Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer T's

It's summer. It's hot. And all your doll wants to wear is a simple T-shirt and a pair of jeans or shorts. While preparing the last "Kenswear" report, I was quite surprised to find I had never done a tutorial on making Ken a proper T-shirt. Far away from the extravagance of Haute Couture and all the other fancy duds, the T-shirt is an ubiquitous fashion staple. There is, however, a lot to making a perfectly fitting T-shirt. Since all of my guys need T's and tanks to wear under their blazers, jackets or--now in mid-summer--all alone with shorts, I took my time to make the perfect pattern.

One thing to note: the items on this page have no back closure. So when planning the neckline, you will need to insure your garment will fit over the doll's head. Should you decide you want a crew neckline or that you want to get him in and out of this garment more easily, you will need to plan a seam down the back, and close it with velcro--the way Mattel makes its dolly T-shirts.
For this project, I cut up an old T-shirt to make both the pattern as well as the finished garment. Any 2-way stretch cotton knit will do. 100% cotton is the most versatile because you can dye it any other you want. You could even cut up old socks for more interesting textures. There are a lot of steps here, but please don't be intimidated. I wanted to hand-hold you through this tutorial to ensure the best results possible. If you have previously made a form-fitting sloper for your Ken doll, you use that as a base, cut in a neckline, add seam allowance and skip to step 19. Otherwise, continue on.

1. Cut a square of T-shirt material and tape over the front of the doll.
2. Here is a back view of what it will look like on the back
3. Draw a line down the center front of the doll on the fabric. Also, design your neckline. Since this is a tank top, I've made a scoop neckline down to the middle of his bust line. Note: A photo of an actual tank top will help you gauge out deep you should design your neckline and armholes. Unless you plan to skip the trim, be sure to cut a little deeper than what you want because you will add the knit trim later. Cut away some of the fabric around the neck so that you can work better.
4. Draw around his arms. Then mark where the side seams should meet.
5. Take a second square of fabric and tape to the doll's back to hold in place while you work. Un-tape the front and carefully, fold it over the back at the sides.
6. Mark where they join at the sides
7. Pin the front to the back at the shoulders.
8. On the back, draw in the armhole and neckline.
9. Draw the center back line in the center of the doll.
10. Adjust the side if necessary, then mark the side seams. When making adjustments, use a different colored pencil so you will remember the most recent corrections.
11. Cut away any excess of fabric around the neck or armholes.
12. Pin your shirt together to check for fit. Be sure to mark the hemline. Now remove from the doll.
13. Unpin the shirt. Your T-shirt pattern will look like this when you've taken it apart. We now need to make sure it is symmetrical.
14. Put tracing paper over each pattern and trace off.
15. Fold along the Center Front line.

16. You will notice it is uneven from side to side. Redraw the neckline. Decide which side is the way you want to go, then trace the "right" side onto the opposite side of the shirt.
17. Open the pattern and verify. Make corrections. Just be sure each side is symmetrical to the other.
18. Now overlay the front to the back and check to make sure the shoulders and the sides match and are of the same length.
Add your seam allowance. If you plan a "rough cut" tank top, you won't need to add seam allowance around the neck or armholes.
19. Cut your pattern out in fabric. Pin baste it and put it on the doll to check for fit. Adjust if needed. But whatever you change, be sure to make those adjustments on your paper pattern. (So if, for example, you need to take in an additional 1/8 inch at the side, you should indicate that on the paper pattern.)
You could stop there and simply turn down the edge (or leave it rough). Lamar, in the opening photo, sports a simple tank made from a rayon/lycra knit. Since the edges don't ravel, I've left the edges along. Otherwise, continue on for Marlon Brando "Streetcar Named Desire" classic tank.
20. What differentiates a T-shirt or tank from a "top" is the ribbed edging around the neckline. Unfortunately, I have never been able to find this trim sold in any retail stores, so I began collecting it by cutting it off of old T-shirts. You could also make your own by cutting strips of ribbing from lightweight socks. Most ribbing measures about 1" (2cm) in length which is longer than you need.
21. Once I've removed this trim from a T-shirt, I fold it in half then carefully press it. (Press without scrubbing so you don't overstretch the trim.)
22. Stitch the front to the back and open out.
23. Fold the armhole edges over and glue in place.
24. Carefully pat so as not to stretch.
25. Repeat for the neckline. Turn down and glue in place. Afterwards, press carefully with an iron.
26. For a circular neckline, I take my knit trim and begin pinning it, starting at the center back, then around the neckline. When you finish, simply overlap the trim slightly at the center back. Take the time to adjust everything, making sure nothing is stretched and that the knit is fairly uniform around the neckline.

Here is a closeup view of what the finished result will look like.

27. When you have finished, take your iron and carefully press (don't scrub) the neckline.
28. Sew one side seam. Then turn up your hem. Check to make sure the edges will match once the other side is stitched. Adjust if necessary, then glue or stitch down. Sew the other side. Press out the seams. 

Model T
Again, what distinguishes a real T-shirt from an ordinary top is the ribbed knit edge. This also helps to keep the neckline from prematurely stretching out.

I've not added a logo or clip art to Sean and Zak's T-shirts, but here is where you can have fun with iron-on decals or stickers
1. For my T-shirt, I began using the basic sloper I had previously made for my Ken dolls.
Trace off the top, from armhole to armhole. I lowered the armhole by 1/4 inch (5mm). From the bottom of each armhole I drop a straight line down to the hemline. (I added an addition 1/2 inch (1cm) to the bottom of my sloper.)
2. Cut in the neckline. I've chosen a V neck which is about 1-inch (2cm) from the bottom of the neck of the original sloper. I also lowered the neckline in the back by 1/4-inch (5mm)
3. Add seam allowance.
4. Make a sleeve pattern. Put the front and back slopers together at the neckline/armhole point. Angle them so that there is a wedge opening of 1/4" (5mm) at the top.
Draw a straight line (red) from the apex of that V-opening.
5. Trace the armhole of the front and back + 1/4" (5mm) on each side.
6. Decide on the length of the sleeve. Here, I've drawn 1" (2 cm) lines down from each point. The lines you draw should be parallel to that straight (red) line. The shape this forms is now your sleeve.
7. Add seam allowance.

Because this is a V-neck, my start point for adding the trim is at the lower point of the V. As with the Tank top, I folded under the edge and glued them in place. I start at the bottom of the V, pinning the trim around the neckline, being careful not to stretch the trim nor the neckline. The end point of the trim is simply overlapped over the start point. You can stitch them together at the back.
My oversized T-shirt from the menswear report was certainly noticed. Getting the look was super easy! 
The pattern was created simply by laying the doll down and spreading out his arms. I made a T formation behind him which took into consideration the volume I wanted to create. I made a simple T shape behind him.
I checked to make sure my shape was symmetrical from side to side. I made a "keyhole" by making a slit at the midpoint of the garment (at the shoulder line) which is 1-3/4" (4.5cm). At the midpoint of that line, I drew another slash line running vertically 1-3/4" (4.5cm) from the midpoint of this line. You can decide to put this opening at the front or, in my case, at the back.
You can either make a note to lay out this pattern so that the top of the pattern falls on the fold of the fabric, or you can create a simple pattern piece by tracing off the T, then flipping it vertically and adding it to the original pattern at the shoulders like the pattern you see above. Fold the edges over and close with hook and eye.You can also turn it into a tunic by leaving the seams at the sides from the midpoint down.
Follow us on Twitter: @FashDollStylist
Like us on Facebook:
We're also on Pinterest:


  1. Some really great T-shirts and tank tops here! Thanks for sharing your technique for creating them.

  2. First of all let me say that these guys are super cool! Now that I have so many guys afther trousers, vests, jeans, shirts, I will have to make some t-shirts december maybe I'll have time for it.
    Thanks a lot for the tutorial, it will come in super handy, and the idea to have the ribbed edging is great! I also use the edging of socks to make the necks for sweaters!

    1. Thank you, Billa. T-shirts are sooo practical! I know I'll be making lots more, so that's why I really took my time on getting the fit just right!

  3. You do such a great job with tutorials. Nice job on these tshirts.

    1. Thank you, Vanessa. I'm really happy with the results.

  4. Great minds think alike. I'm currently in the throes of sewing tanks for my guy.,

    1. Hey...'tis the time of the year when all a good looking guy needs is a tank top and a pair of jeans. Looking forward to seeing your guys in tanks!!!

  5. Yes! My Tariq will be so happy that you wrote this tutorial, now I don't have an excuse anymore to not make him a tank top, so he's finally going to be dressed properly! xx

    1. I KNOW Tariq will look sensation in a tank!!! And...they are so practical, especially this time of year! Looking forward to seeing Tariq flex his muscles! Hugs.

  6. The t shirts look really good on your guys. I have yet to sew some more items for my male dolls so this is an encouragement to begin with the basics.

    1. Thank you, Brini. Not only is the tshirt an easy garment to make, it is a great fashion basic which looks wonderful on the doll & never goes out of style!!!

  7. April, this is exactly what I've been looking for! I've made some simple stretchy pants for my boys, but all of them are shirtless. My girls appreciate this, of course, but the guys have been whining that Fall and Winter are coming up. "Besides," says Alex, one of my Ken dolls. "We're not slabs of meat. My eyes are up here, ladies!"

    Fantastic job on the tutorial, as always. <3

    1. Thank you Sarah. And yes, the guys do need Tshirts!!! After all, they need to leave something for the (girl dolls') imagination. ;-)


We love hearing from you. Your comment will be published shortly.