THE basic fitted tee tutorial

FIRST, you’ll need:

-1 1/2  yds. of good knit fabric

-good fitted T-shirt pattern

-matching thread

-sewing machine that has an overlock stitch (see photo below)

-stretch needle

-scissors or rotary cutter and mat

*before you start cutting and sewing, it’s important to know, that  the GRAINLINE is SO important when sewing t-shirts! I’ve bought knits before where the grainline  (the structured lines or pattern left by the warp (length-wise grain) and the weft (cross-grain) threads) has been weaved off-grain. So in other words, the grainline does NOT run parallel to the selvedge edge nor the cut of the your fabric.  When this happens you have to find the grainline, and straighten it.  You have to fold the fabric so that when you cut, your grainline will run straight up and down on your fold.  Phew! Now we can really start–but quickly before we do…

DISCLAIMER. I’m a really crappy photo-taker-for-tutorials-person. I didn’t know that ’til now as I’m putting this tutorial together. I’m realizing that my photos aren’t exactly crystal-clear as far as showing you what’s going on. Sorry. Maybe I’ll learn.

1. CUT PIECES.  Place your pattern on your fabric. Pin (or, if your ghetto like me, you can put butter knives down to weigh it all down). Now cut all your pieces.  For this t-shirt you’ll need your front, back, two sleeves, a neckband, and arm bands and waist bands if you choose to finish the edges that way. *Note: not all of my pattern pieces are shown here.

2. SEW FRONT TO BACK. With right sides together, sew front to back at side seams using an overlock stitch. (MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A STRETCH NEEDLE OR YOU’LL WISH YOU WERE DEAD). Don’t stretch or pull the fabric! Just gently guide it home. If you stretch or pull it at all, it will pucker and ripple. NO BUENO.  Try it on and adjust as needed. Now is the time to make sure you get the smokin’ fit you want.

3. CONSTRUCT SLEEVES. Sew each sleeve together at side, and then finish the bottom edge however you choose (arm bands or simply hemmed under). I chose to do arm bands because my fabric was so tricky and slinky that hemming under just wasn’t working. Be prepared to be FLEXIBLE in your vision.

*I forgot to take a shot of the finished edge until afterwards, so IGNORE the fact that the sleeve is already attached. Also, remember to see my arm and waist band tutorial for instructions on finishing your edges with a band.

4. Insert your sleeve (right-side-out) into your shirt which is in-side-out.  First pin the underarm seam of your sleeve to the underarm side seam of your shirt. Match seams. Then find the opposite middle point (probably the foldline) of your sleeve opening, and pin that to the shoulder seam.  Now your sleeve should be centered in the armhole; ease the rest of the sleeve by finding the middle points between the two pins of both the sleeve and armhole, and then securing. Repeat this over and over until you have pins every couple of inches. That sucker should really be pinned pretty well. Don’t be afraid to stretch a little to make it fit, but try to do so as little as possible. Overlock stitch around the armhole, making sure to catch both layers, and avoid any puckers. Repeat on other side.

5. NECKBAND.  If you’re applying any embellishment around the neckline that you want to go under the neckband, apply that now. Fold your neckband piece in half hot dog style, wrong sides together.  Aligning the raw edges of your band with the raw edge of the neck opening, begin pinning the band right at the shoulder seam. The stretch ratio of your band to your opening should be anywhere from 3:4–7:8 (meaning your band is 3/4’s the length of your neck opening, so your stretching your band to fit the opening). Stretch the neckband about three inches, and pin about  four inches down the neckline.  You’re stretching both, but pulling tighter on the band so that when you let go,you should see some slack in the neck opening.  Go around the  whole opening, and then once you’re back to where you started, stretch the band over the starting end and cut your excess.  Visualize the two ends being sewn together, and judge whether it would stretch correctly (band is tighter than neck opening).  Pinch the two ends together (maybe you have to remove a pin or two), and sew, wrong sides together. Trim, re-fold, and then pin once again to the shirt neck hole. Hopefully your seams match up better than mine did.

Overlock stitch around the entire opening, making sure you are always catching all three raw edges.

Turn right-side-out, and make sure that a) it all got sewn, and b)it lies nice and flat against your neck (you won’t be able help ripping off your current shirt to try it on).  If it doesn’t….then I’m real sorry. That means the band wasn’t tight enough. You can take it all out (painstaking and TIME consuming), or you can now jimmyrig. I prefer the latter.  Something I’ve done before that worked great was insert a thin piece of elastic into the band, using it like a casing, and then tightening to your desired….tightness. Or you can embellish around the neckline, covering up the band completely. I’ve done that lots of times with great results. Hopefully it turned out perfect.

6. HEM BOTTOM. Now finish the edge of the bottom of your shirt however you choose! I did a wide waist band (see arm and waist band tutorial).

Woo hoo! You’re done!!! Go work it, honey!

My basic fitted T-shirt Pattern

***Note! I recently simplified and tweaked my tshirt drafting process, and have a new tutorial for drafting a tee from measurements that is a little more user friendly. Both are good methods, though, so check out my new one, and decide from there! Thanks for stopping by, and like always I love to get feedback or questions!

There have been a few people who have asked me for my t-shirt pattern. “Sure!” I said. But then it occurred to me that not everyone is my size. Hmm. So I decided to break it down like MJ, and let you figure out your own perfect t-shirt pattern. Hopefully this will give you a good pattern, and then you can tweek it until you feel it’s a great pattern. This is my rooky attempt at pattern drafting, so if you have any suggestions, questions, or maybe you want to pull your hair out, leave a comment. And if this is just completely intimidating, then just buy a pattern. In fact, unless you’re broke or lazy, just go buy a pattern. It’s easier. BUT if you’re into free and figuring, then give this a whirl and let me know how it turns out! FYI: Different knits can REALLY change the size and fit of your tee. Sometimes my shirt comes out pretty fitted, and then sometimes it’s pretty loose. So, if you find it’s too big/little, I would change the shirt, not the pattern, because it’s possibly/probably the fabric that’s making the difference.

See my fitted tee tutorial HERE

Determine Your Measurements.Determine Your Measurements

Get a friend or a lucky someone to help you measure yourself.  Wear a simple t-shirt that you like the way it fits, length, etc.

*Note–all the following measurements are taken from your BACK SIDE!

*Note–all my measurements are based on a scant 1/4 inch seam! (The width of an overlock stitch).


1. Measure from the top center edge of your BACK neckline to the bottom of the shirt. Add 2 and then write that down.  (I actually add 4 because I like my shirts LONG as the Dickens, and I like to have more to work with if I can.  If you do this, be sure to add 4 to step 1-4. (i.e. it says add 2, you add 4; it says add 2.5, you add 4.5). Got it?

2. Measure from the top shoulder seam to the bottom of the shirt.  Add 2.5 and then write that down.

3. Measure from the bottom shoulder seam (where it meets the sleeve), to the bottom of your shirt and add 2. Write that down.

4. Measure from the top of your side seam (underneath your armpit), to the bottom of your shirt. Add 2 and write that down.

5. Measure around the bottom edge of your shirt (pretty much around your hip bones). Add 2 and then divide by 4, and write that down.

6. Measure around your true waist (the smallest part of your middle).  Add 2, divide by 4, and write that down.

7. Measure around your bust.  Add 2, divide by 4, and write that down.

8. Measure from the top center back edge to the bottom shoulder seam (see pic), and then add 1 and write that down (you’re not measure diagonally, rather straight–eyeballing how far that shoulder seam comes out. Capish?).


9. With your arm down, measure the fullest part of your bicep (without flexing!), add 2.5 and write that down.

10.  Measure the length you want your sleeve to be (starting from the top of your shoulder down), add 1/2 and write that down.

11.  Measure around your shoulder, (over shoulder, under armpit, fairly snugg),  add 1/2 an inch, and write that down.

Calculate and Draw the Pattern.

*NOTE: The armhole curve should equal (or almost equal) answer #11 DIVIDED by 2.

* TWO IMPORTANT NOTES. There are two crucial errors: the neckband should be cut on the BIAS (the diagonal grain). This will help it lay flat–trust me, it’s important. And secondly, it saysthe length of the neck PLUS a few inches, and it should be the length MINUS of few inches. The neckband should be SHORTER than the measurement of the neck opening. It should be anywhere from 3/4 -7/8 the length of the neck opening.

Now go! To my fitted tee shirt tutorial!

Tee-Shirt Week

File Aug 16, 3 20 24 PMSo, I decided that there’s no better way to kick off a new sewing blog than with a big fat week jam-packed full of sewing tutorials, and projects, and fun! Am I right or am I right…….right…….right….. (Ground Hog Day anyone??) So since baby #2, I’ve had to supplement my frump-dog wardrobe  in a major way. Let’s be honest. I had nothing. Nothing that I liked wearing, and nothing that was long enough, and nothing that was my style, and let’s be honest again–I couldn’t even remember what my style was, what with the deep abyss of baggy maternity and post-maternity clothing! Ugh. I needed to go shopping.

But somewhere between 23 and 27 and two kids and the whole motherhood thing, I grew to hate shopping. Really. I feel totally out-of-place in Babylon. By Babylon I of course mean the mall.  So yada yada yada, I decided to humor the recluse within, and make my own clothes.  So that’s why I’ve sewn about a kazillion tee-shirts for myself. More than enough–in fact–to have a fun time talking about them here for a week.  And for those of you who are thinking “WHY the pirate-monkey would I spend money on fabric instead of just the shirt itself and save myself some time?” Well, the obvious answer (besides the REALLY obvious answer that it’s way funner) is that it’s way way cheaper. I never spent more on one shirt than $3.50. Economically minded, wha???!

So everyday this week I will feature a different T-shirt, along with the technique or tutorial that goes along with it! Woo hoo!

This is for all you peeps who

a) like to sew.

b) are broke or “on a tight budget.”

c) like a challenge.

d) want to be like me. ANYONE???

additional t-shirt posts/projects: