Each of the three shirts came out differently this year, even though I used the same pattern. This is the best of the lot. I used the Tonic 2 pattern and made adjustments in cutting as needed.
First off, I'm more interested in spending my limited time sewing than in taking or editing photos. The Paint-added lines are to guide the eye to the pencil lines, but they aren't completely accurate.
I received a PDF pattern for the Tonic 2 t-shirt and since I still have not found an armscye-sleeve cap draft that I like, I wanted to try something from someone who presumably actually knows how to draft patterns.
I do enough taping PDF tiles together at work that I'm not excited to do it at home, but, hey, a free pattern is a free pattern and I already know that SBCC patterns mostly work for my body. I put on Father Brown and taped away. Then I used colored pencils to trace the small and medium cut lines in different colors to help distinguish the sizes. My measurements hit small, medium, and x-large, but I wanted to try to sew a straight large to see exactly how it fits before I went crazy with the alterations. When I was working on the MOH dress, I started with the alterations and ended up very close to the pattern as drafted. Didn't want to do extra work again, but I did know that I needed about 1.25 extra inches across the front hips and 5 inches across the back.
Because I needed 2.5 inches added to the back half width, I decided to add it in two sections. I figured the ease would be more evenly distributed that way. I also cut my lines all the way to the lengthen/shorten line (dotted line in the image below) because it seemed like the extra ease would fit more fluidly with a longer integration space.
I added 1.25 inches of space between each third of the back half and re-traced the pattern.
In the image below, the orange line is the small cutting line, the blue is medium, the grey large, and the red my new large cutting line with the extra hip width added.
After I traced this, I thought it looked like I had simply added the extra space to the side. From what I've read, this will cause the garment to hand oddly because all the extra ease isn't evenly distributed.
Then I realized that I had kept the third with the center back fold cut-on-fold line straight when I spread the pieces. Well, that makes sense because otherwise, the center line would have a huge curve from the waist down and couldn't be cut on the fold.
I moved on to the front piece while I let that challenge ruminate.
Below is another view of the same (erroneous) alteration.
In the image below the yellow is the pattern as drafted, the purple is where the pieces landed when I spread them to add extra space. The red is where I smoothed the lines or adjusted them to meet other lines. The green is the final hem cut-line.
Since the front piece needed only 1.25 inches added to the front half, I went ahead and curved the center line from the waist down, adding 3/4-inch extra width at the center front and the side seam. I also only cut one line down the center to spread the pieces, from the hem to the lengthen-shorten line.
The yellow is the pattern as drafted. The purple is where the pieces were after adding the extra width. The red is my new cutting line.
The front didn't look too bad, so I left it alone, figuring I would experiment with having a curved cut-on-fold line. I got a long yardage of fabric from Girl Charlee for $1.50 a yard. It's more green than blue, so perfect for experimenting - a fabric I like the feel of, but not quite right in color, and an excellent price for making mistakes.
I started again with the back piece, this time adding half the extra space to the center back and half to the side seam. I realized I would need a back side seam because of how much extra space was added. I was quite proud of myself for remembering to add seam allowance.
In the image below, yellow is the pattern as drafted, purple is where the pieces landed when spread to add extra space, and red is my new cutting lines. The short grey line in the upper right hand corner is where the front side seam ended. I had to extend the back side seam about 1/8 inch beyond that in order to make the back hem straight like the original was drafted. This is why I won't sew for others - I'm more of a good-enough, make-it-work kind of sewer. At least in some aspects.
I let the pattern sit overnight because I know from experience that I probably missed something or didn't think of something obvious during the first go-around.
When I next had time to work on the pattern, I laid my self-drafted back pattern piece over my altered Tonic 2 piece.
In all these alterations, I always start with the corner of the arm scye as a reference point. Especially in this case, where what I most want to see is how the original pattern fits me in the shoulders and sleeves, I didn't want to mess with anything in the upper torso. I did make a 3/4-inch swayback adjustment at the back shoulder, though.
As can be seen, my self-drafted pattern is quite different from the Tonic 2. This is where my lack of spatial intelligence shows through because I measured the original Tonic 2 pattern and measured my hips and added enough to have one inch of ease, about how much is in my self-drafted pattern. Yet there appears to be quite a bit more than that in the altered Tonic 2.
Maybe I did the math wrong somewhere. Instead of puzzling over something I am unlikely to find an answer to, I decided to eliminate the center back seam and see how things went. It looked like there would be plenty of room, so it was worth the risk.
In the image below, the red is the altered Tonic 2 cut lines and the purple is the original Tonic 2 cut-on-fold line.
The image below is a look at how I made the 3/4-inch swayback adjustment. The orange diagonal line is my new cut line. After I cut the fabric, it dawned on my that I made the diagonal go the wrong way because I need to shorten the center back, not the side seams.
This is what I mean about missing the obvious until too late. Even having made this alteration several times before, I still did the wrong thing. Maybe writing about it will make it stick in my brain and I'll be less likely to reverse directions again.
I'll show pictures of the finished Tonic 2, size large with added hip room in another post.
I finished the second duvet, which was much easier than the first. I also finished some alterations for my husband.
Alterations are my least favorite part of sewing. It's probably why, as much as I like the idea, I never really enjoyed upcycling clothes.
My husband is the sort of man who once said to me, "A man goes to the store, tries on a suit, and he looks good." The trousers he wore to our wedding were not hemmed, only serged. There was white thread sticking out of his sleeve where he pulled off the tag and didn't notice the thread. He is convinced that if he can't pull his zippered pants off while still zipped, the pants are too tight. He is wonderful in many ways, but his fashion sense leaves much for me to desire.
He is also in graduate school and will soon have interviews for white-collar/professional positions. So we bought him a suit, shirt, and tie. Normally, dressed up to him means wearing a polo shirt. I wanted him to be comfortable, so didn't fuss too much when he got sizes larger than I would prefer. Then again, he probably needs the larger sizes to accommodate his shoulders and thighs, but then the rest of the garment is too large.
Anyway, I convinced him to let me baste the sides of the shirt and he could try it on. If it was too tight, I wouldn't take it in that much. I took out four inches from the sides (didn't tell him how much), he tried it on, and pronounced it good. So I stitched it up and let him try it again. He still liked the fit. I think it could come in a bit more, but didn't want to push it. I should have done flat felled seams, but I hate alterations and have too many more interesting things to sew, so I cut the seam allowance to 1.12 inches because that is what was needed to make a smooth transition to the arm, straight stitched 1/8 inch from the edge, then zig-zagged the edge. If it bothers him or starts to fray, I'll break down and make the flat fell seams.
There is a tiny pucker where the straight seam meets the flat fell seam, but it is close to the wrist and I figure if anyone is looking that closely, they better be a doctor or me or smart enough to mind their own business.
Thankfully, the trousers had Hong Kong finishes on the back rise and no center belt loop. If I had to deal with a belt loop, I probably would have let him have his too-big pants. As it was, I again basted where I thought they needed to be and let him try them on. They look better to me and he said they were comfortable, but then he complained that his weight goes up and down, so they might be too tight. I told him we could let them out if that happened. As he was complaining they were too tight, he was putting at least three fingers from each hand into the space between the waistband and his body and had plenty of ease, so I don't think these will truly be too tight any time soon.
After stitching with a straight stitch and having him try them on again, I stitched with a triple stretch stitch. The last thing I want is for his pants to split because I didn't sew them correctly. Then I hand stitched the waistband back down into place. These are dry clean only, so while I might risk hand washing them, I didn't want to risk steaming them before he even got one wearing out of them.
My alterations aren't the prettiest, but they do make him look much better in his clothes. I'm proud of how hard he works, going to grad school and working and helping around the house and spending time with me. I don't want ill-fitting clothes to inhibit a future employer from seeing what an intelligent, dedicated, hard-working man he is. I want him to wear the clothes, not for the clothes to wear him. Hopefully, I haven't caused more problems with my newbie alteration attempts. I keep telling myself that even if it's not custom-tailored, it isn't cumulatively worse than off-the-rack.
Reassuring me that these alterations look fine, today at the store, I saw a woman with a patterned dress. There was a back seam about two inches to the left of center that slightly interrupted the pattern. As I stood in line behind her, I keep examining the stitching to see if I could tell if this was a home-made dress. From the armhole binding, I don't think it was. There was at least one side seam on the skirt, so I don't know why the "center" back seam was off center. The dress wasn't twisted on her body, it was just pieced oddly. If ready-to-wear looks like that, my shirt side seams that aren't flat-felled can't be too bad.
I always have a mental list of things to sew. Some of them are fun, some are necessary, and some will make my life easier.
I would much rather make something new than alter something, but I also know an altered RTW fits and looks so much better. I also know mending is economical. So sometimes I get down to business and do it.
After all the months spent working on the matron-of-honor dress, I needed a palate cleaner.
So I started working on my mental list of things that really should be done. It feels relaxing and inspiring to have those things completed.
I always wished I had put handles on my well-used Cooper bag, in addition to the shoulder strap. When the shoulder strap eventually frayed out of the bag, I unpicked the top and sewed it back in with some changes.
First, the strap was too long for my 4-foot 11-inch height, so I shortened it. I also melted the ends of the strap to hopefully reduce future fraying. I had enough strap left to make one handle, but couldn't find enough for a second. The only thing I had in a suitable color was bias binding. I put interfacing on it and used it for the second handle. I've yet to use this bag, so I don't know how that will work.
When I sewed in the handles, I forgot that I might want to carry by the handles with the flap closed. Oh, well.
I also cut off the heavy metal lobster claw clasps that I never used.
My winter coat is a $30 Wal-Mart deal that I got for $10. My dream is to own a perfectly fitted wool coat, but until I can afford that, I make do. For two years, I've been meaning to shorten the sleeves to suit my shorter arms. I finally got around to doing it and cut off three inches. I much prefer shortening sleeves with linings. Without a lining, you have to be so careful to get the measurement exactly correct and then have to figure out what to do with the raw edge.
A sleeve with a lining gives a lot of room for error. I started by having a three inch "seam allowance," but after trying on the coat, realized I wanted the sleeves a half inch longer. So the outer sleeve has a 2.5-inch turn up. The lining has about six inches turned up. I hand hemmed the lining to the sleeve and now when I wear the coat, I'll feel more polished.
I also learned to try the coat on the correct way, not inside out, no matter how tedious it is to pull the sleeves through again and again. I probably could have gone with my original three-inch hem if I had tried on the coat properly the first time.
Rule One: Always go back to the original pattern for each new draft.
The fourth muslin was close to what I wanted. I was tempted to stop there and make a muslin of the dress, but I kept looking at the pictures and thinking about what I wanted to change. Were the needed alterations beyond my skill or did I need to persevere through more muslins?
I compared this pattern version to the original Bronx pattern and thought about what I wanted to do. A part of me kept urging to try tracing a straight large from the Bronx with the added length and width alterations that worked from this pattern instead of all the grading small here, medium there, large there I had been doing.
I listened to that quiet voice and the results are a keeper. The sleeve, which I legnthened, might need to be adjusted a bit - there's too much ease under the bicep or I might prefer more ease all the way around, but that's a minor concern.
The final pattern is thus:
Small at the neckline
Small for the shoulder height
Large for the shoulder width going towards the armhole
Large plus 2.75 inches at the "hem"/peplum seam
Draw a new, curved line from the peplum seam to the side armscye point
Lengthen by 3 inches at center front
Lengthen by 2.5 inches at side front
Draw new, curved peplum seam
Trace large front peplum and add 2.5 inches to top seam
Large at neckline
XS at neckline shoulder point (for 0.5 inch swayback adjustment)
Blend L to XS neckline curve
S shoulder height at shoulder armscye point
L width at shoulder armscye point
L plus a bit more at peplum seam to equal 9 inches across the half back
Draw a new, straight line from pepulum seam to side armscye point
Lengthen by 1.5 inches at center back
Lengthen by 2.5 inches at side back
Draw new, curved peplum seam
Trace large back peplum and lengthen top seam to equal 9 inches
Fifth time's the charm?
There are still drag lines at the back side. I'm guessing because of the straight back side seam and the curved front side seam, but I can't figure out how to fix that and not have it either too boxy in the front or too tight in the back.
I also might want to lower the center front by another half inch, but I'm worried about making it too difficult to blend into the side seams because I like the length of the back.
I would probably prefer a higher back neckline, too. I get cold too easily with an exposed back, as much as I like the look for lower back necklines or cutouts on the back. That's another fix I'm confident with making.
For the bridesmaid dress, I might lower the front neckline.
Otherwise, keeping in mind that different knits will behave differently, I'm ready to make a mock-up of the dress. I hope my sister, the bride, likes it after all this work. The only things she said for our bridesmaid dresses were what color (I better be able to find that color in a knit!) and that the dress should be something we would wear on a nice date.
The things I wanted to fix and did are:
Not too tight across the bust
Not too tight across the stomach
Not too tight across the scapulae
As fitted and shaped as possible, considering the growing stomach (no I'm not pregnant, just perplexingly gaining more weight than I ever have with no clear cause)
Things I learned:
My body has changed more than I like to admit from three years ago
I like peplum tops better on others
Knit with 75% stretch is extremely difficult to find, forget about having natural fibers
I finally had enough time to dye some clothes that fit well, but I wasn't wearing because of the color. I prefer to dye on the stove because I think it uses less water. The downside is that I have to stand there stirring for an hour. Maybe I don't have too, but I don't want to risk the fabric being creased somewhere and not getting dyed.
For the cotton, I had several tea-dyed underpants that I wasn't wearing because I no longer have a need for this color and hate wearing white/natural underclothes unless absolutely necessary. I had five almost-new pairs of perfectly-fitting underpants sitting in a drawer. So I dyed them navy, leaving myself one pair in "natural" because I'm a just-in-case sort of person. I used 1 cup of salt in the dye bath and the fabric took the dye beautifully. I didn't expect the thread and elastic to dye.
I kept the water just under a simmer - at that point where tiny bubbles start to show at the bottom of the pot, but never get any further. I have never been able to "rinse until the water runs clear," but once I machine washed these (and the color runs a great deal that first time) and dried them, the color doesn't run any worse than store bought denim.
The silk long johns were the color "natural." I got them that color to wear under my wedding dress in case it was cold, but ended up not using them. I love silk long johns for under work clothes during the winter, but feel cranky when they are white/natural.
I put 1 cup of vinegar into the dye bath and kept the temperature just short of a simmer. When I went to rinse these before washing them, the water ran clear the first time and the color of the dye is beautiful. I think the light stitching adds a nice detail on the shirt neckline.
For a little over two hours of work, I now have clothes that aren't taking up space and that I look forward to wearing.
I'm still in awe at how easy and mess-free dying the silk was.
Summer means the library has a summer reading program. That means t-shirts to promote the program. After last year, I thought I had the perfect pattern and method for making a comfortable, better-fitting t-shirt. I tried what I thought I did last year and it didn't work.
The sides had to be vented for the shirt to lay flat. The neckline gaped. How? I have re-sewn so many necklines and finally figured out how to make them look good. A few months ago, I sewed the same process with no problems. What happened?
I have no idea, but after a few times wearing the shirts with a gaping neckline, trying to convince myself that it was only three days a week for seven weeks, I couldn't take it any more. So I cut the necklines wider and lower and used bias binding and steamed the neckline and then steamed it some more and things greatly improved. There is still a little gaping, more pronounced on some shirts than others, but now I don't hope nobody sees me wearing these shirts.
I think the lower neckline is more flattering. The reason I didn't do it at first is because after the summer, these shirts get worn to bed to keep me warm and a higher neckline is preferable. I can have my stomach uncovered, but my chest, shoulders, and neck have to be covered or I am cold. Every summer I debate making the alterations to be most flattering for the seven weeks or the most practical for the rest of the life of the shirt.
Anyway, the biggest trick to altering a t-shirt is to start with a size at least two sizes greater than one's normal size. I fit a small, so I buy a large and cut it down.
I tried wearing a t-shirt dress with leggings and didn't like it. The hem is so light, I couldn't tell if it was crawling up in back and overall, the leggins and tunic combination don't feel good to wear. So I shortened the dress to a long t-shirt. That was too long. So I shortened it again, but I didn't want to sew the hem again, so I simply folded up along the waist seam. Which, of course, affected the curves, so it no longer looks right. The smart thing to do would be to hem this properly to the desired length, but I'm finished. This can be a relaxed-at-home shirt. I may take out the waist-shortening, but that's all. Time to move on.
I like scrub pants to sleep in and to wear in warm weather. They are, however, not designed for petites and I frequently have to hem them by several inches. For this pair, I felt particularly lazy, so I did my normal fold up, right sides together, and stitch. Usually, I would fold the excess inside the leg and call it a day.
This time, the hem was slightly narrower than the spot I hemmed it to, so I had to add a few tucks. I tried to get them in the same place on each leg so they would maybe look intentional. I have one tuck in the center back and three tucks on the side front. Then I cut off most of the excess because when it is more than a few inches, it tends to flip out or my feet get caught in it when I get dressed. I finished the raw edge and now have a pair of casual pants that are short enough to wear with flats or bare feet. You can see the finished product on the lower side of the right hand image. Boring sewing, but the kind that makes life better.
It's time for the summer reading program again and that means wearing children's clothing to work. Anyway, I forgot to ask for a larger size so that I could more easily use my t-shirt pattern to sew a better fitting t-shirt, but was able to work with the regular size. The result is about as fitted as I am comfortable with for work, but at least the fit is much better than the factory fit.
I left the sides open six and a half inches so that the shirt would sit flat over my hips. On this green shirt, I left the side seams uncut and only recut and resewed the armholes, sleeves, and neckline. Then I slit the sides and sewed some stay stitches at the apex. This gives me a slightly less fitted shirt than the black one below where I cut and sewed the side seams, but I don't know if the difference is visual.
I have gotten so many compliments on the side openings, maybe there is a business opportunity there!
Hi! I live in Virginia. My mom taught me to sew. I think I started at 4 or 5 by sewing buttons onto a handkerchief, but don't trust my memory. That was a long time ago. As a teenager, I was more interested in completing projects than learning good sewing techniques. Now, I am teaching myself some things I missed. My sewing interests are in learning to make alterations to and draft patterns to fit my petite 4'11" tall, 32" chest, 45" hip body.