My favorite place to sew is at the intersection of easy and wearable. This easy tee shirt is perfect for beginning sewers since it doesn’t require any complicated techniques, and more advanced sewers will love whipping out these tops in no time at all (it took me about an hour). I love kimono sleeves not only because they are fast, but they’re comfortable too since you don’t have a bunch of seams meeting in your armpit. The best part, is that you make your own pattern on the spot using a t-shirt that you already own!
~ 3/4yd knit fabric (I used a navy blue polka dot bamboo jersey)
~ Two spools of coordinating thread
~ Marking tools
Important preparation: Before you begin, try on your t-shirt and make some decisions based on how it fits. Do you want your new shirt to fit looser? Tighter? Longer? Lower cut? Higher cut? Is it fine the way it is? Make a mental note of possible alterations.
Step one: Fold your yardage in half selvage-selvage and cut on the fold. You will have two pieces roughly 27″ x 30″ on top of each other, right-sides together. Lay your t-shirt on top of your fabric making sure that it’s centered.
Step two: Keeping in mind the fit of the tee, trace out the side seams up to the armpit of the shirt. The shirt I chose is actually pretty small on me so I decided to add 2″ on either side of the t-shirt. Once you hit where your armpit begins, make a little mark perpendicular to your side seam.
Next make a mark for your sleeve opening. The distance from your mark to the top of your fabric should measure the sleeve opening on your t-shirt (i.e. the two yellow lines in the picture should be equal).
In the picture, the top arrow is where your armpit will begin, and the bottom arrow is where your sleeve will end.
Step Three: Using a bowl or tailor’s rulers add in the shirt’s curves. M ark where you want your neck hole to go using your t-shirt as a guide, then mark the front and back neckline. You can mark both necklines on one piece of fabric, just remember to cut only one piece lower for the front. Then connect your armpit mark to your sleeve opening mark with a nice curve.
I decided to make my neck hole a little bit wider and lower than the original tee, so I marked accordingly.
Step four: Cut out your t-shirt adding your preferred seam allowance (I added 1/2″). You are just making two cuts: One from one sleeve opening to the bottom of your tee, and one from the other sleeve opening to the bottom. Look how simple these pieces are!
Step five: Sew up the side seams and the shoulder seams of your t-shirt. A straight stitch is just fine.
Step six: Turn your shirt right-side out. You have a mostly finished t-shirt! Pat yourself on the back! At this point all you need to do is hem your shirt.
My favorite way to hem knit fabrics is with a twin needle because it’s easy, fast, stretchy, and looks professional. The twin needle mimics a cover stitch which is seen on most commercially available garments and requires an expensive specialty machine. All you need however, is the needle and an extra spool of thread.
To use a twin needle: set up an extra spool holder on your machine and use two spools of thread. Thread them both through your machine as if you were using a single thread, and then split the threads at the needle to put one through each needle.
Fold your fabric under about 1/2″. Make long thread tails when you begin sewing and hold the tails taught for the first 1″-2″ of sewing and then just sew normally. You can back-stitch to secure your stitching and everything. Just make sure you hang onto those thread tails at the beginning.
Hem your neckline, armholes and bottom and your done! Easy huh? Whip out a bunch of these for summer and be comfortable all season.