Friday, July 26, 2013

Plain White Tee

It's time for another wardrobe staple. Nothing says summer like a bright white t-shirt, right? This seemed like the fastest, easiest thing I could sew all summer. Plus I bought a cover stitch machine in March to help with all the t-shirts I was sure I was going to make, and as of last week I hadn't yet made one. It was definitely time to put the cover stitch to use.

This project was nearly doomed from the start. I spent months looking for the right fabric. I have a couple t-shirts from the Gap outlet that don't fit very well but they're made from what I think is the near-perfect t-shirt fabric, 95% cotton, 5% spandex in a weight heavy enough to have some body but light enough to wear in summer. It seems like a basic kind of fabric, but as I searched all the online sources I could think of I couldn't find anything like it. Not even anything close! Judging from the reviews, all the white jersey fabrics I could find seemed to be on the sheer side, not at all what I was looking for. By the middle of July I was running out of time and getting desperate. We happened to be in San Francisco for the weekend and I realized our hotel was only a few blocks from Britex. They should have something. Problem solved! And actually they did have the exact fabric I wanted in several different colors. I could make a whole t-shirt wardrobe, except that the fabric was $18 a yard! I think I usually use 1 1/4 yard for a t-shirt and I planned on getting a little extra in case I decided I wanted longer sleeves. No way was I going to spend around $27 for a plain white tee! I left the store empty-handed. Yes, I actually walked out of a fabric store without buying anything.

There was only one option left. On the way home from San Francisco we stopped at an outlet mall and looked at the Gap t-shirts. They were on sale, 2 for $10 plus there is an extra discount with a AAA card, so I left the store with two xxl white t-shirts as well as two black ones, all for around $19 after tax.  I didn't realize until later how funny it was that I didn't even try on a t-shirt in my size to see if by chance it would actually fit across my shoulders.  So yeah, I bought two plain white t-shirts so I could take them apart and make a plain white t-shirt. Hmm.
The white shirts actually had pretty deep v-necks, not what I wanted anyway, and it was fairly fast and easy to take them apart and recut them with my pattern. The most time consuming part was carefully removing the neck band so I could reuse it. I used the shirt backs for the front and back of my t-shirt, and the fronts for the sleeves. I cut out the sleeves along the front hems so I didn't even have to hem them. I did use my cover stitch for the bottom hem and the top stitching around the neck.

Even with all the deconstruction I had to do the shirt went together fast and looked great. I was pretty happy with it until I put it on. I've made this t-shirt pattern before. It started out years ago as Vogue 8536 but I've changed everything and none of the four pattern pieces are remotely close to the originals. It's pretty close to a perfect pattern for me. The last change I made was to make a more fitted version that could be worn as an under layer. For some reason I thought that's what my white t-shirt should be. The only thing I didn't do on the last version was change the neckline. A fitted t-shirt, for my needs, should have a lower scooped neck. Well, now I have a fitted t-shirt with a high crew neck. It's tight enough that I don't feel comfortable wearing it alone, but underneath another shirt it looks like a men's t-shirt. Ugh. At least I still have another neckband piece, still connected to the original shirt front. One of these days when I'm feeling really ambitious I can remove that neckband, remove the neckband from my t-shirt, redraw the neckline and replace the neckband.  A lot of work for a plain white tee.

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