I guess I better hurry up & write this post before it is March in every country of the world, instead of just most of them. But I will warn you: this is a sewing horror story, a terrifying tale of garment-making gone as wrong as it is possible to go. I’ll give you a moment to make sure all your doors & windows are locked & that none of your fabric shears are anywhere near paper.
So, the February challenge was “sew a pattern from the decade you were born”. I was born in 1979, so…*gulp*. I know 70s-inspired style is kind of in right now, & I am even into some of it. I’ve been wanting to make myself a suspender dress or a pinafore dress for a while now, which would have fit the theme pretty well.
However, I needed a fast & easy project, because I haven’t had much energy to sew since my cancer diagnosis, & I was going into have a hysterectomy on February 14th. Which, if you think about it, is pretty 70s. It seems like everyone’s grandma had a hysterectomy back in 1977, but how often do you hear about people having hysterectomies in modern times? As I am only 37 year old, it’s not something that has been on my radar a lot, but it turns out that it’s still a standard treatment for endocervical cancer, so hey. Anyway, I needed a project I could finish in like an hour or two if I was going to be able to contribute this month.
Still riding high on the feminist-y good vibes of the jeans I made for the January challenge, I decided to continue the theme & make a classic 70s-style raglan sleeve baseball tee. Curved hem, contrasting three-quarter sleeves, & the piece de resistance: get some 70s-style iron-on letters to spell out the words “the future is female”. It was the slogan of New York City’s first feminist bookstore back in the early 70s, & has been making comeback in the past few years after photos of the feminist lesbian folk singer Alix Dobkin wearing a t-shirt for the bookstore began to make their rounds in the feminist underground.
I bought the raglan shirt pattern from Patterns 4 Pirates because it had a lot of style options (obviously I can hack as needed, but I wanted to keep this project as simple as possible) & generous size range that wouldn’t require a lot of fiddling. I found some really cute speckled gray jersey on fabric.com & paired with royal blue for the sleeves & neckband. I bought a yard of each, which was a little more than the pattern required. I didn’t want to risk being caught short-handed with the fabric.
I taped my pattern together & cut out my size. The pattern pieces looked kind of big, but isn’t that so often the way with sewing? The pattern pieces seem too big or too small or you just can’t fathom how those weird shapes are going to turn into an actual garment that covers your body, but somehow it all comes together. I cut out my shirt front & went to cut out the back…& I didn’t have enough fabric! I was literally just a couple of inches short of what I needed. & pissed at myself because usually I cut on a single layer to conserve fabric, but I wanted this project to be quick & easy, so I’d cut on the fold. Had I cut on a single layer, I could have jigsawed things to make them fit.
I considered cutting the back from the blue contrasting fabric, but I really loved the speckled gray & wanted it to be the whole body of the shirt. I called my local fabric store but they didn’t have that particular colorway available. & I didn’t have time to order more & wait for it to be delivered before I had to have my surgery.
So I cut what I could & then I sewed all the little scraps together, which was a really arduous process & matching the grainlines & making sure the right side of each piece was being sewn to the right side of each piece, & I patchworked it all together & sewed it to the side of the back that were missing fabric. It wasn’t until all of this was done that I was like, “Why didn’t I sew the scraps from the front to the uncut fabric & THEN cut out the back?” Like…duh. I’m gonna blame the cancer, okay? I wasn’t thinking clearly.
So I got everything all cut out & I sewed it all together & I tried it on…& it was fucking ENORMOUS. I’m talking a full 20″ of ease around the waist. The “three-quarter” sleeves were brushing my wrist bones. I couldn’t figure out what had happened because, sure, knits can stretch a little with handling, but this was pretty high-quality jersey, & it wasn’t rippling anywhere or showing any signs of having stretched out of shape. Nor have I had even cheap fabric stretch a full foot & a half! I was baffled, but all I could think to do was just take it in…& take it in…& take it again…until it was approximately a reasonable size for my body.
By this point, pretty much all of the extra fabric I’d sewn on to the back had been cut away. So much had been taken from the side seams that the curved hem was completely gone. I re-drew it with a French curve & hemmed everything. But I still really wasn’t loving the fit across the bust. There was just too much damn fabric & the only way I could see to get it out was to add some darts.
So…I slapped a couple of darts into this whole mess. Not my all-time greatest work, uneven by a good inch & a half, but they did what I needed them to do. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that when you dart a front bodice, it removes length from the front side seam. So the back side seam was too long to sew everything back together neatly. I don’t know, maybe I should have just sacrificed my lovely hem & just taken apart the entire side seam & re-cut the hem AGAIN, but I couldn’t face it. Instead I just opened up the side seams where the darts were, sliced the shirt across the back, took out the width of the dart, sewed the back together again, & stitched up that little bit of side seam. Was that more work? Less work? The world will never know. All I know is that it was GOOD. ENOUGH. & by this point, I’d been laboring over this godforsaken baseball tee for like NINE HOURS. It was a project that should have taken literally an hour & a half, tops. Clearly, there was no logic at work anymore.
I ironed on my letters, tried on my horrific Frankenstein’s monster of a shirt, &…it actually didn’t look half-bad! It looked, dare I say, intentional? Sort of? I kind of wanted to set it on fire for having been SO MUCH MORE WORK than it should have been. I am not a stranger to sewing with knits, raglan sleeves, making t-shirts. Literally no part of this process should have been so difficult. But since the result was okay-looking, I decided to just be happy with it.
As I was cleaning up my sewing area & putting things away, I suddenly realized…I had purchased the RELAXED FIT raglan tee from Patterns 4 Pirates & not the “slim fit” I thought I’d bought. I also realized that I somehow just completely whiffed the size chart & somehow managed to cut a 2XXL Plus, rather than the L I should have cut. Don’t even ask me how this happened. I guess it’s a testament to P4P’s extensive size range. I am used to being near the top of the size range in most indies, so for some incomprehensible reason, that’s what I cut for this shirt, even though I DID look at the size chart & even wrote down the right size in my sewing notes. But I just spaced on it while cutting out the pattern.
So I cut a relaxed fit shirt fully like four sizes bigger than I take, which contributed to not having enough fabric (because I had bought according to my actual size), & it was just an insane escalation of truly idiotic mistakes that somehow, magically, still resulted in a passable garment.
Don’t be like me, guys. Make sure you’re using the pattern you meant to use. Double-check the size chart at the very least. The weird thing is that I am usually really strict with myself about doing flat pattern measurements before I cut into my fabric so I can make any adjustments at the paper stage (& not have to fuss with muslins too much), but in this case I skipped it, because…”Fast & easy. It’s just a t-shirt.” This whole mess could have been avoided if I’d just done what I ALWAYS do.
Check out my blog here, though it’s been a bit dead lately due to the whole cancer/surgery thing. If you’re curious, I’m recovering well & got the official no evidence of disease cancer all-clear yesterday!