Saturday, February 23, 2013

LL Bean t-shirt reconstruction

I have four wonderfully soft pima cotton t-shirts from LL Bean in a leaf green color. This is not a color I would normally choose to buy and four t-shirts is a bit many but it was part of my kit for my morris dancing team. When we choose a new color for our kit t-shirt, that left me free to play.

I decided to try the bolero/shrug/shirt pattern again. I found a striped turtleneck at the thrift store that I thought would work well with the green shirt. This time, I was able to follow the yoke pattern and double the material, unlike the single thickness I used on my contrastock t-shirt recon. The torso of the turtleneck was just the right size for the yoke pattern. I used the turtleneck sleeves as they were. I should do something with the leftover neck, maybe I'll make a headband.

The v-neck was a bit fiddly and I took a trial and error approach to making this. I'm happy with the results, but think next time I'll work on more accuracy with measuring and cutting -- re-sewing the sleeves three times on each side was a bit tiresome. I didn't make any effort to line up the stripes.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

T-shirt reconstruction - Contrastock

I've picked up a few t-shirts recently and I've been thinking about reconstructing them. I got this XL Gildan t-shirt last week and thought I should jump in before I'd thought about it too long and ended up with options paralysis.

Until recently, most of my sewing had been upcycling/recycling/reconstruction projects. However, my kids recently wanted to make a vest using a Simplicity pattern. My oldest knew how to find the fabric requirements on the back of the package, so I figured that between the two of us, we could figure it out.  The vests turned out really well and it broke the pattern mystique -- I was no longer frightened of patterns! Seriously, they scared me because if you play around with a recon, there is no way to measure its success or failure; you are simply making art. But a pattern has a built-in metric -- the garment is supposed to look like the picture on the front. You have either succeeded or failed at making the garment. It seems a lot less like playing. 

Anyway, we love going to Jo-Ann fabric and when they had a sale on Simplicity patterns for $1 each, I stocked up on anything I thought might be useful. I picked patterns because of elements in them that I liked, like drapey sleeves, though I have no intention of ever making the full garment.

So, for this recon, I used one of those $1 Simplicity patterns, number 2364, which has a bolero/shrug-like feature. Since this is a reconstruction, I didn't follow the pattern as written but used it as a guide. I did use the pattern pieces for the yoke and the sleeves. I referred to the pattern pieces for the front and back of the top. 

I made a mistake in first altering the top to fit me, like I did in this project. It's very simple, you just lay a well-fitting t-shirt over the big t-shirt, chalk the outline and sew. It was so cute, I was tempted to leave it as it was. However, I'm not a big t-shirt wearer and my last t-shirt recon was also a black t-shirt, so I thought I might try something different. Plus, I was itching to use my Simplicity pattern.

Why was it a mistake to fit the t-shirt first? Because the way the shirt is constructed required that I cut the side seams and shoulder seams, trim and lower the front. So once I had that lined up with the back, the nicely shaped fitting I had done was now off kilter and confusing as heck. It didn't matter in the end, but it made my life more difficult. So my advice is to fit the t-shirt last, if it needs it.

I followed the pattern instructions and used the front and back pattern pieces to get a sense of how they should line up. I used the yoke pattern on a grey t-shirt that I had attempted to reconstruct into a bolero jacket without using a pattern. I hadn't been successful with that and I may post my attempts because I took lots of photos. I ended up abandoning that project. No matter, I had the material available to use for this one. 

The yoke pattern piece is interesting geometry and I highly recommend Simplicity pattern 2364 if you can find it for cheap. I would not have figured out this shape - I know because it was what I was going for with the abandoned bolero shrug project. The yoke piece is assembled and folded in half. I didn't have enough material for that so I copied the pattern piece onto heartier paper and played with the shape by folding it different ways and ended up using it folded in a different way than the pattern calss for. The drape was single thickness rather than double, which is what it would have been had I used the pattern piece as the pattern intended. I'm sure I lost some body in the drape because of it but I did what was expedient. I used the sleeve pattern for the sleeve cap but was able to use the original t-shirt sleeve hem.

I played around with this quite a bit. The pattern for the Simplicity top creates a bit of a front drape and I didn't want the front of the top (the black part) to drape but to be as flat as possible so I had to do some tweaking. Ideally, I would have taken all of this into account before I sewed and would have cut the front properly, but no, I sewed and pinned and tried on and ripped seams and sewed and pinned again.

I am pleased with the result. I think I may even use the Simplicity pattern to make the top from scratch some day.