The Great Tee Shirt Measuring

One problem with sewing is that often the easiest projects aren’t the ones you wear most often. There’s actually a widely-accepted term for this in the sewing blog community: you sew too much frosting and not enough cake. In other words, you focus all your efforts on making the kinds of clothes that are special, oddball, or extravagant and don’t spend time on practical garments.

I think there are reasons for this, but skipping over that, I’ll just say that I recently decided to master the skill of sewing a type of garment that definitely represents cake in my wardrobe: a basic tee shirt. I wear these nearly all year long, except on the hottest summer days, and a plain cotton tee is something I typically wear almost every day in the winter under sweaters. The reason I haven’t made these in the past is that the stretchy fabric can be harder to find, difficult to work with, and less forgiving of mistakes in sewing. The lack of a good pattern also hampered me.

But look! I did it!


This tee is made from a charity shop tee shirt, which I bought because it’s a cotton/Modal blend, one of my favourite fabrics but not something I often find. It was a larger size than my own, perfect for this project because I could cut it down, according to my own pattern, and re-sew it.

The other component to this project was that I decided to take the opportunity to fine-tune a pattern for the perfect tee. Actually, of the tee shirts I own, it’s only about one a year that really fits all my requirements for fit. I think I’m very picky about clothes. Rather than fitting a pattern by trial and error, I decided to get all quantitative and measure a variety of tees I already owned, both the ones I liked and the ones I didn’t. I took all kinds of measurements, such as length, shoulder width, width at bust, width at waist, armhole depth…


Some trends emerged, for example an ideal armhole depth that was consistent across all my favourite tees. I then compared these measurements to a basic pattern I had, which I made from an old tee shirt which I cut up when it wore out. This proved exactly what I needed to get this pattern fitting correctly. Having the exact measurements from ‘perfect’ instances, I transferred these measurements to my pattern and adjusted it accordingly. I also raided the 2-for-£1 bin of old clothes at a charity shop for some grungy tees I could use to make samples and test the fit. I decided that, for 50p, being assured of the right fit was worth it.

This turquoise top is imperfect mainly in length, because I was limited by the length of charity shop tee. Ideally it would be longer, but it’s okay. The really delightful thing was that I finished this project in an afternoon. I’m not really a fast sewer, but I can foresee that if I get the technique down on this type of project, I really could churn out a new top in an afternoon or evening, which is quite satisfying and economical.

I’m trying to learn to look comfortable in photos. Somehow I assume a ramrod posture when I know I’m posing for a picture – either that, or I curl up like a slinky creeper. Here’s where Mike was trying to make me relax by saying, ‘Pretend you’re sightseeing at the Houses of Parliament’ and pointing. So I looked over the fence to where he was pointing.



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