This is hard to believe but there actually is a pattern on the market that works for me straight out of the envelope. It’s the Women’s Tee from J. Stern Designs. There are two versions of this pattern. One is in Misses sizes and the other in women’s, or plus sizes. Unlike basic tees that are essentially shapeless, Jennifer Stern-Hasemann designed a knit top with panels that act as darts, a boat neckline and a shirt-tail hem. The combination is flattering and a joy to wear.
I was introduced to this gem at a workshop Jennifer taught here in Chicago. She brought samples of her tees in every size and I was astonished when the first one she had me try on fit beautifully. All I needed to do was shorten it and I was good to go. That NEVER happens.
Since then, I’ve made five different versions of this Tee, four with ¾ length sleeves and one with short sleeves. My favorite fabric for it is ITY knit. ITY stands for Interlock Twist Yarn. It’s not clingy and sews like a dream. It’s one of a very few polyesters I enjoy working with. Most of my ITY knits come from Marcy Tilton’s web site.
I don’t have a coverstitch machine, so I hem my knits on the sewing machine. Typically, I stabilize the hem allowance with fusible knit or fusible bias tape, turn up the hem and sew with invisible thread using a serpentine stitch.
The invisible thread I like to use is MonoPoly from Superior Threads. It’s made of polyester rather than nylon and doesn’t melt when pressed. It’s only when you get this close up that you can see the stitches.
For neckline finishes, I either line the top panels with self fabric or a lightweight knit lining, or I apply a self-fabric band using the technique from Lynda Maynard’s excellent book, The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. She also teaches this technique in a Crasftsy class called “Sewing on the Edge Finishing Techniques.”
Jen Stern-Hasemann has introduced a workbook called “Beyond the Boatneck” which has neckline variations for her Tee. She is also offering a class on PatternReview.com by the same name. I bought the workbook but I haven’t tried any of the variations yet. I’m pretty fond of the boatneck.
It’s really nice to have a go-to pattern like this when I need something that’s fairly quick and pretty much foolproof.