A couple of days before Sewing Pattern Review announced its TNT Tee Challenge, I had already pulled out this Kwik Sew 4027 pattern with the intention of using it to create a new block. I chose this pattern for exactly one reason: the v-neck.
It’s a deep vee, but I knew it would be easy enough to move that line up and still preserve the basic shape. I prefer a vee to a crew, no contest. I figured that once I got the rise where I wanted it, it would be easy to modify this to make it scoop, square, or any other shape that shows off a bit of collarbone.
And I wanted to create my own tee block because, frankly, no ready-to-wear shirts ever fit me correctly. It’s always the same problem. Here’s a sample — this is me in a standard Gildan tee, size small, purchased from Michael’s. Notice the wrinkle lines running from the lower armscye to the bust point, and from the bust point down to the waist. Those of you familiar with the acronym FBA will know exactly the cause of this fitting problem.
You might also notice that the shoulder seam is a bit dropped. Narrow shoulders + large breasts = fitting woes. I don’t mind a slightly dropped shoulder on something as casual as a tee, as long as the rest of the fit through the body is good. With that in mind, I used some leftover fabric from this maxiskirt to cut my first version of this tee. (Fabric source: Mood Fabrics.) This one was meant to be a muslin, and though I did alter the pattern to increase the bust, I didn’t expect a perfect fit this first time through. Good thing I had such low expectations.
That fit is atrocious. The less said, the better. I had started with the size medium and added nearly an inch to the bust at the side seam, but this is clearly a bad fit. So, for my next attempt, I used this same body pattern piece and used the pivot method to increase the bust by about two inches — nearly an inch from the original side seam adjustment, plus an inch from the pivot. I cut this version with long sleeves using some white cotton and lycra from the stash. (I don’t remember the source — maybe the Textile Discount Outlet on 21st Street?) This fabric turned out to be a little too stiff to complement the pattern, which works better with a drapey knit. But I’m really glad I made it, just the same — this will be a good pajama tee, and the fit problems with this one really helped me solve this pattern.
A fit so bad, I should not even be smiling
You can’t see it in this picture, but there is a shocking amount of extra fabric under the arms. And yet, the tee still manages to pull at the bust. The shoulder seam drops a good way down the upper arm, too. At this point, I decided the shoulders needed some work, or this thing would simply never fit. So for my next version, I went back to the original pattern. I measure the cross-back carefully to get a neater fit at the shoulder, and chose to cut it extra-small through the shoulder and medium through the body.
Experienced seamstresses are right now zooming in on what that means, and they are shuddering with horror. Yes, I did that thing you are never supposed to do. I redrew the armsyce. And yes, I was quaking in my house slippers the entire time. After I redrew the armscye to grade it from an extra-small shoulder to a medium bust, I measured front and back to determine the length of the new seam. And then I measured the sleeve heads on the pattern to find the one closest to the new armscye measurement. That turned out to be the medium sleeve, minus an eighth of an inch at either end. I also used the pivot method to add about 3/4″ to the bust front. Here is tee the third, made in an inexpensive rayon jersey from JoAnn purchased just for this experiment.
Still some wrinkling from bust point to waist, but overall a better fit
Front view — a nice, smooth fit except for those wrinkles under the bust
When I tried on this version, I knew I was getting closer. Not all the way home, but closer. I would be willing to wear this one in public, which is more than can be said for the magenta (destined for the trash) or white (destined for pajama status) versions. I’m still not happy with the bust, and the drape on the sleeves could use some tinkering. Actually, the problem with that drape results from my tinkering in the first place. I wanted the sleeves about an inch longer, but still with the slant to the hem — you can see that the sleeve hem is not horizontal, but at sort of a 45 degree angle from the body up and out. I like that. I just wanted it longer, so I extended the sleeve, rather badly, as it turns out, but not so badly that it can’t be fixed. I ended up redrawing the sleeve pattern piece to sort this out, an easy fix.
This leads to version four, in the same inexpensive JoAnn rayon as number three, except in red. To sum up the alterations:
- raised the vee neck
- narrowed the shoulders
- extended the side seams at the underarm
- redrew the armscyes
- pivoted to add more room at the bust
- lengthened the sleeves
- redrew the sleeve seams
Look, ma, no underboob wrinkles!
This still isn’t perfect, but it is finally fitting through the bust and shoulders. In my next version, I’m going to remove some of the extra fabric from the sleeve — see that fold on top of the bicep? That will be gone. And I will remove some of the extra fabric at the waist and hip, something I hesitated to do until the fit at the bust and shoulders was smoother. I don’t want to add waistline darts, but some of that fabric has got to come out. The current cut through the body is adding an easy ten pounds to my torso, and I’ve fought too hard to get the pounds off to let a tee shirt put them back on.
But we’re getting closer. We’re definitely getting closer. I won’t have any sewing time again until Friday, and at that point, I plan to go back to my friendly neighborhood J-store for more inexpensive rayon in yet another color, and given how expert I’m becoming in assembling this particular pattern, I could easily have the next version done by Friday night.
We all have our fitting woes, but this is one I intend to solve. Once this block is perfected, I will be able to use it as a base for any somewhat drapey knit top.