Drafting A Custom T-Shirt

Something that has been obvious to me for a while, but has been made even more painfully obvious since Me-Made-May begun, is that I have no basic t-shirts! Well, let me rephrase that. My husband runs a screenprinting shop so I have plenty of basic, crew neck American Apparel t-shirts I've inherited from him. But I really don't like them, so I only wear them around the house. The necks are too high for my liking, they're too tight across my hips, and the white ones are too see-through to wear without a tank top underneath. Then you can see the tank top I'm wearing underneath it and it's bunching up all damn day and well...yeah. Do not want!

I have lots of cute skirts that really won't go with anything other than a plain, white tee and so I haven't been able to wear them out much. 

Enter this book: Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified by Cal Patch. I'd eyeballed this book before in shops and thought it looks really great and easy to follow. Some of the styles didn't really suit me, but I can see myself making some really great things with a few modifications. I have a big, scary textbook on patternmaking that is used in fashion schools, but...it's big and scary. This is more for those of us who would like to tip-toe into that lake gently before diving in too deep. 

I followed Cal's instructions for making a basic t-shirt and I have to say, I really enjoyed it! My final shirt still needs some tweaking, but -

Just so you can see where I started with my first draft, here are a few shots of it along with the issues I was having:

One problem with the book's instructions is that I don't see where it says to add ease. I looked because I did wonder about that, but then I figured it doesn't need any since it's t-shirt fabric. You can't really tell how tight this first top is in these pictures, but it's much more obvious in person. This might have been ok in a darker color, but any stretching makes the white material even more transparent! So you can see my belly button through the shirt as it's tightest across my hips. Not the look I was going for! I added 1" of ease through the bust and waist and 2" at the hips for my second draft.

I also had an issue with the sleeves puckering, but I think that was mostly because I altered the sleeve pattern and forgot to match up the seam lengths before cutting. So the sleeve seam wound up smaller than the armscye, which is a definite no-no. Just to be sure, I increased the shoulder slope and decreased the sleeve cap height in my second version along with making sure those seam lengths matched.

I kind of messed up when attaching the neckband...I sewed it in backwards. Then I remembered Megan Nielsen's technique which calls for this and finished it using her method (which I really like anyway). Neckband saved!

The neck on this one was still a bit higher than I like, so I lowered it and scooped it out more for the next version.

On to Draft #2...

This one fits me really well! It's much more opaque than the first version since I added some extra ease and it skims over my curves well. It is still a bit tight across the hips, but not nearly as bad as the first one. I think I will add another inch to the next version.

Something I'm wondering while I'm on that thought - Do larger measurements need more ease than smaller measurements? This is something I've noticed in my own experience. I seem to need very little ease in the bust and waist (nothing more than an inch for a fitted garment), but much more ease for my hips. I went back and checked my hip measurements a couple of times because I was sort of stumped as to why my shirt was still so tight there even though I'd already added 2" of ease. Any thoughts?

Another issue with the instructions in the book is that it doesn't account for the difference in length between the front and back of the armscye. Since our shoulders slope and mostly move forward, we need more length there. At least that's what I've read (I know Madalynne talks about this). I think this is what's causing the puckering at the back of my sleeve.

Also, I didn't realize how tricky it is to hem knits! I finally gave up on using my cover stitch function (too much trouble to convert over) and decided to use my twin needle instead. I found that if you increase the stitch length (4 is good on my machine) and decrease the tension just a bit it looks just as good as cover stitch from the outside. No "ridge" in the middle where twin needles can usually pull too tightly. But next time I will definitely stabilize or use some Wonder Tap before hemming my knits this way. My seams kept stretching out of shape and trying to twist as I sewed. I used my walking foot and although that helped, it didn't totally fix the problem. So that's why my cap sleeves are sticking out a bit at the hem.

Sorry for the mini-novel on drafting this t-shirt! But I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with drafting similar things. There will be a third draft! Just...later. I have some other important projects going on which shall be revealed soon :)

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