18" Doll Sewing Patterns • Free Tutorials • Sewing with Kids

Sewing a T-shirt or Two

Sewing a T-shirt or Two

Yes, I sew my own t-shirts. Sewing T-shirts is actually one of the fastest projects I regularly do. It’s no secret around here that I live in t-shirts and jeans (and shorts during our few warm months).
Recently, I lamented that I have too much sewing to do before we leave for our family vacation in July. My adorable husband says: “why not buy some of what you need? go shopping.” I would, but my favorite shirts, the shirts I wear most often, are the ones I make myself. There’s several reasons for this–
I can make the styles I like, in the colors/fabric that I like, and
I can make sure it fits me, instead of settling for the average small, medium, or large woman sizing
I know they won’t shrink funky, wonky, or otherwise misshapen.

T-shirts are super easy to make. The neckline is the trickiest part, but once you’ve done it a couple of times–it’s not so tricky. (make sure you use stretch needles in both traditional machine and serger, and a stretch twin needle)

Like many people, I don’t want to wear the same shirt in a few different colors day after day–I want each shirt to look unique. I feel a teeny bit more stylish that way. (okay, I know. T-shirts everyday can hardly be considered uber stylish, but whatever.) Changing up the neckline can help to give each shirt its own style and personality.

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These shirts are made from an Ottobre pattern, issue 2/2007, which has several neckline and sleeve variations to mix and match. I love these T-shirts. The fit is awesome. I don’t follow Ottobre’s instructions for binding the neckline. I always sew my neckline bindings in the round. And I like to switch it up. I usually do different necklines based on the fabric I’m using. So first I sew all the shoulder seams. Then sew each neckline up until its final top stitching step. That way I can set up my machine with a twin needle and finish all necklines at the same time. Saves a little time 🙂

The pink with white binding is a cotton lycra, and I did a traditional t-shirt binding. I think Threads Magazine has the best tutorial on how to do a neckline binding like this in the round. There’s no point to doing another tutorial when this one is pretty much all you need. After sewing the binding on, make sure you press the neckline really well.

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When the fabric is a lighter weight jersey, like this blue floral, I like to do a self-binding type neckline. It’s super easy, somewhat easier than the traditional T-shirt binding. I also do this in the round, usually using the measurement provided by the pattern. If the pattern does not offer the measurement, then I use the Threads magazine method for determining the length of the binding. After sewing the binding into a loop, I quarter both the neck opening and binding (also shown in the Threads method), pin right sides together and sew the binding to neck opening with my traditional sewing machine. I then serge the seam.

Press the binding to the inside, wrapping it around the seam allowance. I pin it in place to help it stay neat and uniform all the way around. (just be sure to remove the pins as you top stitch–do not sew over pins. Well, unless you wear safety goggles, and don’t mind getting your machine repaired 😉 )

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The white shirt uses the technique Ottobre included for one of the neckline versions in that issue. (Though I did it in the round, not in the flat as they instructed)

1. Cut some poplin on the bias. I cut my bias strip and trimmed it to about 3/8″ wide
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2. Press and curve the bias strip, to make it follow the neckline more easily. Pin the wrong side of the bias strip to the right side of the neckline. Baste it in place. Since I am sewing it in the round, I overlapped the binding strip an inch or so in the back.
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All these will get top stitched with a twin needle, so I usually save this step to do all the shirts at once.

For the traditional binding: One stitching line is on the shirt, and the other row of stitching is on the binding.
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For the fold and sew method: Both stitching lines are on the binding. Instead of pins, you could use wonder tape. It washes out and keeps things pretty much where you want them to stay when sewing. It does get a bit expensive, so I use pins and remove them as I sew (do not sew over pins). After sewing the binding with the stretch twin needle, trim any extra fabric on the inside, being careful not to cut your stitches.
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Click on this photo for a close up:
Avery Lane Blog t-shirt neckline tutorials

The white with floral poplin binding is top stitched down the middle of the poplin bias strip with the twin needle, and left to fray. I usually like things more finished looking, but I like the idea of it. So I gave it a go.

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Avery Lane Blog sewing tutorials

Update: this is what the fraying effect looks like (click on the photo for a close up view):

Avery Lane Blog sewing t-shirt neckline tutorials

Now all the shirts have a neckline, giving each its own look, I’ll continue with the sleeves, side seams, and hems (both on the sleeves and bottom edges). The sleeves are another way to individualize each shirt, so no one knows I’m basically using the same pattern for all these shirts.

What are your go-to t-shirt patterns? I would love to add some to my hoarding patterns obsession lovely pattern stash.


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