Tee for Two

I’ve been a real Johnny Two-Shirts lately. Anyway, here’s another two shirts! I spotted a cute mock-neck knit tee with elbow sleeves in a StitchFix ad and got two yards of cotton jersey from Girl Charlee to try making my own (chocolate for experimenting, caramel for final). I didn’t own an exact pattern but I thought Deer & Doe’s free Plantain tee would make a good base. And since it’s a free pattern I can pop a complete image of my altered pattern below!

I extended the shoulder slope towards the neck without changing the angle at all, raised the neckline to what I hoped would be a high crew, and slimmed the body. I widened and shortened the neckband from the original pattern piece, but more wide than short; now it’s 1:1 to the neck opening. I also shortened the sleeve, cutting it off around the elbow then adding hem allowance. This was easier than I hoped because the Plantain pattern has a placement marking for an elbow patch! These adjustments were all done to a size 42.

Here’s where things get a little hinky: when printing this version of the pattern, I had to load more paper halfway through the print job, and I did it a little hastily so some of the pages printed askew or printed across two sheets when the lines should have fit on one. And when I assembled it, it got weirder. I overlapped the paper when taping together the body pieces, but not the sleeve (the lines just flowed better that way). This potentially added as much as ¾” of an inch to the sleeve width. In my final paper version the sleeve head is the same length as the armscye – no stretching – which feels definitely strange! That said, I went ahead and cut and sewed the first one, bodge job and all. 

Sewing it was a totally standard knit shirt experience – shoulder seams; sleeves in flat; join the ends of the neckband; quarter, pin, and sew; side seams; hems; it’s a shirt. And then I liked it fine the way it was so I went ahead and made the other one too, exactly the same way!

 I used a zig-zag to topstitch as per usual, and put the neckband join in the center back, where it does the job of a tag in distinguishing recto from verso.

I’d heard good buzz about the Plantain, which has been out and free for years. Can Confirm. Obviously a nice and effective pattern that can stand up to a fair amount of arts and crafts! I quite like these finished shirts, too. I don’t know if I need two of them, but I expected one of them to be a flop, not these first-try-lucky twins.

They’ll work well for fall, but if you’re trying to squeeze out a little more summer, read on…

While test-wearing my first shirt, Professor Boyfriend and I happened to watch Jaws. About two-thirds of the way through I realized I was dressed like Police Chief Martin Brody! And I was okay with it! Actually, the whole trio of shark hunters rocked some serious 1975 New England summer style.

Plus the Amity Island look is free, at least from the waist up! So when a shark bites you in half, the top half will be affordably stylish. I suggest pairing these free patterns with your favorite straight-leg jeans, dad glasses, and a big boat.

One leg exception: for a classic “unsupervised at the beach” look, you can sport a pair of these retro Sports Shorts. These call for woven fabric, but I recommend French terry and listening to your mother.

Next to the skin, customize a knit tee (like mine above, the Plantain) with a self-drafted mock-neck or this handy Henley tutorial. Choose dark neutrals for the mock-neck and pale pink for the Henley. Or go classic in cream with the Monroe turtleneck, and make sure to roll the neck down!

Then layer on an open denim buttondown. Size up in the Noa shirt and add some custom chest pockets with flaps. You can also sew it in ecru linen and roll the sleeves above your elbows. Or pop on a soft raglan sweatshirt – I like this super-slouchy version, but with a little effort you can also sport a fitted look. Choose cool, faded colors that say “namby-pamby college boy”!

For a topper, the obvious choice is a Paola workwear jacket. Green is recommended, but a pocket flask is optional.

For a finishing touch fit for the open ocean, you’ll want a hat. How about a bucket hat? An oversized camp cap also gets the job done. And if you knit, you can knit a ribbed beanie! Also, while so far I’ve focused exclusively on our boys on the Orca, I could write a whole post about Ellen Brody’s closet. I at least had to mention her iconic hair kerchief; to make your own, cut a square around 23” wide and hem with mitered corners. You might never be an islander, but you’ll look the part.

Try for natural fibers, cool-toned colors, and straight fits. A little faded pink is allowed, but take a page from the production designer’s handbook and avoid bright red! We want that blood to pop!

Honestly, Quint’s fit in particular is pretty impeccable. It might get me to sew a Paola jacket. What’s your favorite piece of Amity Island fashion, and why is it the mayor’s anchor blazer?

Thanks for taking a ferry ride to this themed pattern round-up with me! Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain!

Pattern: Plantain tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 42; raised neckline; shortened sleeve; widened and shortened neckband; slimmed body

Supplies: 1 yard of Chocolate Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric, $11.68, Girl Charlee; thread from stash/1 yard of Caramel Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric, $11.68, Girl Charlee; thread from stash

Total time: 2.5 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $11.68/$11.68

Tee Time

As I frequently do when I want to add a kinda boring basic to my wardrobe, I ordered a bunch of fabric to make a bunch of kinda boring basics instead. I’ve been seeing lots of images of solid tees knotted casually over or tucked into midi-length skirts, and I like the combo, so it was time for tees. I ordered 4 yards of cotton/spandex from Girl Charlee, one each of 4 different colors. The first two – Light Sage and Dark Olive – are now two Tabor t-shirts.

First, Light Sage. This color is hard to photograph – it looks greyer both in my pictures (it was a grey day) and on the website, but it’s mintier in person. I would maybe call it Toothpaste. Why don’t I get to name colors?! Anyway, I sewed a new-to-me Tabor view, view 2 with the drop shoulders finished with cuffs, but with the skinny neckband from view 3. The result is an extremely conventional and unexciting t-shirt that I actually like a lot.

I took longer than necessary fiddling over the neckband, determined to finally sew a v-neck without puckers. Contrary to the directions, I like to start with my needle down in the dead center of the v and then sew a few inches towards the shoulder, before returning to that same starting position and sewing the other side of the v the same way. Then I sew as directed, starting a few inches up from the center, sewing to the middle point, pivoting with the needle down and finally sewing towards the other shoulder. This should guarantee that there isn’t a gap between my stitches at center front. In this particular case, however, it guaranteed that I had to unpick three lines of stitching when I flipped everything right-sides-out and discovered I had clipped too far when releasing the center notch and made a hole.

I unpicked and lowered the point to hide the hole. So my v-neck is an extra ¼” or so deeper than drafted, and I think maybe a little stretched out too, because the mitered end won’t sit flat against my body. But no puckers!

I originally cut the cuffs twice as long so I could fold them. Then I realized they were already designed to be folded once. I basted on one of my extra-long cuffs as an experiment, but quadruple-folding the fabric or even triple-folding a wider cuff resulted in basically a t-shirt Water Wing. And Floaties are for babies!! Actually no, it was just uncomfortable. So these cuffs are exactly as drafted.

My one issue with this tee is the way it tips back. The cuffs are snug enough that the shoulder seam stays in place over my upper arm, but from the shoulder point up it’s like the shirt is trying to hide behind me.

Tucking it in keeps everything situated. Otherwise I have to occasionally tug the v to the appropriate depth.

My second version is a bit more loosey-goosey. This one is Dark Olive

It will perhaps not surprise you to hear I scooped the neck. Less obvious – and actually I forgot until I saw it in my notes – I also extended the circumference of the cuffs to match the circumference of the drop shoulders (in this size, 10, that’s 13.5″ unsewn). It’s pretty low-impact and I don’t have a clear opinion as to whether I prefer the snugger or looser cuff. I’m generally pro-cuff (or any banded finish), though! That’s two fewer hems!

Actually, the only hem on these projects is the bottom hem. I used a straight stitch to topstitch the necklines, and a zig-zag on the bottom hems.

I wouldn’t normally use a straight stitch on a knit but the pattern had plenty of noggin room even before the chop job this one got. I initially put the bottom of the scoop at the point of the v, widened the neckline 2 cm on each side, and freehanded the curve to join them. I sewed everything up to the neckband before trying the shirt on.

I decided the depth of the scoop was fine but that it needed to be wider. I probably should have snuck up on whatever curve I eventually chose, but instead I lopped off another 3 cm each, for a total of 5 cm removed per side. That’s definitely riding the edge of too much! It also meant lowering the back neckline slightly to accommodate a smooth curve, but a trivial amount – ¼” or so.

Anyway, no takebacks! I had already cut an extra-long neckband the same width as the band from the v-neck view, so I trimmed its length to between 80 – 90% percent of the neck opening. Then I quartered the band and the neck, pinned, and sewed. I had measured by eye, but I probably should have measured by math. It’s a little floppy. I’ll tell you what, though: it slides every which way but back. Progress?

Once again, floppy neck and all, it’s a basic, useful tee! These aren’t the kind of projects I lay awake dreaming about, but I sure do wear them. And I guess that’s the point.

See you next time!

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10/10; widened neck 5 cm and scooped front; lengthened armbands to 13.5″

Supplies: 1 yard of Light Sage Green Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric, $11.68, Girl Charlee; thread from stash/1 yard of Dark Olive Green Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric, $11.68, Girl Charlee; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 3 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $11.68/$14.07

Ube Adrienne

Because I like to sew repeat, practical garments in workaday fabrics, I don’t take too many chances to stretch my sewing skills. I’ve lately been craving some skill building though so I think this will appear in two ways: first, more finicky fabrics; and second, using the little grey cells instead of a pattern. Basically, when I see a garment that I probably could work out on my own or cobble together from already-owned patterns, I want to at least give that the ol’ college try instead of defaulting to buying. This is a fancy way to say: I’ve started copying stuff.

My not-a-Field bag was the gateway to the slippery slope of the domino effect (actual purchasable pattern found here). Next and now, my not-an-Adrienne blouse (real deal found here)! A.k.a. an Adrian top???

I scrolled by this pattern any number of times without feeling particularly tempted until I saw it on Crafty Clyde. She dresses with a quirky, sassy edge and I thought if she was feeling good in it maybe it didn’t have to be straightforwardly romantic.

I also thought this was a good candidate to copy because everyone mentions it has just the two pattern pieces – the identical front/back and the sleeve. And since it’s an untailored stretchy sleeve I could probably make the sleeve and the body symmetrical, so that’s two *half* pieces! Surely I could come up with two half pieces! I didn’t know if I would like it, but I really wanted to see if I could do it.

I studied the finished top and it suddenly clicked that the Adrienne is a raglan tee with extra pizzazz. Oddly, I don’t own a fitted raglan top pattern, just a loose one. But I preferred a fitted body to balance the big sleeves, so I went poking around the internet and found a couple free ones – Life Sew Savory and It’s Always Autumn both look pretty good. Actually though I followed the It’s Always Autumn DIY raglan directions to modify my CC Nettie pattern. I don’t know what size this ended up being, but it has 2” of negative ease at the bust and 1” of negative ease at the hip, which I find fitted but comfortable.

I gave the sleeve vertical side seams and a horizontal bottom edge because it wouldn’t need to fit anywhere but the shoulder. Basically the sleeve piece is a box with a sleeve cap on top.

There was a hot second about a year ago where I thought I might want to wear more off-the-shoulder stuff. I never saw that through, but I remembered this tutorial, also for the Nettie. I followed that to trim the top of my pieces off. I love that it left my sleeve with a flat top edge to make an elastic casing easy to fold and sew, while I added a barely-scooped curve to the body neckline to mimic what I saw on the real pattern.

Because the sleeve was now basically a rectangle with bites taken out of two corners, it was simple to split it vertically and add a bunch of width. The final sleeve piece I made is about 20” wide by 18” long at its most extreme dimensions. Unfortunately this places the finished sleeve bottom edge annoyingly right in the crook of my elbow. I thought it was going to land a few inches above my wrist; the only reason I can think of for my confusion is that the flat top edge tricked me into judging its length as though it were a dropped sleeve, which it really isn’t!

Next time I would increase the length by a good 5” or 6”, and the width by maybe 2”. It’s as easy as extending straight lines.

Both top and bottom of the sleeve are simply folded over once at ¾” and sewn with a straight stitch at 5/8” to make casings. I used ½” elastic. I cut each shoulder elastic to 8”, but pulled out some on either side to make it easier to tack in place; the finished length is probably more like 7”, which feels pretty good to me. I cut my sleeve elastic at 11”, based on the measurement of my forearm, where the sleeve…isn’t. Looser would have been better at the elbow, but it’s not too tight to be comfortable. Just a little annoying!

I considered cutting a single casing to go across the shoulders, front, and back, à la the linked Nettie tutorial, but I thought the shoulders might end up at a right angle to the front and back necks and I didn’t want bunching (plus I was copy-catting), so I banded the front and back separately.

I think my bands are a little too skinny. I should have aimed for a finished width of 5/8” so the neck and shoulder stitching would feel more continuous. The back band (or what I decided would forever be the back band) wanted to flip, so I popped a little topstitching right in the center to discourage it.

The fabric is a simple no-name cotton jersey from Sewfisticated – I thought it was grey in the store but it’s definitely chromatic. Since I don’t really like purple (which some folks might say this is. Who’s saying that?!) I’m calling it ube peel! It was easy and cooperative to sew; they stock it in a couple colors, and I would happily buy it again, especially at $5.00/yard. I bought 1.5 yards and have 1/3 yard remaining. Kind of an awkward scrap. I might have to start sewing underwear. Phooey.

My finished top doesn’t have all the glamour and personality of the original, but I like it! I might make another one with more sleeve! This is probably one of those cases where a positive sewing experience is influencing my feelings about the final garment, too – it just felt good to stretch my figuring-out muscles, and I want to do more of that. I’m never giving up my pattern collection though. You can bury me with it. I mean, if it’s good enough for Pharaohs…

See you soon!

Pattern: copycatted Adrienne blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 34” bust, 43” hip

Supplies: 1 1/2 yards of 95% cotton/5% Lycra, Sewfiscated, $7.49; packet of ½” elastic, Sewfisticated, $2.49

Total time: 2.75 hours

Total cost: $9.98

Shoulderpad Stellan

The Claudia tank has been all the rage lately, plus I was already primed for shoulderpads because I’ve been watching, for the first time, the 1980s TV show Moonlighting. Gorgeous Cybill Shepherd plays Maddy Hayes, a woman with a shoulder line so strong (and furs so luxurious) she occasionally approaches the rectangular. I have an abiding love for stern yet warm blondes who pal around with jackasses, so this was basically a perfect shoulderpad storm. I also love free things, so I decided to try adding them to the Stellan tee.

Weirdly, I sewed poly again. I swear I’m not a poly pusher, but it’s what I can find locally and I’ve mentioned before how much I hate shipping, especially since this only needed 1 yard of fabric. That small yardage is one of the excellent selling points of the Stellan. I use ‘selling point’ loosely because it’s also free! So yeah, this is a poly lycra – maybe not ideal for summertime, but cheep cheep cheep.

Even if it was good for Mama Earth, though, it was a pain in the butt to sew, so I think I’m done now. I tried a brand-new jersey needle, a brand-new stretch needle, and then two other brand-new jersey and stretch needles (the difference? I don’t know, ask the label on the bitty plastic tray thing) and I still got a lot of skipped stitches. My serger had no trouble so I eventually switched to using just that! For me, serging a pinned seam means staring wild-eyed at my serger blade while thinking don’t forget to pull out the pin don’t forget to pull out the pin NOW NOW NOW DIVE DIVE DIVE oh thank god wait here comes another one don’t forget to pull out the pin…it’s generally not worth the bother. So you know it must have been a frustrating experience on the regular machine to get me to switch.

It was worse when there were only one or two layers of fabric. The hem was particularly impossible to sew; I’d get one zigzag for every inch of loose thread. A straight stitch worked, so I don’t know what the deal was there. Luckily the bottom hem doesn’t need to stretch.

The neckline gave me the most grief. I would have described the Stellan as having a high neck, but not I guess compared to a properly high crew one. It just feels a little scoopy and pretty in this drapey knit. Because of how I sewed the armhole facings, I had to add the neckband in the round, and at first I made it too long so everything drooped. I unpicked and resewed it more like bias binding; I left the first inch loose, so when I met it again I could trim the band, join the band ends unfolded, and then sew the last bit to the neckline. I got a better result stretching by feel, but the gains of tightening the neckband were somewhat mitigated by all that unpicking. I didn’t think knits could stretch out but maybe this did? I kept missing stitches when topstitching, but this pass was the most successful, with just a few unexpected straight stitches amongst the zig-zags.

If I ever decide this should be a regular Stellan, I have enough fabric left to cut sleeves. I anchored the sleeve facings in the neckband, but I could just trim them away if needed. I was worried they would flip out since they’re only sewn at the shoulder + neck, and tacked at the underarm, but they stay in place surprisingly well. I came up with the shape like this:

I removed the shoulder seam allowance so I could merge them into one piece each. They’re about 2” wide at the base of the armscye, and theoretically wide enough to cover the pad at the shoulder (though in practice they barely do).

I did consider not sewing the shoulder pads in place, just tucking them in or maybe adding snaps, but they’re easy to unpick if I ever change my mind. Also, 99¢ a pair! I’m never makin’ my own again!

I’m glad I started with an inexpensive fabric, because there’s definitely room for improvement. I’d like to raise the neckline to a butcher crew neck, narrow the front, and pinch some excess from the front armscye. Also I’d like it to be cotton and navy blue. That said, most of those things bugged me during my initial try-on, but not while actually wearing the shirt.

Honestly, I couldn’t be happier if shoulders become a thing again. I missed them the first time around. And since most of the more playful/exaggerated elements of fashion right now don’t appeal to me, it’s nice to spot a trend I’m excited to participate in! Plus it makes me look way, way stronger than my noodle arms really are. I paired this my greeny-brown Papao pants the other day and was definitely showing off my Earthbender side. Kapow! Punch! Stomp! Etc.

Earth, bent!

Pattern: French Navy Stellan tee

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M

Supplies: 1 yard of polyester lyrca, $4.99, Sewfisticated; shoulderpads, $0.99, Sewfisticated; thread from stash

Total time: 3.25 hours

Total cost: $5.98

The Neutral Zone

This might be the simplest thing I’ve shared yet. But If you think I can’t write a post about two zooped-together pieces of fabric, I cordially invite you to listen to my not-tight-five on many topics, from Angela Lansbury’s 70+ year career to my extended opinions on draculas in romantic fiction (their feet and hands are always cold and they don’t watch any current television, WHO SEEKS THAT OUT). Anyway, here we go.

This is the Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck, or what I’m calling a Tabor scoop. As you can guess, the neckline took a turn! I started with the thinner lapped band, but I flattened the base of the “v” (so essentially “cutting off” the point of the shirt front neckline by raising it, and actually, literally cutting off the point of the neckband). This was straightforward to sew, and it may have worked stylistically with the widest lapped band, but visually, at this scale, it was wishy-washy. The neckline hung in a noncommittal curve, and it looked like the width of the band fluctuated by accident. I had already topstitched the seam allowance (though on the back neckline only) when I decided the whole thing had to go.

I am not an impulsive person. I own many rulers. My motto is “when in doubt, do without”. I love my stitch picker. But I folded this shirt symmetrically along the center line, grabbed my shears, and lopped off the band and seam allowance in a freehand curve. I turned the edge over once and topstitched and hey, guess what! It’s fine! It’s a little wide, and by necessity the back neckline ended up a bit too scoopy, but it is OK-hand-sign-emoji by me.

There’s something to be said for the lowest possible stakes, helped by the extreme affordability of this fabric. Sewfisticated is a fabulous fabric store with two puns in its name (one of them even makes sense!) and my favorite thing about it is that you have to work pretty hard to spend more than $10/yard there. That makes it a good place to shop if you’re feeling experimental; I hoped to find two colors of linen for a bicolor look (they’re everywhere and I’ve succumbed), but instead I walked out with this and another knit in cream. It was an odd impulse buy. I worried this shirt would be a Beige Alert (those damned neutrals!), and also it’s polyester, but for under $5 and about two hours of my time I got something I actually like.

I single-folded the sleeve and body hems, same as the neck. I topstitched the shoulder seam with a straight stitch because I’m between clear elastics and I hoped it would add stability.

All my other topstitching is a zig-zag stitch in a functionally invisible shade of dark grey. This sandy cookies-and-cream color hides a lot of sins; I missed like an inch of the hem, but danged if I can see where!

But what did you overcomplicate this time? Was it the sleeve hem? Thank you for asking, yes it was! First I sewed and topstitched the shoulder seam.  Next I folded and sewed into place the sleeve hem, starting and stopping 1” from each end. Then I sewed and finished the side seams, making sure the sleeve hem was unfolded where my stitching line crossed it. Finally, I re-folded the hem and stitched the last two inches. All to avoid sewing in the round as much as possible! Another option would have been to hem the sleeve edge fully before sewing the side seams, but I was wary of a serged seam just stopping without a hem to ‘seal’ it (and I didn’t want thread ends in my armpit).  

This was my first time trying the curved hem option of the Tabor, and it’s a nice gentle curve. I don’t like the shape of my previous Tabors untucked, with the straight/mitered hem, but I can live with this (I mean, I haven’t worn a tee-shirt untucked in years – if my jeans have a nine-inch zipper you’re going to see ALL NINE OF THEM, that’s the POINT, but still).

I’d make another one of these! It would be even zippier if I planned ahead not to use the neckband. I’m a bit agog, in fact – my “two pattern piece” patterns usually involve a whole lot of bias binding not included in that total, so literally two pieces?? What?? You could sneeze and one of these would come out. There’s nothing to it. The only problem is that setting up my ironing board, sewing machine, and serger is a pain in the butt if I’m going to put them away again an hour later!

Dare I wonder if my future holds…BATCH SEWING?!

Oh, and you’re seeing bits of the jeans I’m going to write about next week, but I thought denim twice in a row might be trying the patience of even you lovely folks. Next time. : )  

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10

Supplies: 1 yard of polyester sweater knit in Cookies and Crème, $3.99, Sewfisticated; thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $3.99

Grey/Gray

My knit shirts give me a case of the blahs. I’ve been relying on the same RTW stand-bys for years and they’re getting a little tired-looking, so I wanted a refresh. Time to meet my new blah stand-bys! 🙂

Oh, they’re not that bad. I got two yards of this grey French terry from Girl Charlee and it’s pretty cozy and as soft as a little polyester lamb. One pattern called for 1 yard of fabric and the other for 1.5 but I thought I could Tetris the pieces all into two yards and indeed I could!

The first I am calling either my Stellabor or my Tabollan, and despite these rococo names, it’s so normcore.

Hello, grey t-shirt. Hey.

I used the body and sleeves of the free French Navy Stellan tee because I love it and because I’m growing nervous of investing too heavily in drop shoulder tops. Sure, they’re easy to sew, but how many shoulders could a soldier drop if a soldier could drop shoulders, y’know what I mean? And I used the narrow overlapping v-neck of the Sew House Seven Tabor v-neck because I like puckers at the point of my v-necks (KIDDING! I still haven’t managed to sew it smoothly though, and this is my third go at it!).

I didn’t change the back neckline of the Stellan at all, figuring I could stretch the neckband less or more as the case may be. And happily when I lined up the Tabor front over the Stellan front with their centers on the fold, the necks are the same width at the shoulder! So it was simple to graft the two and I just used the Tabor neckband as drafted. In theory. Actually it took me multiple tries to get the “V” right – well, right enough. In the end this order of ops seemed to work best:

  1. Prep pattern pieces by stay-stitching and clipping into the “V”, then match the shirt and neckband centers.
  2. Start with your needle down at the exact center point. Stitch the neckband to the shirt away from the center, towards the shoulder, for an inch or so.
  3. Take your shirt pieces out of the machine, and reset them according to Tabor directions (i.e., pinning the unsewn neckband edge to the shirt, and sewing towards the center “V”). Stop at the “V” exactly where your first line of stitching began, and after rearranging the pieces as per the Tabor directions, sew again over the initial stitching line.

Obviously I didn’t get a perfect result, but it was the best of a bad bunch. I actually had to cut my neck-hole about ¼” wider at the “V”, blending to nothing along the neckline, because of my first tussle unpicking the puckered neckband. The shirt front just ripped along the stitching like it was a perforated line. I was more careful going forward! I got some puckers along the neckband, but mostly on one side of the front near the shoulder, not where I made the shirt slightly deeper.

I was exquisitely careful when unpicking the chest pocket. I thought I wanted a chest pocket. I was wrong.

The hems are zig-zagged. I haven’t touched a double needle in years!

Does anyone know how to read draglines in a knit? This tee is completely comfortable but I think it’s trying to communicate with me, through wrinkles.

My second tee is marginally more interesting, but it’s not exactly gonna put your eye out. This is the Chelsea tee, a Fabrics-store free pattern. It’s designed for wovens (specifically linen) but I was looking for an oversized fit. I realized recently I didn’t have any raglan-sleeved knit patterns and I didn’t feel like forking over $10-15 for a basic top pattern; there’s lots of free raglan tee patterns but they’re all fitted. Originally I was going to use this terrific tutorial to draft my own but lazies gonna laze, I guess.

The Chelsea directions are sparse. There’s 3/8” seam allowances, but no notches, so I had to guess how to insert the sleeves. So I matched the “scoopier” raglan sleeve seam with the shirt front because I assumed the longer seam would contribute boob space (and if I was wrong there’s not too much difference between my front and back volumes anyway). I’m pretty sure I guessed right, even though once again my wrinkles are off the chain.

I did something unusual for me and sewed most of this directly on my serger! This was not a good decision, because a) I made the neckband way too skinny and uneven and b) I feel like every serger-only seam is going to simultaneously fail and the shirt will just shuck off of me, like Antonio Banderas sexy sword-fighting off Catherina Zeta-Jones’s dress in the 1998 movie The Mask of Zorro. I recut the neckband and attached it by sewing machine, but I continue to live in fear about the other thing.

My neckband is about 23” long un-stretched, by the way. Maybe shorter? I sewed it by feel, but the pattern calls for 26” of bias binding, so I knew the knit band should be shorter than that. This neckline is also about 3/8” wider than initially drafted, thanks to my early zeal for serging with the knife on, but the neckband makes up some of the difference. I probably could (should?) have stretched it more tightly, or taken more fabric in the neckline pleats!   

I hemmed the body and sleeves of this tee with a straight stitch, since I was sewing a woven pattern in a knit. It’s fine, they’re under no stress, but I actually prefer the aesthetic of a zigzag stitch for a knit top! Well, now I know.

I’d maybe love this in lightweight linen. My wardrobe is pretty rich in summer tops (scrapbusting, baby), so there’s no need, but still…so light…so crispy…

So anyway, neither of these are knockouts, but they’ll both get worn. And to quote a lady in the sewing store who was buying many many yards of fabric, “You gotta wear clothes! I’m not gonna be a nudist!”

Me neither, sewing store lady. Respect.

Pattern: Sew House Seven Tabor V-neck/French Navy Stellan tee

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 10/M

Supplies: 1 yard Heather Gray Solid French Terry Blend Knit Fabric, Girl Charlee, $8.64; thread from stash

Total time: 3 hours

Total cost: $8.64

Pattern: Fabrics-store Chelsea tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: 12/14

Supplies: 1 yard Heather Gray Solid French Terry Blend Knit Fabric, Girl Charlee, $8.64; thread from stash

Total time: 2.25 hours

Total cost: $8.64

Thfreepeats

Not just repeats, but freepeats. Three free repeats. Thfreepeats!!! That is, uh, a misty word to try and say aloud.

Hey, guess what? My blog is one year old today. 🙂 Speaking of threes, is this a good time to mention I have a posting schedule? 3x a month, on days ending in 6. I didn’t want to announce it anywhere until I was sure I could sustain it*! Anyway, in the 35 posts that I’ve shared so far, some pattern repeats have already appeared – and here’s two more.

*’I’ is a strong word for an endeavor in which every photo not of my boyfriend is by my boyfriend. ‘We’, this is a ‘we’ project.

First is the Stellan tee, a free pattern from French Navy. The first time I sewed this in a slinky-ish rayon knit, but these new two are in a sturdy organic cotton knit that the Stoff & Stil website strongly implied was for  babies, but don’t I deserve nice things as much as a baby?! I’m not sure they ship to America, but my German-citizen-sister does. Thanks sis. ❤ My particular fabrics are out of stock, but their printed jersey selection is darn cool and the quality is super…BEEFY. Seriously, is there a funnier fabric word than beefy?  

First up, beefy tigers. The tigers are toddler-approved. Since this is printed jersey, the wrong side shows on the cuffs, but I quite like the contrast. I always wear the sleeves rolled, but this is how the shirt looks uncuffed/untucked.

Secondly, beefy bananas! This is a talk-to-me shirt. Strangers tend to talk to me anyway (they do not find me intimidating for some reason?), but a banana shirt causes an epidemic of chit-chat – all friendly! I sewed these two tees back-to-back and made the same changes to both. I lengthened the neckband about 4”, sewing it in flat after one shoulder seam was sewn, and then trimming the excess. Also, um – I followed the directions. Just for the hem! Last time I could not get it to turn neatly. This time I actually sewed the foldline as instructed, and surprise…it folded! I continue to skip the neckline binding, though. I yam what I yam.

Professor Boyfriend says I can’t wear the banana shirt with these pants because “One is French vanilla and the other is vanilla bean!” but what does he know?

This cotton jersey presses well, stays cuffed, has good recovery and is easy to sew. However, those same properties mean that the neckbands could use an ironing now and then. WELL, THEY WON’T GET IT. I’m not going to iron a tee-shirt. Nevaaaarrrr!  

But look at my happy banana accident! It continues across the wrinkly neckband! Complete coincidence, the banana gods must be smiling.

For the tiger tee, I sewed the side seams and then the hems; for the banana tee, I sewed the hems and then the side seams. I think I slightly prefer the banana treatment for ease of sewing.

From here on out, please ignore my straps – since these photos were taken in a public area I needed a layer beneath the tees so I could change in the middle, and since I was getting weird show-through from the double layer of hems, I decided to photograph the pants with just my slightly ratty RTW cami.

So let’s talk about pants, bay-bee! These are the Peppermint Wide-Leg Pants, and I love them, as I loved them the first time I made them. I still haven’t solved my main fit issue though, i.e., the front pockets. I’m pretty sure I need a protruding stomach adjustment. The overall width is okay (you can tell because the side seam is hanging straight) but the front waistline dips a little instead of sitting level. I’m happy to make another pair though, and trial that adjustment! They fly together and I feel very happy and comfortable in them.

The fabric I used is something mysterious from TMOS. It’s quite heavy. It almost feels like indoor/outdoor fabric but it’s not waterproof and it burns like natural fiber. I can’t shake the feeling that it’s coated, though. The pocket linings are a scrap of shirting cotton, and the leather button is from my flea-market stash. I have a healthy chunk of this mystery fabric left but I don’t have a plan for it! Any thoughts?

I only made one change to this pattern, which was to grow-on the fly extensions. However, I forgot to extend the pocket bags to match! See those short lines of stitching to the farthest left and right? Those are keeping the edges of the pocket bags in place. Luckily they’re not visible when the pants are zipped. Also, I only changed thread color once (I like tonal topstitching) and it was to match the zipper tape – at the time I readily acknowledge it was a pain in the neck to rethread for, like, two 6” lines of stitching, but now I think it was worth it. Mm. Tonal.  

I quite like these patterns and garments as a benchmark, actually – a year ago I never would have worn wide cropped pants or exuberantly printed tees, and yet I have not travelled so far that I don’t appreciate a $0 pattern price tag.   

Also, my basket-weave button matches my basket-weave shoes. Ladies, gentlemen, and others, I feel I have ARRIVED.

See you on a six-day!

Pattern: Stellan tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 1 meter of organic cotton (tigers), $17.30, Stoff & Stil; thread, $1.91, Michaels/1 meter of organic cotton (bananas), $17.30, Stoff & Stil

Total time: 2.5 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $19.21/$17.30

Pattern: Peppermint Wide-Leg Pants

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: F, with adjustments

Supplies: 2.5 meters of heavy linen/cotton canvas (?), $15.19, TMOS; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread, Michael’s, $1.79

Total time: 4.75 hours

Total cost: $18.38

Cheap and Cheerful

I have, one, a new t-shirt and, two, a pattern stashing problem.

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I was preening myself on how quickly I made this tee after the fabric arrived, and on my general immunity to fabric stashing (on the other hand I hoard scraps like my mother was frightened by a quilt while pregnant but NEVER MIND THAT), when I went to store the pattern and discovered my pattern stash was now overflowing two W.B. Mason boxes.

And that’s just paper patterns and assembled PDFs. To say nothing of my downloads folder.

Fabric is finite – you use it, it’s used up (except the scraps, ssshh), it’s transmogrified, it’s a shirt now. A pattern is a pattern forever and you tweak it and hack it and store it in a plastic sleeve and keep it in a box and then your box is full, but you keep seeing new patterns…

So have you seen the Stellan tee yet? By the way – it’s free!!

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If you can resist everything except temptation, give in like me and download this lovely gift from French Navy!

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Seriously, it’s a great little sew. I don’t often make t-shirts but this one kind of grabbed me, plus the price was right! I read somewhere that Sarah describes her style as ‘girl-meets-boy’ and I think this walks that line nicely. It’s a stylish basic with a neat hook – it’s got a relaxed fit that narrows through the hips, perfect for tucking in!

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My new tee is made from 1 yard of a rayon knit, but I could have squeaked it out of ¾ of a yard if I wanted to (a future consideration if I ever buy one of those fance organic cottons that cost like $20/yard). Fabric.com says this fabric is “medium/heavyweight” and I say that it’s “bs/not true”. It’s slinky and light, but a good medium neutral blue, and so comfortable to wear. Plus the edges didn’t roll while cutting or sewing, huzzah!

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I made one bloomer while sewing – see those puckers above my left shoulder, your right? I prefer to install neckbands in the flat, stretching by feel instead of pinning, but I guess my feels were taking a nap because I wasn’t assertive enough at one end of the band and had to make up for it at the other, i.e., stretch the crap out of it. I could have unpicked it but I’m kind of a satisficer, and my standards for sewing knits are…uh, not lofty.

Which makes my hem even stranger. The only place I struggled with the sewing directions was turning the 2 cm wide, gently curved hem without getting puckers and drag lines…so I did a double fold hem. On a knit!

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On a shirt, what’s more, I will never wear untucked! I used a zigzag instead of a twin needle, guided by the wise words of Lucky Lucille. I seriously dislike twin needling. I couldn’t even be bothered to buy one spool of thread in the right color, ha! But the only place the navy topstitching was obtrusive was around the neckband, so I just forwent it there.

I have a secret motive for wanting a shirt in this particular shade of blue. Hopefully I will disclose more once I sew the perfect pair of voluminous khaki shorts…and that’s your hint!

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Ignore my sourpuss face, I really like this tee!

P.S. Good bye paradise, welcome back urban decay! I’m reunited with my ol’ reliable brick wall!

 

Pattern: Stellan tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 1 yard of rayon knit, Fabric.com, $6.98; thread from stash

Total time: 2 hours

Total cost: $6.98

Winter Knit Shirt Bumper Post!!

It’s a Winter Knit Shirt Bumper Post!!

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If you’re like me, you have a hard time covering your top half in winter. Legs = jeans, almost inevitably (which can get boring, but always works for my day). Torso = some old RTW sweaters, oftener than not, unfortunately. Sometimes I try to get interesting with ~layers!!~ but what I really want are easy-wearing, cozy tops. I prefer sewing with wovens, so my selections are a little meager, but see the collection below!

1 . Wrap Nettie

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This is the Closet Case Nettie, with the innovative wrap variation from Self Assembly Sewing. I botched the hem of the underlap layer and stretched it out (technically it didn’t need hemming at all, but I was worried about the raw edge rolling) so now there’s some slightly odd vertical wrinkles, but it’s less noticeable in person. Especially when the big bow is spruced up! I used the tie pieces from the Seamwork Elmira, just tucked into the side seams. I’m not linking to the Elmira because I dug the style but the drafting seemed very off. Masses of extra fabric in my armpits – I cut it up almost immediately and repurposed it into this bodysuit.

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  1. Deep back Nettie

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On one trip to London I was able to visit The Man Outside Sainsbury’s, as recommended by Did You Make That? and others  – he is my Tir Na Nog, my Shangri-La, my Wabar of men near supermarkets. I miss him every day. He said this knit was silk jersey and my amateurish burn test did not disprove it. This fabric is very soft and the edges didn’t roll at all – really paradise to sew. I worked hard to keep the flower bunches unanatomical and it worked! But…

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The deep back was a mistake! I don’t feel comfortable wearing this to work (my youngest students are 4 and 5 and get a hold of any edge and pull when they want your attention, and I can’t help but feel one tug on the wrong place would leave me looking a little let’s say Minoan), and for winter weekends…

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It’s cold! I still pull it out occasionally. It also peps up my drawer, which is important in a drab season.

  1. High-neck Nettie

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This black bodysuit might be my favorite. It’s a bamboo knit, which is a little thin but has a very firm hold. No way I can push up my sleeves. The high neck is super cozy and goes with everything – every necklace, scarf, layer, bottom. I need another basic black Nettie!

It seems very prim and sober with the color, high neck and long sleeves but I’m also 50% cosplaying as Kim Possible at all times.

  1. Dark navy Nettie

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IT’S FUNCTIONAL!

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SO FUNCTIONAL!

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Scoop neck, high back, navy blue, works great under dungarees. See, this is why not every top needed its own post.

  1. Tabor V-Neck

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This is Sew House Seven’s Tabor V-neck in a spruce sweater knit. I usually resist basic tee patterns but I was seduced (or is it sew-spruced?! HAR HAR HAR) by this view, with the thick overlapping neckband. I got a little puckering where the V meets the body of the shirt, but that’s because I ignored the designer’s direction to sew with the shirt side up, then serged my edges, and then noticed the pucker. I decided to leave it alone, as my experience with art (and popping pimples) has taught me that the more you pick at a minor flaw, the more noticeable it becomes, without usually improving it at all. This will be a leitmotif in sweater knits for me.

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My only issue with this shirt is that the seam of the dropped sleeve has me constantly convinced my bra strap is slipping off!

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The shirt pattern also includes this lovely, neatly finished split hem. I’ll be omitting it in the future though and just sewing the side seam fully closed, since I only wear the shirt tucked it. And here’s why:

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Just don’t love that shape, guys. I do want to make more of these anyway! One of my fifth graders said I looked “elegant” which warmed my heart (she didn’t see this picture, obviously). Thank you sweet monster. ❤

  1. Hemlock tee

I’m having a Grainline moment several years into my sewing career.

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For whatever reason I suddenly sewed up a batch of woven Hemlock tees last year (my first two are detailed here). This is my first knit Grainline Hemlock (free with newsletter sign-up) and I sewed it almost exactly as written except a lot hecking shorter because it was made from the scraps of the Tabor, above! #sewingleftovers

I sewed and serged one shoulder seam before realizing I had placed the shirt body pieces right-side-to-wrong side, and the front would now be permanently wrong side out. Ooor I could unpick.

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Yeah. Front side is wrong side out for keeps. Since this was a scrap buster and I’d already committed to less than perfection I tried something I had never done before –serging my construction seams directly! Usually I seam with a zig-zag on a traditional machine and finish the edges with the serger. I wouldn’t do this for a bodysuit or probably anything with negative ease but it went almost unbelievably quickly for a loose fitting tee like this one!

  1. Thread Theory Camas blouse

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I really like this pattern – it combines the comfort of a knit with the detailing of a woven – except I’d like to figure out a better way to finish those front edges. There seems to be unnecessary bulk there. Also, I’m not sure why that top button seems to be fighting for its life, I’m not exactly Dolly Parton.

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Gathers! I should wear this more, but I find myself avoiding it! Mustard is my Colonel Brandon of colors – I always think well of it, and never want to wear it. Luckily my man looks positively luminous in this color so I’ll put any future mustard on that hot dog.

And there you have it, every knit winter shirt I’ve sewn over the last three years! Knits are such a small percentage of my total output, but in winter they’re what I wear. I’d love to add some really snuggly sweaters too. I’m considering the Ali sweatshirt after seeing Sierra’s makes, but then I have another hurdle (beyond my reluctance to work with knits)…where are people sourcing their snuggliest fabrics?! Let a chilly woman know!

 

Patterns 1-4: Closet Case Nettie

Pattern cost: N/A (I made a summer one first)

Size: 10 at bust, graded to 12 at hip; shortened about 1.5” at waist

Supplies: 1. Refashioned Elmira sweater, stash; $1.79, thread, Michael’s; 1 meter jersey (silk?), $2.65, TMOS; $2, snaps, Michael’s; 1 yard Telio Ibiza stretch jersey knit in Black, $8.98, fabric.com; thread and snaps from stash; 1 yard Kaufman Laguna Stretch Cotton Jersey Knit in Navy, $8.55, fabric.com; thread and snaps from stash

Total time: 1. 4.75 hours; 2. 2.75 hours; 3. 3 hours; 4. 2.25 hours

Total cost: 1. $1.79; 2. $4.65; 3. $8.98; 4. $8.55

 

Pattern 5: Sew House Seven Tabor V-neck, version #4

Pattern cost: $14

Size: 10

Supplies: 2 yards Telio Topaz hatchi knit in pine, $15.96, fabric.com; thread from stash

Total time: 4 hours

Total cost: $29.96

 

Pattern 6: Grainline Hemlock tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: one-size pattern

Supplies: leftovers from Tabor V-neck

Total time: 1.25 hours

Total cost: $0.00

 

Pattern 7: Thread Theory Camas blouse

Pattern cost: N/A (I made a sleeveless woven one first! Oh personal spending accounting practices, sneaky sneaky)

Size: 8 at bust, graded to 12 at hip

Supplies: 1.5 yards Fabric Merchants Cotton Jersey Solid Yellow Mustard, $8.75, fabric.com; thread and buttons from stash

Total time: Lost in time! I sewed this before I started spreadsheeting my sewing

Total cost: $8.75

Black Hemlock

That sounds a bit witchy, don’t you agree? Very appropriate, since I made this woven version of Grainline’s free Hemlock tee from the scraps of my Halloween costume.

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Actually the costume was a bit of a goof, but I enjoyed experimenting with this low-cost linen/rayon blend. Normally I prefer high quality fabrics (hot take, Lia) but low stakes are nice too, for a change! I took a swing at this inspiration shirt by Elizabeth Suzann, using the Hemlock tee as a base.Insp

Hemlock is a one-size-fits-many pattern. In addition to sewing it in a woven, I cropped it and widened the sleeve (further details below).

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Oh, and surprise! This shirt is two shirts! Originally I planned this post as a comparison between the two sleeve styles I tried, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference in photos without an effort of will that most people don’t apply to the sleeves of strangers. So here’s my official ruling: whether you stitch a folded cuff to the armscye or use the sleeve pattern piece, it’s good stuff.

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This is the hemmed and rolled sleeve. It’s about 8” long (because that’s the width of computer paper. I mean because of important…and serious…calculations…that I considered carefully) and I made it wider at the base than the supplied pattern piece, with a right angle at the bottom for hemming. Like so:

Sleeve diagram

Black lines original, red lines mine.

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And this is the cuff treatment, above. My notes say this shirt took  a smidgeon longer to sew than the other. I cut the cuff on the 60° bias and as wide as my scraps allowed – 4 inches or so, finished width 1.5”. I thought using the bias might prevent it “winging out” but it wings, it wings good and wingy. Well, nevermind!

Since the pattern was intended for knits, I extended the seam allowance of the armscye so I could french-seam the sleeve/topstitch the cuff easily. I could paint you a word picture but actually, here’s a picture picture.

Armscye diagram

Red mine, black original! And the total package:

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Oh and my necklace! A Christmas gift from my boyfriend last year! We call it my Egyptian space witch necklace and I am 1000% cooler while wearing it.

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The jeans are my third high-rise Morgans (changes detailed here, second pair seen here). The denim is from Gather Here and I think it’s Wrangler overstock. It has a bronze-gold cross thread instead of white. That color on the cuffs! I mean!!! I love this outfit – sure, it’s jeans and a t-shirt, but I feel like kind of a boss in it. Plus I’m excited to continue using the Hemlock tee as a scrapbuster. Odds and ends of linen, bring it on!

 

Pattern: Hemlock tee

Pattern cost: $0.00 (free download)

Size: one-size pattern

Supplies: Halloween costume leftovers, $0.00; thread, Michael’s, $1.50

Total time: 4.5 hours for two tees

Total cost: $1.50 for two tees

 

Pattern: Morgan jeans

Pattern cost: $0.00 (multiple uses)

Size: 12 waist, 14 hip

Supplies: 2 yards Indigo AA/BB Washed Classic denim, Wrangler, 12 oz., Gather Here, $20.72; $2, zipper, Threadbare Fabrics; $5.50, 1/2 yard Rifle Paper cotton, Gather Here; $3, thread, Michael’s

Total time: 5.75 hours

Total cost: $31.22