I’ve been sewing a lot of clothes lately, for myself and for Pumpkin. For the past few years, I’ve slowly been teaching myself to draft patterns and sew clothes. When my serger arrived in December, sewing knits became a very attractive option. In the months since then, I feel like my personal t-shirt pattern and my comfort with using it have come a long way and I’ve got a few different shirts to show for that. But the ultimate in sewing at home is, of course, when your child requests a piece and you can make it happen. That’s exactly what happened last Sunday morning.
Pumpkin spends a lot of time in my sewing room “helping.” She’s happy to do anything – ironing on her mini-ironing board, playing with scraps, throwing bits into the trash, putting pins into a pin cushion, and (lately) cutting threads that she decides are “too long.” She’s three and loves to be next to me all day long. Earlier this week, she reached into a pile of fabric and pulled out the leftovers from a shirt I made for myself nearly two years ago now and requested a t-shirt. She wanted short sleeves. The color matches her birthday dress, too. We stole an hour to get started and had a blast.
I pulled out my little girl t-shirt patterns and had a look. I’ve used two, one is the basic tee by MADE, a free pattern that I’ve used in the past. The other was a t-shirt I attempted to draft myself and made a bit of a mess of, but liked the collar. There were notes from the last t-shirt with the patterns, so this was all clear to me when I pulled them out. It doesn’t always work out that way, hence the messy self-drafted project when there was a decent pattern in my binder.
The pattern would be a perfect fit now, but a bit small for say three or four months for now. The neckline on the basic tee was also a bit narrow the last time I made it, so I made some changes. With Pumpkin standing next to me supervising the process, I took the shoulder, side seam, and bottom lines off the basic tee. Then I added the neckline from the shirt I drafted myself and squared it to the shoulder line. Next, I moved the side seam out by 1 cm and then lowered the bottom of the shirt by 2-3cm.
Having widened the shirt, I needed to adjust the sleeve as well. I added the extra width to the middle of the sleeve to keep it easy. Then I tried an adjustment I’ve seen a few times and flared the sleeve by cutting my sleeve pattern piece starting at the bottom in the middle until I almost cut it in two. Then I spread the bottom pieces out to create the flare and taped extra paper under the original piece. The next step was to smooth the new lines and cut out my new pattern piece.
After having made so many adjustments to the shirt, I was a bit nervous about putting it together and not sure how it would fit either. Wouldn’t you know – everything worked out great! I put a 2cm hem on the bottom and stitched it with a twin needle. I folded the sleeve under twice (just under a centimeter each time) and stitched that with a twin needle as well. The twin needles on this fabric creates a ridge in the middle because the fabric is so light. Not sure how I feel about that, but it works. Double hemming the sleeve means they have more body to them. I might try just zig-zagging the hems next time, but this is fine for now.
I blazed through this one a bit, including leaving in a couple small sewing mistakes. That bit where I didn’t adjust the bottom layer well on the curve and there’s a little tuck on the back side of the sleeve – you didn’t notice that, right? The part where I didn’t quite catch the neck line with the serger and faked it with the top stitching – you’re willing to give me a pass, right? As much as the idea of a perfect piece every time is appealing, after taking the waist band off a knit skirt three times this week (seriously), I was willing to let these particular mistakes slip through.
It’s funny, but writing it all out here, making this t-shirt sounds like quite a bit of work. In fact, it’s an exciting and fun process that I enjoy. The process is where it’s at for me, from altering the pattern to sewing the collar on. Of course, watching this little one enjoy a new piece of clothing is pretty stellar, too. There were no standing-still pictures, only singing, dancing joy when I took the camera out. Sometimes I wish I could take just a little bit of this three-year-old exuberance and bottle it. Wouldn’t you love to open that bottle just a smidge and get a whiff of this kind of happy happy joy joy whenever you need it?