Making a t-shirt

There are two reasons why I made a t-shirt over the weekend:

1. I like winging it when it comes to sewing. This often leads to failure, but I somehow cannot help thinking “What if I change this detail?” when I’m in the middle of a project. Maybe it’s my strong desire for variety, maybe I just love to see myself make mistakes, but there is something rewarding about deviating from the well-known path. So despite not having a t-shirt pattern, I decided I could create one from a pattern I own by adapting it.

2. DHL is on strike… While I sympathise with the delivery guys, I am desperately waiting for some fabric which was meant to come on Friday. So while trying not to go crazy over all the things I want to make with those new fabrics I don’t have yet, I decided to make something simple with some leftovers.

So, here is what I did:

I used the fabric and pattern that I made this dress from. The dress bodice pattern would serve as my t-shirt template. Similarly, if you have a T-Shirt that fits you well, you can use that as a template. I didn’t have a huge amount of fabric, so unfortunately the shirt had to be a bit shorter than I would like.

Here is the pattern on the fabric, while I started cutting it. I cut the bottom pretty free-hand, but cut outwards from the bottom of the pattern, which sits at my waist, to make sure it’s not too tight around my stomach.

 

pattern on fabric

 

I also cut the neckline a bit higher, so it wouldn’t be as low as it is on the dress.

 

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I cut to about halfway, then folded the pattern in the middle, so I could cut the rest out along the lines that I had already cut.

 

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Then I cut along the hemline to straighten it out:

 

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I thought it might look interesting with a perfectly straight hem, not a curved one, as usual. It turned out that wasn’t the greatest idea…

 

One of the bodice pieces got a V-neckline, just for a change.

 

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I also used the sleeves I made for the dress before. Here are all the pattern pieces cut out:

 

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The neckband of this one is probably the most interesting part. I cut it as a triangle made of three pieces:

 

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Here they are sewn together (with my overlocker):

 

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and pinned on:

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You can see how it pulls the neckline in, since it is smaller.

 

And here is the result of my neckband-creation:

 

neckband added

 

 

After sewing the t-shirt together with the overlocker, I finished it off with the Merrylock 3040, which I am still trying to get to know. I am starting to wonder if there is a way to change the height of the position of the presser foot , as it just hates anything above two layers of fabric even at the loosest setting.

In any case, here is the finished product:

t-shirt front

 

t-shirt back

 

It looks a bit crooked, which is ok with me, as it’s stretchy, so it won’t be noticeable when I wear it. However, you can also see the warped hemlines, which I blame the Merrylock for. Admittedly, it might be slightly my fault too, as I am not the most precise seamstress yet. Nevertheless, I feel like the coverlocker doesn’t exactly make things easy for me, which is ironic, really, as I bought it for exactly that reason.

The whole thing probably took me about two hours. Next time, I will sacrifice an old t-shirt, so I have a pattern that I know will work.

 

How to add a “t-shirt” neckline

Since getting my overlocker, I have been trying to make a decent neckline for a while and have finally found a version that works for me. Previously, I had been under the impression that the way to sew it on was to leave one shoulder seam unsewn, then put in the band, then close that shoulder seam.

The result was always way too stretchy and I had some wavy, disappearing necklines that I ripped out again or changed so that they would work as a bias binding on the inside of the dress.

I really wanted that t-shirt neckline though…

My problem was obviously that the band I was putting in was always too long.

So here’s how I managed to do it successfully on a dress I have been making for the summer:

 

fits exactly

 

1. I made sure my neckline band was about as long as the neckline of the dress by holding it loosely onto the dress. I had taken a strip of the dress material and ironed it to fold it into a band.

 

before sewing

2. I sewed the ends of the band together.

 

lined up sides

3. Since my band only had one seam, I lined that one up with one of the shoulder seams. Finding the halfway point of the band, I lined that up with the other shoulder seam. The non-folded side of the band is going to line up with the neckline of the dress.

 

all pinned on

 

4. I pinned. While doing that, I had to stretch the band a bit to fit onto the neckline, since I was putting it on the outside of the dress. You can see how wavy the dress is becoming around the neck as it is pulled by the tight band.

 

5. I sewed with the overlocker. While doing so, I had to make sure the dress fabric didn’t escape me. Somehow it still managed, so now the band is a bit wider in some places. It might be better to sew with the inside of the dress facing upwards, as I could have seen it better then.

 

Well, here is the finished product from the front:

 

one more or less perfect neckline

 

 

and the back:

 

and from the back

 

and while we’re at it, here’s the whole dress:

 

the full dress

 

from the back

 

You can see that the shoulders are a bit wonky. I blame my coverlocker for this, but I will master it at some point, I’m sure. The stretchy material is quite forgiving though, so you can barely see it when I wear it.

The fabric is from stoffe.de, the British equivalent is myfabrics.co.uk. At 17.95 euros/15 pounds it is rather expensive, but I treated myself to two metres of it and I think I might have enough left for a short (ending just under the bust) or very short (think cyberdog-short, which ends over the bust) tracksuit jacket. I guess it would be more of a shrug.

It’s a lovely fabric (if you’re into colours) and was really easy to work with. The stretch is pretty good and it has a great drape to it.

I realise that it’s crazy colourful, but I bought it with the sole purpose of wearing it in a field in England this summer, while dancing to some UK Hardcore and/or Drum’n’Bass.

 

 

Butterick pattern B5209

I have made one dress from this pattern, so far. I can tell you already though that I will be using it again, and again, and again.

It’s pretty much a perfect fit in my size without any alterations. When you’re used to trying to do full-bust adjustments and taking in everything around your waist, this is just amazing. If anything, it is maybe a bit too small around my waist (while still having enough room for my boobs, yay!)

This leads me to think that vintage patterns from the 1940s are something I should look out for. On the pictures, the drawings are very much showing an exaggerated hourglass-figure, but I was worried that this wouldn’t mean the pattern itself was actually made for that, especially since it has been updated to fit modern sizing.

Here are the pattern pieces for the top part:

the pattern pieces

 

I am quite high-waisted, so the midsection of the dress is a tad long, which leads to it being a bit small. Next time, I will simply take it up about an inch and then add the skirt. So yes, it’s not quite perfect for me, but taking out an inch is a really small and easy adjustment.

I also made this dress into a maxi-dress, as I wanted to originally make a 70s-style garment, but reckoned that this would be the closest pattern to what I wanted.

I am still on the mission to make the 70s dress from this post, but summer is fast approaching… Also, I have had this chiffon fabric for about a year and I finally wanted to make something with it.

What I really love about this dress is that it’s actually a halter-neck in version A and then you simply add a back and sleeves to make version B. This is so clever and I would have never thought of it. Plus, it looks really good!

The construction was very easy. Just like every Butterick pattern, the B5209 comes with detailed instructions and pattern markings. All the stitches used in the instructions are explained in a glossary.

This is the front top pieces all sewn together:

 

front piece

I didn’t use a lining, but the instructions are very clear about how to insert one.

Most of the trouble I had while making this garment were fabric-related. The chiffon was a nightmare to cut, as it was sliding all over the place. By the time I got to the skirt, I realised there’s no way I didn’t need to overlock all the seams, as it was fraying like crazy, so I switched from my normal machine to my overlocker.

I actually finished with a more or less rolled hem. It isn’t really making those typical waves, but I do think it looks rather nice. This was the first time that I used my overlocker’s rolled hem presser foot and I found it to work really well, even though I clearly don’t have the tensions right yet.

The finished product looks a bit more elegant than hippy, to be honest, but I still think it is really lovely and I will make sure I wear it this summer (with an appropriate undergarment).

 

Other dresses I made from this pattern can be found here, here and here.

Fixing a zip

This is probably something everyone who sews has experienced: you get asked if you can change broken zips, take up trousers and fix holes in shirts.

I don’t really enjoy doing these things, especially as I only have time to sew in the evenings and on weekends.  However, since it was my husband asking and the garment in question a Thomas Hooper hooded jacket which means a lot to him, I couldn’t really say no. (Also, it’s good practice for putting in zips!)

The zip in question had been broken for about 2 years, but he had still been wearing it without being able to close it. (He really loves that jacket…)

The first thing I noticed, when I finally took a good look at the jacket, was how wonky the zip was:

 

hoody with wonky zip

 

It just seems incredible to me that it could be this bad. I guess washing and wearing over the years is probably a part of this, as the zip won’t stretch out while the cotton/elastane mix will.

In any case, I took the zip out.

The construction after that was fairly easy, if a bit more time-intense than i had anticipated (, because I have no time-management skills). I think it took me about an hour.

First, I pinned one side of the new zip to the outside of the jacket.

 

more pins

 

I sewed this on using a blind stitch foot, as it gives me enough room for the zip. It’s actually my go-to method for zips and I have found it really effective.

 

sewing on one side

 

Then it’s on to matching the design on the front. I usually do this by closing the zip and pinning the unsewn side of the zip onto the right side of the jacket where I think it needs to be:

 

 

pinned in place

 

This system works as a guideline of where the zip will sit once it’s closed and makes sure that it doesn’t end up uneven.

After sewing the second side of the zip on, I did some top-stitching. I tried to do this in the same place where it was done with the old zip, but didn’t manage, as the fabric was so stretched out. It’s a shame that it doesn’t really hide the zip either.

Nevertheless, I managed to make the jacket slightly straighter than before.

 

one complete hoody

 

This is the finished product on my mannequin, which is admittedly maybe the wrong shape for this jacket. I also just realised that in the picture, the image doesn’t look lined up at all. I swear it’s just the top stitching being pulled outwards, so you can’t see how it matches perfectly. 😉

My husband was over the moon though. I guess sometimes it is worth doing alterations for other people.

 

 

The Merrylock 3040 – a review

In my search for a coverlock machine, I inevitably stumbled on the very reasonably priced Merrylock 3040.

At 329 €, it is the cheapest coverlocker I have seen anywhere. I even searched ebay and most used machines still go at a higher price on there. It is also just within my price range. I cannot (yet) imagine spending 500 € or more on a sewing machine.

Although he price in itself also gave me some doubts. A machine that cheap could only be terrible, right?

Well, it has two reviews on German Amazon, which give it 4 and 5 stars respectively. Technical information about the coverlocker is sparse though. They both say they are happy with it, nothing about the actual functionality.

So I scoured the internet for some reviews. They are incredibly hard to find and involve going through old forum discussions on German sewing websites. I also found one (and that was the only one) blog entry in English, which dated back to 2011.

It seemed to me that most people who own one or had owned one either hate it or learn to get along with it. The general consensus seemed to be that it has a few quirks, but that if you can live with them, it gives you good results.

I was willing to give that a go. If I found it really unusable, I could always return it.

Here’s what I think about the Merrylock 3040:

First, it doesn’t look of inferiour quality to me. It is made of plastic, like most machines now.

You can use it to make coverstitches with one, two and three needles. I generally use it with two needles to give my jerseys the finish that is used in manufactured clothing.

The manual is a little bit useless if you want to work on knit fabrics. I really don’t understand what this machine was made for or why you would buy a coverlocker if you didn’t want to use it on knit fabrics… It gives you all kinds of ideas for what tension to use for which fabric, as long as it’s not a knit.

That aside, changing thread is quite easy with the tweezers provided. It comes in a little plastic box, together with some screwdrivers and extra needles.

The tension is really “interesting”. I have cursed this machine several times while trying to get little balls of knotted thread out of its interior. Luckily, it is very easy to get to. It didn’t seem to matter how I changed the individual thread tensions though, everything seemed to yield the same result. I am not very patient, so in the end, I looked up the tension for the two-needle stitch in the manual (!) and adjusted it to be slightly looser (by 0.5 on the dial) for the knit. And that was all the magic it needed, apparently.

Now it stitches very neat seams. I have also not yet missed any stitches or snapped a thread while sewing.

I have used it on two different fabrics: one a jersey knit and the other a very thin polyamid knit. In both cases, it does not seem to like going over the slightly thicker bits of any hem where the seams meet. If I’m too quick in trying to go over them, the differential feed will move the fabric forward more on one side than the other, or not at all. I have sort of “solved” this by using the hand wheel when going over those bits and lifting the foot to give the fabric more room. That works fine for me, but takes a bit of time.

This is actually my one problem with the machine. The foot is just so low. There is barely enough room to get the fabric in there to begin sewing and I cannot imagine what it would do to a thicker fabric than I have used thus far. I also find that the differential feed protrudes from the plate quite a bit more than on my overlocker (a Huskylock 560 ED). While I am sure that this is part of the problem, if you could loosen the foot just a little bit, I’m sure all fabrics would fare much better. As it is, even on the lowest setting, it is very tight.

In short:

The Merrylock 3040 is absolutely ok for the price. It is not a huge joy to work with, but I am willing to live with that while I can’t afford a better one. It makes beautiful stitches as long as there aren’t too many layers of fabric or crossing seams. If there was more room between the foot and the differential feed, I’m sure it would yield perfect results.

As a sidenote:

I read that the seam-crossing problem can be alleviated with a so-called “midwife” (although that might be a purely German term). Apparently one can make it out of an old credit card by cutting a square out of the middle of one of the sides. The card then goes under the foot with the cut-out square positioned where the needles go into the thread. This is meant to even out the foot. I have not tried it yet.

 

Update!

Since I bought the machine, there have been several reviews by German bloggers under the hashtag missionundercover.

I found the ones by Prülla, and by Johys Bunte Welt to be the most helpful.

Even if you don’t speak German, I recommend looking at them, as they show how the stitches look on jersey. Everyone seems to have that problem with overlapping/crossing seams though. 🙁

Update II

I have been sewing with this machine for almost a year now and when I made this recent dress, I realised that I am not having as many problems as I had when I started. Please have a look at that post to see how nice my coverlocked hems come out now.

Adjusting a 70s dress pattern to a different size

As I mentioned in my post about the 70s GDR sewing magazine, I wanted to make some of the dresses from it. To do this, I would have to adjust the patterns dramatically to fit me, as most of them were in one size only.

The dress I most wanted to make is the one on the right here:

 

some beautiful dresses

 

The size offered as a pattern would be a contemporary German size 38 (UK 10). Being a relatively busty UK size 14, I knew I had some work to do. However, the fact that there are pattern pieces for this dress that solely enclose the boobs, made me think that it would be easier to adjust. Yes, I actually thought that…

This is one of my first forays into adjusting patterns, so I didn’t expect a perfect outcome.

As you can see, I finally got myself a tracing wheel.

 

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I traced the pattern onto Swedish sewing paper and then measured myself. This turned out to be really easy for the front pieces, as I had hoped. The upper front piece had to be longer to accommodate my boobs. The shoulders actually seemed ok. (This is really often the case for me, size 14 patterns tend to be a bit wide and usually too long in the shoulders for me.)

Now the upper back seems a bit odd by my contemporary standards. I have never seen a pattern that uses darts in the shoulder seem. I understand that the back is meant to give me the ease to move around in the dress, but this still seems a bit strange to me. In any case, I also made it a bit longer and a little wider at the bottom.

I made both lower front and lower back pieces a little bit wider according to my measurements.

What I found really weird, was that I didn’t actually add all too much to the patterns. Maybe it was one of those patterns that has lots of ease built into it. There is absolutely no indication of this in the magazine or on the pattern.

I was also wondering whether or not seam allowances were included in the patterns. (Again, no indication…) I obviously added them to my adjusted pattern, so if they were included that would explain the small adjustments.

 

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I just had enough fabric for a mockup. I used a classic polyester in white, which I had lying around.

Admittedly, I messed up the lower back piece. I later noticed that it is much too big in comparison to the upper back. I also managed to use the wrong side of the lower front on the fabric fold. At least I added an unnessesary seam allowance on that fold, so that cutting it and sewing it together on the other side wasn’t a problem. I should not attempt making patterns at 10 pm…

This is the mockup from the front. Trying it on, I find it a bit loose in the boob region and also around my waist (which is admittedly quite high.) I wonder if this style just doesn’t suit me, as it really accentuates my boobs.

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