As my husband helped me take the pictures for this post, he and I chuckled. Another t-shirt post! Everybody’s favorite! Usually the plain t-shirt posts, woven and knit, don’t get much response on the blog, but I post them anyway because I think they help the community (the more information on individual patterns, the better) and they help me (I forget what I’ve done in a very short amount of time), so here we are. Look how excited I am! I bet you are excited now, too, right?
The good news is, while these t-shirts aren’t perfect, I’m really glad I made them. They are good first drafts that give me the information I need to make even better versions in the future if I want to.
Pictured above: both t-shirts almost finished–they just need hems.
This is the Lark Tee from Grainline Studio. I chose this pattern because it was a good basic with a lot of variations (four sleeves and four necklines, all interchangeable). I don’t usually want to take the time to hack patterns, so I liked that this had a lot of options. I’ve made a green scoop-neck, long-sleeved version and a striped short-sleeved, crew-neck version. I didn’t love the long-sleeved one, but that was due to my fabric choice. The crew-neck version was better.
So here’s what I did for this project.
I chose a size 12 for the bust and a 14 for the waist and hips, as well as the standard short sleeves (rather than the cap sleeves) to go with the v-neck front. This is a slim, but not tight fit with some positive ease, like a good, basic t-shirt. I chose a 100% polyester fabric from JoAnn that was gray with neon flecks for one of my shirts (I got drawn in by the neon flecks, pictured below. So good!) and a cotton/polyester blend from Fabric Mart in white for the other.
What I should have done, but didn’t, was look at the cutting layout for the t-shirts. I haven’t made a t-shirt in a little while, and I wasn’t thinking about how wide knits often are. I should have folded my selvages in toward the middle like the cutting layout shows, but instead, I just folded my knits in half and layered one fabric over the other, lining up the folds so I could cut both out at the same time. I was very proud of that move….until I realized that my gray shirt was going to be an inch shorter than I had planned because of how I had folded the fabric, and I didn’t have enough to recut it. Oops! As it was, I had already removed 4″ from the length of the pattern at the bottom, so the gray shirt is actually 5″ shorter than drafted, I think.
I ended up using a 3/8″ seam allowance rather than the 1/4″ called for because otherwise my needle would go off of my fabric. I had planned to use my serger, but it’s still new to me, and I adjusted too many things at once, so it wasn’t working. I used a jersey 80/12 needle and a 3-step zigzag with a height of 4.5 and a stitch length of 0.5 as well as using a light presser foot pressure and 100% polyester thread in the top and in the bobbin. I did not finish my seams as suggested in the “Sewing the Knits” section of the instructions. I don’t think that is necessary unless your knit is prone to unraveling. I do suggest trying out your stitches on scraps of your knit before sewing your shirt. Once you sew the stitch you think you want on a doubled up scrap of your fabric, stretch it hard in both directions. If the stitches pop, adjust your stitch length and/or width (or which stitch you are using) and try again until the stitches don’t pop when you stretch the fabric.
I made sure to sew twill tape into my shoulder seams (you can also use clear elastic) so that they wouldn’t stretch out. This wasn’t in the directions, but experience has taught me that this is a good idea.
I wish the instructions for installing the V neckline had been explicit about what type of stitch to use when. A lot of knit sewing on a sewing machine requires a zigzag. I had to guess if that was necessary or if I could get away with a straight stitch. I used a straight stitch (and 1/4″ seam allowance) when sewing the ends of the neck binding together, as well as for the staystitching at the point of the v-neck. When attaching the neck binding to the shirt body, I sewed with a straight stitch near where I had staystitched, but then went around the rest of the neck with my 3-step zigzag, sewing over the part I had previously sewn with a straight stitch. You can see all the wrinkles around my neck–this doesn’t make for the smoothest seam, but I was afraid that if I used a straight stitch I would pop the stitches when I pulled it over my head (speaking from experience). I tried to mitigate the not-so-straight edge by using a double needle to topstitch around the neckline. It didn’t work completely, but I haven’t popped any stitches!
I also used a twin needle to topstitch on top of the shoulders for a nice look and to keep the twill tape inside from flipping around in weird directions, and I used a twin needle on my hems, pulling the thread to the back and tying it off. I often have trouble with my twin needle hems coming loose after a while.
My v-necks are a little bit rough, but I got them in, and I’m happy with them for my first tries. I’m trying to be patient with myself as I learn new things, although it’s not always easy! I definitely subscribe to the idea that done is better than perfect (aka unfinished forever). Onward!
The last thing I realized AFTER I was finished was that both fabrics are…kind of see-through. And no, I didn’t see that coming. I have no idea how I missed it, but these shirts definitely need skin-colored undergarments and probably a camisole underneath. So, maybe I just made myself a few undershirts instead of regular shirts. Oh, well! Learning experience!
My one little “trick” that I was pretty proud of was using Steam-A-Seam 2-1/4″ for my hems. Steam-A-Seam 2 is a sticky, double-sided, fusible strip that you can use to temporarily hold fabric in place until you press it and then sew it. It’s a little finicky, since it can stick to your fingers, but it’s very helpful. My only tip as far as this goes, is to make sure that you fully cover the edges of the Steam-A-Seam with your fabric and stitching. I found that on my sleeves, once I had hemmed them and then washed the shirt, the fabric rolled back slightly, and the edges of the Steam-A-Seam scratch my arms just a little.
Even with all their issues, I’m calling these t-shirts a win because I learned a lot: I like this v-neck silhouette and I would make it again. I can (hopefully) avoid the mistakes I made this time on future versions. And every t-shirt I make helps me get that much better at sewing knits. Looking back on other knit projects, I realize that I still have a lot to master in the way of professional techniques, but since the fit on knits is so forgiving, my many “learning experience” projects don’t bother me as much as my wonky projects in woven fabrics. I don’t have a lot of my early woven garments, but I still wear a lot of my early knit projects.
I’m hoping to sew some more t-shirts soon, this time long-sleeved ones using the free Plantain Tee pattern. Do you have a favorite t-shirt pattern? If so, please share!
I’m going to take next week off since Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US, so I’ll be back after that! Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers!