Ten Tips I Learned About Sewing the Perfect T-Shirt

Sew the Perfect T-Shirt/Sewing with Nancy/Nancy Zieman/Pamela Leggett

Ten Tips I Learned About Sewing the Perfect T-Shirt

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The greatest benefit of my job is one-on-one lessons from sewing, embroidery, and quilting experts. When preparing for a TV series, my guests and I plan the series months in advance. After a quick study of the technique, book, or pattern, we have several phone conferences, I prepare scripts, the guest and my staff make step-by-step samples, and the day before recording, we fine-tune the show.

When working with Pamela Leggett, whose patterns focus on knit and fit, I thought I’d learn a few tips, but I was wrong, I learned many tips!

Sew the Perfect T-Shirt/Sewing with Nancy/Nancy Zieman/Pamela Leggett

Sew the Perfect T-Shirt

This tip works ideally with Pamela’s, The Perfect T-Shirt Pattern. 

Sew the Perfect T-Shirt/Sewing with Nancy/Nancy Zieman/Pamela Leggett

1. Test the fabric for retention, not just stretch. Most T-shirt patterns require at least 25% crosswise stretch. That’s easy. But does the fabric retract without coaxing? Quality is important!

2. Choose the pattern for T-shirts by measuring high bustline. Choose the size by that measurement. Then, measure full bustline. If the difference is 3” or greater, choose a T-Shirt pattern with a dart.

Note from Nancy: Armholes on my fitted knit tops are usually low. Using this technique, I was pleased with the fit of the shirt in the upper body.

3. Fit while you sew. Yes, we know that, but with Pamela’s process, she guides us through the exact process.


Note from Nancy: I admit, I like to skips steps, but following the process was totally worthwhile.

4. Stabilize the front shoulder seam with a woven, fusible stay tape. You’re going to like this idea!

5. Stabilize neckline of front and back with knit, fusible stay tape.

stabilizers for sewing shirts

Note from Nancy: I usually cut knit interfacing strips from fusible knit interfacing. Using the woven and knit stay tapes, as used in the industry, really saves time!

6. Use a stretch needle as opposed to a ball point needle. The stretch needle has a more defined point. 

7. Do not use a stretch stitch, you know, the ones with lots of stitches. Less is best. Serge the seams or use a wobble stitch, .5 width x 2.5 length.

8. During the sewing/fitting process, make changes to the fabric and pattern at the same time. You’ll learn how while watching the first episode of Sew the Perfect T-Shirt.

9. Stitch the dart, try on the knit shirt, then, check the fit. If the dart position is too high or low, you’ll learn how to change the pattern and the knit fabric at once. Knits are forgiving, changes are easy to make.

10. After making one style, don’t stop there—this pattern has three neckline options: Jewel, V-neck, and Scooped. The second shirt will go together effortlessly.

Watch Sew the Perfect T-Shirt on Sewing With Nancy online.

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About the Pattern

The busy woman needs a modern wardrobe that can keep up: using jet-set knits is a comfortable and easy solution. Make a variety of styles and diversify your closet with one pattern. Learn techniques you can use over and over again to create beautiful, custom fit clothing you’ll love wearing.

Sew the Perfect T-Shirt/Sewing with Nancy/Nancy Zieman/Pamela Leggett

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  • BevM
    September 10, 2015

    Making tops and blouses is my least favorite sewing activity, but your ‘Perfect T-Shirt’ might change my mind.

  • Marsha Nelson
    September 10, 2015

    I sew for others and it fits perfectly, but I can’t seem to make my own clothes fit. I’m short so the arm holes are always to low. This looks like a wonderful idea.

  • Starla
    September 10, 2015

    Didn’t even know there was such a thing as a stretch needle! Always lots to learn — thanks for teaching!

  • Kathe Mayer
    September 10, 2015

    Pamela’s pattern is easy to use and I had good results in a plain T-shirt. Plan to make another, maybe long sleeved.

  • Mary Ellen
    September 10, 2015

    Loved this segment and am looking forward to the second one. Pamela is great; love having her as one of the teacher’s at Steve’s in King of Prussia.

  • Diana G.
    September 10, 2015

    Thanks for the pattern idea from Pamela .. Thanks for the ideas here …

  • Becky M
    September 10, 2015

    I really enjoyed this first part of the “Perfect T-shirt” show and look forward to the next. I have a question. You mentioned the ITY knits being equal to single or jersey knits, but what about interlock knits? I used to hear that term all the time. I know that an interlock of the past was a bit heavier than a jersey. Are they the same as the ponte knits of today?? Help, I’m confused.

  • Fran Johnson
    September 10, 2015

    Loved this program and am looking forward to part two. Pamela’s Patterns are great. Classics that are always stylish and designed for real people. Love your TV programs and your blog. So glad you are back for another season. Hope your health continues to improve.

  • Marty
    September 11, 2015

    I look forward to seeing T’s with all these excellent tips!

  • Christine
    September 11, 2015

    The perfect t shirt is the dream!

  • Loretta T. Consiglio
    September 13, 2015

    What is a wobbly stitch?

  • TJ Hein
    September 19, 2015

    Hi Nancy, what is a wobble stitch?

  • consolecrazy.xyz
    September 22, 2015

    Five Exercises you can do everyday from Healthy Body Healthy
    Mind personal trainer Shannon MacLachlan.

  • Martha Hood
    September 30, 2015

    Loved the tips given in this segment- looking forward to making some T”s for the girls and my self- thanks for the ideas

  • Sherrie Lilly
    August 26, 2016

    I just bought a new serger and have been taking classes on knit garment construction and love the tips that you publish. I have traced the pattern for the perfect tshirt but have not made it yet. I wish she would put out a tank top pattern. Thanks for all of your sewing tips and help!

  • Gina Walker
    September 28, 2016

    Love your show! love to sew!

  • marlene lovett
    July 21, 2019

    Is there a book based on “Ten tips I learned about sewing the perfect T-shirt”?

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