Wednesday, July 1, 2009

SAAS (Sewing at Any Size): Sleeved Tee

Welcome to my Series on Sewing at Any Size. You can access the rest of the SAAS series by clicking on the topic link on the side bar.
The series is a form of peaceful protest against the terrible, cheap, overpriced, ugly stuff that passes for plus size fashion these days. Anyone can make basic wardrobe elements to fit their body without trying to track down commercial patterns (a nightmare for anyone over a US size 24).

As this may eventually become a book, please do not reprint or republish this anywhere else. You may, of course print for your own personal use!


This basic pattern is assuming you’re using fabric with high lycra or spandex content, or knit fabrics with a lot of stretch but that spring back into shape well after stretching. Stretch fabrics are trickier to work with, so get a little extra to practice your stitches. See the Fabric section in Part 1 for tips on working with stretch fabric.
This is an excellent candidate for using test fabric (such as cheap fabric or old bedsheets) and making a practice copy before jumping into the real thing. Shoulder width, arm width, sleeve length etc. are all tricky things to fit individually and you'll want to do trial and error on fabric you don't mind throwing away if something comes out too small.
Also, if you made the Cami top or variations on it from this series, you already have the measurements for the body, and could even use your test fabric pieces from that to construct the body of the shirt.

First we are going to make some adjustments to measurements. I’ll give instructions based on a scoop neckline, but you can substitute other necklines if you'd like. Eventually I'll get around to posting some, but until then there's google!

· Decide where you want the neckline to be on your chest. This will be “Point A”. Either mark it on your skin somehow or remember where it is.

· Divide your chest circumference by 4 and add ½”. We’ll call this measurement “B”.
· Divide your Bust circumference by 4 and add ½”. We’ll call this measurement “C”.

· Divide your Waist circumference by 4 and add ½” We’ll call this measurement “D”.
· Divide your Hip circumference by 4 and add ½” We’ll call this measurement “E”.

· Measure the distance between “A” and “B” and add ½”. We’ll call this measurement “F”.

· Measure the distance between “B” and “C”. We’ll call this number “G”.

· Length from Bust to Waist: We’ll call this number “H”.

· Add ½” to your Length from Waist to Hips. We’ll call this number “I”.

· Measure the distrance between “B” and the top of the shoulder. Add ½” and we’ll call this number “J”
These measurements are assuming you’re using stretch fabric and want it to be fitted. If you’re using non-stretch fabric add an additional 1” to 2” to measurements B, C, D, and E. This will give you what’s called “ease”, otherwise known as “can actually move while wearing”. You may want to make your test garment with up to 2” ease on each of the four pieces, then cut it down to fit comfortably once you try it on. It will help to write all these numbers down.

Fold your test fabric in half so that the stretchiest part is running horizontally. Sketch out the following shape to the measurements you wrote down earlier. (Trace and cut on the bold red lines. Approximate the general shape; doesn’t have to be exact)

Cut out two copies of the shape you’ve traced. Because you’ve cut it on the fold you should now have two symmetrical pieces for the front and back of the shirt. Unfold them and lay them together with the right side (the side you want showing when you wear them) together.
Line up the corners and pin the sides together. Stitch the sides from “B” down to “E” (per red dotted lines below). Then stitch along each shoulder. If you’re using test fabric or you’re not sure of the fit, use basting stitches (long, loose stitches) so that you can rip them out later if needed.

Slip it on and check it for fit, adjusting as needed.

Now we’re going to construct sleeves. We’re assuming long sleeves, but to make them shorter simple adjust the length.

Sleeves have a rounded end that allows them to fit over the shoulder without bunching under the arm.

We’re going to use the following measurments:

Upper Arm circumference (where it joins shoulder, arm down at side), plus 1” (we’ll call this number “K” )

Middle arm circumference: (bicep) plus ½” (we’ll call this number “L”)

Arm length (Shoulder to wrist, arm relaxed at side) (we’ll call this number “M”)

The basic shape for a long sleeve is this:

If you’re working with a commercial pattern you’ll have a set shape to cut out, but if not then you’ll have to do some trial and error to make the sleeve fit the shirt. The rounded end should match up with the edge of the armhole on the shirt, plus 1” for a seam allowance.

My favorite method to find the right fit is to fold the right side of the fabric together, in half at line “M” in the drawing above. Lay the shirt as constructed so far flat on the table. Line the fold up with the seam at the top and use pins or basting stitches to attach the sleeve to the sleeve opening, using a ½” seam allowance on both sides. When you reach the side seam of the shirt, mark both pieces of the the sleeve fabric with a pencil or chalk where they will meet.

Unpin the sleeve fabric and lay it flat but still folded so that the marks are visible. Draw a line ½” below the mark, down the end of the sleeve. Cut along this line.

Draw another line at the mark itself. Stitch down this line to sew the sleeve into a tube.
Re-pin the sleeve back onto the shirt, lining up the sleeve seam and the side seam of the shirt. Use a basting stitch to attach the sleeve and check it for fit. Once you’ve adjusted it, stitch over the basting stitches, then remove the basting stitches.

Finish the sleeve with either a rolled hem (fold up 1/4" then again 1/4" to tuck the raw edge under, then stitch) or french hem at the cuff. A french hem means you'll have to add an additional inch onto the original sleeve length. Essentially you fold the hem under (to the wrong/seam side of fabric) 1 inch, then back over the top (right side of fabric) 1/2". This creates four layers of fabric but gives you a visible cuff.

Finish the bottom edge of the shirt with a rolled hem.

Finish the neckline with a rolled hem

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