Tee of the Month Club: July’s Tonic Tee.

Sarah, a short, average-sized person, wears a black, pink, and red floral t-shirt and black jeans.

Perhaps you can tell from the grin, but the Tonic Tee from SBCC is probably my new favorite t-shirt pattern. I’d meant to make this for ages — since even before the designer released an updated version with a new, larger size range. I wish I hadn’t procrastinated. This t-shirt is glorious.

I truly love the progress that indie sewing pattern designers have made in expanding their size ranges. The average woman in the United States wears a size 16/18. As Jenny Rushmore of Cashmerette Patterns so eloquently stated, plus sizes are not a minority or a niche market. The majority of US women wear larger sizes. I get a little tickle every time I see another designer announce a sizing expansion, even though I fit into many of those designer’s original size ranges at the moment. The Tonic Tee was re-released in SBCC’s extended size range a few years ago. It ranges from XXS to 4X, with busts from 30″ – 58.5″ and hips from 32″ – 61.5″. That’s a decent range!

However, indie patterns have another shortcoming that no one seems to discuss: Most pattern designers use fit models that are much taller than the average person.

I’m 5’2″, so I’m definitely shorter than average — and I’m not saying that every pattern out there needs to be designed specifically for short people. But I would point out that the average height for women in the US is still 5’4″, and only about 10% of women are over 5’7″. Seamwork, for instance, uses a 5’8″ fit model for both their straight and “curvy” size ranges. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of people sewing Seamwork patterns are going to be shorter than that. You could be over average height and still need to shorten their pattern pieces! Why isn’t anyone talking about this?

When you’re my height, you get used to making narrow shoulder adjustments and shortening everything. That’s why it’s such a relief to find patterns designed for actual petites, as SBCC’s patterns are. (All of their newer releases, including the Tonic Tee, also have alternate pieces for average height. So their sizes aren’t exclusively for people under 5’4″.)

I made this tee with absolutely zero adjustments. Nada. I didn’t change a single thing. However, I did misread the size chart, so I made it one size larger than the designer intended. I should have sewn a size L graded to an XL at the hip, but I accidentally printed just an XL. I realized the error before I cut into my fabric, so I graded the bodice pieces out at the hip to keep the ease consistent. (I don’t like my t-shirts too tight, anyway.) The fit is pretty much perfect straight from the packet. The slope of the shoulders, the sleeve and body length — everything is just right.

Some sticklers may object to the unorthodox neckband application, but I had no trouble with it. (It keeps one shoulder seam open.) It’s a good method for beginners, so this could easily be a first t-shirt pattern.

This is another “free with email signup” t-shirt pattern, so that makes it even better. I strongly recommend this t-shirt pattern, especially for shorter people.

Current measurements: Upper bust 36.5″, full bust 41″, waist 34.5″, hips 45″, bra size 36DD.

Approximate cost: The pattern was free, and the fabric was the last remnant of some beloved yardage I picked up on eBay a few years ago. All thread was on hand again, so the only cost was my labor.

Time spent: I took my time with this shirt and spent 3 hours and 44 minutes from start to finish on it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (with a bonus 6th star if you’re under 5’4″)