attempt at a T-shirt

Inspired by Tanit-Isis, like so many others, I decided to try something out of my comfort zone. For me, this was knits.

I wear a lot of long-sleeve T-shirts, so I thought this would be the place to start. It also has the benefit of being a bit of a stash-buster: I had the same bright idea a number of years ago but didn’t get beyond “step 1. buy some fabric on sale”.

I was looking for plain, long-sleeve, crew-neck, fitted. View B of Butterick 5386 (leopard) was the closest I got, and the only thing missing is the crew neck. This one is more of a scoop. And it was cheap.

I traced the pattern pieces, shortened the torso by an inch, and redrew the neckline smaller. The shoulders looked way too sloped, especially compared to the T-shirt I have that I was using for inspiration, but I figured I should at least try to make it according to the pattern, so I left it as is. I sewed the shoulder seams, tried it on, and ended up with flaps near my ears. Then I angled the shoulders down so they looked right. And they were. Lesson learned: I have a fairly good eye for proportion and angles; I should learn to trust it.

I then cut the neckline (having just cut straight across at first). I’ve actually done a number of simple necklines, so getting the right shape wasn’t too hard. I was extra pleased when, after I’d already cut it out, I folded the shirt-to-be in half along the CF-CB line and found that the two sides matched pretty much perfectly.

I didn’t want to finish it according to the instructions. In fact, I’m doing very little by way of assembly according to the instructions. It calls for the neckline to simply be turned under and stitched. At first I was going to attach a band (so that the folded edge of the band is the inside circumference of the neck), but then I decided to bind the edge the way my inspiration T-shirt is done. (This is basically the same as binding with bias tape, only because it’s a stretch you don’t need to cut the tape on the bias.)

I stitched the band to the wrong side using a shallow zigzag for some stretch. For the right side, I couldn’t figure out what stitch, if any, I had on my simple machine that would look decent and maintain the stretch. So I decided to hand stitch it. Looks not bad. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to get my head through it now.

This will slow things down a bit. Some possible ways of getting past this issue:

  • give up on my method and do it according to the instructions
  • use a double needle (which involves walking 20 min to the fabric store, buying a double needle, 20 min back [for a total of 40 min of winter] and figuring out how to use it)
  • go with my first thought of how to apply the band

However, I’m busy with work these days (and teaching my first dance class tonight!), so it’ll have to wait.


About Zena

I sew sometimes.
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9 Responses to attempt at a T-shirt

  1. Big in Japan says:

    Curious to see your fabric selection. I’m amazed at how something as seemingly simple as a t-shirt or tank top can still be troublesome to fit or maybe it’s just dealing with questionable knits that won’t stay in place.

    I don’t have a serger so when working with knits I usually use a very narrow zig-zag stitch and it works fine. The seams do not look beautiful nor like RTW but I’m not terribly concerned if I get a wearable garment out of the deal. No experience using the double needle BUT, when I was in the thick of my t-shirt refashioning project, I found a great video tutorial on the Threads website about doing a bound neckline. The instructor is using a serger, but you can do it with a simple machine (and no need to hike up to the fabric store), just use a narrow seam allowance and trim when finished. I had great, wearable results with this method.

    Have fun teaching!

    • Zena says:

      I like this tutorial. I especially like the bit about stretching the binding varying amounts depending on where you are on the neckline. This has the ring of hard-won knowledge about it. Also, I tried it and it worked for me – much better than my previous attempt.

      Calling this binding seems odd to me. It may well be standard terminology for knits, but to me, binding encloses an edge, where this finished the edge without enclosing anything. Anyway, it works!

      • Big in Japan says:

        Glad it worked for you! I just love how calm and easy to listen to the woman giving the tutorial is, she was a saviour when I was ready to shred some garments and chuck a machine over the balcony.

        I’m with ya on the binding terminology.

  2. TanitIsis says:

    How exciting! …although, a pain about the neckline. I like binding, by various methods (Sherry at Patterrn, Scissors, Cloth has the one most like what I use, except she’s far more precise than I am of course, and the serger bit is optional.) if your machine truly does no other stretch stitches, the narrow zigzag is probably the way to go.

    I’m torn on the issue of double needles. They can look very nice, if you can avoid the tunneling, but they’re exprensive, break easily, and the stitches haven’t held up super well… /sigh

    • Zena says:

      I had a quick look at Pattern Scissors Cloth but couldn’t find the directions you mention.

      I think I’ll give the double needle a miss for the time being.

  3. TanitIsis says:

    Oh, yeah, also you’re probably close enough to my size to try out the free Lekala patterns. There are a LOT under their “knittings” heading, with just about every neckline imaginable.

  4. Marie-Christine says:

    Pattern instructions for knits are usually totally bogus, you’re right to ignore them. Except for say Jalie and Kwik-Sew. Would your local library have a copy of Marcy Tilton’s easy guide to tops ?? That’d be a much better source of technique.

    • Zena says:

      Yes, the library does have this book. I’ll have to check it out.

      I’ve worked out my preferred sewing order primarily by looking at my RTW shirts, as I enjoy figuring these things out. (I’m also likely to set up stereo components without reference to instructions :-))

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