My husband rarely benefits from my sewing habit. I did upcycle some old favorite shirts for him recently (link here), but the cold reality is that I don’t sew for him very often. Sorry, Justin! This week I took a big step toward serving his clothing needs: I made him the perfect tee shirt (his words, not mine!).
Finding the Perfect Pattern
I started with the Berlin T Shirt pattern from Toby K. Patterns, a new indie menswear company. I have no affiliation with Toby K., but I am a fan. They are dedicated to creating modern sewing patterns especially for men, teens and boys. It’s exciting to have another great contributor in the menswear pattern market because menswear patterns, of any quality, are hard to find! The Berlin T caught my eye right away because all of the test photos look really great. The pattern offers a generous amount of options, including trendy options for an asymmetrical zip hoodie and an asymmetrical hemline. While those views are exciting, where the pattern really shines is in its treatment of the classic crew neck tee shirt.
There are a couple of adjustments I made to the pattern methods to suit my preferences. First, I reinforced the shoulder seams with fusible interfacing. Next, I changed the recommended double fold hems to single fold hems. With knit fabrics, a double fold hem can get bulky. Instead of folding the hem up 0.5” and then another 1” (1.5” total), I folded the hem up once at 0.75”. This gave me an extra 0.75” of length and reduced the bodice and sleeve length adjustments that I had to make later.
My husband is tall (6’ 3”/191cm), and the Berlin T is reportedly drafted for a 5’ 10” model. To make the shirt fit his long frame, I added ½” of length to the pattern piece PLUS the ¾” I gained from changing the hem construction (total increase of 1¼”). Surprisingly, I ended up reducing the finished length of the sleeves by ¾” (apparently my husband has short arms?).
He also has forward and narrow shoulders, so I made some adjustments there too. I reduced the shoulder width by ⅝” and moved the shoulder seam forward by ½”.
Finally, the underarm area in the test garment I made was baggy. So I removed an inch of fabric at the underarm intersection (graded out to the original size at the sleeve hem and waist). All of these changes left Justin with a shirt that looked and felt fantastic.
Finding the Perfect Fabric
After perfecting the pattern for my husbands figure, I found the perfect fabric: hemp jersey from Nature’s Fabrics (link here). As a lover of fashion and the environment, I am always looking for beautiful and sustainable textiles. Fabric manufacture can be messy and ecologically taxing. Some fabric fibers (like bamboo and hemp) are easier on the environment than others (cotton, polyester), but suppliers of these types of textiles are fewer in number. I have fallen in love with Nature’s Fabrics. I have no affiliation with them, but I appreciate their broad selection of bamboo, hemp and wool textiles in a range of beautiful colors.
Hemp is one of the most earth friendly fibers available to us, but it has a complicated reputation and history because of its relationship to marijuana. The plant used to make hemp textiles is related to, but different from the cannabis plant we call marijuana. It has low levels of THC (the part that makes the drug desirable), so it can’t give you a high.
What fabric does have to offer, however, is pretty impressive.
- It’s extremely durable and holds up well through wearing and washing, including at high temperatures.
- Growing hemp requires very little water.
- Hemp is naturally pest resistant and requires little to no pesticides.
- Acre for acre, hemp crops are extremely high yield
- Hemp holds its shape very well and doesn’t get stretched out.
- It is very absorbent and retains dye very well, meaning it doesn’t fade very much.
- Hemp is naturally antimicrobial.
- It gets softer each time you wear it.
When Justin learned about the benefits of hemp fabric a few years ago, he really wanted me to make him some hemp clothing. This tee shirt was a perfect opportunity to grant his longtime wish.
Using the Perfect Machine
I recently added a new machine to my sewing studio (aka my kitchen) that made this tee shirt project a real success: a coverstitch machine. If you are wearing a tee shirt, take a look at the hem. The stitch you see (with two parallel lines of stitching on top and loopy stitching on the bottom) is a coverstitch. A coverstitch hem is strong and stretchy and is industry standard for ready-to-wear knit clothing.
You can approximate the look and stretchiness of a coverstitch with a regular sewing machine and a twin needle, but it can be tedious. Getting a twin needle hem looking nice usually involves adjusting your machine settings (like your bobbin tension) dramatically and lots of trial and error. And even then, I am usually not completely satisfied with the results.
A coverstitch machine is optimized for hemming knits and makes hemming a quick and enjoyable process. It is easier to thread than a serger (at least I think so!) and it gives your garments a professional finish. I can’t explain how much this machine has improved my attitude toward hemming. It’s amazing.
A coverstitch machine can also create a chainstitch. A chainstitch looks like a straight sewing machine stitch on top, but on the bottom it has loops which make it really stretchy. It’s great for topstitching knits and is what I used to topstitch the neckline of Justin’s tee shirt.
The Perfect Tee Shirt
The first day Justin wore his new hemp shirt, I got this text message:
“This shirt fits me so well. I have stopped what I am doing to bask in it several times today.”
It seems that while hemp textiles can’t give you a high, having a perfect shirt made from the perfect fabric can definitely have a mood enhancing effect.
What are your favorite menswear pattern sources?
What are your favorite sustainable fabrics?