T-shirts: a comparison study


You will see in these pictures that I have succesfully used the binder that came with my coverstitch machine.  This first shirt is a cotton lycra blend.  It must have shrunk terribly in its prewash as I could only just scrape out a t-shirt from the 1m I bought. There is some puckering on one side of the neckband...this is where a seam in the binding got caught in the binder.  I guess binding seams are to be avoided.

This next shirt was a little more challenging to bind.  The fabric was a cotton blend.  I'm not sure was the blend is, but it is pretty warm to wear and the wrinkle is permanent / intentional.  The fabric wanted to curl out as it was binding.  Starching didn't help much.  I did have to unpick a section and redo, but the final result is okay.

The next shirt was a viscose fabric which also had a tendency to curl.  I decided to cut the binding on the grain to see if this helped and it did.  I had this shirt practically made in 45 mins.  Only the hems to go.  That's when I came a cropper.  I didn't test the hems beforehand, as I hadn't had a hem fail yet, but this one didn't want to hem.  The threads got cuaght and left holes in the fabric.  I turned the tensions really low and the looper tension was zero and it still seemed too tight.  I have been using fluffy thread in the loopers but I am wondering if I should switch to regualr thread for fine knits?  Another hour later I was finally finished, although this hour did include repairing a toy helicopter that was flown into a ceiling fan.

Style Arc

Whilst I was practising knits, I thought I would test out a few patterns.  The red shirt is the Style Arc Lisa top (although I rounded off the v neck).  I have heard good things about Style Arc and wanted to try one of their patterns.  None of their patterns holds much appeal for me...different tastes I guess...so I went for a fairly plain style.

I don't really like this pattern very much.  The shoulder area seems too boxy.  The sleeves were symmetrical, which don't really suit my forward shoulders, and result in excess fabric in the lat area (ignore all those back waist wrinkles...I do need to widen more at the hips...just in denial!)

Camilla & Marc

At this stage, I remembered a shirt that I had saved off the front of a magazine.  Freebies always sway my magazine reading, as I pretend it justifies such frivolous expenditure.  Most of the makeup in my bathroom came as free samples!  One magazine came with a Camilla & Marc t-shirt.  It did say "One Size Fits Most", but I think what they meant was "One Size Fits Most People Who Wear a Size 10".  It wasn't made in a very stretchy fabric, so it did not accomodate my hips, but I kept it anyway and cut it up to make a pattern, just to see if there was any difference between a designer t-shirt and every other t-shirt.

I used it to sew up both the black stripy knit and the blue stripy knit.

Now I love me a little flat pattern comparison, so I laid the Camilla & Marc shirt on top of the Style Arc pattern.  In these next photos, the Style Arc pattern is at the back, the Camilla & Mark t-shirt is lain over the top on one side and a Jalie pattern is sitting on top on the other side.

 If you look closely, you can see that the upper part of the front armscye, near the should joint, differs significantly between the patterns.  The Camilla and Marc shirt is vertical in this region, sliding up inside the shoulder joint rather than veering out to the should bone.    The Jalie shoulder length is shorter than the Style Arc shoulder length.

 It is similar on the back.  I usually raise the Jalie shoulder a little.
I wondered what this would mean for the sleeve.  The Camilla & Marc sleeve is not symmetrical, though I am wondering if it is back to front in this photo because I thought the back armscye was longer than the front, and it seems opposite in this photo.

The Jalie sleeves is symmetrical.


Here are the photos of the Jalie pattern, made up last year.

 It is a closer fitting shirt.  You can see that one of my shoulders is bigger than the other. 
 Same problem as Style Arc with excess fabric resulting from a symmetrical sleeve, though not as pronounced.
 A bit tight under the arms?


Of course, I couldn't stop there.  I was having too much fun.  Turns out I have quite a collection of capped sleeve t-shirt patterns.  Here is one that I fiddled with in 2007, based on an Ottobre pattern.

 The sleeves are too tight.  I don't wear this shirt much.  I have kept it because it is so groovy, but don't wear it much as it feels a little restrictive.  looking at these photos, I can see why!
 No excess fabric at the back of the sleeve though.

This pattern is shown on top, RHS in the photos below.

 It is narrower across the front than the Style Arc.
 The back shoulder length does not seem much shorter than the Style Arc, but this length incorporates a 6 mm dart and is eased onto the front shoulder length.  It is a smidge narrower across the back.
I don't remember if the original sleeve pattern was symmetrical or not, but I don't think so.  I did alter it for a square shoulder.  You can see clearly in this photo that the sleeve does not have as much room as the other patterns.


Lucky last, photos of a t-shirt pattern that I drafted using Keith Richardson's book.  I forgot to take photos of the pattern, but I do remember that the back shoulder length incorporated a 6 mm dart, the armscye was higher than the other patterns and the bottom of the armscye was more squared off.  The sleeve was symmetrical, but the front and back armscye lengths were a little different and the sleeve stretched a little to fit.

When I wear this shirt the neckline does do weird things...sort of gapes even though it is a fitted shirt.  Looks like a need a little more ease through the bust though, which might help this.

Trying to make sense of all these photos and patterns...I did draw up a table.

Style Arc
Camilla & Mark copy
Ottobre based (fitting modifications)
Self Drafted (Keith Richardson)
Front Shoulder
Cut in
Similar to Style Arc, bit shorter
Cut narrower than Style Arc

Back Shoulder
Cut in
Cut in
Incorporates a dart
 Incorporates a dart
Moderate armhole depth, more width across chest and back
Lower armhole
Higher armhole,
Moderate depth, slightly narrower across back, much narrower across chest
Highest, squared off shape at bottom of armscye
Longer back
Longer back, steeper front
Longer back, steeper front


Front shoulder:  prefer shorter shoulder length, to hug the shoulder joint a little more
Back shoulder:  either shorter length or can incorporate a back dart, easing onto front shoulder
Chest width:  narrow is better
Back width:   All seem okay, except Style Arc is too wide
Armscye Depth:  Use higher armscye for fitted tops (Jalie, self-drafted), use lower for more casual (C&M)
Sleeve shape:  prefer not symmetrical.  Ottobre sleeve is too tight.

Not sure what to do with all these thoughts now.  Obviously, the best thing would be to draft a perfect pattern and test it out.  But I am out of suitable t-shirt fabric for the moment and have moved onto different knit patterns...another circle of completion not quite complete


  1. Hmmm, a very impressive set of comparisons! and you have some gorgeous new Tshirts to show for it. I have precisely one Tshirt pattern, that I custom fitted to myself from a Burdastyle magazine pattern.

  2. I have trouble when t-shirts have a drastic upwards angle at the shoulder seam. I always have to straighten that seam out. Guess that's my linebacker shoulders. It's too bad the style arc shirt isn't your favorite because that melon-y color is gorgeous!

  3. Wow great lot of data out of that. I'm impressed and I think very useful - not that I have made myself (or anyone for that matter) a t-shirt but I will and I will use this as reference as I like how the rtw shirt sits on the shoulder and the sleeve. That could be as I have such a narrow back and front chest above the bust and nothing ever fits.

  4. I have to add 1cm to my shoulders as they are so broad, and I know one is slightly longer. I wish I could come up with the "perfect" adjustments. I have a couple of Simplicity patterns that I have adjusted to my weird shape and they are quite good. BTW are you sure the puddling at centre back is not from a sway back? I have that and tend to get fabric clumping there (although from the photos your back seems fine). Ingrid

  5. I find this all incredibly interesting. I've been trying and failing at making my own t-shirt pattern for a while. I've finally caved and purchased the Sewaholic one. Gosh I hope I get something wearable!!! I'll refer back to this post when it arrives - thanks!

  6. Marie-Christine6 April 2012 at 00:22

    What's missing from this table is which features you like.. And what's missing from this post is which shirt you prefer to wear. Then it should be relatively simple to tweak missing elements into your favorite, and truly get a perfect draft. Seems a shame to do all this and not come out with something concrete :-).

  7. I think I like the fit of the Camilla and Marc variation best on you... and I bought that magazine for the t-shirt too - it's very tight and the fabric is not great but the shape does look about right for me too.

    So if you make a new pattern of your own you definitely should now have the inputs to be able to get a brilliant fit ... no pressure or anything huh?

  8. Oh, a girl after my own heart. I love pattern comparisons, especially t-shirts. I like doing them for the learning experience as much as trying to get a t-shirt out of it--to see how just the slightest differences wear on the body. And I *almost* bought that StyleArc t-shirt but I can see now, just from your comparisons, that it will not work for me.

    I like the Camilla and Marc tshirt the best, too. I think it's the way the shoulders and back fit but I can see it's not as fitted as some of the others. The self-drafted one looks good from here and I wonder what would happen if you did a bit of a minor fba on this one. Maybe the neckline would release and fall better over the bust.

  9. Very interesting pattern comparison. If the pattern companies are consistent (with themselves), this chart should help you remember what you want to do the next time you sew one of their patterns. I tend to make the same alterations across the board for whatever company I'm using.
    I've had my coverstitch "suck in" the fabric once in a while, too, especially on thin fabrics. I haven't found the perfect solution yet, but pulling the fabric taut from the back (where it comes out on the back side of the presser foot) seems to help keep it from getting pulled in.

  10. I have a new coverstich machine and finding it difficult as there appear to be no dvds to buy. I want to make cot sheets and bunny rugs would it be alright to do them with the coverstitch and not the overlocker.