Category Archives: 21st Century Sewing

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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Sewing with Jersey and Knits: A Heap of Links

I collect useful links. It’s my thing. And now that I’m embarking on some sewing projects which will work better with some of those piles of information readily at hand and tidily organized, it seems that I might as well do that organizing on here, so anyone else with an obsessive desire to research 97 different ways to do something can also partake of my linkful bounty.

Now, obviously the subject of sewing with jersey and other knit fabrics does not have a great deal to do with historical sewing, but many twentieth century styles involve knit fabrics, plus knits can be used for modern interpretations of even more styles, as well as for current designs. I love many mid-twentieth-century vintage styles as well as true historical costumes (you know, really old stuff), and I’ve found that I can get away with wearing 1950s styles in everyday life, which is not so much the case for, say, 1850s. And sometimes a girl just needs a T-shirt.

So, without further ado, here are my links for working with jersey and other knit fabrics, for making T-shirts, sweaters, dresses, miscellaneous refashions, and more, including doing jersey versions of patterns intended for wovens. As I run across/track down further handy-dandy resources, I’ll go back and add them in here, with eye-catching asterisks (***) to signal the new additions.

Knit Inspirations

  • Sewing With Jersey and Knits,” a Pinterest Board of mine with pictures and tutorial links (though all the tutorials are here as well).
  • Sewing with KNITS,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Rae Hoekstra of Made by Rae with pictures and tutorial links.
  • Sewing Knits,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Kristin Wenke with pictures and tutorial links.
  • Hack Ideas,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Steph C of 3 Hours Past, along with other contributors, with pictures of designs both knit and woven, collected as inspiration for Steph’s monthly hacks for her Blank Canvas T free pattern (see below for more information and links to individual designs).

a blank canvas T design variation I drew up

Properties of Knit Fabrics and General Overviews

Cutting Knit Fabric (careful, it’s slippery!)

Helpful Tools and Notions for Working With Knits

ball point pins, pattern weights, rotary cutter, mat

Stitching and Hemming Knits (especially without a serger)

Bindings and Neckline Finishes

Draping and Patternmaking for Knits

  • Guest Post: Draping a Knit Cowl Dress with Alyson Clair” (part 1) at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, a tutorial for draping in a knit. Followed by Part 2, which makes mention of a third installment to come, but sadly, there does not seem to be a part three anywhere.
  • There are drafting instructions for pattern “hacks” and various patterning-with-knit-fabrics tips in the posts about the Blank Canvas Tee by Steph C at 3 Hours Past (the various designs are listed there and a few inches down from here).

Making T-Shirts and the Like

Blank Canvas T from 3 Hours Past: free patterns
(a.k.a. possibly the best thing ever! Steph is amazing)

Refashioning, Embellishing, or Decorating T-Shirts

Jersey Dresses, Both Modern and Retro

  • Lily of the Valley Dress” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, Vintage Vogue #8728 from the late 1940s done up in jersey instead of a woven.

Making Sweaters from Knit Fabrics, Plus Sweater Refashions
(as opposed to knitting sweaters, which is, you know, different!)

  • Finished Object: 9 Lines Sweater, Tee and Hack” by Steph C at 3 Hours Past. Includes a sweater made from the May hack for her free Blank Canvas T pattern as well as a lighter knit Tee.
  • I Sewed a Sweater!” by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing; not a tutorial but has useful tips and pictures.
  • How To Refashion a Cardigan” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for turning a shapeless store-bought or thrifted cardigan into a custom-fitted, vintage-style cardigan.
  • My Upcycled, Hot Glue, Anthropolgie-esque, Rose Garden Cardy” by Patty at The Snug Bug, a detailed tutorial for turning a large, plain, pullover sweater into a cute, fitted cardigan, plus embellishments if so desired. No actual hot glue involved!
  • Flop Fix #3: Fine-tuned Thrift Find” by Patty at The Snug Bug, a detailed post depicting a creative refashion for a big, shapeless cable-knit sweater.
  • Learn how to sew a ribbon placket on a vintage-style cardigan with “Guest Post: Tasha” at Casey’s Elegant Musings, by Tasha of By Gum, By Golly.
  • Dash Away the Winter Blues with Embroidery!” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for adding a vintage-style embroidered embellishment to a cardigan, complete with an adorable Scottie dog and several links to sources for free vintage embroidery patterns.
  • Cupid’s Arrow Sweater Embellishment” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for a charming Valentine’s Day inspired applique-and-beading design to add to any plain cardigan.
  • Vintage Flair: How to Make a (Faux) Fur Collar” (for a cardigan) by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings.

Pale pink sweater with dorset replacement button

Making Knit (and/or stretch) Fabric Undergarments

  • Free Hipster Pattern” at MakeBra, a downloadable underwear pattern in small, medium, and large, plus tutorial. The panties are modern, low-rise and low-cut on the leg (a.k.a. “hipster” – eep!).
  • Make Your Own Upcycled Undies” by Lauren Dahl at Ruthie Pearl. Use scavenged knit-fabric garments or scraps to make panties of various styles. Make your own pattern based on an existing pair of panties, then use fold-over elastic to easily and attractively finish.
  • Detour Into Panty Land” by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, a  post about using an Ohhh Lulu pattern to make high-waisted 1950s-style panties using various materials. Followed be even more in The Panty Express. Plus, if anyone thinks you’re crazy for liking retro high-waisted knickers, check out Gertie’s “In Defense of Granny Panties.”

Accessories and Other Things You Can Make with Knit Fabrics

  • The Maxi” by Leanne Barlow at Elle Apparel, a tutorial for making a casual, semi-full maxi skirt with a yoga waistband.
  • Smoooooooth Waistbands” by LiEr at IkatBag, a tutorial for a smooth application of a waistband onto knitwear pants.

Knit Fabric Clothes for Babies and Children (just scratching the surface!)

Double-Knits and Interlocks (which are heavier & behave more like wovens)

cotton interlock in black and white damask print

And While We’re At It – Working with Woven Stretch Fabrics

pink and white striped stretch cotton sateen

Online Suppliers of Knits and Stretch Fabrics
(these are places I’ve personally bought from or that have been recommended by sources I consider to be reliable)

  • Fabric.com is, honestly, where I do most of my fabric-purchasing these days. They don’t carry everything, but I tend to check and keep checking for various things I’m interested in (I looked for cotton crinoline for years before they started carrying it and, eventually, I bought a bunch on sale), and I watch for sales. Whenever I’m going to buy anything from them (orders $35 and over get free shipping!), I check the deep discounted clearance sections to see if anything I need is discounted. I’ve found 50% off hemp rayon knits both of the last times I looked! Their organic cotton knits and hemp rayon knits are both very nice, in my experience. (And they’re not paying me to say any of this, alas.)
  • Rae Talks About Shopping for Knit Fabrics Online” by Rae Hoekstra at Made By Rae, less about specific store and more about what to look for and how to evaluate knit fabrics, though it includes some brand suggestions.
  • Near Sea Naturals, a company recommended at Made by Rae. Eco-friendly, high quality materials – sounds great!
  • Spandex World, a company recommended by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing; where she sourced various stretch fabrics for her panty-making habit.
  • Sew Sassy Fabrics, also recommended at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, specifically for their selection of elastics.

Also, for more on fibers and fabrics, see my Glossary of Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials, which has on-site information as well as more links (linkssss!!).

Updated August 7, 2012: now with pictures!

Updated August 10, 2012: added a missing link to an entry.

Intro: Cheshire Cat costume

It wasn’t historical, but it was fun! I made a Cheshire Cat costume for my friend Claire for Halloween in 2010, during my first semester of Div III. I used one of the standard animal costume patterns, I think from Simplicity, and made it out of cotton quilter’s flannel in royal blue and in grape purple. Most of the body was purple, with a blue belly and blue stripes on the back. I made a nice long tail and put wire in so it bounced in cat-like fashion when she moved. The costume is finished off with striped paws and a pair of big blue ears with purple centers, set onto a purchased headband covered with the blue fabric. Complete with drawn on nose and whiskers, she was ready for Halloween – along with friends dressed as Alice and the Mad Hatter, no less.

Intro: 21st Century Sewing

When I say 21st century sewing, I mean all things currently fashionable (or fashionable-ish, as the case may be), and miscellaneous projects that don’t fall into historical or vintage periods, like toys and random Cheshire Cat costumes. Since I’m trying to make much of my own wardrobe these days, that means that this department of the site will be increasing, buuuut most likely a great deal of what I’m making will be vintage reproduction or vintage inspired, so not all of it will be filed here anyway!

Really this is a bit of a rejected section. Sorry section!

Updated August 7, 2012.