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Sew the Ultimate T-shirt

Make knit tops that look and wear better than store-bought versions
Threads #226, Summer 2024

T-shirts, like jeans, have evolved from utilitarian garb to wardrobe staple. We wear them to clean, garden, go to the office, and even to enjoy a night out on the town. Depending on the fabric you choose, a T-shirt can take you from casual to elegant. If made with quality fabrics and good sewing techniques, T-shirts will last a long time, too. 

Editor’s note: This enhanced article includes T-shirt fitting tips, which explain how to make adjustments for the armhole, upper back, and bust or shoulder.

What we think of as a classic T-shirt was originally a piece of men’s underwear or gym gear: white or gray cotton jersey, crew neck, short sleeves, boxy shape. Over the past half-century or so, it has morphed into countless styles, from tight and cropped to drapey tunic looks. But you don’t need to follow any of the trends. For sewers, it’s almost faster to make your own T-shirt than to shop for one. Plus, you can include features that confer longevity and personal flair. I’ll give you the know-how to sew knit tops that fit just the way you like, and that survive many seasons of wear and laundering. Your T-shirts can then play any role in your outfits, from supporting actor to star. 


Your Favorite Fit

T-shirt styles change frequently, from snug to loose silhouettes, shorter or longer lengths, fitted or dropped shoulders. The most versatile style is a classic T-shirt with a fitted shoulder and armhole, mid-length (to just below the abdomen), and a fit that skims the body. This style works well on its own and as a layering piece.

The fit through the body is a personal preference. Pay attention to the finished garment measurements relative to your body, as well as the…

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