The T-Shirt Story
T-shirts have become a staple in every woman’s wardrobe, but these are not the baggy T-shirts of yesterday. Today’s T-shirts fit closer to the body, are made in lighter weight drapey knits and sport styling details such as ruching, wraps, ties etc.
The key to successful knit t-shirts is to start with a lightweight knit with good recovery. While there are tons of 100% polyester knits out there, I would avoid these if you have a tendency to get warm.
I also avoid 100% cotton knits unless they are imported. Locally made 100% knits tend to be too thick and do not drape well on the body. My favorites are rayon knits with Lycra, cotton knits with Lycra and silk knits. The silk knits can be too transparent so I either look for a print silk knit or one with a bit more body. Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley has a good selection of rayon and cotton with Lycra knits. Christine Jonson mail order has a good selection of both rayon and cotton knits with Lycra as well as a good selection of plain colors which are always a challenge to find.
The next things you need to find are some really great T-shirt patterns. My favorites are ones which I design for Vogue under the Today’s Fit label which are multi-sized and come in a wide size range. Not just skinny people look good in well-styled T-shirts. All of my T-shirts have a bust dart which really gives a good fit. For a good basic, View B in Vogue 8151 can’t be beat. View A in the same pattern, Vogue 8151, is incredible with wrap styling and ruching on the sides which is a great tummy camouflage. Every sewer I know loves this pattern, especially Marcy Tilton. Another great T-shirt, Vogue 2945, featuring a beautiful square draped cowl with just the right amount of draping. If you want yet another T-shirt, make the top of dress Vogue 2926 and square off the bottom.
The only knits which do not need to be preshrunk are 100% polyester. Silk knits should be hand-washed. The remainder can go in the washer and dryer in warm water. That being said, I hand wash all black or navy knits and never put them in the dryer because the color gets greyed out.
The greatest stretch of the knit always goes around the body. No matter what grain line is used on the pattern, bodice, sleeve and neck binding pieces with the greatest stretch going around the body. In a few instances this may require you to cut the pieces on the cross grain. Since knits vary so much in the stretch factor, I always construct the T-shirt including the sleeves and baste the side seams. Try on the T-shirt wrong sides out. If your knit is very stretchy, you may need to deepen the side seams to an inch or even 1 ½ inches to get the fit you want. On the other hand, if the knit has limited drape, you may have to sew narrower side seams
Use a 75HS needle and small zigzag (1.0mm width and 2.5mm length) when sewing knits. Next (using a 3 thread serger stitch) serge off the excess seam allowance with the serger stitch close to the small zigzag.
- If the fabric is very stretchy such as slinky knit or any knit for that matter, while you would like the hem to have some stretch, a rippled appearance caused by stretching as you machine hem can be reduced with the following method: To reduce the hem allowance peel off a strip of 1” wide Steam-A-Seam Lite, with paper attached. Press over the paper strip. Peel off the paper. The hem will now have a somewhat sticky feeling. Finger press the hem allowance into place, enclosing the web of glue inside the hem.
- Cover the area with a press cloth and press with a steam iron, holding the iron in one spot for 10 seconds. A press cloth is very important.
- If you are going to be hand laundering the garment, nothing else is needed but for long term I would suggest hemming with the twin needle. Steam A Seam Lite does not gum up the needle like some other web glues. Twin needle hemming will lie flat if you loosen the top tension, by turning the tension dial to a lower number. To avoid skipped stitches when twin needle stitching on knits, use the twin needle with the blue band and woolly nylon thread hand wrapped around the bobbin.
- If you are one of the lucky ones, who owns a serger with cover stitch machine capability, none of the above is necessary since the cover stitch used with differential feed does not stretch the fabric as it is hemming.