My Sew Sew Life-In Search of the Perfect T-Shirt to Make and Wear

Why make a T-Shirt when there are so many out there to make; it’s just a very simple piece of clothing. Honestly, I don’t have a good answer to that question. It’s just something that I’ve been wanting to do. I may have been inspired by the YouTuber/Blogger Whit Makes who spent one whole month making and talking about different TeeShirt patterns in the sewing universe.

I went with an idea of a dressier lace version with some stretch lace knit that was in my stash and will talk more about the fabric later. This shirt would let me have some fun and wear a few pearl items for every day.

For my dive into this T-Shirt universe, I picked a pattern that I’ve always liked the lines of which is Alabama Chanin’s T-Shirt pattern. The longer sleeve variation has always caught my eye.

For fabric, I used a lace knit piece from my stash. I picked it up a few years ago on sale at JoAnne’s Fabric and meant it for another project. However, over the years, I lost interest in the original project and decided to use it for this one.

Alabama Chanin

in 2000 Natalie Chanin started a design project. In 2006, it turned into what we know it today; Alabama Chanin. She started with two employees and twenty-two sewers, many of whom had been a part of the project since its inception in 2000. Located in Florence, Alabama, Alabama Chanin concentrates on sustainable designs and the value of community.

They offer hand-crafted gorgeous luxury-priced clothing. However, on the other side, they have “The School of Making“. This is the part that I love. There are books, supplies, kits, and studio classes. I have two Alabama Channin books: Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design (both found second-hand on Amazon).

Alabama Chanin is known for its gorgeous surfaces of reverse applique and embroidery. Someday, I want to make one of those types of items, for now, I just wanted to try the fit of the pattern. If you want to see some of these works made by another sewest, I highly recommend Emmy Lou of Scarberian Fashion Lover. An artist from Toronto, Canada, she has created quite a few gorgeous AC designs.

Getting the Pattern Right

The Alabama Studion Sewing Patterns book had the T-Shirt pattern on a CD disc. However, it was just a one-page PDF. I could have done two things; take it to a printer that printed large-scale drawings or use Photoshop to enlarge it section by section. I picked the latter, and that was a big mistake. It took me forever and I never could get the sections to line up perfectly.

In my defense of taking the harder road traveled, I had done this Photoshop thing before, but with doll clothes. I found that a human-sized pattern was a whole different ballgame! In the future, I might take this T-Shirt PDF to a printer. Regular places like Office Depot or Office Max don’t print large scale. I know there are online printers but to make that reasonable, you have to send multiple patterns to be enlarged-maybe I’ll send a few of my patterns from the book…we’ll see. But, I also think there is a printing company down in Joplin (my oldest daughter lives there) that does larger things and may check them out.

Changes That I Made

I made the size large. However, I narrowed the pattern shoulders for a closer fit and my shirt is a little looser around the hips as the pattern is shown. that was my choice. I made a test shirt and worked out all the fitting issues that I saw before I started on the fashion fabric. Also, I took in the sleeves around the elbow because I wanted a more dramatic flair at the wrists or bottom of the sleeves-bell bottom sleeves, you could say (but not that dramatic).

The keywords above are “that I saw“. Everything I’ve made lately has not been fitted and I have never worried how what something looked like in the back. After we took some back view photos, I was pretty upset. The back fits awful! I will discuss it later down below. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s just this particular pattern or it’s me. If I continue making T-Shirts, I need to check this problem with every pattern.

Also, I know I need darts in every front bodice but on a T-Shirt? I decided to forgo this and knew that the front would and could not fit smoothly without them.

So it’s put in darts or live with ripples-my life long battle with garments fitting my bust.

Sewing Techniques

These patterns all have 1/4″ seams (the average pattern has 5/8″ seams). This made it perfect for creating this entire garment using my Babylock Combo to serger the seams and then set it up to coverstitch the hems of the bottom and the sleeves. However, I would first stitch the seams using a long stitch on my regular sewing machine, just as a precaution of holding the fabric in place. At this moment, I just don’t have the confidence to just start serging with a few clips in place-maybe someday, but not now.

I used a 20% reduction on the neck binding and it fits perfectly. I read articles that suggested anywhere from 10% to 20%. Since this neckline was so high, I decided the 20% was perfect and I was right.

Oh, But This Fabric!

This fabric itches! It is made of two layers; a stretch white lace on a stretch mesh with thin black yarns running horizontally through it, which make for a very interesting fabric and a tad sheer. But that mesh itches a bit. I didn’t realize this until I tried to wear my top. I will need something underneath, which is a bummer. That means this shirt is only can be worn in the cooler months and I’m not happy about that!

That Pesky Back!

Now to that terrible fitting back. I think my body must have changed over the years because this is not a problem that I had in my 30’s and 40’s, which was the last time I was sewing constantly (until about three years ago). What I have, with this garment is extreme fabric creases (I can’t think of a better word, at the moment) in the back. After some research, I came up with the solutions.

There seem to be three fitting criteria that a garment must meet: correct length, correct circumference, and correct depth. Depth is anything that needs to be corrected with a dart. I decided that I needed two adjustments in the depth range to get this shirt right.

The first adjustment is fitting my back. It seems that I now have a rounder back than I use to (aging?) and need to take about a 1″ dart in the pattern center back (just below the back arm holes).

The two dart adjustments make such a difference! Remember, I am counting the shoulders as a dart. Of course, I had to take them out because it is to late for this top to have them. Well, I guess if I wanted to take the time, I could redo the shoulders of this one, but with serged edges, that would be a pain.

The second adjustment is at the shoulders. Technically, the shoulder seam is a dart because it is at an angle. I have more sloping shoulders than the pattern allowed. Taking an extra 1/2″ seam out of the shoulder line and tapering it up to 0 at the neckline helped solve the problem too.

In the end, I have to consider this a wearable muslin. I will wear it but will not really be happy with it. I had plans to make a long vest out of some scuba knit lace that I purchased at the same time as this fabric. It seems like a really good idea at this point. I have a rough drawing what this would look like at the end of my post.

New Sewing Tool

If I am going to make a few T-Shirts, I figure that I will be measuring a lot of curves (figuring out those neckline bindings). Watching, Linda Lee’s The Sewing Workshop, I saw her using a Curve Runner, which is a rolling ruler. Immediately, I went over to Amazon and started the hunt. These come in medium or large sizes and you can get them in inches or metric. It just looked like something that would come in handy for measuring necklines when figuring neckline bindings. Another new thing in my sewing toys!

Tying it Up

If I had to rate this project, I would put it on the failure side. Starting out, I don’t like this fabric in the high neckline. That is something I can change. Although I like this fabric, I feel that in the end, I made it up in the wrong pattern. Admittedly, I never saw this piece working by itself. Below, I have drawn on a long vest shape, which I was planning to make out of the Scuba Knit lace fabric that I bought at the same time. Also, I could tuck the top in and maybe even wear a belt. It might work…I’m not sure. With a long-line vest, the high neckline works for me. What do you think?

I’m not sure I will even be using this pattern again and I thought this was going to be THE T-Shirt pattern for me. But, now I feel the need to try a new one for comparison. I’ve been looking at Cashmerette’s Concord T-Shirt.

Has anyone made this one? I’ve been wanting to try one of Jenny Rushmore’s patterns because of the attention she gives to full bust sizes and I can get a 20% discount on account of belonging to Pattern Review (which is an incredible place to mingle with other like minded sewing souls).

Also, if any of you have a favorite TNT T-Shirt pattern, let me know and I will check them out.

So, I am now really wrapping up this not so successful project. I love that I got to use my serger and coverstitch machine for the whole project. Nothing can come close to having a cover stitch putting the hems in a knit fabric! I made a vow to use it more, which means that I need to sew more knits, which has not been a strong factor in my sewing.

I’m knitting now, so it will be a while before I even get back to sewing something.

I know this project wasn’t so successful but I figure one needs to share the bad with the good and I did learn a bunch on this shirt. So, I don’t consider it a complete failure.

Happy New Year (this is my first maker post of the year) and until next time-take care and Create On!

P.S. I even tried my tuck it in thing and wasn’t happy with that. This fabric isn’t drapey enough for that.

11 thoughts on “My Sew Sew Life-In Search of the Perfect T-Shirt to Make and Wear

  1. I am impressed at your sewing knowledge. I would just look at something and see it didn’t fit. I wouldn’t have the ability to know just exactly what was wrong. I really like it with the drawn on vest. That’s a smart idea! After all of that work to have the fabric be itchy would be quite disappointing. I don’t think I’d count it as a complete failure…it’s a working mistake! I can’t wait to see what you’re knitting. I just finished a balaclava for my son. Now, I am on to finishing up a crocheted afghan. I have several (over 120) granny squares to connect so I’m looking for another knitting project to keep from doing that!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Marsha. I had to do some research. I have Threads’ book “Fitting for all Figures”. but also found some answers on the web, especially from a new site I discovered in the process called “The Shapes of Fabric”. This woman is amazing in her knowledge and expertise and I could spend hours just reading everything she has written.

      My knitting is going to be on my SIA this Monday and then I am also going to have a separate post about it. I say your balaclava on IG?, or somewhere. That was cool! Hasn’t this weather been perfect for one? Take care, Terri


  2. Love with the long vest or w/o vest. Great!

    On Fri, Jan 21, 2022 at 8:48 AM MeadowTree Style wrote:

    > terrigardner1 posted: ” Why make a T-Shirt when there are so many out > there to make; it’s just a very simple piece of clothing. Honestly, I don’t > have a good answer to that question. It’s just something that I’ve been > wanting to do. I may have been inspired by the YouTuber/Blog” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Melody, I may jump that long vest project up to the #2 slot. The scuba lace fabric does take up a lot of room in my stash LOL.
      It was just too cold for me to want to venture out Friday to drive up to the city a so I skipped the lunch. I’ve always wondered what that restaurant was like. Take care-Terri


    1. Thank you Michelle, I think sewing serves two purposes for me. Firstly, of course, is the creativity and being able to call your own shots in what you wear and there is something very satisfying in making your own clothes. Secondly, for someone who has always had problems with main stream clothes fitting correctly, it is to understand why and try to avoid those problems in what I make. Usually this last one has not been too much of a problem and easily fixed but this time I was thrown some curves.Maybe a simple T-Shirt is a way for me to get a grasp on these problems and know how to fix them. Take care, Terri


    1. Well, I don’t really love this piece and am not sure I’m going to wear it to much. I guess not everything we make is going to be 100% to our liking. I think things might be better if I ever make the long black vest. But it has to come after my #makenine things (that picture I put on IG with the nine drawings). Sewing is an adventure, right? Take care XOXO Terri

      Liked by 1 person

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