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.




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.







Then I cut along the hemline to straighten it out:




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.




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




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





Here they are sewn together (with my overlocker):





and pinned on:



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.


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.



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.