DIY T-SHIRTS + MODIFICATIONS

DIY T-SHIRT MODIFICATIONS - BODY SHAPES A

Fit is by far one of the hardest subjects to address within the realm of manufacturing. There are just so many different body types that it would be near impossible for one manufacturer to address EVERY type in one product—and often times in one line. The most basic body shapes range from round to pear, petite to lean, and every shape in between. When you start to do the math and include XXS – XXL, you come up with a number of patterns that reaches to the Nth power. When you begin to add categories such as Juniors and Misses, it becomes staggering.

Entire classes in design schools and universities around the world spend semesters working on streamlining and finding solutions for fit issues.  Body scanners can now take perfect measurements of your body and supposedly create a jean that is perfect for your shape.  I find that hard to believe but based on the shape I have carried with me my entire life, I don’t really care for pants that much anyway.

DIY T-SHIRT MODIFICATIONS - BODY SHAPES B

Pattern development is very expensive, and when you start to grade (sizing up and down), it becomes even more expensive.  Pattern making is an art form that takes years and years to develop and a good pattern maker is worth every penny. When you start a company, you develop size standards AND grading standards.

After posting Sara’s recent article titled, “Too Fat For Fashion,” we received quite a lot of feedback and not all of it glowing when it came to Alabama Chanin’s sizing.  I don’t want to “defend” our position, as sometimes taking defense-mode can stop the conversation – and we think that this is an important conversation to continue.  Instead, I want to talk about what we do, why we do it, and alternatives that you might use to help expand the fits that are available to you.

The first thing I want to stress is that our fabrics STRETCH—a lot.

Next point – many folks emailed asking for new patterns.  We currently offer 28 garment and accessory patterns within our three books. These patterns are fully described in our CUSTOM DIY GUIDE, which is available to download from our Resource Downloads. (Note that we also offer Custom DIY Kits that allow you to specify if you want a hemline shorter, or a sleeve lengthened.)

DIY T-SHIRT MODIFICATIONS - SIZE OPTIONS INFO GRAPHIC

Click illustration to enlarge.

Honestly, even if we begin to offer new garment patterns, our sizing and grading will remain pretty close to that of the 28 patterns that we already offer.  The standards for Alabama Chanin were developed over a decade ago. We have over 300 garment styles to-date based on those (long ago adopted) standards. To change each of those styles would be a monumental task; the info graphic above demonstrates just how many options exist for a single pattern (288 total). HOWEVER, I’m ten years older (and 20 pounds heavier) than I was when those patterns were made and my body still fits those garments—just a size (or two) larger.  Friends who know me also know that I still wear a small from time-to-time in our clothing and my measurements certainly don’t match the numbers in our size chart.  (A girl must sometimes squeeze herself into a sample, right?)

What you will find is that our patterns are form fitting and if you don’t like form fitted clothing, you might take issue with our fit.  But, if you want clothes that really and truly FIT, sometimes you have to take the power of creating them into your own hands.  I know that many of you don’t want to hear this, and I am not justifying industry standards that are geared toward 12 year old girls, but you have to be willing to roll your sleeves up and take needle in hand. You have to be willing to nip a dress in here, shorten a hemline there and, sometimes, start from scratch.

So, hopefully this helps you get started. These are two simple alterations on our Basic T-shirt (pattern available from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.) There are so many simple alterations that can be done to give garments a more personal appeal and, while we don’t have the staff or manpower to go back and change ALL of our patterns, what we can do is help explore easy alterations that give you the tools you need to make our pattern yours.  Today we present two techniques we have used over the last decade. Check back over the course of this year as we explore fit, alteration, and yes, taking back your wardrobe.

DIY T-SHIRTS + MODIFICATIONS

FRONT STRIPE T-SHIRT

This piece is based upon our classic T-shirt top. The pattern for this sleeveless version is available in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, with detailed instructions on how to construct located on pages 48-49.

SUPPLIES

T-shirt top pattern from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design
1 yard of 60”-wide organic medium-weight cotton jersey
2 – pieces of cotton jersey, at least 2” wide and the length of the shirt
1 spool Coats & Clark Button Craft thread
Ruler
Rotary Cutter
Fabric Scissors

Basic supplies: pins, needles

Cut out your T-shirt pattern pieces from your organic medium-weight cotton jersey. You can choose to create a shirt with cap sleeves or long sleeves. We chose the sleeveless version for this project.

Take your two smaller pieces of cotton jersey and size them to match the length of both the front and the back panels, respectively. Using your rotary cutter and ruler, cut each piece 2” wide.

Fold the front panel in half, lengthwise, and cut the panel in half. Repeat with the back panel. This can also be accomplished by placing your T-shirt front pattern piece on two layers of fabric but NOT on the fold, as called for on the pattern piece and the garment instructions.

Pin the two sides of the shirt to the 2” stripe, wrong sides together. Leave a 1/4” seam allowance on each side, which will give your finished shirt a 1 1/2” stripe down the center. You’ll be seaming the pieces together with what we call floating seams, meaning your seam allowances will be visible on the outside of the garment (see page 45 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design).

Thread your needle, “love” your thread, knot off and seam the individual pieces together with a straight stitch (page 23 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design), wrap-stitching the beginning and end of each seam. Repeat this process with the back side of the shirt.

Construct your shirt with the new, modified panels according to the instructions in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric Weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric Colors – Black with an Emerald Stripe
Button Craft thread – Black  #2
Seams – Floating
Binding Stitch – Cretan

DIY T-SHIRTS + MODIFICATIONS

SHIRT WITH GODETS

This piece is also based upon our classic T-shirt top from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design . The top has godets inserted to add a bit more flare at the hips (which I always need). Download the godet pattern from our resource page.

SUPPLIES

T-shirt top pattern from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design
2 yards of 60”-wide organic medium-weight cotton jersey
1 spool Coats & Clark Button Craft thread
Ruler
Rotary Cutter
Fabric Scissors

Basic supplies: pins, needles, tailor’s chalk

Cut out your T-shirt pattern pieces from your organic medium-weight cotton jersey, adding 5” to the length. You can choose to create a shirt with cap sleeves or long sleeves. We chose the sleeveless version for this project.

Fold the front panel in half and measure 2 ½” from the folded center seam and mark with your tailor’s chalk. At these two points, cut a slit 15” long in the panel. When laid flat, your slits will be 5” apart. Complete the same steps with the back panel.

DIY T-SHIRT MODIFICATIONS - GODET PATTERN

Cut 6 godets, or triangle shaped pieces that you will sew into the slits and side seams in your t-shirt. Each triangle should be 4 ½” wide at the bottom and 16” tall.

Carefully pin each godet into the slits and into your side seams, leaving a ¼” seam allowance as you sew. We have sewn the pieces together with what we call floating seams, meaning your seam allowances will be visible on the outside of the garment.

Thread your needle, “love” your thread, knot off and seam the individual pieces together with a straight stitch. Repeat this process with the back side of the shirt. Note that we finished the top of each godet with a cross stitch to secure the points, then trimmed the excess fabric.

DIY T-SHIRTS + MODIFICATIONS - GODET SHIRT

Construct your shirt with the new, modified panels according to the instructions in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

OUR DESIGN CHOICES

Fabric Weight – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Fabric Colors – Emerald
Button Craft thread – Dogwood #155
Seams – Floating
Binding Stitch – Cretan

 

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25 thoughts on “DIY T-SHIRTS + MODIFICATIONS

  1. Pammie

    I love the simple lines of your garments, but knew that the patterns in your books probably wouldn’t work for me. This, however, might just get me sewing for myself again. Thank you so much !

    Reply
    1. bonnie

      Not for nothing…but I think the cut of Alabama Chanin garments are just the best. I am actually very short (5’2) and pretty well proportioned but if you want to get picky a lttle broad in the chest proportionally. Some items may fall a bit long but that’s easy to fix and everyhting else really hits me so well…the waist actually hits the waist and the cut is really cool (the details are great( so please dont change anything…It’s taken me years to find something so good! Myy mom who is 74 and average build looks fantastic in your clothes too. And FYI, the garments do stretch out…even a bit with beading and applique. Thanks so much for everything.

      Reply
  2. Susan

    Both of these modifications are great! I really love the godets.

    I have to say I LOVE your clothes. I love clothes that are fitted.

    I am resewing pieces of my wardrobe now and find it VERY challenging. I am using patterns, but also learning to make a draped muslin. It has been a great learning experience taking these clothes part to remake them. I am learning more taking things apart that I ever did trying to make things from the patterns.

    I have a new book which I really love, Basic Pattern Skills for Fashion Design. It is a clean, straightforward book that shows how to modify basic patterns to get lots of variations.

    Thanks for the books. I used the design book last night to look up how to use ribbon to embellish the collar of my resewn and remodeled trench coat.

    Reply
  3. Laura

    I recently discovered your site, and fell in love with your clothes. I have been making most of my own clothes since I was a teenager, and I have rarely bought a piece of clothing that I didn’t have to take in somewhere, being very slim. I’m going to sign up for your craftsy class and make a garment entirely by hand, which I have never done.

    Reply
  4. Laura Aldridge

    Maybe your next book could be about custom fit with tailoring and alteration. I have taken garments I love apart and made a pattern from it. This works particularly well for pants. I wear a plus size.

    Reply
  5. britt

    i whole heartedly agree with figuring the alterations on your own. i have raised your necklines (don’t like to reveal too much skin), adding sleeves, altering the princess seam dress into a very full skirt version by adding godets, and much more. that’s what i love most about your patterns. they are so easy to alter to my taste. i also love that since i am handstitching them, it’s so much easier to make adjustments and undo things that i don’t like as i go!

    thanks so much for doing what you do.

    Reply
    1. Vickie T.

      Britt, I am searching the site for tips on customizing some of the AC patterns to suit my own taste and raising the necklines is definitely high on my list. Could you tell me how you do that! Do you just adjust inward on the patterns or is there something more complex I’d have to do? I have made a couple of dresses and three corset tops but I have to wear little bra tops under all of them to get the coverage I want. I’ve thought I might be able to sew something into each garment but moving forward I just want to adapt the patterns. Thanks for any tips in advance.

      Reply
  6. Gabriela

    I don’t have any issue with your fit at all! I think your patterns are brilliant! I am just excited to see some of the patterns like the short wrap top and maybe the wrap skirt available! I think your patterns are super flattering and fit is awesome!!! Thanks again!

    Reply
  7. Grey Walker

    I confess, I’ve been altering your patterns since day one. I can’t really use any pattern without alterning it — I seem to be mentally incapable of NOT FIDDLING and trying different things.

    The godets are a new idea for me, though. Thanks! Now I am thinking about doing them in different colors, or embellishing them………

    Reply
  8. Terrie MacDonald

    I consider myself very much a beginner sewer. I use to sew many many years ago, but the passage of time and lack of practice have brought me back to the beginning again. You (Alabama Chanin) have reawakened in me the love of sewing. Each time I sit down to stitch I am reminded of the little girl in me that use to sew cloths for her dolls and herself…. not really being concerned about fit etc. Now that I am all grown up (!) and carrying a little extra of myself then I use to, I am more conscious of my body and the cloths I wear. However even I feel confident enough to alter your patters. Your master patterns are fantastic and I have OFTEN put the neckline of one dress on another, altered other patterns for sleeves (by just overlaying the pattern pieces and redrawing). So easy. I feel in control of the process and so free to interpret what you have set in place. I can not tell you how grateful I am :) Many many thanks, Terrie

    Reply
  9. Margaret

    Thanks for this great post! I expecialy love the shirt with godets. Its so refreshing to find clothes that look stylish, not girlish, and are most of all comfortable!

    Reply
  10. Patti

    As a ready to wear gal, I was a bit ….no, I was extremely nervous to try sewing from patterns. Would I put all the time and money into a piece only to have it not fit correctly? I had no reason to worry, though, because your patterns are easy to work with and fitting is wonderful. I did find that I wanted to do some alterations. This link was simple (even for the novice like myself). http://kwiksew.mccall.com/filebin/pdf/Kwik%20Sew/FitBrochures/KWIKSEW_Fit_Guide.pdf
    Thank you so much for delving into modifications. This is my next step, a natural progression in using your patterns. I look forward to all you have to say and any tips and ideas you may have to share!

    Reply
  11. Jennie

    I gave up on sewing my own clothes as a young adult because I could never get a good fit. It took a few decades of wearing RTW exclusively to finally admit that most of it didn’t fit me well, either. So I decided to make my own clothes again-this time with the goal of learning how to fit them to my body.

    Thankfully, we have the internet now (something that didn’t exist back when I was a young mother) and with it can be found an abundance of pattern fitting and alteration knowledge. Online tutorials have enabled to me to finally make clothes that fit. I now know that I can make the shoulders narrower, the bust (and belly) fuller, and the length longer. I can change a sleeve or neckline to suit me. (And I have found that the clean lines of Alabama Chanin patterns (and the forgiving nature of cotton jersey) make them some of the easiest to alter).

    I used to think that there was something wrong with me because I didn’t fit the pattern. The truth is that no single pattern or clothing line will fit every body on the planet. Accepting my body as it is was the first-and most crucial-step to learning how to fit my clothes. Thank you, Natalie, for making it easier!

    Reply
  12. Amy Hall

    I have been sewing for decades and have read many books and articles on pattern alteration. They are great for guidance but nothing beats actually doing it and becoming comfortable with it. One of the things I think you are selling with your books and clothing designs is freedom from convention. Sometimes we get so caught up with following rules we stifle ourselves. The patterns I have used from the Alabama Chanin books are wonderfully flattering and, depending on how I plan to use the garment, I have made some very form-fitting and some more form-skimming. The forgiving jersey fabric makes fitting a lot easier than many fabrics. I am continually amazed that you shared your designs with the world and I thank you for it.

    Reply
  13. Jennifer Willard

    I’m somebody for whom the Alabama Chanin fit does not work, but I’ve had great success applying the Alabama Chanin concepts and techniques to Vogue patterns. Natalie’s first journal posts on adapting Vogue patterns opened up a whole new world for me. I’ve completed 4 dresses (1 shift, 2 A-line, and 1 designer) and am working on a swing coat in the faded dots midweight jersey.

    Reply
  14. Irina Klyagin

    Thank you for this wonderful post!
    I’ve also been sewing for years, and I always make some alterations to make the fit perfect, I think most people who sew do that to some extent. It is a skill that you learn and keep re-learning; challenging, but fun. I think your patterns are highly adaptable, not to mention beautiful, simple and stylish. You’ve opened up the whole new world for so many of us, and we greedily keep asking for more, because we admire your imagination and want to learn from you as much as possible! We will snatch up every snippet you offer.
    Thank you Natalie, and your wonderful company!

    Reply
  15. Vickie

    I am slowly using your three books and patterns to complete my goal of making 25% of my wardrobe and overall I love the flattering cut of all your garments. There are times when I wish the necklines were a little higher but I guess I can start cutting them that way, and meanwhile I’ve adapted by wearing camisoles and other undergarments that “fill in the gap” that makes me uncomfortable. The unique combination of a substantial, multi-pieced, fitted pattern; sturdy stitching techniques, and the stretch of the cotton knit fabric yields clothing that is form-fitting yet so very comfortable to wear. And yes, despite being a grandmother and having a body that I wouldn’t describe as anything close to perfect, I believe your clothes look good on me. I truly love all the inspiration that comes from these posts and from your own experimentation with color, pattern, fabric, and cut. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  16. Sandie

    As a size 22 I’m getting used to altering patterns. I have used your patterns as a base to create something to fit me with great success. I can get away with a smaller size too as jersey is so stretchy and comfy to wear. I’m onto my third item, the long skirt and can’t wait to get stencilling :)

    Reply
  17. Carol

    One pattern I would love to have is the criss-cross-back top pattern from last years collection I think. I never saw a front view of it. I love the patterns from your books – I even used the godet idea once on the bottom sides of a t-shirt (about a 5″ triangle). I didn’t know what a godet was then but it did the trick to give me a little more stretch across the bottom. All in all I think the fit of your patterns is great!

    Reply
  18. Amber McPherson

    I for one have been dying to have the pattern for the tied wrap dress/top from a couple of years ago! And my aunt has been making eyes at the Maggie dress.

    Reply
  19. Lisa

    I love your tell-it-like-it-is approach. Your willingness to share your patterns and knowledge and make materials available makes it possible for us all to take matters into our own hands. Literally. Thanks for taking the risk and believing in us.

    Reply
  20. Erin

    I LOVE the fit of your clothes and the boutique quality it lends to my wardrobe. I find that if I use a sewing machine (gasp…I know) to sew the initial seams so that I can ascertain the fit of the garment in the chest/stomach area, I can guarantee a better fit because it is easier to alter. I can always hand-stitch over the machine seam or use a really sturdy felling stitch like the cross-stitch.

    I also have tweaked your patterns for my own body and tastes…but I cannot figure out how to give my favorite piece, the tunic, sleeves, which I’d love to do for variation and warmth in the winter (I wear different colored tunics everyday and wonder if people think I have no imagination…LOL). Now that you’ve added colors to your craftsy jacket kit, I might try that as I would prefer blacks and greys to go with my Alabama Chanin wardrobe.

    I agree with one of the other responders that what I’d love to see most is access to some of the newer patterns. I love the full dress and wrap around blouse as well. I have also been thinking about adding gores to one of the skirt patterns. I saw a cute embellishment plan for a gored skirt so I may think that out and try it. Thank you so much for the new ideas. I love the gored t-shirt idea…I could always put sleeves on it, right?

    Reply

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