Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A Troupe of Tees

Does anyone know what the collective noun for a group of t-shirts is? My vote is with "troupe"... unless the tees need laundering, in which case they definitely form a "pile".

Anyway, you don't come here purely to see me abuse the English language. You come here to see sewing projects. Today: I've made a troupe of t-shirts.


I love t-shirts. I go through a lot of them. I can go through 4 on any given particularly busy day...

(it's a mystery why I generate so much laundry, ey?)

This was my first project in 2017 and I was quite keen to make something that would be a good workhorse, and would take the pressure off me before I started to make something super frivolous and super-fancy. After the hack jobs known as The Outfit and Dress #11 I really, really needed a project I would do well. I know how to do good t-shirts...I just hadn't made any in a very long while.

The Pattern

Part of my "doing it properly" idea is to end up with a set of consistent patterns, that I can use repeatedly and use as the basis for variations. Those in the biz might call them blocks, others might call them TNT (Tried 'n' True). I  guess the idea is the same. I'm not aiming specifically for a bodice, a skirt, a dress etc but that's what I might end up with. I'm just looking for a set of patterns I can treat consistently - because I know how they translate into the real world.

I used Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear to draft patterns for a slim fit t-shirt and an easy fitting one. I rummaged around and found some oversized promotional t-shirts muslin-appropriate jersey to make samples of both styles. I also made both long and short sleeves for both styles. Hopefully these will be good references that I can use as a basis for design changes.

Easy fit -front

Easy fit - back

Slim fit - front

Slim fit - back

Overall I like the 2 patters, and have made minimal fit adjustments. On future designs, I  need to remember to alter the shoulders and back neckline more to sit wider/lower as appropriate.

Standard slim fit tee, one with a scoop neckline variation



Front (with scoop neck)

Easy fitting tee with scoop neckline variation


The Fabric

The fabric is a wonder. I love this fabric. It was a Christmas gift from B - which was an absolute stroke of genius on his part. Take me to a fabric shop at the beginning of December (knowing that I have a birthday and Christmas coming up), use "we need to buy a gift for my sister" as an excuse, let me get distracted by pretty fabric, get samples of said fabric, return on a sneaky mission...and then reap the benefits later. Clever man.

Anyway, the fabric is a cotton, viscose and elastane mix. It's from Goldbrick Fabrics on Goldhawk Road. It's not the cheapest jersey you'll ever find but it is damn good. The shop also does student discount. I had a few metres in black, petrol blue and plum.

I always balk at other bloggers who use food descriptors to explain their fabric's characteristics. Buttery. That one really gets me. I mean, how can a fabric be "buttery"? I mean, I'm sure I also have used some of the fabrics others are describing as "buttery" and I definitely wouldn't call it that. Luxurious, textured, easy to handle, yes...but not buttery. Returning to the current project however...I can only say that this fabric is TASTY. Tasty tasty fabric. Every time I pick it up I make strange noises, remind myself of how slinky it is, and how good the stretch recovery is, and generally attempt to rub it all over my face. I have been known to mock-chew it as well. Don't judge me.

Easy fitting variation with cowl neckline, hem band and puffed sleeves

(My mannequin has no arms, and no buttocks of which to speak - this one was just hanging off it and it looked quite limp - so you've got me instead)

The Construction

I've made enough knit fabric projects to know my sewing preferences now. Everything is cut with a 1.5cm seam allowance, sewn with a basic zig zag (pressure foot pressure down to 0 or 1, regular foot), then trimmed slightly and the edges are overcast using my regular sewing machine. The seams are robust, pretty and really easy to handle. My hems are folded once, zig zagged and trimmed.

The only problem with the construction is that this is very thread-consuming and I had to get a bit creative when the gutterman spools kept running out. I switched to moon thread for one t-shirt, which also worked well.

Now might be a good time to talk about my favourite way of constructing a t-shirt. Not being one to follow instructions, I don't know if other people do it like this at home. It is one of several methods I've seen on RTW so it can't be that bad. The main principle is to sew as much flat stuff as possible.
  1. Sew sleeve hems
  2. Sew one shoulder
  3. Sew neckband to neckline (or finish to one's own taste)
  4. Sew the other shoulder
  5. Sew in sleeves
  6. Sew side seams and sleeve seams
  7. Hem t-shirt
The neckline...well the neckline is the difficult bit. I like to sew it in like this (i.e. flat) because I get more control.  But it takes practice to apply the same level of appropriate tension along the whole neckline. Sometimes it feels like you need 3 hands to make it work. Though you can get away with using very few pins (if any).

Some methods say to  have your neckline ready as an enclosed circle (both shoulder seams already sewn), and your neckband as a closed loop - and stitch one loop to the other. I don't like this for various reasons. Today's main reason is that it's particularly difficult to judge how to ease the neckband evenly into the neckline. Your neckband is probably divided into quarters, but your neckline isn't a perfect circle. Your shoulder seams aren't opposite each other in a perfect circle, so the length between them via the front and via the back are different. It means that your front edge would be too tight, and your back neckline would be saggy.

I try to avoid the latter method (in the round?) but it does prove useful at times. For instance, I made a mistake on the neckline of one t-shirt: cut a neckband too short and stretched it too much when sewing it in flat. It made the neck hole too small, choked me slightly and the t-shirt kept creeping up my neck - pulling the shoulders and the rest of the shirt out of line. After finishing the t-shirt, I cut out the neckband and reinserted a bigger one (in the round) - which has made everything much better. Sometimes fit issues in knit projects (in particular) are due to the construction/fabric and not the pattern.

Neckline - Before (creeping up my neck because it's too tight - see drag lines and shoulder seams)

Neckline - After

Anyway, I made about 6 t-shirts in total. Three were basic slim tees that I can wear as vests, and the others were slight variations in style. Hopefully these will be seeing a lot of use for a while to come.

Stay safe
K x

1 comment:

  1. The too tight neckline gave shades of a Tenniel drawing of Alice, where she has an extra long neck....
    I have come over to the 'in the round' neck on T shirt type projects- Yes, divide the neck band in quarters, and then do the same for the constructed T, Find centre front and back, mark with pins. Then match pins to find the quarter marks... well, works for me.