It’s about time! I’ve been promising to do this tutorial for awhile, and I know you’ve been waiting with baited breath, right?!? All this talk of coordinated family-members lit a fire under me, so here it is, the Letter Tee Tutorial. I know this might look intimidating, but it’s not hard. Do NOT be afraid of knits. When it comes to making a simple tee-shirt — which this is, essentially, along with some applique thrown in — knits are really very easy to work with. It does take a little practice, and a little nerve, but you can do it. I wrote this tutorial with the beginner in mind; if you don’t know how to make a ribbed collar, you will. If you don’t know how to put together a basic tee shirt, you will. And if you don’t know how to use paper-backed fusible webbing, you will. So take a breath, take your time, and enjoy.

1/2 – 1 1/2 yds cotton interlock knit. I usually use .5yd for up to size 5, and 1.5yds for a men’s size large (okay, extra large, but don’t tell my husband I told you that)
1/4 yd contrasting knit ribbing.
1/4 yd paper-backed fusible webbing

1. Make a pattern for your tee-shirt. Choose a well-fitting tee, and fold it in half. Trace out this side of the tee using a 3/4″ seam allowance on the bottom and a 3/8″ seam allowance everwhere else. The 3/8″ seam allowance doesn’t need to be perfect; eyeballing it is just fine.

When you come to the sleeve, fold back the sleeve and continue to trace the curve of the shirt front, still adding a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Do the same thing when you come to the neck ribbing; fold it back and continue to trace the curve of the neckline along the shirt front, adding a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Now trace the sleeve. Trace along the curve of the armhole and the bottom of the sleeve adding a 3/8″ seam allowance. At the top of the sleeve, don’t add any seam allowance (since it’s on the fold), and add 3/4″ to the end of the sleeve which will be hemmed.

Now pick up your shirt and fold it so that the other side is on the top. Trace this side of the shirt the same way you did the first side.

2. Okay. Phew. You made the pattern. That was the hardest part. Now lay it out on your fabric on the fold and cut out one shirt back, one shirt front, and two sleeves.

You will also need to cut out the ribbing. First cut a 2″ strip of ribbing that is perpendicular to, or across, the stripes in the fabric. To find out how long you need to make the ribbing, measure around the neckline of the front piece of your shirt and multiply this by 2. Now multiply that number by .7 or, if you have a very stretchy knit, by .6. This will give you the length of the ribbing you need. For my shirt, my neckline was 16″, so I needed an 11 1/4″ by 2″ strip of ribbing. If you’re not sure how stretchy your ribbing is, go with multiplying your neckline by .6 just to make sure it isn’t too loose.

3. Using a zigzag stitch or a serger, finish the bottom edges of the front and back shirt pieces and the ends of the sleeves (all the areas that will be hemmed) as well as one side of the ribbing.

4. Match the shoulders of the front and back shirt pieces, right sides together and stitch. You can use a straight stitch, an overlocking stitch on a conventional machine, or a serger.

5. Now match the two short ends of the ribbing together and stitch using a straight stitch, overlocking stitch, or a serger.

Then fold your ribbing circle in half, wrong sides together, and iron.

6. Time to attach the ribbing. Pin the unfinished edge of the ribbing to the edge of your shirt’s neckline, right sides together.

Begin sewing the binding on using a zigzag stitch or a serger. You will need to stretch the ribbing to fit the shirt’s neckline as you go, but try not to stretch the shirt’s neckline. An easy way to do this is to hold the neckline and ribbing together opposite from where you pinned them together and pull slightly. This step takes practice, but trust me, it’s not hard.

Now iron your collar with the seam allowance pointing towards the body of the shirt rather than up into the ribbing.

Fold your ribbing to the inside of the shirt along the line you ironed earlier so that the long edges match once again.

On the right side of the fabric, pin the edges together so that the seam allowances of both ribbing edges point towards the body of the shirt.

Pin alot. Go crazy with pins.

Finally, using a straight stitch, sew along the edge of the neckline, very close to — about 1/8″ away from — the ribbing but still on the body of the shirt. I like to use a walking foot for this step, but it’s not necessary.

Ta-dah! It should look something like this:

7. Now it’s time to applique the letter onto your tee. You can find a template for your letter by googling “varsity __” and clicking on “images.” One of my shirts used an “M,” and this is what it looks like:

Trace your letter BACKWARDS onto the paper side of your paper-backed fusible webbing. Lay the webbing, shiny side down and paper side up, on the wrong side of a scrap of your ribbing with the lines of the ribbing running in whatever direction you choose. I chose up and down for mine. Iron the webbing down by pressing for about 10 seconds, lifting the iron and moving to another spot, and then ironing once again for around 10 seconds until the whole of the letter is ironed down.

Now cut out your letter and peel back the paper. It works better if you peel it fast.

Place the letter where you’d like it on your tee.

Cover with a damp press cloth (I love using cloth diapers for this), and press for 10-15 seconds, lifting and pressing the same way you did before on the ribbing. A good rule of thumb is to press until you stop hearing the damp press cloth hiss, then lift and press another spot.

Finally, using a straight stitch (and again, I like to use a walking foot), sew around the inside of the appliqued letter 1/4″ from the edge.

7. Yay! You got the letter on! Now it’s time to attach the sleeves. First, match the center of the sleeve curve to the shoulder seam of the shirt body, right sides together, and pin.

Match the sleeve ends to the end of the armhole and sew using a straight stitch, overlock stitch, or serger. It helps to pull on the sleeves and shirt just a teeny bit to ease the curve of the sleeve piece to match the curve of the armhole on the body of the shirt.

Your shirt should now look like this:

If you have any problems with this step, please let me know. It’s just like adding sleeves to any garment, except it’s a bit easier with knits.

8. Now for the side seams. Turn the shirt inside out, essentially, and match the sleeve ends, the underarm seams, and the sides of the shirt body, right sides together, and pin.

Stitch this entire seam from under the arms all the way to the bottom of the shirt. Do this for both sides of the shirt.

The inside of your shirt will now look like this:

9. Finally, it’s time to hem your shirt. Fold the bottom of the shirt and the sleeve ends up 3/4″ and stitch using a twin needle or by sewing two lines using a straight stitch 5/8″ from the edge of the shirt bottom and again 3/8″ from the shirt bottom.

And now you’re done! Congratulations, you just made a tee shirt!!!

My little one wasn’t too happy to try his on, but he perked up a few days later, as you can see in the picture above. Now that you know how to make a tee, you can do it again in even less time; it’s a fairly easy process once you get the steps down, so you can custom-make a whole bunch of them for your family!

Please let me know if you have any questions at all! Thanks for visiting!


2 Responses to “Letter Tee Tutorial!”

  1. 1 scrapbooker July 20, 2010 at 4:43 am

    That’s great! Thanks for posting this tut.

    btw, I found you via Sew mama sew.

  1. 1 Letter Tee Tutorial (Finally!) « Everyday Chaos Trackback on July 19, 2010 at 3:53 am

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