June 19, 2015


Every now and then I have to find time to sew something for my husband - mostly because he's extremely supportive and tolerant of my sewing (and messes) and I really love seeing him wear things I've made. We're pretty covered on collared shirts (even though there are more in the pipeline), but one thing he's been wanting are t-shirts. We've tried some t-shirt patterns in the past, but a few months ago we decided to make some TNT patterns once and for all.

The two patterns we started with were the vintage raglan pattern we've used for sweatshirts, and McCalls 6973. M6973 contains several patterns - all of them extremely oversized, but it wasn't terribly difficult to wrangle the henley/tee pattern into shape. I've also tried the Thread Theory Strathcona Henley - it's a bit too slim for Jeremy, but it's another great option!

In case you're curious, you can pick up the vintage pattern here, here and here (none of these are affiliates, so click away!). This post will also serve as a bit of a reference guide for myself in the future - so please bear with all the details!

Jeremy is a typical men's large (men are so much easier to measure). For reference, here's a Thread Theory post on measuring men, and McCalls also has some tips here.

Men's t-shirts are also really basic. You can use these patterns as a guide, but you can also measure a favorite tee and modify a patten to fit (shortening the shoulder seams, neckband width, body width, etc.). Below, I've gone a wee bit nuts with the specifics of hems and neck bands, but when you nail it - you can basically make new tees on-demand!

Okay - time for some deets! Skip to the end if you're looking for quick TNT measurements. Also - all the fabrics are from Michael Levine Loft, and they're basic t-shirt knits.

We started our quest with some white t-shirt knit. I essentially made up the raglan pattern as-is, using a shortened sleeve I'd traced off for a henley I made last year. The pattern was also lengthened 2" - in case you're using the same pattern (the pattern as-is calls for a band, and I did a hem). The neck band was a too skinny 3/8" (1 1/4" band width total), and it rolls in on itself. The shirt also has 3/4" hems on the sleeves and body.
The standard sleeve tee from M6973 was modified to have a slightly higher neckline (not sure why I did this, honestly - use the neck as-is, and I shortened the shoulder seam by 1". It also has a bit wider of a neck band at 1/2" (1 1/2" band width total), and 1" hems on the sleeves and body.

We apparently forgot to take pictures of the black raglan tee, so please accept this picture of our cottage cat, Sneezie, instead.

The black tees are pretty much perfect with the adjustments I made after Jeremy wore the white tees for a bit. The white raglan's sleeves were a bit too low, so I raised the underarm seam, and also tapered the side seams by about 1.5". This gave a closer t-shirt fit, rather than a looser sweatshirt fit. I also did a 1" hem on the body, and a 3/4" hem on the sleeves - which gave these the length Jeremy wanted. We also achieved the perfect neckband width of 5/8" (1 3/4" band width total).

For the standard sleeve black tee - I shortened the shoulder seam another 2 inches (I made no changes to the sleeve head), and I tapered the sides to match the black raglan (this shirt is very baggy). The neck band is a still too small 1/2" and it has 3/4" hems on the sleeves and body and a pocket from the pattern.

And finally, behold Jeremy's perfect tee (well, the standard sleeve version). It has his perfect neckband width, body width, hems and the sleeve sits at the correct place on his shoulder. It has a 5/8" neck band, and 3/4" hems all around - as well as a pocket.

Between this and the raglan tee finalized after the black version, we have two TNT patterns that can be used to create new t-shirts pretty much on demand (after buying fabric, of course!).

Stretch and Sew 100 Raglan:
- Lengthened body by 2" (if you're using the same pattern)
- Raised underarm on body
- 5/8" neckband (from a 1 3/4" band)
- Side seams tapered 1.5"
- 1" body hem and 3/4" sleeves

McCalls 6973:
- 5/8" neckband
- Side seams tapered to match my raglan pattern, but you can overlay a well fitting tee to figure it out
- Shortened shoulder seams by 3"
- 3/4" body and sleeve hems

If you hung through all of that, thanks for getting to the bottom here! One of the best parts of sewing is creating garments that suit your own personal body and needs - and changing ill fitting patterns into ones that fit! A t-shirt pattern is a great basic place to start!

Are you a muslin maker (or wearable muslin maker as these basically were)? Do you ever end up changing a pattern beyond recognition to suit your own needs?


  1. Looks like you really nailed the fit! I took the easy route and just straight-up copied my husband's favorite J Crew t-shirt. :D This reminds me I really need to make him a few more!

  2. Thanks, Lindsay! I wish I could've copied one of his tees (his J. Crew ones are his fav too), but I'm seriously awful at making my own patterns... and I'm always scared altering patterns (I go too far sometimes) - so this was a fun exercise in doing a little bit at a time. :D

  3. Wow - Jeremy is a lucky guy! As John's t-shirts start to wear out I plan to replace them with handmade ones, but nice knits can be hard to find! I love that purple one! I'm glad you were able to create a couple of great TNTs!

  4. Seriously you are the best wife ever. My only tee attempt for the husband was the appalling free tee off Burdastyle, the Pete I think. Bloody awful. And I lost interest after that! So many of my faves are tweaked and tweaked. It's great you wrote it all down as I'm terrible at making changes on the fly then never recording it! And Sneezie! So. Damn. Cute!

  5. These all look fab. I can't even be bothered to make plain t-shirts for myself! The purple one looks great.

  6. Thanks, Lindsay! I wish I could've copied one of his tees (his J. Crew ones are his fav too), but I'm seriously awful at making my own patterns... and I'm always scared altering patterns (I go too far sometimes) - so this was a fun exercise in doing a little bit at a time. :D

  7. thanks, Heather!!! We got so lucky with t-shirt knits one day in the garment district - otherwise it's usually not easy to find good ones for tees. Can't wait to see John's t-shirts when you can make them! :D

  8. Hahaha! Thanks, Sarah! I cannot imagine what a Burdastyle tee must be like - making something not too hard into something difficult... I definitely recommend the McCalls pattern if you can get it - and size it down a bit!

  9. Thanks Katie!! You made some cute tees recently as I remember!! I'm glad the purple one came out alright - I wasn't convinced at first, but it's grown on me!

  10. These look great! It must be such an awesome feeling to have the fit nailed down! With rolling neckbands, sometimes it can help to topstitch the seam allowance down (I'm a zigzagger rather than a twin needler, so I just line up the presser foot with the neckband seam and stitch down the seam allowance from the right side, stretching the band slightly as I go). Sometimes that makes unruly knits behave a little better!