“It’s not the writing part that’s hard.
What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
-Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
I’m currently re-reading The War of Art and this quote perfectly sums up why my poor blog is so neglected.
It also sort of explains why it took me so long to do this “thing” I wanted to do with my favorite t-shirt pattern. The idea was there, the process only took an hour or so, but STARTING the project? Haha, I should have a PhD in procrastination! Except I’d never sit down to write the thesis - so, yeah.
I wear a lot of t-shirts. I work from home, I sew from home, I live several miles outside of town and need a really compelling reason to leave home, so my wardrobe consists of anything comfortable but with enough polish that I don’t have to change if I do happen to want to be seen in public. So by t-shirts I don’t mean ratty college tees or oversize concert tees left over from the 80’s, both of which I own but don’t wear in public. I mean nice, well-fitting knit tops in a variety of colors and styles so it doesn’t look like I’m wearing the same thing every day, even though I sort of am. I don’t have time to buy every new tee pattern that comes out just so I can have a different neckline, sleeve or hem option because that means fitting every pattern to my not-average body proportions. What I really want is ONE pattern with ALL the options. Not asking for much, am I? I also don’t want an envelope stuffed full of a gazillion pieces which I have to sort through and iron every time I want to make what should be a quick project.
My solution? ONE t-shirt pattern with interchangeable necklines, sleeves, and hems. And because I’m still somewhere in the procrastination stage I’ve only done the neckline, but I’m still so excited about it!
I started with the Basic InstincT by Sasha at Secondo Piano. Hopefully you have a basic tee pattern that you love. I have a long list of ones that don’t fit my body without extensive changes, but it just so happens that Sasha's draft works for my body type. If you want to put the time into making your own “puzzle-piece pattern” start with whatever favorite tee works for you.
And finally… the process:
I folded 2 pieces of 24"x36" manila tagboard in half lenthwise and traced the front on one and the back on the other, with CF and CB on the fold. Sometimes I like to use the pattern on folded fabric and sometimes on a single layer. Folding the pattern like this gives me either option. (This particular pattern in my size fits on a single width, but I could just as easily use half the pattern or tape 2 pieces together.) Then I cut out the pattern pieces. I have an old, worn-out rotary cutter that I use for paper. I cut the straight lines (hem and shoulder) with that and a ruler so the layers wouldn’t shift. Then I rough cut around the curves, clamped the edges together with binder clips, and carefully cut both layers at once. Although now that I think about it, I could have cut the top layer then used that to trace the bottom layer. I’m sure there are many good ways to do it, but the end result should be identical top and bottom layers of the folded pattern pieces. (I'm actually using the back pattern piece in these photos because my front piece was too messy-looking!)
Now for other neckline pieces. I folded a piece of tagboard to fit underneath the open space of the front pattern neckline area, keeping the fold perfectly lined up with the center front fold. I traced the neckline cut lines, extended the shoulder line, and drew my new desired neckline. I marked the neckline piece where the match marks are on the front pattern. Besides the original crew neck of the pattern, I have a shallow v-neck, which uses the same neckline at the shoulder and back, and I have a turtleneck neckline, which is closer to the neck at the back, shoulder, and front. I will possibly add a square neckline and a slightly scooped neckline.
I repeated steps 2 and 3 for the back. I used the front pattern piece to mark where I wanted the back shoulder cut line to start, but it’s really not necessary that they match, or even that they’re perpendicular to the seamline or center line. If you might want to have a deep back neckline be sure to make your cutout big enough.
I labeled all the pieces well. This is something I’m not usually very good at, but it’s super important to know which pieces are used for what and which front and back pieces go together.
Now when I cut out a pattern, I can set whichever neckline I want in place, keep it there with weights or washi tape, trace, and cut.
I plan to add sleeve length options (cap, short, cuffed, long…) all using the same sleeve cap, and hemline options (straight, curved, split hem, tunic length…) but for now I’m happy with my progress.
Things I’ve learned:
- I should have made my neckline cutout areas bigger. They need to be big enough to allow for lower necklines AND still have enough space to punch a hole in the small neckline patterns so I can hang them. Luckily I can still make that change, I’ll just have to re-trace my neckline pieces.
- Frixion pens are the best! I used a gray pen so the marks were light to begin with, but I used it to trace the original pattern, mark the cut lines, trace the cut lines to the neckline pieces, and draw the new necklines. After everything was cut out a quick swipe of the iron erased any stray marks.
- I think this is going to clear both paper clutter and mental clutter from my life. I’m playing with the idea of using this for other basic patterns (button-up shirt? jeans?) so I can change some details without having to re-trace a whole pattern.
If you try this and like it, let me know!