Why it has taken me so long to make a simple t-shirt? I bought my overlocker earlier this year and I have been using it for finishing raw edges, but I hadn’t plunged into making knit fabric garments. The primary reason for my reluctance is that I began to get “knit-phobia”. I’d read so much about how tricky knits are, that I failed to put it in proper context. After all I spend much of my time sewing with tricky fabrics like silk and doing tricky techniques (think, top-stitching here), knits are just tricky in a different way. The other reason I have been staying away from t-shirts is that for years I wore nothing but t-shirts (nothing else fitted), so I really do have a lot of them. In truth, I probably don’t need another t-shirt now, but it was definitely time to confront my phobia!
I bought this La Mia Moda magazine in Italy last year. It seems to be a translation of a German magazine called Diana-something. It has lots of patterns for knit fabrics. Lucie of Love, Lucie had received this magazine as part of a prize and had tried one of the patterns. She’d been quite disappointed with the results so I approached this project with a degree of trepidation. Sorry, Lucie – hope you don’t mind me referencing your post?
I chose the pattern known uninspiringly as “Modello 3P Maglia” – Pattern 3P t-shirt. It is a fairly straightforward t-shirt design with long-sleeves. Admittedly in the photo the model is wearing a t-shirt with the body and sleeves made from two different fabrics, but I thought I could easily make the t-shirt from the same fabric.
The magazine suggested 0.8m fabric for the body and a further 0.7m for the sleeves. I guessed that I could probably get away with 1 metre fabric. I bought an elasticated viscose fabric from Fashion Fabrics. I must admit that viscose isn’t my usual choice, but I wanted to use something I didn’t care too much about as my first attempt. The fabric is relatively thick and doesn’t curl as the edges. I hoped it would be an amenable fabric for my first foray into knits.
Next, I created a pattern that fitted me from the magazine. This is where I was confronted with the biggest load of “spaghetti” ever. It was quite a challenge finding my pattern pieces on the pattern sheets. In the end I decided to use a highlighter to make tracing the pattern easier.
I traced the smallest size, but soon realised that this was going to be enormous on me and like a previous Burda pattern I had used, I ended up making many adjustments. (Is this something about German patterns, perhaps they are for particularly tall people?) In fact, I’m not really sure that I could claim I was actually “using this pattern” after all these adjustments:
- Shortened length of both front and back
- Reduced height between shoulders and bust
- Re-shaped armscyes so that were smaller and the shoulders were less wide
- Re-shaped neckline on both front and back
- Made front and back pieces less wide
- Re-drew bust dart to account for new width of front
- Re-drew back darts so that they were shorter and correctly positioned with the new width and length.
Was there anything unchanged? Yes, the sleeves were pretty much unchanged, just slightly trimmed to fit the new armscyes. However, I found that I couldn’t quite make long sleeves with my 1 metre of fabric, so I shortened them to make 3/4 length sleeves. So actually no, there wasn’t anything that I didn’t change!
Next, the construction. The instructions in the magazine are fairly minimal so I did a fair bit of online research to help me.
1. Sew the shoulder seams
I made two small strips of knit interfacing (in place of using stay tape). I used these to prevent stretching at the shoulder seams, as recommended in Deby’s blog and stitched the front and back pieces together at the shoulders
2. Add the neck band
I wasn’t exactly sure how long I needed to make the neck band as I had made some changes to the size of the neckline. I measured the neckline circumference and cut a strip a little smaller than this. I stitched the neckline in a similar way to this post on the Indie Sew website using the overlocker to attach the neck band and then top-stitching with a zig-zag stitch.
3. Attach the sleeves
Here, I just simply overlocked the body section to the sleeve at the shoulder with right-sides together.
4. Sew the side-seams and sleeve seams as one
Again, using the overlocker, with right-sides together, I stitched the sleeves seam and then the side seam of the t-shirt body in one go. I then repeated this for the other side of the t-shirt.
5. Sew the body and sleeve hems
First, I overlocked the raw edges of the fabric. Then I used the knit interfacing again. I cut 1.5 cm strips of this and fused this to the wrong sides of the bottom edges of the body and the sleeves. I then folded up 1.5cm to the wrong side and sewed a zig-zag stitch to form a hem on the body and on each sleeve.
I have worn this t-shirt now and have found it very comfortable – well knits are generally anyway, so no surprises here! This, however, is the first time that I have worn a t-shirt with darts in it. It’s a little unusual to have darts in a knit garment. I suppose they aren’t needed as the fabric stretches around the body’s curves. It generally seems to be the rule of thumb that darts aren’t used. I assume they may be used in these patterns as they may be plus size patterns (although it doesn’t explicitly say so). But, I do wonder whether it helps make the garment extra flattering even for a smaller bust. I did always find with RTW t-shirts that they cut rather too high under my arms and tended to leave some unsightly creases emanating from my armpits. I’ve just been looking through a few photos and this photo below ably illustrates exactly what I mean. With the darts (and a better fitting armscye) I just don’t get that problem, although that is harder to see with the busy fabric.
All in all, this project wasn’t too bad. I think actually sewing something knits was the least difficult part of the whole process, considering the pattern adjustments. However, I could improve my technique where the neck bands are concerned. To insert the neck band I had made a neck band strip slightly smaller than the circumference of the neckline and stretched it gently as a sewed it into place. I hoped this would make sure that the neckline didn’t stick out at all. It didn’t, but the neckline did appear to make the fabric wavy. There is a great article on Craftsy website on how to sew hems and my neckline does look a lot like the “non-interfaced” hem shown. What would be the best way to over come this?
As for the magazine, I was really using it as a guide rather than strictly following the pattern or the instructions. I think I may have ended up with something horrid and shapeless if I hadn’t spent overly long customising the pattern (4 evenings). This is extreme even by my standards and I do generally trace my patterns and adapt them anyway.
I think I will give this magazine another go, as there are a few more patterns that I like in here, which are more adventurous than the plain t-shirt.