Tee Break

When I first started sewing, and I was excited to make ALL THE EXTRAVAGANT THINGS, I remember thinking – ‘why would anyone want to sew boring t-shirts?’ WHYYYYYYYYY? ??‍♀️ I wanted to sew the coats, the dresses, use all the different buttons, and learn all of the finishing techniques. I did NOT, under any circumstances, want to whip up a T-shirt in a couple of hours using only the overlocker. Dull, much?

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Well, it took me a couple of years, but… I’ve made a T-shirt ? And I can’t believe I waited that long, actually. Maybe I’ve matured? Nah. I’m not ready to adult ? Despite the fact I’m going to be 35 in a couple of months, I still don’t feel ready to be a responsible grown-up (tell me it’s not just me?).

Adultier Adult

At the start of the year, I put an unspecified T-shirt pattern into my 2019 Make Nine, because I had a sneaky feeling that it was one of the garments I wore the most, but had made the least of (and when I say ‘least’, I actually mean zero). It seemed to be a staple of my daily uniform, and yet my other handmades festered at the back of the wardrobe, unworn, in favour of these store-bought T-shirts. What was that all about?

When I got all nerdy and analysed my Me Made May results, the findings did indeed show that I regularly reached for T-shirt’s to wear – so I’ve started working my way around various Tee sewing patterns trying them out.

I’ve previously made a handful of woven scouts (which you can see here and here – okay technically the husbeast made me that second one but ??‍♀️) but they didn’t really count in my definition of T-shirt, so I made a couple of knit fabric Scouts – the pattern is written for wovens but I couldn’t really see why it wouldn’t work in jersey, and I’m pleased to report it’s fine (and will, of course, give a full report on the blog soooooon). Another pattern I’ve tried is the one I’m presenting to you fabulous people on the blog today ?

Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5814

I often use my Minerva Blogger Network makes as ‘trial runs’ for new patterns – that way, I don’t have to go steaming in on some precious fabric that I’ve been saving, and I can make fit adjustments on that first go and get an idea of whether I want to proceed with a ‘real’ version. Last month for my Minerva post, I made the Megan Nielsen Rowan tee.

mnp2106 megan nielsen ladies sewing pattern 2106 rowan tee body suit

The Rowan has quite a reputation in the sewing community for being a good pattern, so I was quite hopeful of it being a success. This is definitely a pattern that falls into ‘wardrobe builder’ territory, with six versions being included in the one pattern:

1. Short-sleeve tee/crew neck

2. 3/4 sleeve tee/V-neck

3. Long-sleeve tee/turtleneck

4. Short sleeve bodysuit/crew neck

5. 3/4 sleeve bodysuit / V-neck

6. Long sleeve bodysuit/turtleneck

Phew! That’s a lot of combos.

I’m not into V-necks (or bodysuits really, seems like a bit of a faff to have a wee) so I chose the round neck T-shirt version. The Rowan is intended to be made with negative ease – that is, the finished garment is smaller than your body, and will stretch to fit once you put it on. Similar to leggings, and leotards and that kinda thing. I’m not a fan of skin-tight T-shirts either, so even though I measured a small/medium (bust 36, hip 40) I cut an extra-large which had a finished bust measurement of 35 inches. Yep, extra-large. I figured that way, it would be snug-ish but not super-strained over the boob area. What I find a little… surprising is that the extra-large is meant to fit a bust up to 42 inches ? I mean, that’s some serious snugness. I for one know FOR SURE that I really wouldn’t want my tops to be that tight, but maybe I’m the minority? I can’t help thinking something that tight is gonna chafe under the armpits too.

But, I cast my doubts aside and went ahead. Sometimes you just gotta leap and hope the safety net appears.

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The one thing that T-shirts do have going for them is that they are SUPER quick to make. Like, just an hour or so. It takes me longer to tie off all the coverstitch ends than it does to make the whole shirt ??


I chose an 80’s-vibe, neon lights jersey from Minerva for my Rowan. This jersey is a nice thick and stable knit, so it’s not gonna stretch about all over the place like some of those slinky jerseys. It’s beginner-friendly, for sure (unlike the jersey I used for this Kielo dress, which was an absolute fecking nightmare ?) so if you’re dipping your toe into stretch fabrics, this one is going to be your friend.

I sewed all the T-shirt seams on the overlocker – no sewing machine required! If you don’t have an overlocker its no drama – just use the stretch stitch on your sewing machine, it’ll work just as well. You’ll need to finish the raw edges of your fabric though (using whichever method you prefer) – that’s the one bonus of the overlocker, it stitches and finishes in one go ??

One thing that did confuse me about the Rowan is that mid-make when it came to attaching the sleeves, I hadn’t marked on my pieces which was the front and which was the back. I had traced my pieces from the original pattern, but if there were any markings on the original I hadn’t transferred them on to my traced pieces. So I had the long task of unfolding the actual pattern only to discover that no, I hadn’t forgotten to trace them, there actually weren’t any markings. Then I thought, maybe I have a faulty pattern, perhaps they forgot to print them? I went digging through the instructions to find any reference to the sleeve front/back and it turns out that the sleeves on the Rowan are symmetrical. Hmm. But are our arms actually symmetrical? No. No, they’re not. The Scout (and pretty much every other close-fit sleeve I’ve encountered) has a front and a back, but the Rowan sleeves are same-same. Hmm. I guess as the fabric is stretchy, it doesn’t really matter, but I would have still liked a front and a back.

Once the T-shirt was assembled, I decided to get creative with my coverstitch threads and have one blue thread and one pink on the sleeves and hem. I love it! It just adds to the 80s feels for me. I’m really into 80s trends right now – something draws me to those neon lights and the retro vibes.

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Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5817

I was quite worried that the size XL would be a bit big on me, but turns out I didn’t need to fret (I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I went up three sizes and it still fits?! ??‍♀️) It mostly has the ease I wanted, but there’s this weird little pooch of fabric at the front of the armpit, and a wrinkle across the front of the chest. I’m sure both of these things would vanish if I made the size small, but then I’d have had that Baywatch look across the chest. No thank YOU.

Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5748

After wearing my Rowan for a day, I decided that actually, this pattern isn’t for me. Not in the short sleeve variation, anyway. The front of the neck felt like it was choking me – I had to keep pulling the upper back up and the front down so it didn’t feel so restrictive around my neck. It just didn’t sit right. I remember doing this a lot with my Pauline Alice Cami Dress, so I’m sure that means there’s an adjustment I need to be doing for weird shoulders or something ??‍♀️ (If you have an idea of what it is, lemme know!).

It’s had its chance, and with all the pulling about I was doing on it while wearing it, it’s lost it. I can’t be wearing a top that feels that uncomfortable or that I have to keep faffing about with all the time just so I don’t feel like I’m choking. It fails my ‘low maintenance / no faff’ policy for clothing, spectacularly.  It will be remade into something else – probably boxer shorts for the husbeast.

Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5829

(I’ve also just spotted that fold of fabric on the far left! ???‍♀️)

Despite the underwhelming result of the T-shirt, I do actually absolutely LOVE the pattern on this fabric – so much so, that I bought another metre of it to make me a beloved Scout tee ? The print goes so well with my 80’s-acid-wash-mom jeans that I’m so in love with, and should also co-ord perfectly with my leopard print Dawn jeans which I’m hoping to finish this bank holiday weekend ??

I’m kinda disappointed with the Rowan pattern but I do still want to make the long-sleeved polo neck for winter (because I wear them like ALL THE TIME), so I’ll perhaps give that a try in the size small, or medium (or large ) and see how it turns out… just in case. One shot is all it’s getting though.

The next T-shirt’s on my list to try are the Basic InstincT tee from SecondoPiano, the Neptune Tee by See Kate Sew (but I have concerns over how neatly the triangle cut-outs are finished on the inside ?), and the La Brea Tee from Halfmoon Atelier which gives me all the retro feels (and has a D cup option too, which would eliminate boob-stretch!). I’m excited to try those bound edges ?

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Basic InstincT – Secondo Piano
Neptune Tee – See Kate Sew
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La Brea Tee – Halfmoon Atelier

I never thought I’d be sewing T-shirt’s. In all honesty… I wanted to make all of the ‘fun’ things – not T-shirt’s! But, I’ve realised that the ‘fun’ things don’t get worn every day – they just sit in the wardrobe. I love to create, and I love using all the cool fabrics, but I also want to wear (most of) the things that I make. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’ll still sew with all the cool fabrics, but I’ll be considering more carefully the garments that I make with them. It’s such a waste to use up some awesome, precious fabric on something that doesn’t fit into my wardrobe and have it just sit there, collecting dust.

So that’s my musings on sewing boring basics, lol.

In other news… we’re still cycling to work, and are down about 20lbs between us so far ?? I’ve been hitting the weights section of the gym, and am slowly but surely getting stronger – when you’re starting at rock bottom though, the only way is up ?

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Even though we’ve got a savage heatwave here in London this weekend, I’ve well and truly moved on from summer makes now having made a grand total this year of about – oooh, THREE ?. BUT – I did make a test version of the Gemma Tank, which was a success (yay!) and so will feature in my summer wardrobe next year.

This tee went live on the Minerva blog a few weeks back, so if you’d like to have a gander (and purchase some of the jersey fabric I’ve used for the tee), head on over to the blog post here.

Next week here on my blog, I’m going to be willing Autumn to arrive by telling you about my many (many) plans for coats this winter! But for now, before my blog turns shades of burnt orange and burgundy and 90% of things are made with wool, enjoy some bright colours ?❤️?

Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5762

Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5728

Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5802

Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5731

Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5736

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Megan Nielsen Rowan Tee 5715

Next weeks post is some serious coat porn – subscribe below to have it drop straight into your inbox! ??


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  1. Celia
    August 25, 2019 / 7:12 am

    Love this Sarah, it’s such a beautiful fabric!

  2. Romy
    August 25, 2019 / 7:13 am

    I love the fabric you used here ? I remember when I went to the sewing Weekender back when I’d only been sewing a year, and I actually asked someone why you would bother using your time making T-shirt’s when there were so many fancier patterns and cuter fabrics to use, and you could get a T-shirt from H&M for like £5 (oh my naivety!) but now I get it. I have made some plain(er) tops like the TATB Agnes and the Nettie Bodysuit which I love but could still do with some in plain fabric (the lure of prints is still too much for me ?)

  3. August 25, 2019 / 8:02 am

    My computer is finally letting me comment on your blog (don’t ask why it didn’t before, no idea) and so for once, I’ll leave a comment! I’ve been reading your posts almost since the beginning, I really like your way of telling the good AS WELL as the bad about all the things you’ve tested.
    About this t-shirt… well, the fabric is quite fun but yes, it doesn’t fit, and yes, having symmetrical sleeves probably doesn’t help. Even RTW tees have non-symmetrical sleeves (except for men t-shirts)! My best ever t-shirt makes have been made by copying my best store-bought t-shirts: put it on the wrong side ans simply cut around. You have to remember to add the length for the yoke and be careful while cutting out the (non-symmetrical 😉 sleeves but apart from that, it’s super fast and easy and works perfectly!

  4. Sandra
    August 25, 2019 / 9:26 am

    Amusing as ever Sarah – and that neckline does look way too high to me! I’d be having serious pulling and fiddling problems. On another note – and partly inspired by you – I have now begun to French Sean everything and bus’s bund all my hens and edges. So satisfying! And I’ve even been doing them by hand – gone all couture – which I find gives me much better control and a better finish. Enjoyed this so much I have now totally handmade a garment (kimono jacket) and I have to say the finish and hang is amazing. I’m now officially hooked on properly handmade.

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 3:24 pm

      Hi Sandra! Glad you enjoyed the blog post ? Ahh that neckline is a bit severe isn’t it… it was really choke-y! ? Ooh I’m not sure I could take the plunge to make something TOTALLY handmade… that’s really neck level! Interesting to hear that the garment hangs well, though – perhaps I’ll try the hand sewing on something lightweight like silk and see how it comes out. My hand sewing isn’t *too* bad, and sometimes I quite enjoy the slowness of it (a bit like knitting ?). It makes me so happy to hear that you’re hooked on the French seams and bias hems! They really made such a difference to my garments once I started using them – it’s amazing how little things make such an improvement to the finish! ??
      And yep, Apple autocorrect can really be something special sometimes ??

  5. Sandra
    August 25, 2019 / 9:36 am

    Just looked at my comment and apple spell check excelled itself as usual! Teach me to text while having breakfast.

  6. susansnow007@yahoo.ca
    August 25, 2019 / 11:31 am

    What if you traced a pattern from a t-shirt that you already own that fits you well? The neon with the funny pouches and folds makes me think that maybe you need to do a dartless FBA. Just thoughts. Happy sewing, I really enjoy your blog, it always cheers me to see what you come up with.

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 3:27 pm

      Hi Susan! Yay I’m so glad you enjoy the blog! ?
      It’s strange, because I don’t get fit issues like that with any RTW T-shirt’s that I own, or even the Scouts that I’ve been making ? I think it’s maybe the *super* close fit of the Rowan that’s skewing it a bit… coupled with that choke-y neck I’m not sure I’ll be making it again. I’ve got a few other poloneck patterns that I can try for winter so it’s not the end of the world that this one didn’t work out! ??‍♀️

  7. August 25, 2019 / 1:02 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for ages but never got around to commenting but trying harder now….I love this fabric, absoltuely love it……..but the fit on that shirt is definitely not right. It looks like its riding up causing all the puckers, and yep the symmetrical sleeves are probably adding to the fitting issues. I know for my body when I use a symmetrical sleeve everything pulls to the back as my back armhole needs more length than my front…

    I do think there is a place for basics sewings….I like that I can make basics but make them less basic by using cool fabrics…..but I’ve also found that sewing has made me a lot more out there with my dressing. There are only so many basics you can make so I make the cool dresses and jumpsuits and since I made them and have them I figure I should wear them. So my wardrobe is getting a lot more adventurous. Where I would normally wear shorts and a tshirt I’ll now reach for something a bit more exotic. You get a few wierd looks the first time you rock up to school pick up in a bright coloured jumpsuit but after a couple of days people just get used to it…..my main thing….like you….is that my makes must be comfortable enough to wear everyday..

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 3:33 pm

      Hi Jenny! So glad that you enjoy the blog ? And yay that you’ve made it onto the comments section! The fabric is just gorgeous, isn’t it?! I couldn’t bear to waste it so it’s going to be remade into boxer shorts for the husbeast.
      I just couldn’t understand the symmetrical sleeve thing… I was like MY ARMS ARE NOT SYMMETRICAL ??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️
      And YES you’ve summed it up perfectly – I want to make non-basic basics! There is *always* a place in my wardrobe for cool T-shirt’s. Love that you’ve got more adventurous with your sewing – that’s music to my ears! And who cares if you get weird looks at school pick up… let them look, they’re just jealous ??? But yes, comfort all the way now! ??

  8. kmpsews
    August 25, 2019 / 4:19 pm

    I so appreciate your bold and bright sense of style! I haven’t tried this tee pattern yet (my
    TNT is the tilly and the buttons Agnes), but it looks like you might benefit from a forward shoulder adjustment. That would change the sleeve shape too.

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 3:35 pm

      Ahh I’m so glad you like the blog! ? You’re not the first person to mention the Agnes… perhaps I’ll give it a go. I haven’t made any of Tilly’s patterns before! I’ll look in to the forward shoulder adjustment, thanks! ?

  9. lorihalia
    August 26, 2019 / 2:09 am

    Have you thought of trying an upper back curve, or forward shoulder adjustments? Or maybe a combination of the two? If it pulls backwards at the neck, it can often be because of a slight ‘dowager’s hump’ that isn’t accounted for in the pattern.

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 3:45 pm

      I think you could be right, because on other patterns (mainly dress patterns) I’ve had to do an adjustment that pulls in the excess fabric along the back (as in, the back of the dress sits away from my body at the neckline – hopefully that makes sense?! ??‍♀️) I wonder if it’s all the same thing ?

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 3:46 pm

      Ahaaaa I LOVE a bit of Whitney! ??????

  10. Laura
    August 26, 2019 / 7:20 am

    From reading your blog I think we have similar fit issues – armhole is often (always for me) too low. I had a similar fit on a t-shirt and fixed it by folding out the excess on the front and re-drawing the front armscye (spelling?). Depending on how much you take out you may need to adjust the arm piece (fold out half the amount and re-draw the curve). In a stretch fabric I found that this quick-and-dirty adjustment works well for me. Many stretch patterns have symmetrical arms, but hasn’t caused me any issues, so far… I notice you also have a similar fitting problem with shirts, as do I. Some toile-ing and patience with adjustments got me there in the end. I know now that I pretty much always have to raise the armhole to get a good fit for me. Dear and Doe are one of the worst for this, but their designs are worth the bit of extra effort. P.S love the blog x

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 3:54 pm

      Hi Laura!
      So glad that you love the blog ? And thanks for the Wardrobe Builder tee recommendation – defo gonna check that out! ?
      Ah, the old shirt armhole drama. I know it well ? I watched a video just yesterday actually about how to raise the underarm and reflect that change on the sleeve – definitely going to try that one moving forward! Strange that you find Deer and Doe to be the worst – they are one of the best for me (as in, needs the least adjustment, sometimes none). Republique du Chiffon I find to be the absolute worst, even worse than the Vogue shirt I tried ??‍♀️ I swear the armpit on their Jolaine shirt was almost down to my armpit! ?

  11. Laura
    August 26, 2019 / 7:23 am

    Forgot to say – I use the wardrobe builder tee pattern, from patterns by me. Lots of variations.

  12. August 26, 2019 / 8:06 pm

    Good grief that’s a high neckline! Poorly drafted, looks to me. I’m VERY Suspicious of the gazillion ‘Indie’ patterns for things as basic as T shirts…I’m also very suspicious of the fangirl ravings about the results. I think it’s often a case of inexperienced ‘design’, inexperienced/incompetent drafting, and low expectations because of the grottiness of most RTW. If there’s that much negative ease, they are using it to avoid bothering to draft a sensible, human shaped block, and grading properly. Some tops have symmetrical sleeves, but they usually only work in a baggy fit garment in my experience. Again, insanely high neckline.
    I love me a pattern with multiple options, but I would only trust them from a very well-established pattern company, all too often this is just a sales ploy to make inexperienced sewers think they’re getting more of a bargain from what are so often overpriced T shirts.
    Deffo look at the dartless FBA, check the scoop of a neckline that you like and graft it onto whatever pattern you end up using- and consider adding in a CB curved seam, it really makes for a lovely fit on a simple T shirt…
    Bulges at front armscye, well lovey, it’s time to grasp the FBA nettle, and all your working out will exacerbate that, so just get to it lol

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 3:58 pm

      That neckline is so high it was pretty much in my chin ? it was certainly choking me! I just find it SO hard to believe that the Rowan has so many ‘good reviews’ in the sewing community – I think it’s the worst fitting T-shirt I’ve ever put on my body ??‍♀️ The negative ease was immense on this pattern. I really wanted to make the polo neck (from the same pattern) for the winter as well, so a bit gutted ?
      The Scout has a really good neckline, it seems to be quite low-ish in a woven but I’ve made it up in a knit and it appears to have risen?!
      Can’t I just continue to dodge the FBA? Please Miss ?

  13. Potimarron
    August 27, 2019 / 4:24 pm

    I think the reason I reach for t-shirts is that they don’t need ironing (not in my world, anyway!). In the meantime, my woven tops are waiting to be ironed. I’m still on the hunt for my perfect t-shirt pattern (zero to slight positive ease, multiple length options, multiple sleeve options, neckline options including a v neck… Moon on a stick, anyone?)…

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2019 / 4:05 pm

      Ahaaaa… you got me! That’s *exactly* why I go for T-shirt’s, no ironing required ??
      I’m going to try the Agnes, the Wardrobe Builder, and the Nikko tees… not sure about V neck options with those though ? And I don’t think your requirements are too much to ask for at all!
      If the knit fabric doesn’t unravel, you can get away with just trimming the seams. If you have a wide range of stitches on your sewing machine, there’s usually ones that are meant to mimic overlock stitches – look for a zig zag stitch with a row of straight stitching running alongside it (sometimes down both sides of the zig zag). You stitch your seam and then just trim the fabric close to the edge of the stitching – and it’s done!
      Ooh you’re a knitter too? Me as well! Just last night I bought yarn for my next project ???

  14. Potimarron
    August 28, 2019 / 8:22 am

    Also, what non-overlocked seam finishes are there for knits? (I know you don’t need to finish a seam on knits, but I like it to be neat, and have no problem with slow sewing- maybe knitting has taught me patience!)

  15. Potimarron
    September 3, 2019 / 12:11 pm

    Thanks Sarah. I’ve been knitting for ages but just getting into sewing (I get a bit unnerved by the potential “waste” of cutting into a piece of fabric, which is different to knitting (knitting is rarely unsalvageable (apart from mohair)a the leftover yarn can be turned into any number of things) and the need for space in our spare room to unfold the sewing table and the ironing board (not doable if we have a clothes horse up)).
    Thank you for the sewing tips!

    • Sarah
      September 10, 2019 / 8:46 am

      I was a knitter way before I could sew, too. I didn’t knit much the last couple of years because I spent all my free time sewing, but I’m now making room for a few projects. I’m *almost* finished with a sweater, actually – hopefully I will be wearing it before the weekend! It’s true that knitting is so much more portable than sewing – it’s my craft of choice whenever I’m travelling. And you just can’t beat a cosy evening with a cup of tea and your needles! ??

  16. lorihalia
    September 4, 2019 / 10:16 pm

    It probably is the reason why you’re having to do that back neck adjustment on your other patterns. I would suggest trying a small curved upper back correction with a pattern you know pulls, and see if that fixes the problem.

    I’ve found this video to be quite helpful. https://youtu.be/AqUNpKFafj8

    • Sarah
      September 10, 2019 / 12:57 pm

      Thanks for the video! Very helpful, I’ll give this a try next time and see if it helps. I much prefer the term ‘curved upper back’ to a ‘hump’ ???

  17. PoundCake
    September 5, 2019 / 4:40 pm

    There’s always such good value in the comments here! I get back neck gape too, though I’m not ready to describe myself as having a ‘dowager’s hump’. There’s a great article about sleeve drafting in the latest issue of Threads Magazine…no way should the sleeve head be symmetrical.

    • Sarah
      September 10, 2019 / 1:03 pm

      Haha, I refuse to be dubbed as having a ‘hump’ so I’m going with ‘curved upper back’ ???
      I’ll try and see if I can find the article online – sleeve construction really interests me (in a nerdy way ?) and I just can’t fathom in my head how a symmetrical sleeve head works on anything but a reealllllly loose fitting sleeve ?

    • Sarah
      September 29, 2019 / 1:42 pm

      ? it is just THE WORST phrase. ‘Dowager’s hump’…. EWWWWW ??

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