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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Two things to think about when making T shirts

I have decided, atypically, to make some practical clothes for the summer. I am still going on the bathing suit tear, expect more on that later, and on some maternity leggings for my DIL, but am doing a few T shirt side projects.

There are a few things this T shirt making has brought to mind.

1. Fabric really makes a difference

I think we tend to think that when a pattern is for knits that this means any knit with the right degree of stretch (and hopefully the pattern is specific about this, either with a 4" of fabric should stretch to here, or a % figure) can be used in any pattern.

When you think about this, assuming that a knit is a knit is a knit doesn't make sense. After all when we sew with woven fabrics we don't assume that all are suitable. Who would make the same pattern in say a melton, a corduroy, a poplin and a chiffon and expect them all to work equally well?

So why do we grab any knit for say a project that says for knits and expect it to work?

A T-shirt that looks great in a cotton lycra for instance, is this Jalie classic T ,I made for my daughter this week:

This is a close fitted top and needed the structure of the cotton lycra to hold the shape without being clingy. I thought this one really worked; a good example of cotton lycra appropriate to the pattern. By contrast I have tried to use cotton lycra is fuller shirts and been very disappointed - any degree of flare and it just sticks out.

The new Mimosa top from Jalie is really an expanded, literally, version of this shape, from fitted to boxy and it is interesting that the fabric requirements specify something that flows.

I followed this advice when I made my first one, you have also seen this shot before, and it is worth noting that the rayon I used had pretty much the same degree of stretch as the cotton lycra above, but because of fabric content, and this is important, it had a completely different hand and considerably more drape:

I was quite happy with this top too and was glad I had used such a flowy fabric considering the tie thing going on with the sleeves and the fact I wanted to wear it with a fitted skirt. This is such a light feeling top and so comfortable.

But this version brings me to thought #2.

2. Now the first time I make any pattern I always try to make it up as per specs because there seems to me to be no point in adjusting something without seeing first how the design works (some folks call this a muslin I call these garments clothes-to-wear-walking-the-dog.)

The first version of the Mimosa worked I thought but it reminded me that it's important to remember your bones.

I made the Mimosa 1.0 as per my bust measurement, which often works just fine with Jalies because they are not drafted for big shoulders. But in a light fabric with a scoop neckline I definitely felt it was too loose around my meatless shoulders. Even though the shoulder seams were sitting in the right place I wasn't filling out the upper chest well.

Which returned me to one of the first principles of fitting which is to use your upper bust for choosing a pattern size and add where you need it from there down.

The first Mimosa I made was a size W, my size for bust, waist and hips, but for my next version I traced off a smaller upper bust/neck, size U, and by mid armhole returned to the W.

Here is the result (pardon the wild fabric this was piece that came to me in a Fabricmart mystery box) and you can see what a difference this makes - only the neckline and upper chest is a different size than the version above but the whole shirt looks totally different. I have to say that one reason I like Jalies is that they have such a huge number of sizes in each pattern, with only an inch apart between each, so it is easy to make these minor tweaks in fit:

Really folks I am really happy with this shoulder fit now combined with the loose body shape to me this is a winner and a new TNT.

For those familiar with the pattern I have made one other construction change. The sleeve view here was for the sleeves to be rolled up. Since my fabric had both a right and a wrong side I made a deep hem instead and folded that up again to make the rolled up look. I then tacked it by machine a the underarm and with a few stitches at the fold on the upper arm.

I have some other patterns to try out for T shirts but this one is definitely going in the personal file.


Galica said...

Not sure if you will like this comment but that wild fabric really suits you.
(& your knit comments make sense)

sdBev said...

Matching fabric to pattern is my biggest foible. Positively enjoyed your thoughts and comparison.

Lisa - SF Bay Area said...

Hi Barbara-Is that cute (you say wild) fabric on your second tee really the same hand as the first fabric that you used? That's a dramatic change in how the neckline hangs! It sure looks like the cute (wild) fabric has a bit firmer hand to me.


Hen said...

Very good advice about picking the right fabric. Many of my sewing failures were due to bad pattern/fabric combinations.
I have a question about the upper chest measurement: How do you use it, as most pattern companies don't have it in their size charts?
Much of my bust circumference is my back ;-) and with my small cup size, if I chose the size by the bust circumference, the garments are to tight at the shoulders. Is there a table anywhere about the bust compared to upper chest ratio and which size to pick.

Barbara said...

Lisa good eye. The dotted fabric is a heavy rayon knit. The wild print is an ITY knit. Actually, fiber content apart the drape in similar. The difference is that the neckline/shoulders on the wild knit is 2 sizes smaller (Jalie sizes so that is 2” smaller upper bust used as a bust measurement. From the armhole down the samd pattern size. Does that help? Point too is that even at sumilar weights different fabric behave differently.

Lisa - SF Bay Area said...

yes, that does help and I really am surprised that the dot fabric is heavier. I am going to try your adjustment as soon as I can sneak out to buy some knit fabric:) I bought the boxier Jalie tee pattern because of you....can I blame the next few fabric purchases on your enthusiastic blog?!!!? After all, you are ruling the world now and I am one of your loyal subjects.

Nancy K said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I sew a lot of knits and the amount of stretch is really not the only determining factor in my choice. I have a pattern I like that I've made a number of times and I've made a similar mistake in fabric choice. It's got a flared peplum and in a soft, rayon or a silk jersey it's very flattering. Less so in just a bit less drapey knit. Knits are about more than stretch.

Xpresso said...

That 'wild' fabric looks good on you and the difference in fit between the two is remarkable.
Thank you for reminding me that not all knits are created equal.

Janice K said...

Thanks for the help with fitting a more narrow chest and shoulders. I've never heard of Jalie patterns until you mentioned them on the Blab,so glad they had you on!

Jean Shaw said...

Great example; thanks!

I think we all trip up on this one every now and then. I just did a wearable muslin of Tessuti's Eva Dress in linen. It's great but not fantastic--a slightly lighter weight linen would have been better, in my picky opinion.

AlaskaBerninaGirl said...

Thank you so much for the tip on using the upper bust measurement to choose the size then go out from there. Cannot wait to put it to use!

Yes, that wild fabric does look great on you! Do you have enough for matching leggings?

Love this ~

If I were the boss of the world sewing would be listed as a profession
 And there would be pension plans for people who collect fabric
 And fabric stashes were tax deductible
 And spouses said things like
 We have that extra money to spend before year end
 And "do you think you can do something about that?"

Actually I love the whole entire 'Blab' today AND you! Thanks again!

Bunny said...

Oh, my gosh, what a difference in the fit of those two tops. That second one has the effect of losing pounds and is adorable. Great post, Barb.

Natalia said...

Always learn so much from your posts! Today I learned a lot about what should be world leaders' priorities. Other times I learn about sewing. ;) Seriously LOVE your humour.

I was looking at these two Mimosa's. The second one seems to fit so much better and it's amazing you knew how to do that adjustment. I have a little opinion/suggestion about the first one. I can totally see how the upper part is just too big and the neckline sags a bit. Funnily enough though I feel that the fact that the sleeves hang so far away from your actual arm emphasizes this so much that if you were to tie the tie tighter, sew the "slash" on the upper side up, and/or otherwise remove all the extra fabric from the underside of your arm the impression would be much less noticeable.

I'm loving your blog
From a Canadian on the far opposite side of the country. :)