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The Sublime Bliss of the Humble and the Plain Tee-shirt

2014 March 11
by elizabeth_admin

For the past couple of days I have embarked on an impromptu project.  It came out of nowhere really.  My baseball tee run of late (pls forgive the pun), has me panting for a plain tee pattern.  I looked in my pattern stash, and I had none.  I had fancy tee patterns with asymmetrical proportions, pleated whatchamacallits, etc., but nothing plain.  Nothing fitted.  I even looked at my two year collection of Burdas and Ottobres, and I had zilch.  Nada.  Zero.

I turned to my sewing group of friends, asking for pattern recommendations.  I looked on-line at the big four and Simplicity/New Look. I even earmarked a couple (KS 3766 and KS 3036).  Then I remembered that I had drafting books in my sewing book library.  I remembered the Cal Patch book, “Design-It-Yourself Clothes”.  It provides instructions on how to draft and customize your own A-line skirt, t-shirt, button-down shirt, dress and pants.  I had time Saturday morning this past weekend to work on a custom draft of the t-shirt.

I took the measurements.  I put pencil to paper.  And I started drafting.

Now let me just say right off the bat that drafting is all about correct measurements.  If your data is wrong, your draft will be wrong.  How tautly should you hold your measuring tape.  Vanity tight?  Lazy loose?  And just what is realistic tautness?  I think confident and correct measurement taking is a skill that needs to be learned  through trial and error.  I am pretty confident that my bust/waist/hip measurements are spot on.  I’ve been taking them for-evah!  But the “distance from high shoulder to armpit” or “bicep circumference”? Those measurements, I haven’t been taking that often.

Now onto the drafting.  I think my draft of the torso was spot on.  My bust/waist/hip measurements didn’t let me down.  But, on my first draft, the distance from the high shoulder to armpit was off.  Off by about 3/4 inch to 1-1/4 inch too short, resulting in a very shallow (small) armhole from top to bottom.  Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of that first draft.  Also, the neckline was a little too high so my starting point for that must have been too high as well.  And the shoulder width was way off.  I took off 3/4 inch from the edge of the shoulder and probably could shave off more.  My neckline was a little close to my neck.  The sleeves were a little tight too, so I added an inch to that width.


First draft: back pattern on left without the neckline drawn in; front pattern on the right. Note the high neckline and wide shoulder width.


Figuring out the sleeve cap curve

Figuring out the sleeve cap curve


So on the second pass of drafting, I widened and deepened the neckline, reduced the width of the shoulders, scooped out and lowered the armscyes and re-drafted the sleeves.

Wider sleeve; narrower shoulder, lower neckline, lower armscye and slightly more scooped.

Wider sleeve; narrower shoulder, lower neckline, lower armscye and slightly more scooped.


And here’s how it fits on me.  I used the same knit for both muslins so I could accurately track the changes.  It’s a stretchy knit I bought from the National City Swap Meet.









I think in a more stable knit, I would need an FBA as there are drag lines pointing to the bust area.  The stretchiness of this particular knit and the ease built into the pattern are dealing with the majority of the bust issue.  But I can also see a need for length in the front as well.  The pattern accounts for the circumference of your entire body in quartiles.  Are all bodies evenly divided into quartiles?  No.  So while this is a neat solution, it is not THE solution.  If your knit is stretchy and has good recovery, you can get away with this quartile system.  If your knit is not stretchy, then you will need to alter your pattern appropriately.

And since I brought it up, let’s talk about the ease in this draft.  This draft is based on your measurements and your measurements alone.  There is no inch added here or there for ease.  The sharp corners are rounded out; that is all.  Is it negative ease?  Well, that depends on how honest your measurement taking was, doesn’t it?  If I use a ponte knit with this pattern, you can bet that I will add some insurance onto the side seams.  I don’t want to widen the neckline, so I will definitely add to the side seams instead.  I will definitely do an FBA of some kind as I will need length to go over the “large tracts of land” and may even need to add some width there as well.  Will I add a dart?  I doubt it.  I hate darts in knits.

Am I confident that my second draft is good to go, as it were?  I’m not 100% sure.  I still have some questions vis a vis the curve of the armscye.  Do I need to scoop out more?  Do I need to lower it more?  I have no idea.  I look to the pattern drafters of my readers to let me know if further changes need to be made.  I think I’m on the right track, but I’m not completely sure.  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments, if you would be so kind.  Here are some closeups of the armscye and sleeve for your expert perusal.


Is there too much fabric from the bodice at the armscye? Should I scoop out more?



Is the armhole too shallow/high? Should I lower it more?


All in all, I am really tickled by how well this draft fit me in the torso.  I think sleeves and armscyes are tricky businesses to begin with, so to get a draft this good on the second try is really pleasing to me.  I could totally wear this.  My neckline is just perfect for me.  Not high and not too low.  The neck binding is stretched just the right amount.

Tell me what you think!  Tell me if you have used Cal Patch’s book at all too.  I’m really curious to hear of your experiences.

Happy drafting!

12 Responses leave one →
  1. March 11, 2014

    Wow, this is lovely. I sometimes draft pattterns but never for a t-shirt as knits are a bit scary.

  2. March 11, 2014

    Impressive! Good idea to draft a first project for a forgiving fabric like a knit.

    I think you could take out a bit more from the bodice armhole, but I think that depends on how close fitting you want the tshirt to be.

    I like the fabric you used too.

  3. Josie Huber permalink
    March 11, 2014

    Great t-shirt. We share similar issues with drawing. You inspire me to make more tshirts this week. I made four, and a tshirt dress. I do not have a pattern. I use my own. I learn as I go. Finding the right knits is a problem.
    Have a great evening

  4. March 11, 2014

    First, I think you did a great job. Second, I think you need to take some fabric out of the bodice near the arm cap and possibly shorten the shoulder seam. However, I am not a fitting expert.

  5. Susan V permalink
    March 11, 2014

    I think that your tee is fabulous. I think that the arm issue is that the shoulder is slighotly to long I believe that you need to move the point of the shoulder back some–if you pinch a little out and baste it, then you can try it on again and see if that helps. Then you will now if you have to deepen the arm scye. But it looks great and you should be proud of doing such a great job!

    Susan V from VA

  6. March 11, 2014

    This is really impressive for a second draft! The fit through the torso is great and the shoulders look good to me. Looks like you could scoop out the armhole a little more but I’m no expert, there just seems to be a little extra fabric there as you noticed. Althoug I wonder if removing it might impede your range of motion?
    I’ve used the Cal Patch book but only for doing the A-line skirt draft so far. I didn’t like using the quartile measurements either, my back measurement at the hip especially is definitely bigger than the front so I adjusted the method a little by taking front half and back half measurements, then using those in place of the quartile measurements that the book suggests. A friend helped me to take the measurements and what we did was to use 1/4″ wide drafting tape (you can get it from office supply stores) and taped it right to me (I was in tank top and leggings). We taped horizontally all around at bust waist and hip making sure the tape was parallel to the floor. Then we taped in vertical lines at the side seams and at center front and center back. That way, when takng the measurements, we knew we were qlways taking them from the same spots. This worked out really well and gave me a great fitting skirt block which I still use.

  7. weeza permalink
    March 11, 2014

    If you haven’t seen this already, it might be useful:'s-t-shirt-pt-2/
    It talks about this exact problem of extra fabric in the front armhole – I’m not sure if it will help but maybe!

  8. March 11, 2014

    Wow, a great fitting t-shirt is a beautiful thing, comfortable, flattering, and a probably the best TNT a person could have. This draft is really flattering on you, and the colour is great too.

  9. March 11, 2014

    This is a well drafted tee! You should be very proud. I think if you scooped a bit in the armsyce, that should remove the excess fabric.

  10. March 11, 2014

    OK, haven’t even read the whole post yet but I have to say that the t shirt looks AWESOME on you! Beautiful.

  11. March 11, 2014

    This looks GREAT! It took me at least four tries to get my TNT tee pattern looking anywhere near this good, and I didn’t even draft it. (Maybe that was my problem!) personally I like a high armscye—better range of motion—but if you want to lower it that’s not hard (and is easily done on a case-by-case basis, depending on your fabric. Anyway—great job!

  12. March 12, 2014

    I’m impressed out how well your second draft fits. I feel like I have made hundreds of drafts of t-shirts, and still don’t have one that fits as well as this. I could never work out where my shoulder ended.

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