Sunday, January 8, 2012

The First T-Shirt

Just to recap: yesterday, I bought these four pieces of knit fabric to make some t-shirts or some such happy shirty-ness. Why? Well, for one thing, I could always use another gray t-shirt (I only have about 10 or so) (keep in mind, scoffers, that some are long sleeved and some are short) (and a few have stuff printed on them) (like Edgar Allan Poe's head made out of ravens!) and the stuff I've seen at the store lately has been much less than thrilling.

So, Saturday night after I got all my jobs done, I looked around online for tutorials and free patterns for t-shirts. I thought about buying a pattern while I was at JoAnn, but I hate pattern prices (sure they're always 40% off, but 40% off 17.99 is still more than I want to pay for a t-shirt pattern). Plus, you're probably thinking, you're never guaranteed a perfect fit. What if the pattern is wonky? Yes, my thoughts exactly.

So, I did what I had planned on doing in the first place, and what many of the websites suggested as well: use a shirt I own and like, lay it out on the fabric, and cut around it, leaving a seam allowance of about 1/2 inch. Before I started cutting, I tested the stretch of the fabric, making sure I cut each piece so that it stretched the right way (side to side, of course).

Cutting the front and back were pretty easy. I cut it on the fold so I wouldn't have a seam down the middle. Then it was time for the sleeves. It took a little maneuvering, but I figured it out and cut them.

Then, as I was about to start sewing, I realized the sleeves were probably too short, so I cut two more, adding about 1-1/2 inches to each sleeve, just to be safe.

Then it was time to start piecing it together. I used a stitch that looks like a serger stitch, zigzag with straight stitches on both sides, to make the seams as tough as possible. Plus, I had read that a regular straight stitch is not good for knits as it doesn't let it stretch very well.

I sewed the shoulder seams first, then attached the sleeves to the shirt, then sewed up the sides and along the underside of the sleeves. That was the easy part. Then I needed to figure out how to finish the neckline.

I looked at several of my own shirts, and I decided that a rough curled edge would be the easiest finish for my first t-shirt. So, I measured the length of the entire neckline and cut a strip about 2" wide to that measurement. I folded the strip in half and ironed it, but it wouldn't hold the pressing, so I just winged it.

I started out sewing the folded edge to the inside of the neck, stopping after a few inches to look at what I had done because it seemed like I was doing it backwards. But I played around with the part I had sewed and it seemed right, so I kept going all the way around. When I finished, I excitedly called everyone in to see the finished product.

Clint fingered the finished edge and said "Hmm." I was thinking the same thing, so I tried it on. Sure enough, my first moment of doubt had been a correct impulse. I should have sewn the trim to the outside of the shirt.
Angry with myself, I now had to decide whether to just live with it or do something about it. Of course I couldn't just live with it. I shrugged and cut the trim right off, then cut another strip and sewed the folded edge to the right side of the shirt. No doubts this time.

Sure enough, it was the right choice. I liked it so much, I decided to use the same finish on the sleeves. The fact that the edges kept rolling while I tried unsuccessfully to press the edge under twice so I could sew it the traditional way had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on my choice. None. None at all. And the bottom hem? I'm just gonna let that baby roll.

So, here's the finished shirt. The neckline might be a little lower-cut than I had intended, but I have to wear a cami under it anyway because the fabric is pretty thin. I am pretty pleased with it and eager to get started on the next shirt. Maybe the gray, I think. I have an idea for dressing up the neckline on that one just a tiny bit. And I'm saving the ivory for my last shirt because it feels really nice. It has some rayon in it, I think, so it will drape really well. I haven't figured out yet what I'll do with it, but I'm thinking about a banded bottom so it blouses out a little and something ruffled at the top. Not exactly sure yet. Maybe sleeveless? We'll see.


alli/hooray said...

Wow! This turned out great.

PS. Happy Anniversary, yesterday! I (selfishly) love seeing all these new posts from you popping up in Reader lately.

Juliette said...

Looks great, Kir! Happy Anniversary...17 years and going strong!

Gretch said...

Completely amazing! (as always) I hope to some day be as awesome as you in my craftiness!!