The Not-So-Simple T-Shirt

Back in March, a model I know brought her t-shirt designer friend to meet with me. He had some designs he wanted made for a fashion show in May, would I be able to make them for him? Sure, I said! (How often do I say no?) My first thought was that I could cobble two shirts together and it would be easy.

*pause for laughter*

Sketching out how I would do that, I realized it would be most straightforward if I made patterns and sewed up the shirts from scratch. If I’d previously made a t-shirt from scratch, I don’t remember it, but the mockups came out okay:

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I estimated the finished shirts would take me three times the amount of time I spent on sewing up the mockups. Happily, I was pretty close to correct! It actually took about 3.25x the amount of time. Unhappily, I did not budget my time well and ended up doing a marathon sewing session the same day I was supposed to go to work then fly to Las Vegas. Oops.

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On the plus side, the designer did like the shirts, and so did I. His designs looked super cool all sewn up, and it was really cool to know I was part of that process. But the thing I was most proud of, that I loved the most, was my patternmaking work:

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How cool does that look? I really enjoy making paper patterns, whether from traced RTW or from scratch. There’s something so satisfyingly technical about the process, and patterns are the gift that keeps giving. One finished garment is pleasant to wear, but you can’t wear it every day and it will eventually wear out. Patterns, on the other hand, last way longer, and can be used constantly if you wish. On this set of patterns I taped the seam allowances with scotch tape to better withstand being pinned through, which really did the job well.

Overall, the opportunity to sew for someone else was a great honor, a great learning opportunity, and a great chance to see how I’ve grown. When I started sewing, I had no clue how long anything took to sew and could not estimate how long something would take, because I spent so much time picking out stitches and re-sewing or being confused and overwhelmed. Now I’m on the path to better sewing, which can benefit more future clients, and better time management through being able to estimate time commitment per garment. Woohoo!

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5 Comments

    1. Thanks very much! It was definitely a lot of seams…after a point, you get in the zone and it’s really satisfying. I do hope to do more commissioned work — I’d love to gradually build up a full time custom sewing business!

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