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The Somerset | neck alteration tutorial

The Somerset t-shirt has a very elegant and lovely bateau neckline and we don’t want anything to disrupt the clean line.

But, one of the fitting issues you may come across with a slash neck t-shirt is a baggy neckline. The neckline doesn’t sit quite flat – it’s that annoying little bumpy gape you can see. There can be a few different reasons why this happens, we are all different shapes and sizes so sometimes we do have to adjust to fit. I’ve found that this is more common on the back neckline but it could be an issue on the front neckline too.

Before we jump straight into the pattern alteration, let’s just make sure it’s the alteration you need.

DON’T STRETCH THE NECKLINE | First of all, make sure you are not stretching the neckline as you press and topstitch. 

FABRIC & BOOBS | Before you adjust the neckline just take a look at how your t-shirt fits your bust. If it is too tight the t-shirt doesn’t sit where it should and instead works its way upwards and forcing the neckline to sit too high on the body and it then it can’t sit flat. A telltale sign of this is you keep wanting to tug your t-shirt down.

I have found fabric plays a part in how my t-shirts fit – a very soft lycra bamboo jersey gives me no problems, fitting nice and flat across the neckline. The stripey sample, however, is made in a much firmer cotton lycra knit that doesn’t relax as much over my boobage and therefore my t-shirt travels upwards with a little wear, giving me a baggy back neck. I should actually do an FBA but I probably won’t – next time I’ll grade between the sizes and go up a size for my bust while keeping neckline and shoulders my usual size. 

If your Somerset t-shirt is generally too big across the shoulders and neckline, you may be better to choose a smaller size for your shoulder area and to blend between sizes.

THE NECKLINE IS TOO BIG |

You’ve decided the neckline is indeed too big for you. Excellent! I have a pattern alteration fix for that! 

GOOD TO KNOW | I have used one of my original toiles for the photos in this tutorial, so it is only stitched with a normal straight stitch rather than twin needled. I’ve actually worn it quite a bit and it’s been washed and abused like any other of my t-shirts and that stitching has held up perfectly. It is also quite likely the cat slept on it immediately before photos were taken.

EQUIPMENT |

  • Copy of the back pattern (or the ability to re-print)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Sticky tape
  • Tape measure
  • Paper scissors
  • Pattern paper

PREPARE YOUR PATTERN | First, as always with any pattern alteration, trace off your pattern. This gives you the opportunity to preserve your original and the chance to start again if things go horribly wrong! 

Mark all the seam allowances/stitch lines on the pattern to make your life easier.

TOILE | Pop on your toile/offending garment and pin the excess fabric at the neckline a little way back from each shoulder.

  • Use chalk or an extra pin to remark the ‘dart’ so the neckline can lay flat.
  • It’s unlikely that the two ‘darts’ you’ve pinned are of an equal amount and in the same position along the neckline. Unless you have a pronounced difference in your shoulders we just need to even them out.
  • Measure them both and find the TOTAL amount to be removed. 
  • We will be altering half a pattern so DIVIDE the total amount by 2. In this example, I need to remove 4cm in total from the back neckline, so 2cm is to be removed from the actual pattern.
  • It’s the same idea for the position of the ‘dart’ – just split the difference. If you have pinned one at 7cm and one at 5cm from the shoulder – split the difference and use 6cm.

TRANSFER TO PATTERN | 

  • Transfer the marking from your garment to your pattern.
  • Measure the amount to be reduced on the FOLDLINE of the neckline, not on the outside edge.
  • This will give you 2 points on the neckline – A & B
  • Find the midway point between A & B.
  • Draw a line from that midpoint to intersect with the armhole stitchline. This is point C.

DRAW AN ACTUAL DART |

  • Join A to C & B to C
  • You are really just taking a dart out of your pattern to reduce the length of the back neck with the pointy end of the dart (point C) finishing on the stitchline, not the cut outside edge of the pattern. This will keep the armhole length the same so the sleeve will still fit!

CUT |

  • Cut along line A and stop at point C.
  • Make a snip from the outside edge of the pattern in the seam allowance towards point C stopping at the stitchline, leaving a small hinge of paper.
  • Point C will be the pivot point.

CLOSE THE DART |

  • Using the hinge at point C as a pivot point, close the dart up so the excess is removed and tape the pattern together. 
  • Nearly there now,  but you can see we now have a stagger at the neck and the armhole has a bit of a pointy shape.

SMOOTH |

  • Redraw a smooth curve at the neckline to even out that staggered line.
  • Smooth the armhole lines too and fill in the seam allowance by taping some paper behind it.
  • TIP | If you find your armhole shape has become too distorted it may be because you are trying to remove too much from the pattern in one place. Try spreading this alteration over 2 places rather than one. Or check your sizing as you may be better using the neckline of a smaller size and blending it with your body size.
  • That’s it – you’re finished!

 

 

 

 

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How to sew with a twin needle | The Somerset T-shirt

HEMMING JERSEY | TWIN NEEDLE

The Somerset T-shirt has a flattering Bateaux neckline, and on a minimalist style garment such as this, it’s important to understand that any stitching will a very visible detail. One of the ways to make your clothes look less home-made and more handmade is by paying attention to the finishing of your garments. And for jersey and knit fabrics, a twin-needled hem gives a very professional look.  Most factory-finished ‘Ready To Wear’ t-shirts will have been hemmed with an industrial coverstitch machine, which creates that unmistakeable double row of topstitching that has an inbuilt stretch to it. You can buy domestic coverstitch machines and if you’ve got one, happy stitching! But, if you have got one, I’m going to assume you’ve stopped reading this because it will all be a bit irrelevant!

Now, I don’t own a coverstitch machine and if you don’t either, don’t worry, as it can be easily replicated on an ordinary domestic sewing machine. You just need to use either a ballpoint twin or stretch twin needle for your machine. They come in different widths, which is the size of the gap between the needles and this is how far apart your 2 rows of topstitching will be. I use a 4mm needle, just make sure the one you choose will fit inside your presser foot.

THREADING YOUR MACHINE |

You will need to refer to your sewing machine instruction manual to get the exact information for your machine. Use your usual thread in the bobbin and then use 2 reels of thread for the top threading of your machine. Thread your machine as usual with the first reel of thread. Your machine may have a second spool to attach to hold the second reel. Not all machines do have a second spool holder and if like my machine yours doesn’t you can to use a separate spool stand. Thread the second reel of thread as the first, but when you get to the last thread guide above the needle leave it free to help prevent tangling (but again defer to your manual) and thread the eye of the other needle.

PRESS |

Press the hem or facing allowance 2.5cm to the wrong side of the garment (the actual amount may vary depending on your pattern).

WENDY’S TOP TIP! | Machine baste the facing

I can’t take credit for this tip! Wendy, one of my lovely testers, passed on this to me as she always does this before twin needling, stitching a facing or hem from the right side of a garment. It’s much quicker and gives an accurate guideline to follow. It’s also quicker than tacking by hand.

  • Use a contrast colour on your bobbin, it will give you and an easy-to-see and an easy-to-remove colourful basting stitch on the right side.
  • Set your stitch to the longest length.
  • With the wrong side of the garment up, stitch a row 2cm from the folded edge. (Adjust the measurement for your particular need!)
  • This will give you a stitch line to act as a guide for your twin needle row.
  • After twin needling, you can remove the basting stitches.

TWIN NEEDLE |

You want both needles to catch the hem allowance. I have a 2.5cm allowance but I line up the folded edge with the 2cm mark on my machine throat plate – 2cm will actually be the midpoint between the 2 rows of stitching, so I can make sure that I catch the allowance easily (that should also allow enough allowance if you are using a twin needle bigger than 4mm). I’ll trim any excess allowance away later if it needs it, but usually, it is quite a minimal amount so I don’t worry too much. The twin needle creates a zig-zag on the back so there is no need to pre-neaten your hems, but jersey doesn’t really fray anyway.

  • Use a stretch or ballpoint twin needle to create a faux coverstitch.
  • Stitch from the right side of the garment.
  • Test the tension and stitch length on a folded piece of fabric so you are stitching through 2 layers.
  • Check there is enough elasticity in the seam so the stitches don’t crack and snap when pulled.
  • Remember to make a note of your stitch settings so you can switch between settings on your machine with ease during the construction phase.
  • Use a good quality thread to help prevent it snapping.
  • Leave long ends and don’t backstitch, just stitch the ends in by hand later.
  • Increase your stitch length for neater looking stitches.
  • Don’t stretch as you sew.
  • A good press with steam often improves the look of the twin needling.
  • I found a higher tension and slightly longer stitch length worked for my machine.
  • On the wrong side, trim away any excess hem allowance after you’ve finished.
  • OPTIONAL | A walking foot (great if you’ve got one, but they can be expensive if you haven’t) will help feed both layers of fabric through your machine evenly.
  • Alternatively, you could use a zig-zag stitch set to a medium width/length.

OOPS! WHAT WENT WRONG?! 

First of all, did you give it a good press? Never underestimate how much pressing your seams and hems will improve the look of your finished garment. And do remember that pressing is just that, lift your iron and use it in an up and down motion, not a dragging side to side motion. And be gentle, you don’t want to stretch anything.

TIME TO TROUBLESHOOT THOSE STITCHES |

Sometimes, no matter how much fiddling around with pressing, tension and stitch length settings, you may find using a twin needle creates a ridge or ‘tunnel’ effect. Before you get upset by it, go off and have a coffee or something, come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Would it have bothered you if you bought it from a shop or are you chasing unobtainable perfection? Because you know what, that picture above, it’s not that bad! But if it is bothering you…

Stabilising the area may help. Try these ideas;

  • try using spray starch to stabilise the area
  • place a tear-away stabilizer underneath before sewing and gently remove after.
  • You could try using wash away wonder tape on the hems. This is a double-sided tape that washes away. When I tested it I found due to the curved shape of the neckline and the tape is straight and not cut on the bias, it caused more problems than it solved, but you may find it useful for hems. And as all fabrics respond differently, it might be worth a little test sample of the neck area to see if it works for you.
  • Stabilise with strips of tricot interfacing.
  • Don’t forget, it’s not worth getting hot and bothered over! You can always use a different stitch, just select a zig-zag or other decorative stretch stitch to finish the hems and neckline.

STABILISE WITH INTERFACING|

To improve the look of tunnelling try applying a strip of fusible interfacing to the hem allowance before stitching. Use a tricot (knitted) interfacing, this is a stretch lightweight polyester iron-on interfacing and is available in black or white.

 

Cut the interfacing into 2.5cm (1”) wide straight strips (or whatever the width of your hem allowance is) with the most stretch running in direction of their longest length, so it will stretch with your knit fabric and finished garment. As we are using knitted interfacing you will be able to curve the strips into shape as you press in place on your t-shirt. And then test your stitches again!

Other Somerset T-shirt tutorials | Sewing with Knits

 

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The Somerset T-shirt | details

So, here she is…our newest PDF pattern, the Somerset t-shirt!

20-22nd December | This weekend, to celebrate the release of our latest pattern we will be donating 50% of all sales of THE SOMERSET T-SHIRT PDF pattern to refuge.org.uk in support of their work in providing refuge against domestic violence.

I have a thing for a bateau neck (or slash neck, if you prefer) t-shirt, always have, always will! I find the neckline is a really flattering shape and I have had various incarnations over the years all of which became staples of my daily wear. So, my mission for this pattern was to create an every day, hard-working pattern that would be a useful foundation piece for any capsule wardrobe.

The Somerset is a slim-fitting t-shirt, designed to fit closely fitted through the shoulders and bust area while skimming, rather than clinging to your body, through the hips and waist. As she is a multi-sized pattern in UK sizes 8-20, you blend between the sizes to create your perfect fit. She has been designed for knitted fabrics with approximately 40% stretch (around 5% elastane) but we have included a handy stretch guide in the pattern, to make sure your knit is suitably stretchy. The elastane content (Lycra and spandex are the same thing) will help your t-shirt retain its shape after wear.

And of course, we want you to get multiple uses from your pattern so we have 4 different sleeve options.

 

STRAIGHT SLEEVES | Opt for the classic 3/4 length or the long sleeve which is perfect as an everyday t-shirt or for layering.

BISHOP SLEEVES | make a statement with the cuffed bishop sleeve, which comes with a choice of a short cuff for a 3/4 length sleeve or use the deep cuff option for a full-length bishop sleeve.

SIZES UK 8-20 | SKILL LEVEL: ADVANCED BEGINNER | designed for knitted fabrics with 40% stretch (approx 5% elastane)

| available as a PDF pattern for instant sewing fun! Paper pattern to follow soon |