The Basic Tee - Jersey Knit
Let's start at the beginning.
Tee Shirt Defined
We define a tee shirt as any top with sleeves, neckline, and one-piece front and back pieces. There are unending variations to the sleeves, neckline, and hem; but all in all a tee shirt is a basic pullover top.
Fabric ~ 72" Batik Cotton Jersey Knit
Even though this conversation encompasses sewing a basic tee shirt from our 72" wide batik cotton jersey knit, the basic tee can be sewn from a woven just as easily as a knit. However, the first fabric I think about when I hear the words tee shirt is a knit.
Again, there are patterns upon patterns for a basic tee shirt. Just search the web for "tee shirt pattern" and you will never stop scrolling the search results.
We will focus on two specific patterns: the Lark Tee Pattern by Grainline Studios and Butterick 6848 (previously McCall's 6964) by McCall's Pattern Company. Both patterns have variation options for the neckline, sleeve length, and hem.
You will need to select the pattern that provides the fit you want for your body size/style.
Let's Compare the Patterns
When looking at a pattern cover and it's line drawing it can be difficult to know for sure how the garment will hang or drape on our frame. If you look at the pattern covers above, you will see what I mean. Both are straight tee shirts with sleeve variations. Which is the one that fits you?
This is the front pattern piece for the Lark Tee pattern. As you can see it has a slight (very slight) shape at the waist, front center fold, standard armscye, shoulder seam, and neckline.
This is the front pattern piece for the McCall's 6964 pattern. It has a gradual shape between the bust and hip line, front center fold, standard armscye, shoulder seam, and neckline.
The image below is a where we see the differences between these two basic tee front pattern pieces.
We placed the McCall's pattern on top of the Lark front pattern piece.
The McCall's pattern has more of an "S" shape at the waist. If this is a match to your physical shape, start with this pattern.
The Lark Tee pattern is on the straight side compared to the McCall's pattern. If your shape is straighter, or you want a straighter look then this is the pattern for you.
The sleeve is also something to think about. The armscye is different as well. Make
sure you sew a muslin (sample) to ensure the proper fit, before sewing the garment from your favorite fabric.
Click this link to view a brief video further explaining the pattern differences: Pattern Differences (YouTube Link)
We will continue working with the Lark Tee Pattern. I felt that this pattern best fit my personal style. If you selected a different pattern, no worries. We will be working through the basics of sewing a basic tee.
I started with 1 1/4 yards of our Batik Cotton Jersey Knit - Phoenix motif in the shade of Natural Sapphire. I'm sewing a V-Neck, 3/4 length sleeve, and have shortened the garment by 5" (see below). The length of the Lark Tee is excessive. I'm 5' 7" and the pattern, as designed/printed is very long.
The image below shows the pattern piece layout. I fold both selvedge edges in and this is where I place the front and back pieces. The center is for the sleeve. Once I cut the front/back pieces I fold the center fabric down and cut both sleeves out at the same time. The last piece is the neck facing. This needs to be on the fold. I cut this extra long and adjust it just prior to attaching the facing to the garment.
Serger or Not
I am using a serger to construct this basic tee shirt. It is the fastest and easiest method for sewing a jersey knit top. Do you own a serger? Uncover it and let's have some fun.
If you decide to construct your tee shirt using a sewing machine make sure you select the stretch stitch setting or setup a slight zig-zag stitch to ensure a "stretch-like" stitch. The stretch stitch setting looks like a lightning bolt. You can adjust the length and width to suit your stitch preferences.
Jersey knit does not ravel. There is no need to finish the seam edges unless you want to do this as a personal preference. A serger does finish the edges automatically by serging. The only time I use a sewing machine is to finish the sleeve edge and shirt hem. However, I could simply change the serger into a cover stitch and sew the hem with the cover stitch.
Thread and Test your Serger
The Lark pattern requires a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Setup your serger with a comfortable 1/4 inch seam position.
Notes from my Evolution Baby Lock serger:
- Use a 4-thread overlock stitch
- Make sure you are using new (or slightly used) Jersey/Stretch needles size 80/12. Change your needles if you have no idea the last time you used your serger or if you don't remember what needles you used last time.
- Thread your serger with cotton or polyester thread (you get to choose)
- Test your serger with the fabric by sewing a 1/4 inch seam. I always save the excess fabric after cutting out my pattern. I use a bit of this fabric to test my serger.
View a short video on how I test my serger to make sure it's setup for the perfect 1/4 inch seam on jersey knit fabric. Click: Perfect 1/4 Inch Test
Here are the steps I take to test a serger for an accurate 1/4 inch seam allowance.
NOTE: (If you're seam allowance is different, use the same steps - just mark your seam allowance (1/2 inch, 5/8 inch) away from the edge and stitch. You will cut off more fabric.
A 4-thread overlock requires 2 needles. The left most needle is the one we care about when testing the 1/4 inch seam.
On my serger the 2nd notch from the right on the presser foot is where the left needle stitches.
I'll be back throughout the evening with updates on sewing progress.