Wardrobe Builder: The T-Shirt

I am not afraid to profess my undying love of T-shirts. I wear them to work, to the gym, and to bed. As a teenage metalhead, I lived in a Metallica’s Jump into the Fire T-shirt. Whenever the middle school where I worked celebrated College Day, I would proudly wear my Miskatonic University T-shirt. More recently, I rocked my BSG glowing spine Tee to CrossFit on a more than regular basis. These days, statement or band T-shirts no longer make regular appearances. They have been replaced by my own me-mades; I get to choose the fabric—not like that scratchy cheap cotton that irritates the skin—and determine the fit—nothing of the tiny XL for women or the gigantic M for men.

Woman with long black hair wearing a black T-shirt with a pattern of scattered white bats stands in front of a one-story garage

All Eyes on Me T-shirt

I delayed sewing T-shirts for quite some time because I was afraid of sewing with knits. I read more than one online account of horror stories trying to get a neckband in or fighting a wavy hem. I thought I needed a special sewing machine to handle knits, and I did not know how to buy the right fabric for my projects. It turns out that sewing with knits is easy. Knits stretch, so they are a lot more forgiving when it comes to fit. Any sewing machine with a zigzag stitch and a jersey or ballpoint needle will do. A rotary cutter and mat will make cutting knit fabrics much easier, but there is nothing wrong with using scissors. Just make sure that if your fabric is heavy, that it is not hanging from the cutting table; it will pull the fabric down and mess things up. All you have to do now is find a nice T-shirt pattern. Here are a few suggestions (and two of them are FREE!).

Deer and Doe’s Plantain T-shirt

The Plantain T-shirt is, by far, my all-time favorite T-shirt pattern. I have made so many versions of it, I could have a drawer dedicated exclusively to them. The pattern is extremely flattering, form-fitting on top but just the right amount of loose once it gets past the waist. To make the Plantain even better, the pattern is a FREE PDF download. The pattern has three sleeve variations; I have made all three, and I cannot pick a favorite. The Plantain can be easily hacked into a mini-dress (which I have made in five variations, one of them in a sparkly knit with sequins). The only Plantain disaster I have ever had was my mistake. I figured that I could use a ponte knit for a warmer long sleeve T-shirt. I did not consider that lack of stretch of the fabric was going to kill everything I like about the pattern. The T-shirt ended up in the donation pile. If you decide to sew the Plantain, make sure to stick to knits with nice drape and some stretch.

Sew Much Ado’s Seafarer T-shirt

After making six or seven Plantains, I decided it was time to look for something new. I do not even remember how I came across the Seafarer T-shirt, but I am happy that I did. I was even happier when I learned that I could sew this pattern without having to hem knit fabric, deal with sleeves, or attach a neckband. The sleeves and hem can be finished with bands, and the pattern features a dolman sleeve (I had to look this up: the sleeve is cut as a part of the body front and back). Even though all my versions have a neckband, the pattern has an option for a turn-and-sew neckline. This is a great pattern for knit newbies. As you get more comfortable with your sewing knit skills, you can start adding to the level of difficulty of the Seafarer.

Tessuti’s Mandy Boat Tee

The Mandy Boat Tee is a new discovery. The pattern has been around forever, and it is widely known and loved. I never thought, however, that the very loose fit would look good on me. I have a larger frame, and my waist measurement is almost the same as my hips, so I feared that the roominess of the Mandy would make me look like I am wearing a tent. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise; the Mandy looks very flattering and chic. The pattern has only four pieces, and just like one of the Seafarer versions, no neckband—just turn and sew. I am always happy with a beautiful neckline that does not require messing with a neckband. The shirt comes together quickly, and this can be the perfect project to mix and match leftover fabric from other projects. The pattern is a FREE PDF download. In an effort to be more inclusive, Tessuti has added more sizes to its range.  

Woman with long black hair wearing a black-and-white stripes three-quarter sleeve T-shirt stands in front of a white wall

Mandy Boat Tee

Even though I have a serger, I still like to sew my seams using the sewing machine before I serge them. It sounds like overkill, but I get comfort from knowing that those seams will last forever. I have adjusted these patterns to my personal preferences, and I can sew a couple of T-shirts in one afternoon. Whenever my T-shirts start to look old and pilly, I can replace them. I know exactly how I like my T-shirts to fit, what kind of knit fabric works best for each of these patterns, and which machine settings to use with each type of fabric. With warmer weather around the corner, it is time to start looking around for some knit fabric with skulls or cats or skulls and cats for my Spring/Summer wardrobe collection.



  1. Caroline
    March 4, 2019 / 6:38 am

    I love the Plantain too, I’m wearing one as I type, and like you was pleased to find that the Mandy is so easy and a lovely shape. The seafarer sounds like another free pattern with grown on sleeves that is no longer available but I made loads of when I first started sewing (Lotus by Valentine and Stitch) and I’m going to try another free tee by Elbe Textiles which I’ve just discovered 😊

    • SewGoth
      March 6, 2019 / 12:32 am

      Free patterns are great! I went to the Elbe Textiles website, and the free Tee is really cute. I might try it 🙂

  2. March 15, 2019 / 2:42 pm

    T-Shirts yeeeeees!!! They are the best. How can anyone not love and wear t-shirts??
    Though I’ve only made the Green Tee (GreenStyle Creations) so far. I do think I need to try the Plaintain soon.

    • SewGoth
      March 16, 2019 / 6:05 pm

      The Plantain is a great pattern and a really easy make. The only issue I can think of is the neckline, which I find a bit low when I am sewing something I want to wear at work. Apart from that, it is super flattering!

  3. April 26, 2019 / 2:12 am

    OMG! I’m glad I’m not the only one. Sewing a t-shirt with ponte knit – that was my biggest sewing boo boo this year! It ended up in the trash and it was expensive fabric in a nice color. Grrr! Put me off sewing for a while.
    PS Love your tees and thanks for the review of each one.

    • SewGoth
      April 26, 2019 / 2:38 am

      Thanks! It is not fun to use the wrong fabric for a project—especially when it is expensive fabric. I hope you got your sewjo back.

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