T-shirt Mania

I plan this weekend to sew up something really radical.

Wait for it…

T-shirts.

Yeah, sorry for the letdown.

Or am I?

I used to think T-shirt sewing projects were a bit daft. I mean, T-shirts are everywhere, they’re cheap, they don’t demand close fitting, and you can get them in just about any style and size you like. So why spend time sewing them?

But then I made a few and I realized they’re worthwhile because I reach for them time and again. I mean, my red ultrasuede moto jacket is nice and all, but my red and gray striped Breton T-shirt gets worn 10 times more. Plus, I can’t muster the time and energy to sew up something like a 23-piece jacket that often. But a 4-piece T-shirt? Oh yeah!

The frosting vs. the cake, indeed.

So let’s sew some cake, ok?

Since I got a serger for my birthday last year, I have learned how to use it pretty effectively to sew knits, such as jerseys and interlocks for T-shirts. One thing I learned the hard way: a serger is not necessarily a shortcut. It’s worthwhile to baste necklines and other tricky bits on the sewing machine before putting a T-shirt under the serger’s knife.

I have also learned a lot about different knits for T-shirts:

  1. Some of these fabrics are S-T-R-E-T-C-H-Y. Others, not so much. Some patterns can handle the stretch, some cannot. This T-shirt from McCall’s 7247 has an overlay that seems good in theory but hasn’t held up over time. It’s stretched out and hangs awkwardly. That’s because this knit had four-way stretch. Boo. This top would be best with a more stable, lightweight knit with two-way stretch only.
McCalls 7247 overlay t-shirt

2. Two different knits don’t necessarily play well together. I see a lot of fabric mixing and color-blocking with knits, but unless the knit’s weight and stretch are identical, you may have an unhappy marriage of fabrics in a garment. This top from New Look 6330 combined a basic cotton jersey with a viscose jersey scrap at the neckline. They are pressed into submission in this picture, but in real life, they are NOT friends.

IMG_20180921_192717.jpg
New Look 6330

3. Negative ease can be a good thing, except when it’s not. This took getting used to. The first knit tops I made were too small, because I misjudged the ease. Then I made some tops that came out too big because I over-corrected for the ease. There seems to be no hard-and-fast rule – each pattern and each fabric must be judged on its own merits, similar to issue #1 with the fabric’s stretchiness. If a pattern offers a “stretch guide” that’s great, but it often doesn’t help that much. Here are two examples using MariaDenmark’s Day-to-Night Drape Top, with different fabrics and different fits.

And this one  in MariaDanmark’s Kimono-Sleeve Tee was “just right” – made of viscose jersey.

Kimono sleeve t shirt
MariaDenmark Kimono-sleeve Tee

Finally, I want to make new versions of a new T-shirt patterns I tried earlier. The Deer & Doe Plantain is popular and looks promising. I sewed it up with a remnant of stretch velvet a few years ago and had a fit problem at the armscye. I think I can fix this. Also, I have some more striped interlock knit for another version of the Breton tee.

I am on the lookout for a good V-neck top. I think I will try adapting a TNT t-shirt for a V-neck. How hard can that be? (Famous last words!)

Author: shoes15

I live in Connecticut, USA with my husband and my dog, in an old house outfitted with a sewing room, a garden, an orchard, and a big liquor cabinet.

10 thoughts on “T-shirt Mania”

  1. A good pattern for a V neck is the Lark Tee. It also has crew and boat necklines. I haven’t made it yet but I have heard and read good reviews. I have experienced many of the same issues with different degrees of stretch. 😁

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  2. I find t shirts are surprisingly tricky to sew well 🙂 They might only be four pieces but they need to be perfect because there’s nowhere to hide. I like them made out of thin wool jersey, in the rare occasions I can find it. Velvet sounds nice too!

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