Thursday, February 26, 2015

Real Cupcake-atarians have curves

A few months ago, I went on a sauropod kick. I kept finding dinosaur-themed clothes and accessories online, and I wanted them all! At one point, I ran across a lot of three T-shirts that not only sported adorable sauropods, but also had a vegetarian message! It's like they were made for me! I bought them, even at a total price of 5 dollars a shirt, and was sad I had taken the gamble when 2 out of three of them were far too tight.

One of them, I decided I would wear anyway—I could still squeeze into it—but this white cupcake-atarian one was just too sheer and too embarrassingly small. Cupcake-atarian, my foot! That shirt was sized for someone who never eats anything but lettuce! I tried to sell it on eBay for months. It wouldn't go at 5 dollars, and I didn't even get any interest when I reduced it to 2 dollars. I felt I'd be taking too big a loss to list it for any less than that, so I removed it from my inventory and placed it in my Projects Box. Somehow, I would make this shirt work!

Although I take in seams to make clothing smaller on a regular basis, I've never before tried to enlarge something. But several inspiring stories on Refashion Co-op proved it can be done, by adding additional side panels, so I decided I'd give it a try.

Never mind that I've never tried this before and probably should be attempting a subtle alteration that would disguise any of my mistakes, I decided I'd make the additional panels the same eye-popping shade of green that comprised the shirt's dinosaur. Go big (brontosaurus big!) or go home, right!?

The green fabric I chose had already lived a first life as a green screen for a now-retired coworker, and a second life as the skirt under my Christmas tree, so I didn't feel too bad about cutting it up for the good of fashion.

But first, to cut up the shirt! I ripped out almost all the seams (over the course of three episodes of Doctor Who!), opening up the sides, removing the sleeves, and finally cutting the collar in half so that the pieces of it remained attached to their respective front and back pieces of shirt. I knew I was going to add a panel to the top of the shoulders, so the integrity of the neckline wasn't important. I left the dangling edges of the shoulder tape intact because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.

I left the armpit seam of the sleeves intact and cut each sleeve right down the top center line. In this gap, I would add the strip of green fabric.

Using a better-fitting shirt for comparison, I decided I'd need to add about an inch on each side (in looking at this comparison again, I realize an inch on the front and an inch on the back would be better represented by two inches on each side—mistake #1).

I used the side of the dino shirt as a ruler and cut a strip of the green fabric to match its length. I added a half-inch for a bottom hem and another half-inch just for safety. I made the width of this strip 4 inches, then cut it in half to have two 2-inch strips—one inch to actually show, and 1/2 inch on either side for seams.

I then cut similar strips to make the shoulder panels using the top of the shirt as my ruler,

Wow, it was almost time for sewing! No turning back! ...Until I picked up one of the green strips and realized it had lots of elasticity lengthwise, but not width-wise. That was mistake #2. Since I was going to use these strips to add width to the shirt, I thought it was important for them to stretch widthwise. I had to re-cut all four green strips.

But once they were cut, it was time for sewing! No turning back! For real this time! The green fabric didn't seem to have a front or back side, so I just picked one arbitrarily and lined it up with the side seam of the front half of the T-shirt.

I folded the bottom edge under so its hem would be approximately the same width as that of the white shirt. Then I began sewing the strip to the shirt! I didn't pin or anything because it was a pretty straightforward straight seam, but by the time I got halfway done, I realized I had more white fabric than green. The T-shirt was stretchy both ways, but the green only stretched widthwise, so the white was elongating as I sewed it while the green was remaining basically the same length—Mistake #3. Fortunately it was early enough to correct by simply tugging the green fabric as taut as I could while stitching the rest of the seam. When I was done, the green fabric lined up almost perfectly with the armpit of the shirt front—thank heavens I'd added that extra half-inch of length for safety!

I did the same thing on the other side, then, seeing as everything was looking good, I attached the front to the back at the sides. At this point I did a quick try-on and found that the fit was satisfactory, though not quite as big as I had hoped. It seems that with all the extra seams I was adding, I had lost a lot of width from the original shirt and probably should have made my side panels bigger. That was mistake #4, but it wasn't bad enough to scrap the project.

I considered my next steps. Should I sew the shoulder strips next, or reattach the sleeves? Eventually I chose the latter, because I figured it would be easier to sew a straight seam all the way down the shoulder with sleeves attached than try to fit those tiny curvy sleeves around my sewing machine once they were complete circles again.

So I matched the bottom seam of the first sleeve with the middle of the green side strip, and then pinned it all around the sleeve opening, also matching the cut ends of the sleeve to the top corners of the sleeve opening.

Because I'd added that strip of green, I had more shirt than sleeve, which worried me slightly, but I decided that I would just stretch the sleeve as I sewed to fit the bigger arm opening.

So I sewed. Then I did the same on the other side.

Now the shirt was looking more like a shirt again! It just had these open shoulders that needed to be closed up, and it would be done. I had to cut a bit off the top of the left shoulder because it didn't align with the top of the sleeve.
Thinking again about how much trouble hemming around a tiny sleeve would be, I decided to hem the ends of the shoulder panels before attaching them to the shirt. That was mistake #6. The edges of the stretchy fabric, with nothing holding them back, kept getting drawn into the bowels of my sewing machine, refusing to move forward, getting all knotted with the thread, etc. etc. It was a ghastly mess. After several tries sewing the short 2-inch hem from end to end, I started in the middle and worked my way to one end, cut the thread, started in the middle again and worked my way to the other end! Tedious! Next time I'll just leave the ends raw and sew the hems later.

At this point, the photography grows rather sparse as I become increasingly frustrated with the project, anxious to finish it, and not at all interested in documenting all my false steps! Sorry!

By this time, I was certain I wouldn't need the original collar tape any more, so I cut it off. I attached the first shoulder panel in the same way I attached the side panels. I left the collar end of this strip raw rather than hemming it, because I'd cut it so much longer than the shoulder of the shirt (for safety) that I was sure I would have extra fabric. Turns out, I didn't have any. When I came close to the collar, I had just enough fabric left to fold the strip over and give it a hem that matched the width of the neckline.

When I was all done, of course, I realized I had attached this panel inside out! I'm not even counting that as mistake #7, because I make some variation of it every time I sew anything! Anyway, the second try went better, the second shoulder went on without a hitch, and pretty soon I had a shirt!

It was a shirt covered in loose threads and with some unfinished hems still gaping open, but I was in the home stretch. After finishing the hems and cutting off the danglers, here's how much thread I had demolished. I could practically sew a whole new shirt from all of that! But...I think I won't, because this was all the shirt-sewing I feel like doing for a good long while.

Here's the end result...

And here's the denouement.

There are all kinds of ironies in this story—adding "racing stripes" to my shirt to better accommodate my chubbiness is one—but probably the biggest is what turned out to be the real Mistake #7. I had thought, somehow, that by adding the panel to the top of the shoulders rather than the underside of the sleeve, I would make more room in this shirt for my wide shoulders. That was a silly notion—all the shoulder panel did was add a half-inch to the overall length of the shirt! So all that complex removing and replacing of the sleeves and the trying to make a standard hem look like a logical continuation of a ribbed neckline—that stuff that was the hardest part of this project—was all unnecessary. But at least the shoulder stripe looks spiffy. I hope.

1 comment:

  1. Super cute! Good to know I'm not the only one who works on projects with the TV on. :)