TNT–wha?  TNT= a tried and tested pattern.  It should fit great, be adaptable (i.e. something with a lot of detail work is probably not going to be a standard), and something that you can compare other patterns to easily.

The path to getting a pattern that fits such criteria is not always sunshine and rainbows though.  My fitting friend Linda has invested something like 200 man hours trying to get a Butterick pattern to work perfectly, only to discover that a Silhouette Patterns t-shirt fit her better right out of the envelope. I mean, yay, but I wish for her sake that she didn’t have to go through all of that.

Persevere dear readers, though.  With a little (or a lot) of patience, and a critical eye, you can find your perfect pattern that will set you on the road of designing your own t-shirts in no time.

So what can you be looking for?

  • Multiple sizes:  Very few of us are one size uniformly from top to bottom, and picking a multi-sized pattern will help you make much more accurate transitions from one area to another.  In addition to this, knits have different amounts of stretch, so sometimes you will need a larger or smaller size to compensate for the difference.
  • Consider the v-neck:  My choice for a TNT is a v-neck.  Not only is it universally flattering neckline, I think it’s easier when you’re manipulating it to add height to CF vs. taking it away.  For me, this makes the v the perfect base for future pattern changes.
  • Sleeve choices:  A plain sleeve that fits well will serve you well.  If you have a pattern with two or three choices of lengths, even better–less work for later.  Why would you pick a plain sleeve over gathered sleeve?  Well, you can always add fluff, but it’s more complicated to take it away.  If you really love a gathered sleeve, by all means, use that as your base sleeve.
  • Detective work:  Be on the lookout for hidden style lines.  Sometimes the details of a pattern can cover up good basic bones that can be helpful to you in finding a good basic pattern.  I stumbled upon Jalie 2921 because I really liked the look of the scarf collar.  After making a few versions of it and getting tired of such a specific look, it occurred to me that the collar is just a big ole binding and the front piece yields a v-neck without the collar.  Jalie 2921 with no collar:  tried and tested pattern
  • and Jalie 2921with the collartried and tested patternFor a non-t-shirt example, Vogue 1027 is really an empire waisted dress, but the ties cleverly hide that seam:tried and tested patternYou would think I would remember to pull this pattern out when doing anything with an empire line to compare where that silly line is cutting me horizontally since it fits perfect on this pattern…but I digress.
  • If all else fails, draft your own:  There are lots of good resources for drafting t-shirts.  Design-It-Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch walks you through drafting a basic tee (though Katie has pointed out that the directions yield a front and back that are the same–which is fine perhaps if you’re totally flat…).   There’s a series of YouTube videos by a fashion designer turned teacher starting with this one.  He writes about drafting here.  I haven’t looked through this thoroughly, but it looks to be good information that’s worth checking out.

Part 2, Perfecting your pattern is forthcoming!


  1. this is a wonderful post! great illustrative photos and great examples. looking forward to part 2.

  2. Putting the effort into developing my TNT tee (from a Burda mag pattern, since their block fits me pretty well) has been soooo worth it. Good advice!

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