves.

Constructing Olya’s distinctive yoke is what most people seem to fret about. I referenced two posts from Mie of @sewinglikemad (here and here), and concluded that attaching the yoke to the body was not much different than sewing a bound button placket, which I had done before for the Archer. Grainline Studio has a great tutorial on how to do that here, and much of the advice shared in this video applies to the Olya. If you’ve never done something like this before, my advice is to try a few practice runs and take it slow.

Olya’s distinctive yoke.

Technically, I might need a forward shoulder adjustment for this pattern, since the top seam of the yoke is hitting me behind the highest point on my shoulder. But based on the model photos from the Paper Theory website, this is the intended fit so I’m not going to alter the pattern to correct it.

My favorite bits of the Olya are the collar/collar stand and the tower placket. Both are beautifully drafted and may be my favorite versions of each that I’ve encountered so far. I also really like the tower placket instructions; Tara’s was a new method for me and it might be one of the most intuitive.

Note that the seam allowances on the Olya are 1 cm, or about 3/8″, so narrower than is typical for a woven pattern. To finish the seams, you can either zig zag the edges if you don’t have an overlocker or you can serge them if you do. I don’t see an easier way to finish the seams on the yoke piece. So fair warning to anyone who prefers a more “classic” seam finish like a flat felled or French seam, you’ll have to increase the seam allowance if you want to use a different seam finish. I topstitched all of my serged seams (including around the yoke) to keep the seam allowances secure, which worked beautifully.

If you haven’t tried the Olya shirt yet, I highly recommend it! It’s a great way to level up your sewing or to just try a different twist on a classic garment.