Saturday 10 July 2021

Scrap Busting Jersey T-shirts


During the winter lockdown, I was without an overlocker. Now, I know that you can sew any garment on a regular machine: that overlockers are entirely optional. I have told people this a million times during sewing classes I've taught. However, I just didn't want to make anything that wouldn't look as neat on the inside as I've become used to. 

Because of this, the only things I made were oven mitts that have no exposed seam allowance plus a couple of items with french seams. I also cut out a few projects to stitch together in the future, and I allowed myself to go down a rabbit hole that resulted in these wild patchwork tops! 

I'm really into the idea of using up fabric scraps and leftovers from previous projects to make new garments. Most examples of this kind of thing, including most of my previous attempts, involve woven fabric. However, in the autumn I made a couple of sweatshirts for Frankie using up pieces of sweatshirt fleece and ponte roma pieced together, which really helped me get those types of scraps under control. So the next logical step was to try something similar with jersey scraps. 

My jersey scraps tub was becoming overwhelming. I'd cut out as many pairs of adult and kids undies as possible from suitable pieces of jersey, but I was left with so many pieces that were too small or odd-shaped to squeeze out any more. I decided to try piecing some of them together to make a top for my daughter. And when my husband saw what I was creating, to my enormous surprise, he commissioned one for himself! 


My approach to piecing was to play around with how I could combine some of the shapes without needing to trim too much away whilst also keeping the grainlines in roughly the same direction. If the edges weren't straight, or at not quite the right angle, I'd trim away a bit from the edge, then I stitched two pieces together using my regular sewing machine. I stitched them using a narrow seam allowance and a narrow lightning flash stitch which meant the seam allowances weren't too bulky. I kept adding more and more shapes until the bigger pieces could be combined, and eventually became big enough to fit the pattern pieces within them. 


If you are attempting to create jersey tops from scraps and leftovers, you either need to use a sewing pattern that already features a lot of seams (like the new Shift tee pattern by Misusu patterns), or you need to do the piecing yourself and choose a very simply sewing pattern with minimal seams. For my daughter's top, I chose a very basic top pattern (see the two images below) from a 2014 edition of Ottobre Design magazine. 

It's effectively just a front and back, with a neckband. I forgot that the armholes were also meant to be bound, and I just turned those under and stitched them. I love Ottobre Design for these basic, knit fabric garment patterns. Their styles tend to be really wearable and comfortable, and IMO don't look dated. I got a year's subcsription back in 2013 when I was pregnant with my daughter. As she's grown, she's fitted into the different styles in the magazines, so it's been like getting new sets of patterns every few years.

For Mr SoZo's T-shirt, I traced round one of his very favourite T-shirts that was starting to fall apart at the seams. Next time I make him a T-shirt from the pattern, I'll add a little extra width at the hips, but other than that, it's a great fitting garment. 

Having cut out the main pattern pieces from the pieced together fabric, they then lay dormant for a few months. During that time we moved house, seasons changed, and I bought a new (secondhand) overlocker! So a couple of weeks ago I took them out again and finally whipped them together. 

It's so pleasing to reduce the amount of scraps in my stash (particularly the pieces that I'd owned for years and was sick of the sight of) and turn them into useful, wearable garments. I'd say that the colour palette in Lola's top works better, but Pat has definitely got more use from his T-shirt so far. The scraps bins will never be completely emptied of course, because new projects results in new scraps. However, I'd like to try making undies from pieces together fabric next, with wearability being even less of a consideration when combining a wild selection of fabrics.

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