Grainline Studio Lark Tee
If you could wear a uniform in your daily life, would you? I think about this some mornings as I’m madly rifling through piles of clothes, struggling to decide what I want my outfit to say about me that day (or honestly, what’s clean). A uniform would solve so much time and angst. Of course there’s the small business of personal expression, and clothes bringing joy etc, but at 7 in the morning I’d gladly swap it all for a simple solution – a crisp, clean uniform waiting folded at the end of the bed, decisions done. (As long as that uniform wasn’t yellow. And didn’t involve a branded polo shirt.)
I know I’m not the only one who dreams of a life uniform. I’ve got friends who have basically fashioned their own – a sturdy, tightly curated capsule collection of work pieces that they pull on each day, with ready-set rules to take the angst out of getting dressed. And there are people out there who take the whole self-imposed uniform thing even more seriously: Mark Zuckerberg and his grey tees. Angelina Jolie in her black slacks and neutral tops. This art director who wears the same thing to work – a white silk shirt and black pants – every day. Every day. This writer who lives in a black turtleneck and blue skinnies. Oh yeah, and all of those millions of men who turn up each day in a suit – often the same suit (and no one notices – here’s proof).
While I’m not quite ready to go full uniform for workdays, I definitely have a weekend habit of jeans and v-neck t-shirts that I seldom, if ever, break. A cardigan or jacket on top for winter, but basically it’s all I wear, when I get to choose. I’m lazy. The weird thing is, despite living in t-shirts at least half of my life, I’ve never really got the hang of making them. It’s the neckbands – they terrify me. Countless clumsy attempts have ended in dodgy, puckered, stretched and bulky neckbands, and nothing screams ‘homemade’ more than a nasty neckline. So I’ve always bought my t-shirts, and felt like a sewing loser for not being able to make knits work.
But recently, I thought I’d give knits another go. I’d been eyeing off the v-neck version of the Grainline Lark Tee, and had a few nice t-shirt fabrics waiting patiently in the stash (oh yeah – I buy knits even though I’m too scared to make anything with them. Send help). Then I found a sweet, white Japanese floral knit at the Fabric Store, and I knew it was time to make that tee. But this time I did some prep. I asked around, and through Klarissa and her sewing friends, I got a few tips for working with knit neckbands.
For what it’s worth (and bearing in mind there are many paths to the waterfall, as the saying goes), here’s what I learned:
– Pin that neckband to within an inch of its life. Pin it to the neckline at the centre front, the centre back, and at each shoulder seam. Then pin every few milimetres between, gently and evenly stretching as you go.
– Don’t use an overlocker to attach the neckband. It’s too easy to lose control of, and the resulting finish can be bulky in beginner’s hands.
– Invest in a walking foot, and use it to sew the neckband on. And even with that walking foot, take it SUPER slow.
– Use a twin needle to stitch down the neckband, then trim any excess from the ends of the band.
That’s what I was told. So I tried these tricks on some kid tees – and they worked. Then I cut a couple of Larks using some non-precious knits – and they worked (you can see the two wearable toiles, one striped, one solid, below). And THEN, I sliced into that gorgeous flowery knit, convinced I was finally ready to pull off a proper t-shirt. But after all that study, and all those practice runs, I made the rookiest of all rookie errors: I cut the fabric the wrong way. This knit very definitely only has two-way stretch, and I cut it so the stretch is lengthways. F***!!!!! By the time I realised what I’d done I was halfway through the make, and there wasn’t enough fabric left over to start again. So I persevered, taking it slowly on that neckband with my walking foot as I cried silent sewists’ tears onto my machine.
The end result is juuuuust wearable. Luckily I sized up from my usual Grainline size for these Larks as I wanted a looser fit, so this one has some room. But I’d be lying if I said it was completely comfortable – not in that slouchy, Sunday uniform kind of way I was hoping for. I love the fabric so much I know I’ll wear it anyway, and in the meantime I’ve learned some valuable lessons. About sewing neckbands. About checking the frick’n direction of the stretch before cutting. And about doing whatever it takes to overcome sewing fears so you can live your uniform dream. Even if it’s only two days a week.