Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Let's Make a Tee!

My favorite wardrobe staple is the semi-dressy tee.  I am built so bottom heavy that the purchased ones stretch in all the wrong places and just don't flatter at all.  So I started the quest to make a simple tee that I could wear anytime and dress up or down.  My Facebook sewing club friends have asked if I would do a tutorial on making my tees, so here it is.  This top takes a scant 1 1/4 yards.

First is the pattern.  I'm not going to coach you extensively here about fit but this is the pattern I started with:

It wasn't perfect, I'm not narrow shouldered but this particular top was way too wide.  I took some of the width out and made sure my measurements matched the pattern pieces.  One thing I did was redraw the pattern without the dart.  Darts and knits just don't go together, I think.
 For fitting, I recommend Nancy Zieman's book, "Fitting Finesse," or check at your favorite fabric store-there are as many different ways to make patterns fit as there are sewers.

I have fat old lady arms so this is how I adjusted the width of the sleeves.
My redrawn freezer paper pattern pieces.  I have refolded the fabric so both front and back can be cut on the fold.

After refolding the fabric back to normal and cutting out the sleeves, I measure the neckline and cut a crossgrain strip 2 1/4" wide and about as long as the neckline measurement.  Fold lengthwise and press.

Sew one shoulder seam.  I like to sew it on the regular machine first, then take it to the serger.

Then serge.
On the regular machine, starting at the unsewn shoulder seam, start sewing the neckband on the neckline, stretching very gently.  You don't want puckers, but it has to have enough stretch to lay flat against your neck.  Practice makes perfect!

Serge the seam off so it looks neat.  Don't cover the original stitching with the serging, but just get close to it.

Sew the other shoulder seam, then serge.  Make sure the neck seam is pointing toward the body of the top, and when you're done serging leave a little tail on the neck edge, zigzag the tail down to make the neck edge look neat.

Press the neck seam toward the body, then topstitch through the body and seam allowance as close to the edge as you can, no more than 1/8".

Press the stuffing out of it.  This is when you can cover a multitude of sins!  Stretch as you press, smoothing out the wrinkles.

Sew the sleeves in flat, before sewing the side seams.  You can get a much smoother line by doing it this way.  Stretch to ease, always with the sleeve on the bottom so the feed dogs can help with the ease.

Serge side seams, then serge the sleeve and shirt bottoms.

Turn up hems 1 1/4" and pin close to the fold.  Stitch about 1 1/8" from the fold.  I usually use the throat plate on my machine as a guide.  If you don't have anything that would work, stick a bit of tape in a place that looks right.

After stitching, clip threads and turn to the right side.  Topstitch about 1/8" from the first stitching.  Once again, I use the left hand notch on the presser foot as my guide.  Repeat for the sleeves.

Someday I'll have a flatlock hemmer but for now this makes a nice fake finish, plus it's extremely durable.

Press, press, press!  And you have a new top!!

A closeup of the neck topstitching.
The whole project takes less than two hours.  I sometimes do an assembly line and make two or three at a time.  If you want a tank top, skip the sleeves and cut more banding crossgrain.  Ease it in the armholes before you sew the side seams and finish just like the neck.


  1. So pretty and I love the detailed topstitching!

  2. I don't sew but sure do appreciate the finished product. Love the material you chose and it looks very dressy indeed.


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