Friday, October 28, 2011

Tee Times Three

Good-fitting tees are at the top of my must-have list.  They're definitely the most basic elements of my wardrobe, so I like to have an assortment available for any season or occasion.  I went in search of the perfect tee pattern for me, and found it in Butterick 5215, a Connie Crawford design.  I used it back in June, and again recently.

I was attracted to the pattern because the sizing goes up to size 6X, and it's basic styling can serve as a good starting point for my own design details.  There are three "cuts" to the pattern - close fit, natural fit, and loose fit. I used the natural fit, and I cut on the 3X lines.  The front and back shoulder widths and the sleeve widths of that size fit me very well.  It was really strange for me to not trace out the largest size of the pattern, and add more width at the side seams.  What a pleasure, to use a pattern that didn't require lots of adjustment!  I don't recall if I lengthened the pattern or not, but I do recall the pattern is cut quite long.  

My first version of this top was sewn in a cotton/lycra jersey from Sawyer Brook.  I'm hesitant to wear prints, but this one has a lot of movement, and good all-over patterning, so I went for it.
An aside:  I love cotton/lycra knits.  They don't pill, and they're comfortable to wear.  This photo was taken today, after about 10 washings, and the fabric still looks very good:

I like the sophistication of this print.  It's black and white, with small touches of blue (upper left) and taupe (lower right).  I'm really glad I used it for this top.  It was fun to wear with white capris in the summer, and carried well into early autumn with black pants.
Rather than make the top closer-fitting at the hip, I chose to leave the A-line shape.  It's a very comfortable cut, and the swingy fit makes it fun. 

The pattern description defines the neckline as a scoop, but it's really a crew neck.  I lowered it several inches for warm weather wear.  The instructions call for cutting the neckband on the bias.  I didn't understand why, as I never do this with knits, but once I tried to apply the band to the neckline, I got the picture.
This fabric does not have good stretch recovery, and the neckband sagged.  If I stretched the shirt enough to make the band lay flat, the shirt ended up gathered.  I could have recut a bias band, but I chose to create a vee neck instead.  It's a flattering style for me, and I really like the result.

(Sorry for the difference in skin tones in these photos.  They were taken on different days, in different settings, with different cameras!)

One disappointment with this pattern is the lack of bust darts.  I prefer to dart my tees, to avoid those unseemly horizontal folds that appear between the bust point and the armscye.  I added two small darts in the armhole seams on my draft of the pattern. 
This is my second version, a rayon/lycra jersey from Sawyer Brook:After washing this top a few times, I vowed I'd never buy soft rayon again.  The fabric is now so pilled I don't want to wear it out of the house!  This is one of those soft, cottony feeling rayons.  The short fibers that make a rayon jersey soft also make it pill like crazy!  Rayon jersey that has a dry hand and crepe-y feel doesn't pill nearly as much. 

On this top, I lowered the neckline and used Marcy Tilton's twisted neckband:
This was my first attempt at this technique, and I found it to be fairly easy to execute. My topstitching isn't perfect (but then, neither am I!).

My fall version is made from a lightweight organic cotton jersey from Marcy:
Since I'll be wearing it in cooler weather, I cut the neckline of the pink top a couple of inches higher (but still lower than the pattern is cut). The peony jersey curls a lot at the edges, so I decided to use this as a design element. I left the edges of the neckband raw, and let them curl.  (Once again, apologies for photos taken under different circumstances!  The color above is closest to actual.)

To sew this neckband seam, I carefully overlapped the band on the neckedge, pinned it securely, and stitched it 1/2" from the edge. The raw edge of the band curls over the stitching, echoing the other curled raw edge. To keep the seam allowance of the top flat, I pressed it toward the top and stitched 1/8" away from the edge.  I like this look, and wish I had used it on the sleeve hems, as it would have given the top more interest. The sleeve hems are simply turned under and stitched, as is the hem.  But I was tired of fussing with this top, and wanted to move on!

I'm not totally happy with the sleeve on this top.  The pattern instructions say to ease the sleeve cap before setting it into the armhole.  I didn't think this needed to be done in a knit, and I really didn't want to have to set them in.  I didn't think I needed the extra fabric in the top of the sleeve, so I lowered the sleeve head by about 1/2" to eliminate the need to ease it.  Then I sewed the sleeves into the armscyes before stitching the side seams.  Now that I see my upper arm in the photo, I realize I did need that extra fabric in the sleeve cap area.  That little bit of extra fabric would prevent the wrinkling of the sleeve above my elbow.  I hate to set in sleeves, especially in a knit, so I'll have to contemplate how to deal with this issue in future versions of this tee.

I'm not crazy about how this thinner jersey drapes around my belly.  The print jersey is heavier.  The royal blue jersey is droopier, so the drape lines fall more smoothly.  If I run into this problem again, I'll look into taking the top in at the sides.

I like the fit of this top, and I expect to continue to use it as my basic tee pattern.  Since it's a simple style, I'll probably play with other design elements - and paint! - at some point.  Even though it's plain, it beats wearing store-bought tops anytime!


  1. What a nice detailed review! I really like the rayon jerseys that I bought from Emma One Sock. I have made some of those into my standard T - the Teagarden T from Sewing Workshop. I have washed them many times and have not had much pilling with her rayon lycra jerseys. I *have* had horrible pilling with the bamboo lycra jerseys that I bought from FabricMart. So much so, that I won't use any of that again.

    I love aspects of all three of your Ts. I love the print of the first one (I love prints), the twisted neckline of the second, and the curled neckline of the third. I agree, finding the perfect T is sooo important! Yours look great!

  2. I love all of your necklines! Great creative save on the top one - I really like that print, and the T look FABulous on you!

    In my former sewing life I only sewed with natural fibers; so all of this stretch/lycra stuff is still a new world to me. I love the EOS rayon/lycra prints I've bought, but would love to find some cotton/lycra fabrics with good recovery...although the overwhelming stash & the underwhelming budget are getting in my way a bit lol!

    And welcome home :)

  3. Great knits tops. Really like that strong pink on you!