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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pensamientos: Starting with a Commercial Tee Shirt Pattern

I stopped in to check out a buddies newest project, at my favorite sewing and crafting web site, Crafster. Once there I considered posting a question about my current challenge with the neckband on my current scoop-necked tee pattern. The challenge comes about because I'm working on creating my own personal tee patterns. This has been an ongoing challenge over the past year-plus. Though I started out with a commercial tee shirt pattern, I've moved well beyond it.
I created this tee from one of my commercial pattern alteration, some machine embroidery and some darling little lizard beads my daughter brought me back from a trip to Flagstaff Arizona.

Here are just a few variations I've created... producing three different styles that suit my ideas of the way this every-day-practical garment should fit.  I've:

- Altered shaped sides from another pattern. One variation is still straight up and down - this just works better with certain knits. The other two curve in with a kind of hourglass look. I'm an 'H' shape, but my tee shirts don't always make that clear. It seems like the hourglass look works better when I sew a knit with some lycra in it. If it's called 'jersey', I think shape it.

- Decreased the width of the shirt (by folding lengthwise down the middle of both front and back pieces)

- Added darts. I never make a tee without darts anymore.

- Worked up a couple of different neckline variations. A kind of higher circle that's more like a typical commercial, rib-knit height and a kind of boat neck look. My new scoop neck lays just right until I go to bind the edge. Then I start fighting with my binding. I've always had to lightly stretch my bindings to keep them from rolling, but now I'm needing to stretch more as I move into the scoop and less as I come into it. I finally decided that I better run a hand-basting stitch along the neckline in the version I worked on last night. That's kind of working, though there's are slight gather lines showing once the binding is pinned on. I'm currently pretending that's a design feature! Once I finish it, I'll ask around for advice on other ideas to try. I may just go back to a facing for my scoop neck design.

I spend a lot more time now, making test garments (a.k.a. muslin or toille). For tee shirt practice I buy the largest inexpensive tees I can find, in sets of two. Then I cut across the shoulder lines until I end up with flat pieces to work with. In most cases I can wear the result. And when I buy something splendid in the knit line from an online fabric store, I feel much more confident that it's going to look like I want it to. I've learned that I just can't overdo on the amount of time spent considering the pattern. And the more time I put in, the higher my success rate.

Learning to alter commercial patterns for myself, beyond just a change in hem, or sleeve length or width is helping me to learn to be patient. It gives me a feeling of design control. The payoff in practical prettiness is really worth it.

A few of my tees hanging to dry. 

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