Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I made something that wasn't a quilt or a bag!

Yeah, it really does happen.  :)

I am one of those people that finds something that I like and proceed to buy it in every color.  This is no exception.  In the last month, I've made PJ pants and t-shirts for myself.  I love making PJ/lounge pants/shorts because they are an easy way to use up fabric (3 yards for pants, 1.5 yards for shorts).  I find that I like mine on the very baggy side, so I'm totally fine using quilting cotton that doesn't stretch.

The other garment that I make pretty frequently is t-shirts.  I have pretty long arms, so I can never seem to find shirts with long enough sleeves.  So, the best way to get around that is to make my own.  I found a pattern that I liked, The Perfect T-Shirt from Pamela's Patterns, and I made some tweaks to make it work for me.  Some of the tweaks included shortening the armhole, lengthening the sleeves and body, and making a full bust adjustment.  What was it that I liked about this pattern?  I like the curved hem and the fact that it isn't super fitted.  I wear t-shirts almost every day, and this one has been excellent for a variety of different types of knits including 100% cotton jersey and interlock, cotton blend jersey and interlock, rayon, and ponte roma.  It's also been great for both solids and prints.  I've made this shirt 20 times (no, that isn't an exaggerated number), and I don't think that I'll stray too far.  In case you are wondering, once I got the fit tweaked to my satisfaction, I traced the pattern using Swedish Tracing Paper.  I did this to preserve my altered pattern as much as possible.  When my traced one starts to look super shabby or if I wanted to make a modification like short sleeves, I can just trace a new one (I have 2 sets of sleeves - 1 for long sleeves and another for short).  :)

My most recent batch of shirts used a variety of fabric including 2 interlocks from Amy Butler's Glow collection, 2 jerseys from Katy Jones' Priory Square collection, 1 jersey from Bari J's Emmy Grace Collection, and 1 jersey from Jeni Baker's Geometric Bliss collection.  All of the jerseys are from Art Gallery Fabrics, and they are super duper soft and comfy.  If you have noticed that the shirt on the bottom right isn't finished, you'd be correct.  I was obviously quite sick of cutting when I got to that one because I cut one of the sleeves with the print facing downward.  I didn't have enough fabric on hand to re-cut the sleeve, so I had to order it online.  I hope to be able to finish it this weekend if my fabric arrives in a timely fashion.

I tried 4 or 5 other t-shirt patterns before settling on this one.  When I want a more fitted shirt (that I will primarily use as a layering piece), I like Jalie 2805.

This shouldn't come as any surprise, but I'm pretty picky about my fabrics.  I tested probably 7-8 different fabrics before settling on what I really wanted to use.  If I'm going to use a solid, my favorites have been the 100% cotton interlock from Nancy's Notions.  I did test the cotton/poly interlock from Nancy's, and I found them to be very soft but the polyester did cause pilling.  The fabric seemed to stretch out of shape much more quickly.  My other favorite is cotton jersey.  The one I like most is from Robert Kaufman.  It's the Laguna Cotton Jersey collection, and it is 95% cotton and 5% spandex.  I've also used fabric from the Laguna Cotton Heather and Laguna Cotton Jersey prints, and it's all been great.

The only thing that I really don't like about jersey vs interlock is that the edges curl with jersey.  It is a little more fiddly to cut and sew than the more stable interlock, but the end result is worth it for me.  If you are going to sew with either of these materials, I'd highly recommend using a walking foot or dual feed if your machine has it.  Another recommendation is to use either a jersey or a stretch ball point needle.  The ball point on the needle will push the fibers out of the way rather than piercing and breaking them.

I do find that I get a lot of questions (once people hear that I made my t-shirts) about whether or not I use a serger.  The short answer is partially.  With the Pamela's Patterns shirt, the shirt isn't very clingy, so I use my regular sewing machine with a straight stitch.  It isn't necessary to serge the seam allowances with  these types knit (they don't fray like wovens), but I like the finished look of the overlocked seam.  At the very end, I do use my serger to do a coverhem (not all sergers do this, but mine does) on the neckband, sleeves, and hem.  The effect given by the coverstitching will really make it look more store bought.  Using a twin needle in your sewing machine can give you the same appearance on the exterior if you don't have a machine that will do a coverhem.  I will say that I pretty much suck at sewing in a straight line on my serger, but I'm thankful that I'm pretty particular about getting a good color match on thread.  It hides some of the boo boos, and I"m fairly OK with it as long as it looks fine on the outside of the garment.

For a more fitted shirt, using a narrow zig zag stitch or the "lightning bolt" stitch would potentially be great choices.  As with all fabrics, please make sure to run some test stitching to check tensions and make sure that the fabric is behaving as it should.  For folks new to garment sewing, you will want to make sure that you wash your fabric (as long as it is something actually washable) before cutting out your pieces.  Even though I don't normally put my t-shirts in the dryer, I do toss them in the dryer on low during the pre-washing process.

Making garments can be intimidating, but so can making bags or quilting.  It's a process, and they all take time, practice, and a bit of work to figure out what you really like.  Is it worth it in the end?  For me, yes.  I'm paying a lot less per shirt than I was when I was buying my shirts, and I like that the ones I've made fit better, last longer, and give me more options in the way of prints or colors.  Best of all?  I can say that I made them.

So, that's it for this post.  I have some stuff that needs to be sewn, so I'm off to do that!

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