After my T-shirt fail last month, I wanted to get back in the saddle and find out if I’ve learnt from my sins. So here is the redemption.
I’m really happy with this one – it’s clean and simple, it fits (yet I can still move in it) and it’ll go with pretty much everything in my existing wardrobe. I have a feeling this one is going to get lots of wear this summer.
I used the same self-drafted pattern as for the boat-neck T-shirt, but varied the neckline and added a small pocket. This Colette tutorial for binding knit edges was really useful – it is a fiddle getting it on evenly and distributing the stretch around such a large area, but I think it was worth the two hours I spent taking it on and off again.
For the sleeves, I thought I’d try a folded cuff this time for a change – I just winged that part, so if you know a great way to get a more slouchy cuff in lighterweight jersey, please enlighten me.
The fabric is a plain white jersey I bought in Cheltenham last year. It feels like an interlock, so it was more suited to a fitted shape than a fluid one. The stretch recovery on it isn’t great, but I’m hoping the double pre-wash will help prevent it from going out of shape.
That might be it for T-shirts for a while. I’ve got one or two more jersey projects in my queue, but my overlocker needs a service. So next up is curtain-making (snore…) and, if I can get the fit sorted, hopefully some unselfish sewing for a change.
Do you like to sew the same thing on repeat, or is it more fun to switch between different fabrics and patterns each project?
I was hoping not to add to the Sewing Blunders category this year but this one definitely qualifies. A real-life case of pride coming before a fall. Or a fail, in this case.
I was so pleased with my self-drafted boat-neck breton top that I’d thought I’d quickly sew myself another T-shirt from the same pattern. This time I used the scoop-neck variation and some substantial beige cotton/spandex jersey I bought from the Fabrics Galore stand at Sewing for Pleasure.
But as you can see, it’s looking a bit sorry for itself.
Here are the mistakes I made:
I forgot to trace the scoop-neck cutting line from the fabric onto the pattern so I did it after I’d started sewing, but obviously not very well as it came out lopsided.
I didn’t take a large enough seam allowance when I attached the sleeve pieces with my overlocker, so the shoulders came out too wide, and don’t even match each other.
I serged the raw edge of the neck opening before adding the neckband – accidentally taking too much off, meaning that I definitely can’t bend forwards in this top.
My attempts to use up some cheap thread I had lurking in my stash rather than make another trip to the shops (I know, I know… ) backfired spectacularly when my twin needle chewed up and spat out the hem.
I tried to fix all these mistakes by giving the top a really good press, but it actually made things worse because I accidentally turned on the self-clean function and the iron spat dirty water that stained the back neck.
Unlike previous blunders, these mistakes are down to carelessness and rushing rather than ignorance, so I suppose you could say I’m learning. Onwards and upwards, hopefully.
After a serious think about the contents of my wardrobe – and the gaps in it – earlier this month, I settled on sewing the things that would get me through an average week. Top of my list was t-shirts – mainly because I had two patterns and plenty of knit fabric ready to go.
I opted to try out my self-drafted T-shirt pattern first. Since the initial fitting, I decided to revise the block to include more ease, and I made four small alterations to the fit:
I narrowed the shoulder by 0.5cm
I added a smidgen more width around the bust
I took in the back waist a touch
I raised the armscye by 1cm to give more freedom of movement
I then added the three neckline variations I wear most often – boat (or slash) neck, scoop and crew.
The fabric is leftover from a (pre-blog) maternity top I made back in 2013. It’s a lightweight cotton jersey with decent recovery, bought at Sewing for Pleasure at the NEC, but I can’t remember the name of the shop or the price unfortunately.
I stitched the shoulder seams on my ordinary sewing machine so I could add clear elastic as a stabiliser, but then used my overlocker for the other seams and to finish the remaining raw edges. Instead of the usual bands or twin needle finish, I opted for a zigzag stitch after reading the Grainline Lark sewalong.
I’m really pleased with the fit. It’s close-fitting but not too tight, and that balances the looser-fitting bottom halves in my wardrobe nicely. If I can avoid getting caught in the crossfire of flying egg and blackcurrants that constitutes dinnertime with a toddler, then hopefully I’ll be wearing it every week for years to come.
The pattern was free and the fabric and notions were all leftovers, so I’m calling that a zero-cost new top. Huzzah!
What’s the best way to hem a knit garment like a T-shirt or a jersey dress? From what I’ve learnt so far your options are:
If you’re lucky enough to have a coverstitch machine this seems to be the way to go. You press up your hem, and then the coverstitch finishes the raw edge and stitches the hem in one go. It gives that RTW twin needle finish on the outside and because of the differential feed you can get it lovely and stretchy so you won’t split your stitches taking the garment on and off. If only I could justify buying one…
Overlock plus twin needle
This is the one I’ve used the most. It gives a slightly stretchy finish because the bobbin thread zigs and zags between the two top threads, but it probably won’t stretch as much as the original fabric. First you overlock the raw edge and press up your hem. You can also stabilise the hem allowance to avoid a twisted, puckered or ridged finish.
Then fit a ballpoint twin needle in your ordinary sewing machine, use your walking foot, a straight stitch setting, and topstitch the hem in place from the right side.
(If you have a really old sewing machine, like my Singer 201K, that only has a straight stitch, then you may not have a footplate that will take a twin needle, but any machine that has a built-in a zigzag function should be fine. I used my mother-in-law’s 1960s Singer to hem my Moneta dress. If there’s no second spool, then put your two top threads onto bobbins and then you can stack them on top of each other on your spool pin.)
If you’re getting a ridge between the two lines of stitching, then a stabiliser should help, and you can also try playing around with the tension. Lots of people recommend stretchy woolly nylon for the bobbin thread, but I haven’t tried this yet.
If you don’t have an overlocker
You don’t have to overlock the edge before you press it up, you can still do a twin needle hem without this step, but in this case I would definitely use a stabiliser right up to the raw edge – and pick one that won’t wash out. A permanent stabiliser may limit the stretch a little, but that’s better than the raw edge curling back over the hemming stitch and creating a lump there. You might also choose to use an overedge or zigzag stitch to finish the raw edge for neatness.
If you don’t want to buy a ballpoint twin needle…
…because it’s an awful moment when you break one and have to part with another £4, then you can also topstitch the hem with a zigzag stitch, or a stretch stitch. This will stretch a little, but like the twin needle finish, not a lot. Some people are sniffy about how this finish looks, but I quite like the variation. I tried this for my latest T-shirt (which I’ll hopefully post later this week when the weather brightens enough to take pictures).
Can you help me with any of my unsolved questions?
Is a coverstitch machine so amazing that I should blow the budget and get one? Or are they quite fiddly and hard to use?
What’s the best stabiliser to use for knit hems? Spray-in starch, wash-away, knit interfacing or something else?
I’ve read that you can also use a rolled hem. Has anyone tried this? What sort of fabric would this work best on?
It’s all about the knits here at the moment. This week, I wanted to try out a technique I haven’t used before – binding the neckline with ribbing, rather than a jersey band. So I asked my two-year old son to pick out his favourite knit fabrics from my stash and hunted through my Ottobre magazines for a suitable pattern.
He chose the bicycle-print organic cotton jersey leftover from his latest coat for the front and back. And we agreed on beige jersey (purchased from Fabrics Galore at Sewing for Pleasure in March) for the sleeves. He really wanted to use the rainbow ribbing I found in Stone Fabrics, and it goes surprisingly well with the colourful bikes. The pattern is number 17 from Ottobre 3/2015 in size 104cm and has a two-piece raglan short sleeve.
I don’t do a lot of tracing, so that was a mild annoyance, along with adding on the seam allowances by hand. Because he’s long and lean, I also added 2.5 cm to the length in the body.
This was a quick make, made even faster by using a four-thread overlock stitch for all the main seams. I spent some time puzzling over how to apply the ribbing because there were no instructions with the pattern, but I eventually located them tucked away in the back of the magazine. And them promptly did something different!
For the hems I fused on some seam interfacing before pressing them up and topstitching with a twin needle. The seam interfacing really helps prevent the puckering and twisting you can sometimes get with a topstitched hem on knit fabrics. But it does also restrict the stretch a bit, so I’d like to try another method next time – maybe bands, as demonstrated in the Renfrew top sewalong.
I’d love to show you how it looks on him, but so far he’s refused to wear it. I’m trying not to take that personally. Toddlers, huh?
Sort of, is the answer. Here’s version one in a scarily bright mint green single jersey I’ve been avoiding using for anything else because of its poor recovery. I didn’t bother adding the sleeves or finishing the edges because I wanted to get the fit through the bodice right first.
It’s just about long enough, which RTW T-shirts almost never are. And it’s got the right shape overall. But it’s too tight for my taste and it also needs more room at the bust – the underarm wrinkles are a dead giveaway. Compare it with the best fitting of my RTW T-shirts, from tall girls’ mecca Long Tall Sally.
The scoop neck is much more flattering than the crew on me.
This picture shows up the sway-back problem I have with lots of RTW T-shirts.
So I tweaked the pattern a little to add a teensy bit more ease (1/2″) and followed this Cashmerette tutorial for a simple FBA for knit tops. Jenny’s method adds length to the front bodice rather than width, making the front longer than the back. You then ease the extra length in at the side seams between the waist and the armpit to give more room at the bust.
Here’s version two, in the mint jersey again. As you can see, it’s pretty much indistinguishable from V1, so I’ve clearly been too timid with the adjustments.
Yup, still too tight!
Who’s going to invent a T-shirt bra that doesn’t show through the back of T-shirts?
So, some more adjustments to make. (And I’ve run out of mint jersey, dammit.) For the next and hopefully final toile, I’ll:
add another inch or so of ease widthways
lengthen below the waist by 1/2″
scoop out the neckline, even for the block pattern
After trousers, the next thing on my ‘gaps in my wardrobe’ list is some well fitting T-shirts. I’ve been eyeing up both the Sewaholic Renfrew and Grainline Lark patterns, but I was worried that they’d need a lot of fitting adjustments. I have terrible trouble getting RTW T-shirts to fit. I thought I’d probably need to lengthen the bodice and sleeves, raise the bustline, do an (undarted) FBA somehow and potentially also a swayback adjustment. That seems like a lot of adjustments to make to what’s actually a pretty simple three-piece pattern. I should know how to construct a T-shirt because I made the Colette Moneta earlier this year (one version of which is basically a T-shirt top attached to a gathered skirt).
Then I remembered that one of my resolutions for 2015 was to draft a bodice block from my own measurements, and I realised this week that if I just got on and did a block for knit fabrics rather than the one I’d been planning for wovens I could probably get some T-shirts and vest tops completed this side of Christmas. And I can also spend the £13 I would have spent on either pattern on some fabulous knit fabric. That’s the theory, anyway.
So I dug out my copy of Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear and rifled through it for a T-shirt block. It looked a lot simpler than the darted block for wovens, so I knuckled down and, Nike-style, just did it.
I already had a list of my measurements and some ready-squared paper so it only took an hour to get the block drafted. Now to add seam allowances and sew up a rough toile to see if it fits…