I have decided to try to make a t-shirt (again). My first attempt, using a store bought sewing pattern, was bad.
Later, I tried drafting my own pattern, but that didn’t end so well. My self-made pattern for a shirt didn’t fit. Also, at the time I only had muslin fabric to test it with, so it was a failure in two different ways. A prototype in a woven fabric isn’t going to work when the final shirt is supposed to be in a knit fabric (due to knit fabric’s stretchiness). I didn’t write a blog post about that one because it looked ridiculous.
What I’ve decided to do different this time is to trace a pattern off of one of my old shirts. I found the oldest, worst t-shirt I had and took apart all the seams. (I didn’t want to ruin a good, newer shirt.) I am now tracing a pattern around each piece which I will use to cut a new shirt.
Interestingly, the back and front of a store bought t-shirt is in one piece. I had to cut the side-seams with my scissors to make it into two pieces. At the factory, the shirt must come on a tube of some sort, to make this possible. As a home tailor, though, I am stuck with using flat fabric pieces.
Another thing I noticed is that no matter how I try to make the shirt lie flat, there are a few folds around the arm holes. In the photos above, it is more obvious in the front, but you can see it in the back too. I am guessing this is for guys with a bigger chest – to give more room in the shirt, like a dart. But for me, being flat chested, I think I can get away without having this particular “feature.” Also, I am not sure how I would cut a shirt that way, without a dart.
The main reason I chose to take apart an existing shirt to make a pattern, rather than drafting my own from scratch, is for the sleeve. As you can see from above, the way a sleeve attaches to an armhole is really odd. The sleeve is not a simple horizontal or vertical piece because your arm is curved. So, this makes for an unusual shape in the sleeve piece.
Here is what the sleeve looks like when it is unrolled. I wonder how one comes up with a shape like this when drafting a new pattern to make it fit into the armhole? I don’t like “fitting” and prefer just to have it right the first time. The sleeve/armhole pattern seems like it would be difficult to draft from measurements alone. Luckily, I can just copy someone else’s work for now.
You may notice that the two sleeve pieces look a bit different. I was thinking maybe the right sleeve is opposite of the left because the front of the shirt is bigger than the back (or something like that). However, after spending a lot of time measuring and comparing the two, I think these sleeves are actually supposed to be identical and the reason they look different in the photo is just due to sloppy cutting at the factory.
The reason I believe the back and front curves of the sleeve piece are supposed to match is because when I compared the back and front armhole length on the shirt, the length was the same. To me, this indicates that the total length of the sleeve-armhole seam should be the same length on the back and front.
With this in mind I drew a matching curve by folding my pattern paper in half. The other lines are from measurements of the sleeve piece.
I haven’t finished copying the shirt pattern yet, but the sleeve was the hardest part – the rest of it should be simple tracing.
You might wonder what fabric I will use to make my new shirt. Well, here it is…
Other shirts are going to be the source of my knit fabric. These shirts were donated to me and are all too big for me to wear. I am going to cut them up and use the big shirt fabric pieces to make smaller pieces to test my pattern (and also practice my knit-sewing skills).
Here is something strange I found while looking at these shirts. Despite being different sizes (XL through M), the shirts from different manufacturers have completely different sizing. One manufacturer’s “Medium” is the same as another manufacturer’s “Large.” XL is the largest shirt (as expected). However, Hanes Large is the identical size as Fruit of the Loom Medium. The orange shirt is a size Small I was using for comparison.