So, what you really want to know: How do you make those awesome loose knit shirts you have? And can I make one?
Yes, you can!
I used my handy dandy serger to sew these, but you can sew knits on a regular machine! From what I have read, you should use a ball point needle when sewing knits. You'll need to use some sort of stitch that allows the fabric to stretch. Some reccomend a zig zag, others an overlock stitch, and some just stretch their fabric as they sew a straight stitch. You can read more about different techniques here, here and here, and figure out what works for you.
First, you'll need to gather your supplies:
- 1 yard of prewashed knit fabric. Mine is a lightweight 'burnout' knit, which I think means that parts of the design are thinner than others, creating almost sheer sections. You can use any lightweight knit. I like the way this kind drapes, plus the designs they had were cute, and it was on sale for $5 a yard!
- A rotary cutter or scissors
- Cheap wrapping paper or pattern paper. Mine is a roll of dollar store wrapping paper
- A pen or marker
- A T shirt to copy. I used two. I didn't have a shirt that was the shape I wanted, so I found one that had the fit I wanted on top and one that had the looseness I wanted on bottom.
- not pictured: Pattern weights (aka butter knives, or anything that will weigh your paper on to your fabric)
Fold your shirt(s) in half lengthwise and lay out on your wrapping paper/tracing paper. By just tracing half your shirt you make sure you end up with a symmetrical shirt after you cut your fabric. My green shirt is the one that fits well on top and the red one fits well on bottom. I laid them like this so I could get the best of both shirts and make sure they meet somewhere in the middle.
Do a rough trace around your shirts, leaving room for a seam allowance (3/8" is a good rule of thumb). It took me several tries to get it the size/shape I wanted. Thats ok! That is why we don't jump straight to tracing on your fabric. I wanted a rounded bottom, with the sides about the length of the red shirt, so I drew the bottom with an arc. If you do, make sure the line is perpendicular to the side of the paper where it meets the edge. That way you won't end up with a weird point at the bottom.
You can't see it in this picture, but be sure to mark where you would like the neckline to be as well. I made marks where the neckline started on the top near the shoulder and on the folded edge so I wouldn't make it plunge too low/wide.
Once you feel comfortable with the shape/size you have drawn, go ahead and cut it out. If it helps, write "place on fold" on the long straight side.
Another reminder, in case you haven't done this already: always prewash your fabric! Although knits have less tendency to shrink than quilting fabric does, the WORST thing is to make something you are proud of and then have it shrink in the wash and not fit anymore!
Once your fabric is washed, fold the selvedges (finshed ends, not cut ends) together.
Before you go any further, you need to determine the direction of the stretch. I'm sure there is a more technical term for it. Basically, knit is stretchier one direction than the other. Pull on it up and down, side to side, and figure out which way stretches more. You want the stretch to go side to side on your shirt so it will stretch around you. I made a mistake in not doing this the first time around and it just feels funky.
Once you have determined the direction of the stretch you are ready to place your pattern piece.
You need two pieces (front and back) and since I'm lazy I wanted to cut them both at once. Probably not the best way to do things, but I did anyway. I folded my fabric once more (it was already folded once) so that when I cut there would be 4 layers. Remember, the straight edge should be placed on a fold. The stretch is going horizontal in this picture- perfect. Lay down your
butter knives pattern weights once you are happy with the placement.
Being careful not to move the pattern, cut around it with your rotary cutter or scissors.
Once it is cut and unfolded, you should have two pieces that look like this.
You need to create the neckline on the front piece. Using your pattern (or another shirt, if you forgot to trace it on your pattern) mark the points where your neckline meets the edges. Then fold in half lengthwise and connect those points with a curved line. Cut on that line. I always cut less than I think I want to so I can adjust and cut more to make it bigger. Once it is cut, there is no making your neckline narrower or higher. Err on the side of caution!
Congratulations! You have finished the hardest part! The actual sewing is cake.
You should have some scrap fabric left over. Take two pieces of it, or one piece folded over, and practice sew it together. This is so much easier than messing up because your stitch wasn't right and having to unpick the entire shirt.
You want to make sure your fabric isn't bunching and that the tension is right. It took me a lot of tries before I got it right, but once I knew the stitch was right I was good to go!
|Threads wayyyy too loose.|
|Still loose and super close together. It takes me a while since I'm still learning how to use my serger.|
|Getting closer. Thread tension still a little loose.|
If you are using a sewing machine and not a serger your stitches will look different, but the end effect should be nice, flat stitches (no bunching or puckering) that won't break when stretched.
Now that you have your stitches all figured out, you are ready to sew this shirt together! Pin your two pieces right sides together along the top (shoulder) seams and the sides, leaving the bottom, neck hole, and arm holes open. Sew where you have pinned, backstitching at the ends.
Try on your shirt to see if you need to make any alterations. If it is too loose you can take it in on the sides. My sleeves were too tight around my arms.
So I came up with a simple solution: cut off the area that curves under at the arm pit. When I did, it looked like this:
I tried it on and it fit much better. Hoorah for easy fixes!
Because knit doesn't fray, you don't even need to hem/finish the edges. You are done!
Now you have an easy to wear, breezy shirt for hot summer days! Wear it with a belt and skinnies, a pencil skirt... whatever strikes your fancy:)