Sewing a t-shirt, part II

Thanks very much to the kind folks who gave such great advice in the comments of the previous entry. I’ve learned an easier way to find the grain of knit fabric – it’s not as precise as pinning a column of stitches on the fold, but I’m told that it works well (provided that the fabric is already laundered several times before cutting).

Fold the fabric lengthwise and smooth with your hand. If the fold is way off grain, it’ll look like this:

But if it’s more-or-less on the grain, it’ll look like this:

OK, here are the highlights of putting my “simple” shirt together.

I used stay tape to stabilize the curved necklines:

The back was sewn first, in case I screwed something up. The tape was attached to the neckline using a straight stitch and regular presser foot. The neckline stretched as I sewed it – d’oh! (Fabric shows from under the pattern piece when shoulders are aligned.)

I switched to a walking foot for stabilizing the front neckline. Much better (no fabric peeking out)!

Here’s how I eased the extra bust fabric (remember that I added 0.5″ of length and curved the edge around the insert). The fabric was ease-stitched and is laying flat in the pic – note the edge curve and the pin at the 5″ mark:

I drew up the bobbin threads until the distance between the edge and the pin was 4.5″ and pressed over a tailor’s ham. (I’ve never used a ham before – please tell me if I’m doing this wrong?!) I found a portion of the ham where the curve circumference seemed appropriate and slowly steamed and pressed until all the ruffles went away:

Afterward, the fabric no longer curved at the edge and had lost 0.5″ in length (now it matched the back piece):

I did a similar trick to ease the extra sleeve fabric into the armscye. Actually, I did something entirely dumb when I put in the sleeves. Arms are not symmetric, and neither are sleeves. This is something that most of us knitters are not accustomed to considering because knit fabric is so stretchy and forgiving, but it can really make a difference in woven fabric. See here for a great explanation of why sleeve caps are shaped asymmetrically.

Anyway, I totally forgot to notice which way the sleeve pattern was facing (I made sure only to keep the same side of the fabric public), and I eased the sleeve cap, basted it into the bodice, sewed the seam, and repeated for the other sleeve in blithe ignorance.

Mirror shot of me checking the fit of the sleeve into the shoulder:

I didn’t realize the oversight until days after the shirt was completed. I think I was lucky and accidentally put in both sleeves facing correctly… Or the forgiving stretch of knits saved me.

The rest of the assembly was straightforward. I used the walking foot throughout and sewed with a baby zigzag stitch for everything except the hems (twin needle) and neck bindings (straight stitch). I stabilized the shoulders with more stay tape and a mock flat fell seam. I used contrast color double-fold bias tape to bind the neck and similar color thread to finish the hems:

I mastered the self-portrait with timer to take photos of the final shirt. Gotta move fast!

Additional notes:
1) Sleeve cap looks good!
2) The diagonal drag lines from the bust to the side and the tent-like front vanish if I pad the belly area with a pillow, so I imagine the shirt will fit better as I get larger.
3) I will never use Dritz stay tape ever again – sooo scratchy! I cut away everything that extended beyond a seam or covered it with the neck binding tape.
4) I put the shirt through the regular laundry and was pleased as heck when it came out of the drier intact.

Stick a fork in it, it’s done!

13 thoughts on “Sewing a t-shirt, part II

  1. Very nice! I will say that for me, sewing knits is way more fun and easier on a serger, I never had much luck with them on a regular machine. I’m glad to see that you’re having a better time of it than me πŸ™‚

  2. Beautiful! You did a wonderful job and it’s a great fit. When patterns are written exclusively for knits the difference between the front and back notches usually aren’t as great but with the way it fits I’m sure you picked the correct one.

  3. My plan for the rest of my life is to get you interested in something I am interested in, and then take lots of notes.

    scribble, scribble, scribble.

    Looks marvelous.

  4. I’m catching up on my blogs, having been gone for 6 weeks. CONGRATULATIONS June on baby and the review! Happy dance for one of my favorite bloggers!!!

  5. Very nice! However, I can only second the comments about possible growth of your breast measurement which looks like it fits perfectly now.

    I’m still not tempted to go back to sewing just yet though. πŸ˜‰

  6. You did a fabulous job! I’m glad you trusted the inexact method of determining grainline. I don’t like that crappy seam stay tape either – once upon a time you could get 100% cotton, but I don’t even know if it’s still available. On any subsequent shirts you might want to add a bit of length to the front – experience here – your tummy will get bigger and pull the front up more than you might think. Otherwise, I think you will be very comfortable in this. Get some pretty colors!

  7. Beautiful job. Doesn’t sewing give you a just ridiculous amount of satisfaction for the amount of work you put in?


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