Hello and welcome to this post about my recent Tarlee T-Shirt experimentation, which will contain hack details but also musings on my shape. I’ve been wondering more and more about categorising my body, to try and nut out which parts I have to think about when making choices about size on sewing patterns.
My very complex combination of measurements can make for fun fitting times, or not so fun fitting times.. I guess it really depends what you think is fun. I feel like I should also say that, as sewists we become pickier and pickier about fit, because we feel like we should be able to do something about it. When I was buying RTW I didn’t really have the luxury of being especially particular, so I wasn’t.
You can see my O.G Tarlee T-Shirts here on the blog, in whisky merino and also white cotton (these posts also include size details for those particular projects).
I suppose I could start by saying that this absolute experiment… I’ve got no idea if the modifications I made to the pattern were a good idea, and I’ve definitely still got things I’d like to change/nut out in future versions. Below, I’m going to give you lots of details on my measurements and then I’m going to talk about things I noticed and what my plan was with the changes.
My measurements: Upper bust 43″, full bust 48″, largest measurement 56″, lower hip 55″. I have quite narrow shoulders, and I think also maybe a hollow upper chest. Immediately above my belly-button I have quite a pronounced roll (imagine that the top part of the letter B sat out further than the bottom part), and then below my bellybutton is my largest measurement because it was where my hips flare out at the back and my belly remains swollen at the front. Basically, measuring the part where my waistbands sit and the true ‘hip’ section of me really doesn’t indicate my true girth.
Obviously, I’m in a tricky situation because in many size charts, the measurement of my upper-bust and my largest belly measurement can put me 4-sizes apart. Throw in some narrow shoulders, and I’m often left scratching my head about sizing.
What I’d noticed from looking more at my t-shirt collection is that I haven’t been accommodating my largest measurement, or for the upper part of my B-belly when choosing what size to make. I could tell because I was getting drag lines through the back of things and my side-seams were swaying where the fabric was getting pulled to the front to accommodate what was going on up in front there.
I’d also noticed that in the short-sleeve versions of my tees, I was having a hard time keeping the sleeves where they should be (they wanted to roll up), I was getting twist through the arm and I had some extra gathering at the sleeve head that my arm wasn’t filling.
I should add that I’m less concerned about the ‘textbook’ way that particular garments should look/fit and more concerned with comfort and making clothes that don’t annoy me.
How did I hack this?
I reprinted my Tarlee T-shirt pattern, sizing down to a Size C (which is a good match for my upper bust measurement, and I think also my shoulders. I attached the T6 turtleneck inset pieces.
Sleeves: I cut the sleeve out Size C around the armscye, and graded out to a Size E by the bicep. Then, I changed the shape of the sleeve-head to make it shorter/more squat, with the plan being that this would add room through the bicep (which might stop short-sleeve versions from rolling up) and hopefully remove some of the excess fabric at the top.
Body: I then took the back pattern piece and modified the centre-back seam- my ultimate goal was to keep the shaping around the back neck (so that the tee wraps around the hump at the base of my neck), but to remove the shaping that brings the shirt in at the small of your back.
To make room for belly, I cut up the centre of both the front and back pieces to just below the arm hole, then swiveled and cut at right angles to almost the side-seam (finishing just below the armhole). This gave me a point to pivot from, and I basically just hinged the pattern piece out an appropriate amount (enough to accommodate my front and my back at my largest points) and taped the pattern piece down onto some other paper.
Basically, I created a ‘swing t-shirt’ and gave myself extra room through my high and low belly.
In lengthy conclusion
I made a wearable toile in some white viscose knit, tweaked the pattern and then made another wearable toile in some red viscose knit. I like to wear turtlenecks to bed during winter so both of these have become sleeping turtles (outdoor and indoor temps are often pretty similar in NZ). So, I’d made a couple of versions before cutting into this delicious bamboo (from For Fabrics Sake in NZ). I’m not sure that I’m done with my hack-tweaking just yet, but I’ve reached for this top every day since I finished it, which I think says a lot.
The other way to approach a larger bicep is to just slash the sleeve pattern in the middle upto the seam line and spread until you have a hem measurement that will accommodate your arm. This has the benefit of not affecting the sleeve fitting in the armhole at all.
In this case, changing the shape of the sleeve head had the added bonus of removing some extra fabric that I was getting around the shoulder in my other versions