Some of you lovelies commented on yesterday's post that you liked my Bustier Line T-shirt that I made a couple of years ago, so I thought I'd make a little tutorial to show how you could make your own, should you feel so inclined. I made the T-shirt pictured above during my lunch break today and took photos of the steps, but even though it's a quick project to make, I think the explanation may prove too lengthy for one post. So today I'll deal with how you can develop your own pattern and prep the pattern pieces, then I'll create a separate post covering the construction process later in the week.
Ok, so I made the top above from two old mens T-shirt so these instructions refer to this specifically, but of course you could simply use stretchy fabric and alter your construction as such. I've used existing T-shirts, because aside from the benefits of reusing textiles which might otherwise end up in a landfill, it's easy to incorporate some of the existing finishing making the whole process quicker and easier for you. I am using an overlocker (serger) for this, but you could use a normal flat-lock machine, either way, I'd recommend practicing joing together stretch fabric until you are happy you have the right tension/threads/etc. Here we go....
You need a fitted or semi-sitted T-shirt pattern to begin. Some people like the Burdastyle Lydia pattern, for example. Personally, I tried it but didn't like the fit on me, so I developed my own basic fitted T-shirt pattern by tracing the basic shape of an existing T-shirt of mine, then using the plain T-shirt pattern with set-in sleeve (meaning the sleeve head a normal, has no gathers, tucks or frills etc.) from the Sew U: Home Stretch book to trace the armholes onto my front and back pieces and the sleeve shape. IF YOU ARE MAKING YOUR OWN PATTERN DON'T FORGET TO INCLUDE SEAM ALLOWANCES. Sorry, I didn't mean to shout then, I just wanted to emphasise that.
I traced a new scoop neckline and then plotted the shape I wanted for my new bustier line. Don't forget you also need to plot the back line, which I just took straight across but you may prefer to curve slightly. The process looked a bit like this:
Please note that when I made this pattern, I didn't have access to proper pattern cutting/drafting paper, so used to use anything I could get my hands on including baking parchment (which was used here, which has the added benefit of being slightly transparent which is useful for checking your pieces against each other), grease proof paper, the plain side of wrapping paper, brown paper, etc. If you're new to developing your own patterns, don't feel you need to fork out on that expensive stuff sold in packets in your haberdashers, unless you want to of course.
Once you've got your basic front, back and sleeve pieces, you might want to make a plain version to see if you like the fit before making the extra effort required for the bustier line version. Anyways, of you are happy to proceed, you need to trace off the shapes of the body so you have four pieces: Lower front, Upper front, Lower back, Upper back. I would recommend using a tracing wheel for this, but it's not essential if you are using semi-transparent paper. Important point: YOU NEED TO ADD SEAM ALLOWANCES ONTO THE BUSTIER LINE EDGES. I'd recommend 1cm (3/8"), though I think I only used 0.5cm on this particular pattern. I really wouldn't add the standard 1.5cms (5/8"), because joining the two edges of the curve would be a total headache. So here's what my newly traced off and separated front pieces look like:
Did I mention you need to add seam allowances to the bustier line edges?! A close up to prove I did (you can just see the holes in the paper made by my tracing wheel but I lazily didn't draw it in pencil before I add the seam allowance). When I made this pattern, I didn't think anyone aside for myself would ever see it, which is why I've cut corners. But inexplicably, I DID write on the pieces what they were, I'm not normally that structured in my practices!
Here's my back piece with the new line drawn in. You know how I just said I sometimes cut corners? Well, I never bothered to trace these off, I just marked my seam allowances straight on them folded the unwanted bit away and cut, then folded it the other way to use the other section when cutting out. Risky, unless you are firmly sure you're not going to forget those seam allowances!
One point on notches: personally, I use a few strategic notches to help me marry up seams as I sew. For this project I notch the front and back of the sleeves, which correspond to notched on the armholes, plus the top of the sleeve head which meets the shoulder seam. I also notch the CF (centre front) and CB (centre back) of the upper and lower pieces of my fronts and backs along the bustier line to help you meet the mid-points when you sew them together. This is particularly important for the upper front and lower front because sewing the curve together is probably the trickiest step of this project.
The fun design part! Raw materials. As I said above, I'm using a couple of unwanted mens T-shirts. But you could create some cool variations using patterned or striped and plain, or printed or whatever. One thing I would mention though, you'll find construction easier (but not impossible of you choose otherwise) if you use two fabrics of a similar weight and stretch type.
Time to cut out those fresh lovely pattern pieces of yours. Start out with your lower front and lower back pieces. If you are using T-shirts like me, just cut up the side seams so you can open the garment out. Fold it in half and lay your pattern pieces against the fold line. NOTE: if you line up the bottom of your lower front and lower back pattern pieces with the existing hem of the T-shirt, you'll save yourself the hassle of finishing the hem of your new garment.
FYI, those black circles are weights. I rarely use pins (which allows me to save time and make myself a new top during my lunch hour!). Call me lazy, I can take it.
Do this for both the lower front and lower back piece. Remember to make a little notch at the CF and CB along the bustier line:
Only a little notch/snip, mind. Make it visible (otherwise it's useless) but no more than half your seam allowance:
Before we cut out the top parts of your pattern, a little tip is to harvest the hem of this T-shirt. Cut it off neatly to form a strip which you can use to bind your neck edge (we'll deal with that bit in the second part of this tutorial). You can cut it off however deep you wish your neck edge to be, but I personally like to cut inbetween the two rows of twin-needle stitching most regular T-shirts have at the hem.
Open the rest of this second T-shirt up like the first, and cut out the upper front and upper back pieces along the fold line. Don't forget to make the corresponding notches at the CF and CB along the bustier line.
Don't forget your sleeves! If you keep the remainder of the T-shirt lying flat like this, you'll always cut a pair instead of two of the same (I've done that too many times for it to be funny anymore!)
Put the kettle on! You've totally earnt a cuppa coz we're all done.
As I say, I'll knock up 'Part 2: Construction' later in the week, so pop back to this blog to see my method of putting the pile of pieces which are now sitting there looking at you into this: