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  • Nicole Seafolk

How Many T shirt Patterns is too Many??

The Sew My Style 2019 theme for this month was t-shirts, which meant I spent a good chunk of my sewing time whipping up a bunch of great new basic tees for my collection. I also got to call this month a double whammy since sewing basic tt-shirts was part of my 2019 Make Nine as well!

But when I sat down to look through my pattern collection and decide on what I wanted to make at the beginning of the month I quickly realized just how many patterns I own for basic t-shirts. Spoiler alert, its a lot. Like over fifteen. Which is bonkers. How many patterns does a person really need for a basic t-shirt and why do I keep buying them!? Not fifteen that’s for sure!

Some of the patterns, in fact most of them, had never even been used. When I first took up apparel sewing I went and purchased buckets full of Big4 patterns when they were on sale for $1 at Joanns. Many of those patterns were for basic t-shirt style tops since I thought they would be good “beginner” patterns. But then I jumped straight for sewing leggings and dresses, skipping right over all of those shiny new patterns and they have sat there unused since they day they came home with me. Which is totally wasteful, I know, but I would be lying if I said that was the only time I bought sewing supplies that I never ended up using, something I am sure you all are guilty of at some point too!

I immediately moved all of the unopened Big4 patterns into a bin of donate-able items (I am sure there is a local sewist or school around here that can actually but them to good use!) and moved on to looking at all of my pdf top versions since lets be honest I prefer PDF to paper anyway. Turns out I have a crap ton of basic t-shirt pdf patterns too. Seven of them to be exact.

Most of the PDF versions are also untried, but there are three basic t shirt patterns I do use regularly I noticed which meant the others needed to go, if I hadn’t made them yet I probably wasn’t going to. The Ava Tee from Made for Mermaids, the Givre tee from Deer and Doe, and the Sheona Tee from Athina Kakou were the three I had been using and are all great patterns. When I started looking at them more closely, however ,I wasn’t convinced I even needed those three patterns. Because really how different can basic t shirt patterns be?? (Turns out, they can be pretty different but well get to that!)

A good old fashioned sew off was in order to determine which of these three was going to stay in my collection and which I was going to let go of! I love me a good sew off!

So I made up three t shirts, one from each pattern in the same fabric to make the comparison as fair as possible. I used Phee Fabric’s rayon spandex which I have talked about time and time again as one of my favorite top fabrics. It is a heavyweight rayon spandex with great drape and opacity that washes well and is super easy to sew, perfect for a top that you know is going to get worn again and again.

Look how BLACK this RS spandex is from Phee Fabrics! and this is AFTER numerous washings!!

I also noted any adjustments I needed to make to the pattern as I was sewing and my overall thoughts about the fit, options, and versatility of each of the patterns.

First up was the Ava Tee. This was one of the first tee patterns I ever used and I think that is why I keep going back to it over and over again. Ava has a boxy shape with straight cut sides, includes top and tunic length, three sleeve lengths, and scoop and v necklines.

This is the only pattern of the three that has a V neck line and the only pattern with a low neckline as well. While it is not scandalously low, it is definitely scoop-y, showing a bit of cleavage in both scoop and V variations.

The tunic length is not my favorite, my booty is too big so I get some pooling no matter how much I try to work on a sway back adjustment, but the top length is just about perfect.

The sleeves are fairly boxy and straight cut as well. They are also quite long, I need to shorten the sleeves just over four inches to get them to in the correct places.

Over all I like it the shape of the Ava for a sleep shirt or a casual, loose fitting t-shirt but the boxy shape doesn’t always prove to be the most flattering on me personally. I do have a variation that I have adjusted to fit me in my preferred way (sway back, narrowed shoulders, slightly raised neckline, that I do really like. I consider this my “building-block” pattern that can be hacked into many different things when it comes to basic tops.

Next up is the Givre from Deer and Doe. This is a pattern that may not even really fit in the “basic” tee category, although that is definitely something that can be made from it’s many options. The Givre has unique color blocking that the other patterns do not have which definitely gives it a leg up and it has both a tee and dress cut line. The one neckline included is a high/crew neck but it is definitely more of a mid rise neckline on me, which is a height I really enjoy.

It also features a sleeveless option which makes this one even more versatile, a major plus, but the sleeveless and long sleeve options are the only two included within the pattern, which is a drawback.

For this pattern I needed to widen the shoulders and do both a broad upper back and sway back adjustment to get the fit just right for me. I also needed a FBA and to take in the sleeves.

As far as how it works as a basic tee, I don’t think it is ideal for those of us who have been *blessed* in the chest department. Or that are curvy at all for that matter. It has a really small size range and I am at the very top end of their size range. Really I reach for this pattern when I want a sleeveless, high necked top to wear under cardigans but that is about it.

And finally we have the Sheona top. This is another top/dress combo pattern with a high/crew neckline. This one has a bunch of other variations beyond the basic t-shirt however including multiple lengths of ruffled bottom hems and color blocked sleeves. It also comes with a free hack booklet for even more variations which is always a plus.

The fit of this one is definitely unique. It has a looser fit over all but a very defined waist curve. The top length is very short however, I added three inches to my variation here and I am only five foot, four and half inches tall. The more nipped in waist I find more flattering over all but I like that is it still loose enough to feel casual and relaxed. Other than adding the length and grading up for my bust I didn’t any other alterations which is great!

After sewing up and comparing the three I am convinced they are in no way fully interchangeable but I do think that they aren’t all necessary since one basic pattern could easily be hacked into any of the looks. Really it is just a matter of how much effort one wants to put into it to create all of the looks. Since I am lazy and that effort is usually zero I dont think I would personally ever go down to just one t-shirt pattern.

That being said and although I do like the look of all three of them, I will be giving up the Givre tee, despite my strong pull to it as my favorite neckline. It just requires too much work to fit properly and personally I never really feel drawn to color blocking, especially around my bust (that is an area I want to minimize not draw attention to).

The other two I will most likely keep since I really like the potential the Ava holds as a block to be altered and I do like the neckline and nipped waist of the Sheona. But I think with those two there really would be no need for me to every purchase another basic t shirt pattern.

It is amazing how we can accumulate so many patterns that look so similar and never really take the time to really determine if they are a pattern that truly fits us and is something we want to go back to time and time again.

I am trying to make a conscious effort to not bring so much *stuff* into my sewing space in the form of patterns and fabric that I do not truly love or that doesn’t bring me joy (thanks Marie Kondo for making that my new go-to when ever I try to buy anything lol!) and letting go of all of these patterns that look so similar but that I know I won’t actually make really does feel like a weight being lifted from my sewing life!

Do you have a type of garment that you keep buying patterns for that you never end up making?! Besides t shirts my other one is underwear, I have SOOOOO many underwear patterns!! Let me know down below!

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