Hi Sewists

How’s the new year treating you? Myself, I’ve been pretty busy what with one thing and another – but I’m still sewing away! I’ve done a couple of Minerva Crafts fabric reviews which will (hopefully) be coming out soon. They’re both ‘holiday’ makes and as luck would have it, I’m going on holiday today!

I don’t think there’s anything that makes me more smug & satisfied than seeing a suitcase full of clothes made by me! And I mean (apart from the trainer socks & an old T-shirt to wear snorkelling) literally everything! … actually, that’s not true, swimming shorts. But either way, all of the ready to wear items were purchased before I got a sewing machine, if that counts for anything?

Anyway, I can’t show you the new outfits until I get some holiday photos, but I can share with you a few T-shirts I’ve made to pad out my holiday wardrobe a bit…Having bought the recent Ottobre Family magazine, that was the first place I looked for a new T-shirt pattern. It is called ‘Athletic Fit’ which hinted that it wasn’t specifically designed for me!

(FYI: There are about 8 ‘menswear’ patterns – the ‘womenswear’ is mostly maternity.)

Undeterred I carried on. I cut out the size 48 according to my measurements and made no alterations. The pattern doesn’t include a neckband but the instructions state: measure the neck opening and multiply by 0.75/0.80 according to the fabrics stretch to determine neckband length. Or something to that end. I decided to eyeball it first time round, which is a mistake in itself, and then, with every intention of basting it first, I proceeded to zigzag the neckband on anyway. I don’t know what came over me, I just somehow ended up doing the exact opposite of what I’d planned to do! Of course it came out too loose and flapping all around, so I had to unpick it.

This is it unpicked and resewn. It’s a bit stretched out and there are a few stray threads, but the bright camera flash has been very forgiving and I’ve deemed it acceptable to wear. I posted it on Instagram and was given some great advice (thank you @sewingbyletters!) which is pretty much the same advice I ignored in the instructions… this time I followed it!

With the second T-shirt I also remembered a few tips I’d picked up along the way to make construction a bit easier. The first one I learnt very early on when I made my first comox trunks by Thread Theory: it says in the instructions to always start sewing with your needle in the down position when working with stretch fabrics. This helps to stop the fabric being pulled through and bunching up under the plate. For me, at least, it always works!

When I’m sewing in the sleeves, I only use 5 pins. One each at the start and finish. One at the shoulder and one each at the front and back notches. If you’ve got a well structured jersey you could probably get away with just the first three pins. I take it slowly and position the fabric as I go, stopping at each pin to check and adjust the alignment where necessary.

One pattern (I don’t remember which now) has you sew the bottom hem and sleeve hem before joining the sides. I’m not so keen on this, but I do press the hems first, then sew up the sides. I find it easier to press an even hem on a flat piece of fabric than I do once it’s round; there’s less handling and less chance of stretching out the material.

With these tshirts I stitched all the seams with a #70 jersey needle, stitch setting: zigzag 1.5 x 1.5. The only finish I gave to the seams was to trim them back. Then I finished the sleeves, hems and necklines with a twin needle. As you can see (apart from where my iron spat muddy water at it…) things come out much better when you stick to the rules!

I’m really happy with the fit of these T-shirts – I’ll get some nice photos to show you next week while I’m away, hopefully. But while I’m going on about tshirts I should share with you another trick I’ve tried, not in these ones, but ages ago: to narrow a T-shirt sleeve. It basically goes like this on the paper pattern…

You take out (or add) as much as you need to the centre of the pattern (maybe in 2 or 3 places if you have a lot to alter) then straighten out the hem. Add your seam allowances back and your pattern piece is ready.

So that’s it from me for now. I’m heading out of cold wet London for the Land of the Pharaohs! This photo is from PrideLondon last year, I’m taking this T-shirt too!

Happy sewing!

Notes to self:

  • Don’t wing it – it doesn’t always work!
  • Tshirts aren’t a long make, it’s worth making a few in a row to hone the skills
  • Must try to buy more plain fabrics.
  • Relax and have a nice holiday. (The last time I tried to have a sunny holiday I broke my arm!)
  • (… I miss my sewing machine already!!!)