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The Mighty T-Shirt, Part 3: Adjusting the Pattern

November 13, 2010

So this step in the process is all kinds of interesting, largely because I don’t really have any idea what I am doing. As you may recall from our last t-shirt post, I made a shirt! It was velour! It was blue!

And….it was way too big and droopy.

But, no matter – as I mentioned in the original post I was pretty sure the medium was going to be bigger than I wanted it to be, but I wanted to use it as a jumping off point.

I figured the best way to get this t-shirt closer to what I wanted would be to pin the ever-loving crap out of the thing and then attempt to bring those changes back to my original pattern piece.

With that plan in mind, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror with the shirt on inside out and used quilter’s safety pins (big safety pins) to pin the sides of the shirt in a way that I liked. Every so often I’d take the shirt off and flip it right side out and put it on again to see how it was coming. (Side note: Know what makes for really static-y hair? Taking on and off a velour shirt a bunch of times! Awesome! In case anyone is wondering that is a big part of why there are no pictures of this part of the process).

Eventually I ended up with a shirt I was happier with the fit of. In the process I discovered the main thing that bugged me was that the shirt needed to come in significantly more under the bust (sort of high-waist to natural waist area) and then relax out again slightly. In making those adjustments I liked the shirt a lot better – but I also discovered that to keep it from looking ridiculous I really needed to bring it in across the chest as well. I basically took a complete gamble and starting pinning the shirt along the armhole seam, figuring that I could use the resultant width of the top shoulder piece to figure out what size I should be making.

Here’s the shirt with the pinning complete!

Next to get the changes transferred back to my original pattern piece.

I chose to work with the front pattern piece first. Basically I used a tape measure to figure out how much I wanted the shirt brought in at vertical increments up from the hem, and made marks on my pattern piece accordingly.

For example, at three inches up from the bottom hem of the t-shirt I had pinned it about 3/4 inch on one side and 1 1/4 inch on the other. Averaging those two numbers (because the pattern piece is for half the t-shirt front, cut on the fold), meant that at three inches up from the bottom of my pattern piece I needed the piece brought in 1 inch.

I continued up from the bottom and when I got to the under-arm seam I basically drew a freehand smooth curve through those points. For the armhole I figured out that I’d pinned about an inch in along the shoulder seam – so I took a point 1″ in from the armhole and then drew a smooth curve freehand to join my line under the arm.

This is what I had when I was finished:

Lovely, yes? Looks sort of like a pattern even!

Well, yes and no. I spent about ten minutes staring at my new pattern line and then figured out that I don’t think it would work at all. I think that it’s simply too curvy – that in getting the back to line up I’d be into a nightmare, and I’d probably also be really stuck when trying to set the sleeves properly.

I also had a moment of truth when I realized that if I redid my pattern the way I’d drawn, I really was creating something totally different from what the designer intended. This shirt – and the patterns built off of it in the Sew U Home Stretch book – is MEANT to be a little boxier. It’s not meant to be some slinky fitted shirt.

SO. I wanted something a little more fitted than the original, but still in line with the original pattern. With that in mind, I revisited the ORIGINAL pattern from the book, comparing sizes, and made four design decisions:

1. The top of the shirt (neck, armhole, etc.) would be a size small – it’s close enough to what I did when I measured.

2. The point I cared most about having narrower was right under the bust – so that’s where I’d focus my adjustment.

3. I would adjust only as far as one of the sizes in the existing pattern.

4. I would pray a lot.

Okay, so maybe the last one isn’t exactly a design decision, but you know, it’s just good sense for life (AND sewing).

The reason behind following a set “pattern size” for the top is because then I don’t have to worry about adjusting the armhole or neckband pattern pieces – I can simply use the size small pieces for that and they should true up properly.

I traced the pattern piece onto a new sheet of brown paper in size small. Before moving the pattern away, however, I ALSO traced the lines for the medium and the extra small along the side seam.

I made small marks at the points in the pattern where I wanted the shirt to be at its narrowest (under the bust ish), and where I wanted it to be a little bigger again (about an inch or two from the bottom hem). Then I simply drew lines connecting the size small line (under the arm) to just inside the extra small line at the first mark I’d made. Then I drew another line connecting that point to the point where I wanted the shirt to be a medium again. This was the result.

Then I hauled out my trusty french curve (a remnant from the mechanical engineering days) and used it to smooth out the angles. I cut it all out and here is the result!

To make the back pattern piece I just traced the size small for the top, and then used the profile for my front pattern piece to trace the side seam for the back. Then I made pieces for the small sleeve and neck-band.

To be perfectly clear, I have NO IDEA if this will work. What I *seem* to have is a slightly more reasonably sized pattern that is a little less boxy without totally ruining the spirit of the original design. Here are the two patterns side by side – the new one is on the left.

Aaaand, I think we all know what this means….back to the blue velour to how this sucker comes together! Stay tuned…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    November 13, 2010 2:45 am

    I love the pictures….you must put those back

  2. Hubby permalink
    November 14, 2010 3:50 am

    You should really include a picture of a french curve. It’s like protractor meets treble clef. I like the simplicity of a metre stick myself…

    Dying to see this new blue velour shirt. We’ve got my company Christmas party to attend 😉

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