Saturday, February 5, 2011

I {heart} re-designing: The 1 hour Sloppy Joe t-shirt

Since I had my second daughter just over a year ago, I’ve been loving the current fashion of baggy, sloppy tops with either bat-wing arms or drop shoulders that slide sideways off your shoulder sexily. Some look like casual, 80s inspired ‘sloppy joe’ types; some look like nautical ‘Bretton’ shirts; and some are lovely, breezy 'going out' tops made in chiffon. They are super kind to post-baby tummies, sit nicely on your hips, and show off one of a women’s best assets: the décolletage.

I was determined to find a way to make these shirts, to beef up my summer wardrobe. I knew I wanted some 80s-inspired ‘sloppy joe’ types, in particular in nautical stripes; and a grey one, like a Fame-inspired look; and a long tunic/dress version in a nice black silky fabric that I could wear with a belt to work.

After much retail research, trooping around Max, Cotton On and Witchery, looking at how they are constructed, I figured it out. The secret to the style is ensuring that the front and sleeves are only made from one piece, so there's no sleeve seams, resulting in the draped, drop shoulder look.

With this in mind, I hit my Mum’s stash of patterns. What I wanted to do was re-design a simple pattern. I was after was a straight-line, square-ish type of top that I knew I could alter.

Using one of her 1980s 'easy' Butterick pattern and an even older Kwik Sew pattern to compare, I placed the pattern on the fabric, then added a couple of inches width at the fold, to make it really baggy (I measured my favourite baggy gym shirt, to give me the right width I needed). I also knew that I had to extend the neckline from a round neck to a sexier, wider ‘slit’ style. To make it look even funkier, I added 'turn ups' on the sleeves too.

Easy! I’ve made two stripy tees so far, and I absolutely love how they came out. I also lengthened them to the same length as my long tunic style tops, and they sit perfectly on my hips. The best part: they only take an hour start to finish!

Want to do something similar? Here’s my advice:

• Buy a really lightweight cotton knit from Spotlight, the cheaper and lighter the better.

• Find an old pattern in your Mum’s stash or download one of the free ones online (here's a goodie from Fitz Patterns, and it's free) that has a drop shoulder or an all-in-one body and sleeve. It doesn’t matter if it has a different back (mine had a v-dip in the back) or has a zip or is too short – we’ll be ignoring those features, and potentially widening it at the sides, too.
The free KATE batwing pattern from Fitz Patterns.

• Alternatively, find one of your own baggy gym shirts or one of your dressy ones in the same style as we’re trying to recreate; or your favourite t-shirt of your partners that you always steal!
Use this to decide the shape and width of your pattern.

• Fold your fabric in half, wrong sides together. If you are using a pattern, lay the front piece on the fold (see picture, so in effect you are cutting two 'halves' at the same time, only opposites). If you are using an old t-shirt, fold it in half, lay it on the material on the fold, and fold back the sleeve so it's only a short extension on the side, like 2-3cms, or a cap sleeve length. Trace the whole way around, or pin the shape around.

* If you need to, widen the width of the pattern so it will be baggy enough. So for example, working with half my Butterick pattern on the fold, I personally need to lay the pattern 5cm further away from the fold (giving me an extra 10cms in total in width of the shirt).

• Don’t shape the sides or the hem. Make it a straight line side.

• Keep the 'sleeve' extension of the pattern short, like a cap sleeve - 2-3cms wider than the side seam is all you need.

• Lengthen the pattern so it's more like a tunic length.

• If you can, alter tbe neck so it's wider and more like a 'slit'.

• Cut out. Now flip the fabric and pattern over - trace and cut again - so you have two pieces: an identical front and back (only opposites).

Then sew it all together and whoila! The easiest fashionable shirt in the world!

PS: I didn't learn any fancy tricks to sew with knits. I just used my normal settings, and went at a steady, if slow pace, so it didn't stretch. You don't really need an overlocker either, as t-shirt material won't fray. (Sorry mum! Yes, this is cheating).
PPS: Want to do one for your kids? On Make it and Love it this week (co-incidently) they posted on how to re-purpose two old men's t-shirts into a new baseball style shirt for kids. Check it out, it's an awesome idea!

1 comment:

  1. They look awesome! I have the same vintage 80s pattern in my stash so I shall have to have a go.


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