Adventures in Blank Canvas Tees

Four Tee Designs, May 2012

The time has come, the walrus said…. to draft a bunch of t-shirts! (Although it’s possible I’m misquoting the aforementioned walrus.) I like to do my pattern drafting and cutting in batches, and then have a few projects ready to test or sew. It’s harder to find the time/energy for drafting and cutting than for sewing, I find. So if I can charge through and get a lot done at once, it increases my productivity. (And seriously, my productivity needs all the help it can get.)

So I’m on a mission to get a bunch of tees wrangled all at once. Since I’ve already had success with the Blank Canvas Tee free pattern by Steph of 3 Hours Past the Edge of Tomorrow, I’m going to start with various iterations of that pattern (before I attempt the Sewaholic Renfrew or a couple of designs I’d like to draft/drape myself). I already have a copy printed out and taped together and successfully used, but Steph has since updated the pattern, changing to a jewel-neck instead of a slight scoop, which is easier for drafting variations. So I’ll print off a new copy and wrangle the pieces again, adding some length at the hem like before, and also the same amount of length in the bust that I did before – an extra  inch and a half to accomodate The Bosom. That extra length allows the shirt hem to hang to an even length, with the shoulder seams actually sitting on top of my shoulders. With RTW tees, I have to yank them forward if I want to hem to sit evenly – bleh.

This time, I’ll also play with changing the back to get a relatively snug fit without having the side seams shift toward the front. On my existing flutter-sleeve BCT, I ended up with a looser fit than I was looking for, but the front didn’t want anything removed, so I makeshifted a fix by taking in the center back and creating a seam there. I’ll need to play around the the adjustments, but I think I’ll take fabric out of the center back – since I don’t want to mess with the sides on the front, I’d rather not fiddle with the sides of the back too much and risk skewing things. The plan is to get the fit right on a plain, basic Blank Canvas Tee, then once that’s set I’ll draft up all the versions I (currently) have plans to make.

I’ve drawn up a small flock of tee designs on a set of croquis (blank, simple figure drawings to trace and design on) I drew based on photographs I had Zachary take of me, in which I wore a snug camisole and leggings (shudder), so I could design on my actual (iiiif slightly smoothed out) shape. It really helps with the design process, and I can’t comprehend why it’s standard practice to design clothes on an extremely elongated, super-skinnified figure – I took fashion drawing some years back, and the teacher loathed me for my impatience with that convention. Wouldn’t it make more sense to design on a body with a shape like an actual human?

Anyway – moving on to some pictures! (I apologize for the dreadful quality of the images – my printer/scanner refuses to scan properly, and I can’t figure out how to make it work, so these drawings have been captured by the macro function of my digital camera, on an overcast day.)

jewel-neck tee of black and white damask print interlock

The first design is for a black-and-white damask print cotton interlock knit. It’s not as stretchy as jersey, but it’s stretchy enough that I think it ought to make a nice tee, as long as I keep an eye on the fit along the way. The print is large and bold, so I’m keeping the design very simple – a Blank Canvas Tee with a jewel neck, possibly dipping to a shallow V in the back (to be interesting and to accommodate the limited stretch of the interlock). I was inspired by a blouse on the cover of a vintage pattern I have, which softens the rather severe neckline with a scarf.

sweetheart neckline blank canvas tee in red with black binding

Next up: RED! This BCT will have a sweetheart neckline, and I’ll bind the neck and armhole edges, probably with contrast fabric. The plan is to do black contrast binding, but I’m not 100% sure – I’ll have to play with it to make sure it doesn’t look like a bit too much. I like bold, but I’m not sure I want to be blinding!

flutter-sleeve aqua tee, multiple views

I love Steph’s flutter sleeve, V-neck hack for the Blank Canvas Tee, so that’s the version I made some months back out of coral-orange cotton jersey. Can’t have enough flutter sleeves, and I think they’ll look especially nice in the fine, almost tissue-weight hemp rayon jersey, so I’m going to do an aqua version. Then, for novelty, I’m going to draft in a diamond-shaped cut-out in the back, and have the tee tie above that. When I drew this out, I planned to bind all of the edges in white hemp rayon jersey, but now I’m not sure. It would be a lot of bother, and the hemp rayon doesn’t seem very inclined to ravel – my coral cotton is a looser knit and getting a bit wibbly at the edges. We’ll see.

black tee with scoop-and-V neckline

This neckline is based on one on a 3/4 sleeve tee I’ve had for years (and I actually used to have another in a second color as well), that’s quite bedraggled at this point and can no longer comfortably encompass the proportions of The Bosom, but I still love the neckline and I can easily copy it. The original has gathering around the V, which I may or may not reproduce, depending on the results of fiddling with things. The original has a band that’s trimmed with beads and sequins (it’s not as garish as it sounds), but I think I’ll do my neckline band out of my black-and-white damask print interlock. I like using bits of things for other things, and then it won’t need trimming.

T-shirt from bodice of V8728 and BCT

I am very fond of Vintage Vogue #8728, from 1946, and I was absolutely floored by Casey’s idea of making the pattern up in jersey instead of a woven – I’m planning to make a coral cotton jersey version of V8728, and I figure that while I’m at it, I might as well turn the bodice into a T-shirt pattern by combining it with my custom-fitted BCT pattern. I may use white organic cotton jersey instead of white hemp rayon jersey though, because the hemp rayon is really quite thin, and very thin white garments are a bit inconvenient. We shall see.

sleeveless blouse of aqua hemp rayon jersey

I have two ivory jersey layering tops of just this design, and I’ve nearly worn both of them to death. I’m planning to make a few replacements in various colors, using a combination of the existing shirt(s) and my BCT pattern. Like the originals, the neckline and armholes will be bound, and there will be a bit of gathering around the center front of the neckline – it really helps give enough room for The Bosom without adding bagginess around the upper chest.

wrapped blouse in black jersey

This design is based on something a snipped from a magazine – a recent fashion magazine, actually! I quite like it, but this project is probably a bit down the road. I’ll need to drape (or at least, partially drape) the front, which will require actually getting my dress form padded out to my dimensions (it is currently size teeny-tiny). Eventually, though!

After I’ve wrangled some Blank Canvas Tees, I’ll tackle the Renfrew. It has actual separate sleeves so it won’t be quite as easy to fit or make, but it seems like a reasonable next step. There’s a 3/4 sleeve tee that Ivy wears in episode 12 of Smash that really caught my fancy, and I think I could draft it up using Renfrew as a base pretty easily. Eeeeeeeventually.

First, however! Some Blank Canvas Tees. Okay, actually first – I spend longer wrangling pictures and writing this than I anticipated, so before printing and taping and cutting begins, I need to get something to eat. Mm, popcorn!

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