Category Archives: Drafting

The T-shirt Project: #1 The Cabi Gather Tee knockoff

Dust off your sergers, ladies!!  The T-shirt Project is officially underway.

Lori of Girls in the Garden and the Sew Forth Now podcast turned me onto Cabi.  They have some great designs in such bright happy colors.  Browsing their site, I was drawn to this tee (despite perhaps it just being plain old white and not the aforementioned bright happy colors).


It’s more or less a v-neck with a center panel and gathers right in the bust area along the panel.  It looked simple enough in form, so I thought it would be a good first project for The T-Shirt Project as well as a chance to try out some simple drafting.  Here’s my version:

To make your own, you will be dividing the front of your t-shirt into 2 sections.  Here’s the process:

  1. I traced a front from my TNT t-shirt (Jalie 2921–scarf collar top).  Knowing that that pattern is low without the scarf collar, I raised CF by 1/2″.
  2. Measure between your bust at your full bust line.  Divide this measurement by 2.  For me, that works out to 3/4″ or 1 1/2″ total between the girls.  Make a mark on your pattern at this point.
  3. Make another mark 1/2″ from CF at the top of the neckline.  Connect the two points extending through to the hem.  The curve of the neckline is part of the center panel, so don’t do anything to change that.  You will end up with a wedge shaped piece.
  4. Cut apart your pattern along this line and add seam allowance on either side of the line (I used 1/4″ which is my preference for knits since I serge all of my knits).
  5. Having the benefit of a TNT, I tried one of my previous versions and marked the top of my bust and the bottom of my bust with pins at CF.
  6. On my pattern because of my cheaty FBA that I do of bumping out to a larger size just at my full bust and coming back under it, I know where my full bust level is–I made a mark perpendicular to the grainline at CF along this line.  I transferred the marks from step 4 to the pattern.  These are the points at which you’ll add the fluff to gather in the next step.
  7. From each of the three points you’ve marked (top of the bust, full bust, bottom of bust), draw a line perpendicular to the grainline.  Slash the pattern along these lines, stopping before you get to the side seam seam line.
  8. Spread these lines open vertically as much as you want.  I spread open the top bust line 5/8″, the full bust line 3/4″ and the bottom bust line by 3/8″.  I could have made all of these wider to get more dense gathers, but for this version, I tried this.
  9. Fill in the empty space with tissue and tape away.
  10. True up the line that will attach to the CF panel.
  11. That’s it!  Use your back and sleeve from your TNT pattern* and you’re set.

To construct:

  1. Cut out your pieces as normal, transferring the top, full, and bottom bust points to the CF side of your side fronts.
  2. Run a gathering stitch at 3/8″, 1/2″, and 5/8″.  Pull up the stitches to gather, centering the most gathers around the full bust marking.
  3. Gently lay each side front section against the CF panel and adjust the gathers to fit, but don’t sew yet.
  4. Gently lay some clear elastic in the seam allowance of the gathered area and baste it into place.  Take out the other gathering stitches.  The elastic will hold the gathers in place and it will be easy to take out the gathering stitches, and plus, they won’t get caught up or shift when you’re sewing the side fronts to the center panel in the next step.
  5. Sew or serge the center panels to the side fronts with the gathered side down.  I highly recommend flatlocking this seam–flatlocking is part of the original Cabi shirt, and the flatlocked seam will lay flat wheras a serged seam will be a little more bulky.  To flatlock, you can look over my notes here.  Regardless of how you serge the panel, press towards the side fronts.
  6. Sew the rest of your shirt as usual.  I added a binding.  If you’ve never done that, this is an awesome tutorial.  Sarah Veblen Threads Knit Binding Tutorial (the only optional step in binding is basting it into place.  It seems fiddly to do so, but I’ve found that I get a smoother binding since I’m not trying to stretch it while I’m serging it, and if you baste it first, you can adjust it if it’s too long or short).
  7. If you’d like to add ruching to the sleeves on the inside of the wrists like the original tee, you can do this easily with some clear elastic.  To do this, I drew a line perpendicular to the hem 4″ long on the inside of each wrist on the right side of the fabric.  From the wrong side of the sleeve, I stretched a piece of clear elastic (from Pam Erny–don’t try to use clear elastic from JoAnn, you’ll cry) behind this line and stitched it into place with a 3-step zigzag while stretching it a lot.

*I’m planning a post about finding and getting a TNT for a t-shirt if you haven’t found one to work for you or have no idea what I’m talking about.

I also have a pattern review of this shirt here.

That’s my #1 for The T-shirt Project.  I get extra bonus points too because this white shirt fits into the Wardrobe Basics Sew Along too.  What about you all?  Have a t you’re working on?  Post it to this Flickr group I put together for everyone.

Also, Denver Fabrics has rayon knits on sale this week.  They have lots of good basic solids and the quality is good.  There’s also some fun prints including this one which I almost ordered a couple of weeks ago in another [better] colorway, but it sold out while I was making my order people.  Sad.

To invert or not

I finished my Burda jacket, but I’ll wait to post about it until tomorrow when I get some pictures of it.

For now, this is my muslin for #3 for the contest.  I merged the Jalie scarf top pattern with a really pretty maternity pattern from the August 2008 issue of Burda.  I love the scarf top as it fits me well, but it’s a bit too basic.  I figured the pleating from this dress would make it a little more interesting.   My plan was to split the Jalie front essentially into 3 pieces–two pleated sections as it is in the dress and a plain bottom section.  As long as I worked within the boundaries of the Jalie pattern piece, I figured I couldn’t fail because I know that that fits me.  

First I copied my front piece of my Jalie so I didn’t lose track of it.  I placed a plain piece of paper on top of that, matching center fronts which I tacked down to my gridded board.  I traced off the 2 bodice pieces from the dress and found that the shoulder was precisely the same size and slope.  I then tacked the shoulders down and traced the bottom of the curve on the upper portion of the bodice onto my plain paper.  I wanted to raise the neckline on the Jalie by about 1″ because it’s on the verge of being too low for my taste.  No problem.  I just changed the angle of my curve on the neckline with my French curve to match 1″ higher on CF.  I extended the bottom of the bodice to that point and traced the side seam from the Jalie pattern (this eliminated some of the bodice section of the Burda, but no matter, remember it’s the Jalie boundaries I’m working in).  Using graphite paper between the Burda section and my plain paper, I traced the pleating placement lines and the grainlines.  I did the same to the lower bodice section.  What was left over became the lower part of the front by default.  I cut these 3 sections apart and added 3/8″ seam allowance.

Onto the pleated sections…I cut apart the pleating placement lines on the bodice sections from the CF line towards the side seams, leaving a wee tiny hinge at the side seam uncut.  I made sure to keep my grainline the same and I spread these sections on paper so the tip of the line was 2″ apart from the other side of the cut.  I tacked this all down, and traced the new sections and carefully taped my others back together.  Then I cut it out in cheap poly knit I got on clearance at Wal-Mart.  I matched the sides of the pleated sections and basted them all the way around the piece.  This left the extra fabric to be pleated just literally hanging around.  I manipulated that excess into pleats and tacked them down.  One side of the bodice I pleated plainly, with the pleats laying up, and the other I made a series of inverted pleats.  I like the look of both…the plain are certainly easier to do, and I think they look a little better on me. 

Everything else I sewed normally.  I don’t think I need to change anything except maybe to line the bodice because the pleating shows through (but then, this fabric is awful stuff).  I had some white rayon lycra set aside for this top, but it’s not right with the jacket which is pretty pastel…the combo of the two would be overwhelming for my fair skin.  I did see some violet pink lyrca at JoAnn yesterday.  Since I didn’t have the jacket with me and there were about a gazillion people there, I thought I’d go back today (and I will when my son wakes up) and double check the color.  I’m pretty sure it’s almost the color of the buttons I used for the jacket.

My first drafting, or a skirt I don’t entirely hate

Ah, my first draft.  There’s nothing fancy about it, but it fits, well mostly.  I really overestimated my waist and I need to take this in quite a bit at the waist.  It’s just as well since drab olive is not my favorite.  I figured this was a safe fabric to test out this pattern on though since I got it for all of 97 cents for the whole yard and a half it is.  What I do like about this skirt is that it hangs on my hips and drops straight down from there and fits my curves in a way that makes me feel feminine, but not immodest or matronly.  I’ve never been able to get this from any skirt I’ve owned and I’ve been disappointed with my own attempts to sew from patterns where skirts are concerned.  I know this needs further tweaking, but things are looking up.

Self-Drafted Princess seamed skirt

What I learned:

1.  Fit where the fullness is going on:   I have wide hips–most of that is bone, but part of that is a more rounded backside.  I can add width across my hipline all day long, but at the end of things, my bum is still going to rob fabric from the widest part of my side seams and things will be tight across my backside.  Bizarre, right?  That’s what I thought.  I fundamentally don’t like sewing darts in skirts, so I innocently thought when I was drafting to just try princess seams instead.  I had no idea I’d stumbled across pure gold where fitting my backside is concerned…those seams let me put in a little bit of extra width across my seat at the center back without distorting anything, and their gentle curves just work better on my body.  The result is a nice smooth curve that skims my own curves.  When I’ve tried to fit simple plain front and back skirts that only have side seams, I end up every time looking like I’m wearing a potato sack.   Cynthia Guffey kept saying at the Sewing Expo–”You can’t fit curves with a straight line.”  I’ve been thinking about this a lot and it makes a lot of sense–my fluff is not on my sides (actually my hip bones stick out a bit)–it’s at center back, so adding to the side seams covers the fluff, but it doesn’t conform to its shape.  So I need a curve where I’m curvy.  I need to take in the skirt at my waist some more, but otherwise it fits really well.

2.  The only way to become less scared of zippers is to sew them:  I decided no more fear of zippers here.  They are useful closures and I plum need to deal with them.  I started with the zipper so it could be nice and flat and unfussy when I was installing it.  I sewed and serged my seam, changing to a basting stitch where I wanted my zipper to be.  I basted in a little fabric loop towards the top of the seam to reduce stress on the zipper and because I fundamentally hate hook and eyes.  I used steam a seam to position my zipper perfectly under the basted section of the seam, ran a chalk line exactly where I wanted to topstitch the zipper in place and topstitched away.  I took care of the top of the zipper by sewing it into my facings which worked out really well.  Tada!:

I’m pretty surprised at how this whole project was a lot less overwhelming than I thought it was going to be.  As for my waist, I shall save this skirt for my postpartum thicker waist the next time around.  Version 2 will fit better I am sure.