I needed to do some basic sewing. With summertime on the way, I needed some new work shirts to wear. So, I set my next project aside to make me some simple basic t-shirt style shirts to wear to work. But as with all sewing, there are always lessons and patience to be learned. Let me tell you the story.
I started by picking out some knit fabric from the stash. The first piece I picked out was a purple single knit with white sea shell designs that I had picked up from a thrift store many years ago. The piece was not quite big enough for the shirt I was making but I figured I could make it work. I tend to make my shirts long, so if I made this shirt just an inch shorter than I normally did, I would have just enough fabric. So I cut out the shirt and started to sew it up. The sewing went fine until it was time to hem it.
This minus the inch to fit the fabric now left me with a very short front.
I went to cut off the back of the shirt to match the front, but hated to lose the length so I decided to leave the back longer than the front. Because of the slit in the side of my shirts, there would be no problem to hem the back of the shirt slightly longer than the front. After hemming the shirt, I liked the uneven hem. After wearing the shirt, I REALLY like the uneven hem. When wearing the shirt, I can really tell that the front is shorter than I like but since the back is longer, I am willing to wear the shirt.
The next fabric was white interlock knit with a black and red scattered design that I had also purchased at a thrift store many years ago. This time though there was plenty of fabric so I cut out generous hems for this shirt. The shirt sewed up fine and I liked the fit. The double needling of the hem gave me some hassle though. The fabric wanted to bunch under the needles, so I had to sew it VERY slowly, but it all worked out in the end. After wearing the shirt, I could have made the shirt a little shorter and the hems a little smaller. But the shirt is still comfortable to me, so I’m not going to mess with a good thing and modify the shirt.
The third shirt was made from a very stretchy knit I purchased on the internet. I love the fabric. It is soft and has a nice feel, but it was a challenge to sew. I carefully cut out the shirt, trying to not stretch the fabric as I cut it. I even put the walking foot on my machine to help keep the fabric from stretching as I sewed it up.
I sewed this shirt very slowly, trying not to pull the fabric but the fabric was so stretchy that it did not matter how careful I was. The first seams, the shoulder seams, finished long and distorted. Previously in my sewing career, I would have continued to sew as carefully as possible and hoped for the best in fit when the shirt was completed. Now that I have been sewing for awhile and am more experienced, I knew that if I wanted a wearable shirt, I had to solve the stretchy seam problem so I turned to ribbon.
I pulled a roll of 1/4 inch white ribbon from the closet, and cut pieces to fit my shoulder seams. After unpicking the previously sewn shoulder seams, I placed the ribbon on the shoulder seams and sewed down the center of the ribbon. With the ribbon, using the walking foot and sewing very slowly and carefully, I was able to sew nice, non-stretched shoulder seams. I then used the ribbon in the sleeve seams and it worked great as well. I did not use the ribbon on the side seams because the stretch of the fabric was not as much on those seams.
For the hem, I sewed the ribbon to the bottom of the fabric first then turned up the hem and completed it with the double needle. It would have been easier to have sewn on the ribbon as I double needled the hem but sewing it first meant I did not have to worry about catching the ribbon with the double needle and I could control the stretch better.
I tried to us the ribbon on the facings at the neck, but it did not work out. I could not keep the neckline from stretching and distorting as I sewed the facings on. It finally dawned on me to cut the facings from a woven non-stretch fabric instead of from the stretchy fabric of the shirt to solve the problem. This worked great and I was able to sew a nice looking neckline. I have worn the stretchy shirt and it is vey comfortable although it is odd sometimes when I expect it to stretch at a seam and it does not because of the ribbon in the seam.
With three new shirts added to my working wardrobe, I am ready to get back to my previous sewing plans and start my next project.
Until then, sew forth and summer on!