I don’t understand this weather we’re having, and why the week my kids start swim classes it’s 60 and raining. I’m officially over all the mood swings of Mother Nature and trying to finish clothes to wear “in season.” Fine. Uncle. I’ll keep my knitting out. Just please heat back up enough to give me some tomatoes.
On to the order of the day, which is spelling out how I drafted my perfect T last week. You’ll need a few supplies, the most basic of which would be something to measure with, a pencil, and some paper. I’ve used white craft paper from the art supply store, drafting paper from supply places like PGM, but you can also go with that gridded tissue at the fabric store (which is awesome for helping you keep straight lines and make sure you’re staying square), or as bare bones as a cut open grocery bag. Whatever floats your boat! An 18″ ruler and a tape measure are handy basics to have; I also have a French curve, a hip curve, and an armsceye curve ruler. I draft on a gridded mat table top or a rotary mat to help me keep track of square lines through the paper, which is helpful but not necessary.
I used a few key measurements for this project, both my own and those of my favorite fitting shirt currently. For a complete set if you want to take your own, I have more diagrams and explanations on this post about fitting knitwear. Since T shirts and fitted stretch shirts utilize the same kind of negative ease most of the time, its a good place to start.
For circumference: Full bust (at your fullest part, or the widest part of your shirt right where the sleeve joins), Waist (your smallest point, or the smallest part of your shirt), High hip (take this where you want the hem of your shirt to lie, or the lower hem edge of your shirt).
For length: The full front and back lengths, which start right at the shoulder line and neck intersection, or at the base of your neck on your body. Take note of the lengths where this crosses your full bust line, your waist line, and the final hem.
Bust and tracing: Lay out your pattern on your paper and align the front edge and back edge with straight lines on your paper, extending where necessary. You’ll want to pick a size to start with by finding the finished bust circumference crosshair on the tissue. Since my favorite fitting shirts have a bit of negative ease, meaning they’re an inch or two smaller than my body measurement, that’s the size I’ll pick. Trace around all the lines for that size.
Waist: Remembering to subtract the seam allowance, how does the waist compare to yours and that of your shirt? In this case the pattern was bigger, and I opted to make the waist my actual waist measurement, and not utilize negative ease. Most Ts don’t have negative ease through the waist for more room to skim over your bottoms, and at your exact measurement, it will be fitted enough. Divide whatever measurement you want to use in half, add seam allowance, and mark that point on the side.
Length: It’s hard to simultaneously adjust the lengths and widths at the same time, so I do them one at a time and move things around as needed. Measure down the full length from the neck, and double check that your bust point and waist line are where they were on your body or shirt. (For more info about fiddling with the bust point, I wrote a bit more here.) Depending on the fabric you’re using, the length may have some stretch or not. Typically a shirt doesn’t strain in this direction when you’re wearing it, so I don’t subtract anything for stretch. If you need to adjust the bust point to shoulder to allow for extra length or shorter length, make sure you do this now, and use the original pattern to help you redraw the curves for the armsceye, shoulder line, and neck. Mark the length you want your shirt to end, adding in a hem allowance (I’m adding 1″).
Hips: Since my pattern only went to the waist, I’m drafting the lower body portion myself. I took the width of the hem allowance of the shirt I liked, divided in half, added seam allowance, and plotted that point along my hemline. Draw a straight line to the waist. Here’s where you want to take a look at your body in silhouette: do you have a relatively straight line from your waist to your hip? Do you have a high and abrupt curve? Most people have a bit of curve at least where their hip bones start, so I like to use a hip curve ruler to add some shape. Whatever your body does, imitate that line on your pattern here. You’ll also want to blend in the waist line with a curve ruler so it gently slopes in, and doesn’t come to a sharp point.
Shoulder and neck lines: Now you can adjust for whatever you want your basic neckline to be. Measure in from the sleeve point on your shirt, or on your body, to where you want your neckline to start. I want a slightly open curved neckline, so I’m going to make the shoulder seam a bit shorter than my pattern. Measuring down the center front from the base of your neck, estimate how low or high you want your neck edges to be. Square a line at this point, and either use your ruler or freehand what you want the neckline to be until it joins up with the point you plotted at the shoulder seam.
Rough draft all done!
Trueing is the term for making sure everything you’ve done is symmetrical and will fit together. You’ll want to cut out your pattern pieces at this point, roughly, so you can align them. Make sure the side seams are the same shape, the armsceyes align, and give yourself some notches at the waist to aid in sewing and fitting.
You can bend back the shoulder seam allowance and line up the actual seam. Check that the shoulder lengths are the same, and the neckline blends into a nice line from front to back.
Once you make sure every seam aligns and blends nicely, you’re ready to cut! Double check that you’ve added seam allowances everywhere, and notate what you used on your pattern so you don’t forget when you go to pull it out in a year. And I know what you’re about to ask, what about sleeves? Since I ended up fiddling with the sleeves and making a few adjustments, I’m gonna break that out into a separate post. Til next time! Grab some patterns and make yourself a block!
Love from Wisconsin,