In this instructable I'll show you how to make a loose fitting sleeveless tshirt with french seams and bound edges
The shirt has a wide boat neck and is asymmetrical with raw edges at the hem. The way the pattern is cut creates a nice drape and I've tried to keep it as simple as possible. I really like tshirts with a low back, so I have made this pattern reversible. This means the front and back shaping is exactly the same, apart from the neckline. It easy to make this design by tracing round an existing shirt, just by laying it flat.
I have tried to thoroughly explain how to do french seams and edge binding. Please let me know if the instructions are good (especially if you use them to make your own shirt) and if anything is missing!
Step 1: Gather Your Materials and Tools
- 2 metres of jersey fabric
- matching thread
- pattern (bought or made)
- sewing machine
- dressmakers shears
- tiny scissors
- disappearing pen or chalk
Step 2: Cutting Out
My pattern is a simple loose fitting sleeveless tshirt traced from an existing top. The front and back pattern pieces are almost are the same. One side has a low neckline and the other is higher.
Lay out your fabric: My fabric is the same on both sides, so I folded it in half to cut. Lay out your fabric with all the correct side facing upwards. I will cut two identical pieces and flip one over.
In the first image you can see my pattern overlaid with the outline of original shirt I used to make it.This is the blue line.
The tshirt neckline and shoulder seams are on the right and I've extended the shape on the left hand side. I measured 30cm down the straight side of the top, as well as the on the wide curving extension on the left side, and marked a notch where I'll join these side seams. This will create the drape.
Lay your pattern on the fabric, making sure to line up the centre front line of the pattern to the grain of the fabric. Pin the pattern in place.
To keep things simple (read: I am lazy) I made one pattern piece. It has the lower neckline. In the third image you can see the pattern piece for the higher neckline of the top. I laid this piece on top of the main pattern piece and cut both out together. I then removed the piece and cut away one of the layers.
Now I have two almost matching pieces. This is my reversible neckline.
Flip one of your fabric pieces over, so each has one long side on opposite sides of the top. Pin right sides together at the shoulders and down the sides to your notches.
For my binding I used a disappearing pen and drew three strips of fabric 76cm for the bindings. They are 5cm wide. My neckline measures 76 cm and the sleeves are 56cm, measured directly off the pattern pieces. I will use the extra bits from the sleeve bindings to test my stitching. I have cut my binding on the grain, rather than the bias. Read about grain and bias here
Step 3: Testing French Seams
I always do a test to see how the materials will work for detailing. Using some scraps of fabric I want to see how the material works in the machine as its so delicate.
The seam allowances on my pattern are 1cm. You can do this at 15 cm and trim more if you feel more comfortable.
To sew a french seam, follow the instructions and images:
1. I stitched two pieces of material WRONG SIDES TOGETHER with a 5mm seam allowance. So you are stitching on the outside of the fabric.
2. trim this seam allowance to 3-4mm to make it neat.
3. on the inside of the seam (RIGHT SIDE OF FABRIC), press it flat in one direction with steam.
4. use this straight pressed line as a guide to then (5) fold the fabric back on itself to make a neat seam and press, trapping the raw edge inside. WRONG SIDE IS NOW FACING OUT
6. Stitch again at 5mm on the WRONG SIDE OF THE FABRIC.
7. again, press the inside of the seam flat and open out to revel the RIGHT SIDE OF THE FABRIC
Turn over, voila! you should have a neat french seam with the bulk of the seam inside. If the measurements are accurate, all the raw fabric will be trapped in the stitching and outside will be neat.
The key to good french seams is pressing at each stage to control the fabric.
Step 4: Sewing French Seams
Now I need to repeat this process for my shoulder and side seams.
Place the garment wrong sides together with the right sides of the fabric facing outwards, and repeat the process from step 4.
Should be looking like a garment now!
Step 5: Testing Binding
Binding a delicate material like jersey can be a little precarious, so I always do a test. This will also help me decide how I will do the finishing. Some people cut binding on the bias, but I am using it on the grain because this fabric is stretchy.
I am using the extra bits I cut for my binding earlier (1) plus some scrap fabric .
2. the binding is 5cm wide. Fold it in half, WRONG SIDES TOGETHER so the right side of the fabric is facing outwards. You should now have pressed strips of 2.5cm fabric binding.
3. Lay the binding along the fabric edge, with all the raw edges facing outwards. Pin together,
4. stitch a 5mm seam allowance. The binding is 5mm, folded in half. So that gives us 2.5cm when folded. Once you have stitched 5mm into the seam, this leaves 2cm to roll around the bound edge. You will always lose a little of this measurement in the rolling as the fabric has a thickness to it, so this will end up as about 7mm binding when finished. Trim the edge to neaten it up.
5. press everything AWAY from the garment towards the clean bound edge, with the seam facing away from the main piece of fabric (6). This is so we can trap all the raw edges inside when rolling the binding.
7. roll the edge of the binding back on itself and pin in place. This will take a bit of fiddling to make sure all the raw edges are trapped (8).
9. Stitch on the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric, being careful not to stitch over pins as it will warp the final line of the binding. Remove them as you sew (10).
11. I used this test to try two different styles of finishing. I stitched on the binding itself (12) and right next to the binding. this is called crack stitching (13). I decided crack stitching was neater, and also easier and the fabric is quite soft and therefore difficult to control. If you decide to crack stitch, you will need to roll the binding a little tighter to make sure there is enough fabric to catch under the machine. I always pin this a lot and fiddle about at the pinning stage to make sure it will catch all the way along as you are sewing blind. Use a lot of pins to crack stitch neatly!
Step 6: Sewing Binding
To make the binding for the garment, first you need to close the bindings into loops.
you should measure the bindings to the exact length of your armhole and neckline.
1. Pin and stitch the edges of the binding RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER
2. press flat and then (3) fold the binding in half and press it so it is 2.5cm wide
4. Your prepared binding should now be in complete loops to match to the neck and armholes.
5. Pin the bindings in place with all the raw edges facing out, same as in the previous step. Hide where the seam is joined.. On the armholes, match the seam join to the underarm and on the neck, match to the side seam so the top is reversible.
6. stitch all the bindings at 5mm
7. Press everything away from the garment and check to make sure everything looks neat and even. Roll our fabric around the edge and pin in place. Pin lots! Get this right! It's the most important part to make the garment look neat, professional, and also to make it string. Pin!
I always pin the whole thing, then go over the whole piece and pin it again, wriggling the seam to exactly where I want it. If it looks neat when pinned, you know it will be good when sewn. I cant stress this enough. Pin!
Then you are ready to sew.
Finally, press the seams to finish,