Today is Autism Awareness Day. We will have our blue light bulb lit on our porch. But this year I thought I’d add something a little different into our awareness routine.
A few weeks ago, my husband brought home this shirt from work. He got this for participating in the annual city corporate challenge, but it was the wrong size. I liked that it was kind of the autism awareness blue color, and I liked the little saying too. “Nonstop to the Top” to me means that I won’t quit fighting for my son and that we will keep working to make sure he achieves his fullest potential. It was the perfect shirt to re-make for him!
I was going to use a pattern I had on hand for the re-do, but when I went to get it, I couldn’t find it! So I decided instead to wing it on my own. Do you want to make your own shirt? Feel free to follow along. It’s easy!
You can, of course, just buy a knit fabric to make a shirt, or you can do like I did and just use a larger shirt to re-make.
The first thing I did was get a t-shirt that fit my son well. I turned in the sleeves and the collar and put it on a piece of butcher paper.
I then made my own pattern by tracing around the shirt, making sure my tracing line was 1/2 inch out from the shirt. This is a very crucial part of making your own pattern—it has to be bigger than the item you’re basing it on to accomodate seam allowances. You might cut out the pattern, hold it up to your kid and think, “This is WAY too big,” and be tempted to cut it down. Don’t do it! You can always cut fabric down if it is too big, but you can’t make fabric pieces bigger. When I started making my own patterns, I made the mistake of cutting my patterns too small many, many times. Your pattern piece may look huge, but that’s normal. The finished product will be significantly smaller!
This is how my pattern piece looked once I cut it out. My plan was to place that long side on a fold.
I then worked on the sleeve piece by taking the shirt pattern piece, putting that on top of some paper, and then putting the actual sleeve on top of that. I traced the pattern piece to get the size of the armhole just right and I traced around the sleeve to get the size of the sleeve. The top side of the sleeve was the part meant to go on the fold of the fabric.
Once that was done, I started cutting up the original shirt! (Sorry, that picture is at a really weird angle).
I wanted that logo with the saying to transfer over to my little boy’s shirt, so I made sure to put the pattern piece so that when I cut it, the logo would be in the middle. I put the original t-shirt with the right sides together, folded it in half, and pinned both pattern pieces. I cut around the edges of the pattern pieces, leaving the fold in tact. I then repeated the step with the other half of the t-shirt.
When I was done cutting and unfolded my pieces, these are what they looked like. A front and back and two sleeves.
I then took the two shirt pieces and pinned them right sides together at the shoulders. Once I’d done that, I sewed along those shoulder lines twice using a narrow zig-zag stitch. I used a zig-zag stitch because the fabric was a really lightweight knit, and a zig-zag stitch helps the seams lay flat instead of getting bunched up (which can happen with knits). I sewed twice along the shoulder lines because those seams get a lot of tug and pull and I wanted them to be nice and strong. I should add that I didn’t worry about finishing off the seams inside the shirt (with the exception of around the collar). Knits don’t unravel and so I figured I wouldn’t bother with edge-finishing this time.
Next I spread my two shirt pieces apart so that the right sides were both face up on my table and the place where the sleeves went were spread open. I then pinned my sleeve to the shirt. When you’re first working with sleeves like this, it can feel awkward. You pin it right sides together, and the curves seem like they’re going in opposite directions because, well, they are. You just have to do the best you can to line those curves up. This is called easing (you’re easing the two pieces of fabric together). It’s okay if the fabric doesn’t line up that well. It will be fine once you sew it. I sewed along that line where the pins are in the picture.
I again sewed the seams twice using a zig-zag stitch. Once I was done, it was starting to look like a real t-shirt!
At this point, if you haven’t already, it is a good idea to try the shirt on your kiddo. I found that mine was a little wide so I trimmed the sides a bit.
I then pinned the sides of the shirt, under the armpit area, and the bottom of the sleeves. And then, I sewed all along there, from the edge of the sleeve down to the bottom of the t-shirt.
And the body of the shirt was done!
Next was the collar/neckline. I followed the same general idea that I did when making the pullover bib.
I pinned knit ribbing around the collar to measure how much I needed and then I cut it.
I sewed the collar shut with the right sides together,
folded it in half and ironed it lengthwise
and pinned it back on. When I pinned it, I did my best to stretch the knit ribbing but not the shirt (you don’t want to stretch the neck line of the shirt).
And then it was time to sew! I have a confession: I sewed the collar on, put it on my son, and decided I didn’t like it. It was too high. So I ended up cutting it off completely and re-doing it. It was a pain but in the end, I was much happier.
I wanted the collar to have a nice clean look, so I actually serged it. If you don’t have a serger, it’s okay! You can just use a zig-zag stitch and it will work just fine. I then top-stitched along the outside of the collar, making sure the top-stitching went into the collar seam on the other side. This was to help make sure the collar didn’t flip out. (Also, I ran out of the thread that matched my fabric and ended up having to use another color that didn’t match quite as well. But it worked fine.)
I then hemmed the sleeves and the bottom of the t-shirt and…
My little guy was soooo excited when it was finished. While I was making it he kept asking, “Is it done yet?” and he was thrilled when he finally got to put it on for real.
Next time I make a t-shirt, I will change a couple of things. First of all, I’ll try to match the neck ribbing with the color of the shirt so the collar doesn’t stand out so much (I had white on hand, so that’s what I used). Secondly, I will make the ribbing smaller. It is fine, just bigger than I’d like. Third, I’ll stretch the ribbing around the collar a little less than I did this time. You can see how the fabric puckers a bit around the neckline. I shouldn’t have stretched the neck ribbing quite as much. I’ll also make the hem a bit bigger. I was in a hurry (in part due to my son’s eagerness for it to be finished) so I did the tried-and-true “I’ll just fold it over and sew as I go” method. I ended up with a tiny hem which is okay, but would have looked better if it were larger.
All in all, though, I was happy with how it came out! Especially considering the fabric, which was a bit of a pain to work with. It was really thin, stretchy, and slippery.
And my kiddo loves his new shirt. Here he is, examining the roses in our yard. For a homework assignment he had to observe things in his yard, talk about his observations, and draw a picture of them. He was so excited to observe and share his findings. Cute boy. Hopefully he has lots of good times in his new shirt!
This post is being linked to I Heart Nap Time. There are lots of great ideas at the Link Party Palooza this week, go check some of them out!