A gathering of t-shirts

For about a year now I have been collecting knit prints.  I am very particular about prints— a lot of them do nothing for me but when one appeals to me I tend to like it a lot.  I had only about a yard of each of these four fabrics so I thought a short-sleeved top would be ideal.

I stole the idea for this design from a RTW top of mine, but made the pattern from a basic Burda t-shirt.  I started with this sketch:

Next, I traced the pattern front and back and extended the shoulders to make sleeves.  I experimented with a couple different versions of the gathers:

The left-most was my first attempt, where I sliced the pattern straight across and spread.  Something didn’t seem right about this one and at dinner that night it occured to me why this wouldn’t work.  Next I made the slice lines radiate out from the gathered side of the pattern to the un-gathered side (like in the sketch).  I used this pattern for the blue top at the far right in the first picture, but after I had cut out the fabric I thought maybe I had added too much fullness.  So for the last version I narrowed up the slices a little and changed their distribution so the top of the pattern is relatively unaltered.

What I didn’t count on is that the extra fabric sags because of the weight of the knit, so my gathers are more droopy than what I had envisioned in my sketch.  It occurred to me afterwards that the RTW version is cut with negative ease and this must be so that the gathers stay taut and straight.  I would love to work through a real pattern drafting textbook (or take a class) one of these days.  Once again it strikes me that I like playing with patterns more than the actual sewing.  I have a suspicion that this is because it is basically math in disguise.

In the past I’ve had some struggles with sewing gathers but I’d read about using clear elastic for this and checked out a few tutorials on the web before starting.  After experimenting with both the serger and the straight-stitch machine I settled on a method.  First I cut the elastic to the finished gather length plus an inch on each side.  I marked both the fabric to be gathered and the elastic in fourths to make them easy to line up.  I used the my regular sewing machine to attach the elastic, using the longest stitch length and a narrow-ish zig-zag (narrow enough that both sides of the zig-zag fell within the width of the elastic).  I took a few stitches at the end to anchor the elastic to the fabric, then stretched the elastic as I was stitching to line up the marks I had made.  Perfect gathers!  So awesome!  And inherently stretchy (because of the zig-zag).  After gathering I could then serge over the gathered piece + elastic + the un-gathered back for a nice clean finish.

The only problem I have with these T’s is that the neck bands on some are a bit loose and so sag a little.  I’m not sure why this is since I cut them all the same length.  Very likely it is the difference in stretch between the different knits.  I’m tempted to go back and fix them but also tempted to just let things be.  Overall I am very pleased with this set of tops, which I find to be flattering and an easy way to introduce variation in spatial frequency into my wardrobe.