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Sewing modern designs like pants and T-shirts

 
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I think it's high time people started sewing modern styles. All sewing crafts I see are dresses and night gowns. What about pants and T-shirts?
Staff note (Pearl Sutton) :

Conversation moved from another thread.
Original thread: https://permies.com/t/212228/sewing/fiber-arts/Fixing-sizing-mistakes-fabric-cut

 
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Jotham Bessey wrote:I think it's high time people started sewing modern styles. All sewing crafts I see are dresses and night gowns. What about pants and T-shirts?



Jotham, the wonderful thing about sewing is that we can make whatever style we want! And the wonderful thing about being Permies rather than Normies is that we don't need to conform. If some of us we want to wear historical clothes sometimes, why not?

The problem with sewing T-shirts from scratch is the fabric cost. I feel reuse is more planet-friendly than buying new.  I'd rather spend a few $ on a used cotton T-shirt than $40 or more buying new organic cotton cloth to make one.

If you check the other sewing and make-do-and-mend threads there are many about sewing, repairing, and refashioning work clothes and everyday items. Asian style loose work pants have a couple of threads, including free pattern links. Work aprons have an excellent thread. I spent a couple of satisfying hours yesterday repairing old jeans, leggings, a t-shirt, and a shopping bag that had holes in them, thanks to inspiration in the sewing and repairing threads here.

Unfortunately I can't find it to link to it but one of the guys did an excellent thread on refashioning a work shirt he pulled out of the trash at his workplace. It was a masterpiece when he finished it, and still a practical work garment, too.
 
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Jotham Bessey wrote:I think it's high time people started sewing modern styles. All sewing crafts I see are dresses and night gowns. What about pants and T-shirts?



To sew a well-crafted T-shirt (or any kind of garment made of stretchy, knit material), you need a different type of sewing machine (a serger) and to do the typical top stitching, you'd need a coverstitch machine as well. Many home-sewers just have a standard sewing machine and unless you are making a lot of items that use these machines, it doesn't make sense to purchase these specialty machines (especially when the cost of factory-sewn garments are so low). I personally use my serger a lot for all types of items, but many people don't have the need/space/funds to have both a regular sewing machine and a serger.

To sew heavy-weight materials with many layers around places like waistbands and turned hems, you may need a heavier-duty machine than the average home-sewer owns. It takes a lot of power to get through 5 layers of denim or canvas/duck that you'd have on a waistband of a pair of work pants and trying to do so on a lower-end machine can not only break your sewing needles, but can also throw off the timing of your machine which would require a repair. Jeans are sewn on industrial machines for a reason.
 
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Good points, Melissa. More reasons why sometimes items are best purchased rather than made ourselves.

It IS possible to hand sew stretch fabrics, but it's a lot of work and requires a different hand stitching style to wovens, as the stitching needs to stretch, too. I love the Alabama Chanin books which focus on this, but would only do it for a very special item.

Though I do want to try upcycling some old T-shirts into underwear. A serger (which I don't have) would make that an easy job, hand sewing, not so much. Problem is, I'm not sure how well my hand sewing would stand up to repeated wear and washing.

And also, I just remembered I have 5 metres of stretch knit t-shirt weight fabric I bought many years ago in need of being sewn. Not organic or local, probably came from China. Not sure I would buy it now, but it should be used rather than wasted doing nothing. Oh my. A lot more hand sewing may be in my immediate future!
 
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Jotham Bessey wrote:I think it's high time people started sewing modern styles. All sewing crafts I see are dresses and night gowns. What about pants and T-shirts?

There are lots of threads here on permies that talk about the lack of a local fibershed, the difficulty accessing natural fabrics, and about home-made clothing that people actually wear - try here - https://permies.com/t/146553/sewing/fiber-arts/Show-sewn
And the whole PEP textiles area: https://permies.com/f/408/pep-textiles
However, I agree with Jane and Melissa - patterns alone are hugely expensive, current fashion changes every 2 mnths, and the clothing industry has replaced long-lasting classic styles with cheap junk that's worn an average of 6 times. The pollution involved is horrifying. We've lost many  of the skills needed by a generation in most homes. So I encourage new sewers to start on things that can be worn in private, using upcycled fabric if need be, but to just get doing it!

Jane Mulberry

Though I do want to try upcycling some old T-shirts into underwear. A serger (which I don't have) would make that an easy job, hand sewing, not so much. Problem is, I'm not sure how well my hand sewing would stand up to repeated wear and washing.

I've done hand stitched pairs as in my PEP submission: https://permies.com/wiki/167224/pep-textiles/Sew-pair-panties-boxers-briefs#1466905
And I did a couple using my Janome machine on the "mending zigzag" stitch which does 3 little stitches inside the zig and again inside the zag. Both groups have been through a machine wash multiple times now with no signs of problems, but I always use a clothes line. ( My husband owned a dryer when we married 30+ years ago and it still works. It gets used for shrinking fabric or in an emergency.)
 
Jane Mulberry
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Good to know about the handstitched knickers holding up okay in the wash, Jay! We don't own a drier, so no risk of problems there! I can see how a drier would be very useful for preshrinking fabrics.

I used to have an excellent sewing machine and overlocker, then unfortunately I developed a weird neurological problem that affected my speed and distance perception and didn't feel safe using them, so let them go. My sewing machine now is a half-size speed-limited one, designed for young kids to learn how to use a sewing machine! It works fine for wovens as long as the fabric's not too thick, but I've never managed to get the tension adjusted right for the zigzag to work on stretch fabric. It skips so many stitches even my lousy handsewing would be better!
 
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I sew my work pants, but they are not designed to be heavy, they are designed to protect me from ticks and give me pockets. I use lightweight polyester fabric (the ticks sliiiiiide right off!) and I can sew many layers of that on my basic machine. I have made heavy canvas pants, but using a stronger machine, and it complained.

Tick pants in screaming pink snakeskin print :D

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Pink pants
 
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Indie Designers do have lots of "modern" patterns.
I made quite a lot of t-shirts and other garments made from jersey fabric. It is possible to sew it on a normal household machine, and with a twin needle you can even make neat topstitching.
I have done quite a lot of underwear items for the kids but now the youngest at 15 refuses to wear them which is a bit sad but understandable (I think they look nice).

I have also made pants and one jeans.

There is one German designer who caters to my very small size (which I don't find with the big companies, Burda for example is a joke).
If you want to check her out, many of her patterns are in English as well (print-your-own):
https://www.pattydoo.de/en

Edited to add:
Just checked English pattern vs. German ones: She has much more German ones, so if you feel comfortable you can check out the German ones. She has video descriptions for all of them and the pattern marks make sewing super easy and exact. I have made about half a dozen different patterns by her.


 
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I *LOVE* finding so many fellow stitchers on this forum! Am really appreciating all the "threads" related to sewing.

Myself, I am mainly a hand-sewing person. It started with me not having the mechanical aptitude (or any nearby repair person) to keep a sewing machine in working order -- even my grandmother's old pedal-powered one which I started learning on at age 8 thanks to Grandma, and inherited some years back.

But, hand-stitching soon became my preferred mode because it is so easy and portable and because I have been quite pleasantly surprised at how well the repairs I do hold up!

Thank you everyone. I particularly love the pink "tick pants"!

Typing on phone, can't always see the names of who I'm responding to while I type, and my short-term memory isnot the best πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

but really appreciate you all and look forward to many more THREADS! πŸ’šπŸŒπŸ¦‹
 
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For people who wears stretchy T-shirts and jeans, it seems mission impossible to sew them on her own with a home machine. But with the right tools and some practice, it certainly can be done with satisfying results.

If you look at a RTW shirt, it probably has serged seams, cover stitched hems, ribbed neckband with matching colors and maybe some prints or decorations so it's not plain. It takes professional machines and can be quite costly to create the same look start from scratch.  But there are ways to work around it and still achieve the look you like. Anita and others have very good tips there I also suggest the followings:

   1. Lots of knit fabrics don't ravel so edge finishing may not necessary
    2. Use specialized needles for knits such as ball point or stretch needles. Test stitch length and tension on scraps
    3. Slightly stretch the fabric while doing straight stitching, the seams will have some give
    4. Use self fabric for neckline or colorblock. There are different ways of doing neckband and choose the suitable one for a flat and durable neckline.
    5. Use twin needles for a mock cover stitched hem. Press and mark well so the hems are neat and even.
    6. A sewing machine with adjustable pressor foot pressure will make sewing easier
    7. Use printed fabric, add embellishments or do the Alabama chanin style stitching to get a more interesting look
    8. Start with loose fitting stable knit for easier sewing then move on to trickier fabric.

For the bottoms, start with PJ style pull-up pants or shorts for causal wearing. Then work up with more sophisticated details such as welt pockets or a zipper fly front. I made myself quite a few jean style pants but I do have a overlock machine.
 
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Jotham Bessey wrote:I think it's high time people started sewing modern styles. All sewing crafts I see are dresses and night gowns. What about pants and T-shirts?



That's a great question.  I can't speak for everyone but I'll share why I don't sew pants and t-shirts.

1. My body isn't that shape.
Between my curves and health issues, wearing t-shirts and pants are extremely uncomfortable.  I can't bend to do gardening, I don't have the freedom of movement that wearing a skirt gives me, nor do I find pants let my skin breathe as well.  I also have better temperature regulation in a skirt.  

2. durability
Modern clothes are designed to last 20-100 wearings.  If I wear a t-shirt every day (with washing whenever it's dirty), it usually degrades somewhere about the 100 day mark.  Although more recent purchases begin to degrade in fewer than 20 wears.  By wearings, I mean a days wearing doing hard work.  

An area of interest for me is historical clothing and durability.  In the 1950s, it was common in the part of England where my family is from, to have one set of clothes and one set of clothes for Sunday best (aka, laundry day).  These were working/middle class people, often farmers or builders.  The men would have a wool suit and vest, with a shirt and all the underthings.  Some would have two shirts, but most still had detachable collars and cuffs since these got dirty the quickest.  After four or five years of daily wear (approximately 1500 wearings), the Sunday Best clothes would be replaced with new clothes, and the old Sunday Best would become the daily clothes for working in, and the old clothes might have some life in them and were kept for mucking out the pig day.  

Materials are part of it, but something in the way the clothes were shaped to the individual (instead of mass-market t-shirt style construction) has something to do with durability.  I want to know how these clothes lasted 15 times longer than modern clothing so I spend most of my energy exploring these styles.  

3. my style
The clothing I feel most comfortable in are long skirts and button tops with maybe a sweater.   I don't go out of my way to look different than others, but I also don't like conforming to an aesthetic I don't enjoy.  

But that's me.  Everyone has different reasons.

I know quite a lot of people in the real world who sew their own t-shirts or whatever because it's hard to buy ready-made clothes that fit their shape.  But they tend to be quiet about it which makes me sad because I think it's fantastic they can customize their wardrobe to their needs and wants.  
 
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Jane Mulberry wrote:
Though I do want to try upcycling some old T-shirts into underwear. A serger (which I don't have) would make that an easy job, hand sewing, not so much. Problem is, I'm not sure how well my hand sewing would stand up to repeated wear and washing.



Assuming that you're making regular size stitches (ie not making them huge just to get the job over with faster), and using thread appropriate to the job, hand sewing holds up perfectly fine in everyday use. Remember, sewing machines have only been around for a tiny fraction of the time that humans have been sewing their clothes.

In fact, all else being equal, a hand sewn + hand felled seam is stronger than a machine sewn one. (This is on woven fabrics, mind. I don't do much with stretch fabrics, so can't say if the same holds true there.)
 
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Being a self taught sewer, it never occurred to me that sewing stretch fabrics might not be easy. More years ago than I care to remember, I sewed myself 2 velvet skirts, using a zigzag stitch. The skirts still get used about once a month now. In the past couple of years I have also sewn some t-shirt type tops, again using stretch fabric. As they are loose (my chosen fit) the seams do not have too much stress. I use a 1980s Singer machine for anything other than a straight stitch but my much older hand Singer machine gets the most use. I think I will continue as I am and not bother with sergers or overlockers although, were I young I might make a different decision. I usually save hand sewing for mending and decorative work although if I used it more in clothing construction, I wouldn't have to put my latest creation away every time we want to use the dining table.
Going back to sewing trousers/pants, an old pair of trousers wore out and as I like the fit, one of this year's projects is to take a pattern from them and make myself some more from whatever is in my fabric stash.
 
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I find my machine hates stretchy fabric.  (it's straight stitch only) The stitches pop out as the garment stretches and moves.  I'm told that's why a lot of people sew the seams with a zig-zag stitch or serger.

If I'm working with anything with a stretch, I'll use a back stitch and sew it by hand, but if there is too much stretch like a knit fabric, then the seam doesn't move with the fabric and looks funny.  So I mainly stick to woven.

 
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Sewing stretch fabrics with a straight stitch machine
(in reply to R. Ranson)
- is easy, just stretch the fabric as you sew, that way the stitches do not pop when the fabric is worn and stretched.
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