Adapting a pattern to be worn by someone with a partial arm amputation
Shirts for gifts
This Christmas, I made men’s shirts for family members – quite a few shirts, in fact. Some were sporty models with hoods made with jersey knits, but my son, husband and one of my brothers received button-down long-sleeve shirts.
Here’s my husband Rob wearing two of his shirts in layers.
Maybe I’ll tell you about the sporty shirts another time, today let’s look at a variation on the button-down shirt.
A Magnetic Button Down Long Sleeve Shirt with a Hidden Pocket
It’s easy to wear a button-down shirt with two working hands, but there are those who don’t enjoy that luxury. Lots of folks have arthritic fingers or, like my brother, have had some sort of arm amputation or the loss of use of a hand. My brother has a partial arm amputation just above the elbow. He does not wear a prosthesis.
With the weather turning cold it seemed to me that he could use something a bit warmer to wear than his usual short sleeved polo or T-shirts, so that meant adapting a pattern for him.
Pattern for a button-down shirt
Kwik Sew Pattern K3422
I used Kwik Sew Pattern K3422 to make all of the button-down shirts for the family. But Conrad’s shirt would need some adaptations.
I decided to make his shirt using mock buttons and magnetic snaps at the front placket. Many shirts sold to those with disabilities use velcro in place of buttons but I decided against this. It’s quite difficult to align velcro properly and later, when undressing, it’s very hard to pull the stuff apart. It’s also quite bulky. Imagine a shirt fastened with velcro misaligned at the front – not a good look.
Fabric, buttons, and magnets used to make the shirt
Although I made two of the shirts with our wide-wale corduroy, for my brother’s shirt I decided on one of our Robert Kaufman Shetland Flannels in Lagoon.
The corduroy I had used to make the other two shirts was lovely, but it would have been too bulky with the magnetic closure along the turned-under front placket. Calculating the position of each side of the magnet and the buttons along the front was the tricky bit. Careful marking of these points was crucial. I found that the 5-in-1 Sliding Guage by Clover really helped with proper placement.
The magnets themselves are some I use making bags at the shop and are very strong so there is no worry that the shirt front will come apart. I found buttons to match the color of the magnets so that all would look great together.
Some time ago I did a tutorial video to show how to apply magnets when making one of my patterns. Although the references are to one specific pattern, the advice about placing magnets is useful for other projects too.
To make the mock buttons I stitched the button holes but did not cut them. Then I stitched the button to the middle of the buttonhole. These buttons were just for show. Each magnet had to align perfectly underneath so that when the shirt was flicked shut the magnets would snap together. And that’s just what they did!
Other adaptations to the pattern
Because Conrad has a partial arm on his left side I added a small side pocket in the left seam. When the left cuff is tucked into this pocket it gives the illusion of a full arm.
Conrad also has a very large right hand. Normally he would undo his cuff button to put on a shirt. But since he cannot manage to button things up on his own I made another alteration. A button was put on the inside and outside of the cuff and a looped elastic was sewn to the opposite side of the cuff. When the elastic is looped around the inside button Conrad can put his hand through the cuff. The elastic expands to let him do that.
The outer button is just a mock button. You might wonder why I didn’t put a magnet in the cuff? I was afraid it would pick up all sorts of stuff as he went about his day-to-day business.
Conrad liked his new shirt!
This gift was received with much gratitude and I look forward to seeing my brother in his stylish and cosy flannel shirt soon! I like to think of him putting it on by himself before heading off to seize the day.
Ready-made adaptive clothing
If you feel your sewing skills are not up to a project like this, Silverts offers adaptive clothing for sale. I found the Men’s Magnetic-Zipper Hoodie with Pockets especially interesting. The zipper stop is magnetic and snaps together.
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