I was going to use muslin for my first shirt, but at Walmart I found a print for three cents per yard more than the muslin. It is polyester, and the print is horribly ugly, but I had not worked with prints or polyester before so the fabric presented me with two more things to learn from this project.
Buttons and button holes - I still want to learn how to use the industrial buttonholer, but using my home machine was a lot easier than expected.
Shoulder and sleeve seams - Attaching the sleeves was easier than expected, and I am pleased with the seam finishes.
The collar - This was my first collar, and I did not do a good job with it. I made a few mistakes as I attached the collar. The pattern was confusing, but I accept the full blame for the problems. My next one will be better.
Sleeve and bottom hems - The hems did not turn out well. I know I can do better.
Pattern pieces - I began work by transferring the pattern from pattern paper to oak tag. I then used my oak tag pattern to trace the pieces on fabric. With each step there is a slight margin of error. As I pinned together the pieces of fabric I found my notches did not always line up perfectly. Precision is necessary.
What I learned
Buttons and buttonholes - These were the first buttonholes I made with my current sewing machine. With other machines I found making buttonholes a very difficult process, but this time it was easy. It was the first time I used a buttonhole presser foot. I do not know why I did not learn how to use a buttonhole foot in my seventh grade home economics class. As I was reading my machine's user manual to learn how to use the buttonhole foot I discovered that I also have a presser foot for attaching buttons. I did not know that I could use a cheap home machine to attach buttons; I have always sewn on buttons by hand. It was much easier with the machine, and the machine did it better than I can do by hand. The lesson: read your machine's user manual.
Polyester - Ironing shrinks polyester. It shrinks as I press seams, and it shrinks a lot more as I attach fusible interfacing. If I iron over a pin I will leave a burn mark in the fabric. Removing stitching from polyester can be difficult. Tearing or stretching the fabric while removing stitching is easy. The lesson: do not use polyester if other materials are available.
General stuff - Making this shirt helped me understand how tailored shirts are constructed. Knowing that I already made one shirt, even a bod one, gave a boost to my confidence as I worked on the shirt in class today. Some of the other students were nervous about attaching their pockets, but I knew I could do it because I attached a pocket yesterday. The lesson: sew a lot. Then sew some more. Practice, practice, practice. Experience counts.