Testing the Waters

When I first started thinking about the Everyday Wardrobe several weeks ago, I decided to test out my strategy with something simple. There were so many articles of clothing in my wardrobe that I really wanted to use the Everyday Wardrobe Game Plan on, but I thought I should give it a go with something classic, something I reach for all the time and never really feel all that great in because I never dress them up or take the time to make coordinating pieces that go with them – Jeans.

I don’t know about you, but I do love a good pair of jeans. I have but two pairs and one of those pairs I really don’t even like wearing that much because they tend to fall down (will probably get rid of these soon, come to think of it). I’m planning to make some jeans very soon, but I thought, why not start with a pair that I already have and like. Enter this pair of Gap jeans. These are basic jeans. I paid full price for them and had to alter them a bit by shortening them (I have fairly short legs) and pinching out some leg fulness. If you are interested in a tutorial, I’m happy to offer one – this is totally not hard to do.

You might be amazed to know that I have very little to wear with jeans. This because I rarely go shopping anymore, unless its for fabric, and so I never know what’s in or out or anything like that and shopping at the mall makes me sooooooooooooo tired. I’ve got some seriously drab tops from college days (that was like 7 years ago!!!), some cardigans with nothing to wear underneath but a ratty see-through tank (what can I say, I love cardigans!) and nary a jacket in sight. It’s a sad state of things. Makes me sad just to think about it.

So tell me, what goes better with a pair of jeans than a t-shirt? And what could possibly be more everyday friendly? So it was that I decided to make a Renfrew. Then I made another and I’ve just cut out my 3rd version. This pattern will have a very long life in my wardrobe, especially as I’ll be experimenting with changing it up here and there and doing a bit of pattern drafting to achieve several different looks. I LOVE this pattern. It’s fabulous! Why sew a t-shirt? I feel there are several reasons. Sewing a t-shirt gives you a great trial run with knits. Sewing a t-shirt is easy to fit because sewing with knits are very forgiving. Sewing a t-shirt is a great instant gratification project because not only does it fit, but you will wear it and you will be impressed with yourself because you made a t-shirt! You can also bang out a t-shirt in about 3 hours, from cut to finish! I highly recommend the Renfrew, but there are other great knit top patterns out there too – Kwik Sew anyone, vintage Stretch and Sew? I also recently enrolled in this rather wonderful Craftsy course taught by Meg McElwee (the Sew Liberated girl!) and she’s included 5 basic knit patterns. If drafting your own is more your style, you can learn to draft a t-shirt from Cal’s book Design-it-Yourself Clothes, which has really easy to follow instructions for how to do it yourself (I like easy for something like this, don’t you?).

Now this was just my first experiment with the Everyday Wardrobe, but allow me to tell you what this did for me. Now I have 2 complete outfits. Both are great for everyday, wearing around the house and even a burger night and cards with friends. I’m also able to coordinate these two t-shirts with a few other things in my closet too. In both versions, I’m wearing shoes and accessories that I can wear all day. Not only do I look presentable, but I feel great. I feel like I actually made the effort. Also, talk about getting my sewing mojo going like crazy – making two t-shirts that feel fabulous and look great and completed an outfit made me feel like a million dollars and gave me the encouragement to start again with another NWG. My next NWG was a bit more challenging, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I have much more lively discussion and inspiration headed your way friends. Much more!

traipsing through the tulips in my new Renfrews!


56 thoughts on “Testing the Waters

  1. The t-shirts look great Sunni! I watched the Craftsy class and have made 3 t-shirts and a pair of yoga pants already. Meg does a great job explaining the different types of knit fabrics, and she makes it so easy! I used my 30% off card a Jo-Anns this week to buy tons of knits with lycra in them. Be careful at Jo-Anns, though. They don’t know how to cut knits — If you buy 2 yards of a flowy knit, only 1 yard may be useable…. Kate

    1. That sounds ominous, being a beginner I did not realise there was a special way to cut knits, so am worried now lol. So am I to buy 3 yards if I needed 2 yards, to air on the side of caution. Out of curiosity what happens when it is cut that makes half of it unusable?

      1. I think what Kate is referring to is quite common actually. Unfortunately, since knits are stretchy, they have a tendency to stretch a little wonky on the bolt. This causes problems when they are cut from the bolt and cut unevenly causing a ripple along the folded side of the fabric even though the selvedges look even. Just be sure to watch the cutters at these big box stores carefully. It wouldn’t hurt to buy extra anyway because some knits will shrink up pretty good.

  2. ‘Renfrews’? Is that the technical terms for tshirts? By the way, theses are my next seweing projects! thank you so much for the tip!!

    1. Renfrew is the name of a T-shirt pattern sold by Tasia at Sewaholic Patterns (sewaholic.net). I have some of her patterns on the way, and have only heard good about them although I haven’t sewn with them personally – yet! Right now, today (sept 6) is the last day she is having a pattern sale (20% off) so if you might be interested head on over!

  3. I love this idea! I think that sewers sometimes get so lost in making interesting complicated garments and that we never sew the basics or the everyday clothes… on the other hand, I do like to sew things that get me excited. it doesn’t have to be a silk gown or a cashmere coat, but to me sewing a t shirt is so not exciting so I can’t be bothered with it, Id rather go to forever 21 and spend 5 dollars than sew for three hours and work on something that doesn’t excite me.
    I love that it gets you excited though! Most of all I like the philosophy behind what you’re doing. I get that what you’re talking about doesn’t have to be T shirts, which is why I’m completely on board with the idea. (I also don’t really wear T shit is general, unless they have stripes, I have an obsession with stripes)
    Anyway, count my in and thanks for the inspiration, as always!

    1. I think t-shirts are exciting. As someone with a size 14 body and a size 18 bust, I had given up on store-bought t-shirts. But, I can whip up an extra-large t-shirt and take it in a little on the sides and get something that looks great on me. Also, when I buy $5 t-shirts, they tend to stretch and hang weirdly after 1 wash. :o) Kate

      1. It excites me too Kate! Personally, I think you can’t go wrong starting with a basic pattern. You have to have vision beyond just what’s on the tech drawing for the pattern and for me, I can see myself utilizing the Renfrew to make so many different types of garments. Its a base from where I can just let my imagination run wild. And its a great t-shirt pattern and the fact that I made it makes me very excited!

      2. ahh sorry I didn’t mean to sound unappreciative of T shirt making! maybe I should try to make one myself and then I’ll know what all the excitement is about. anyway, I didn’t mean anything by this, I totally appreciate these projects!

  4. Yay! for new NWGs! Although that acronym sounds suspiciously like “NGO” — I have a friend who worked for the Peace Corps for quite a while. NGO could be … besides “non-government organization” … no garment on? Never grow old? The last could well describe some 1970s polyester double-knit that someone foisted on me in a gift box of remnants.

  5. These are such great basic, but totally cleaned up looks! I’m with you – I love wearing jeans but most of my t-shirts are, well, unsightly really! And what goes better with jeans than a tee? I love your Renfrews!

  6. I am now motivated to try some T-shirts. I have a couple of fairly good quality ones from Lands End … but they just don’t fit all that well and so I don’t look that great in them…. and to be honest, I wear the same few shirts over and over and over. Even I get tired of them!

    And, I have to admit, my wardrobe in general is painfully bare. My husband would LOVE for me to go shopping and get new clothes, but just about everything I see is either ugly or just doesn’t fit well at all or is so outrageously priced that I refuse to get it. And, I’m back with nothing to wear! No jackets, one dress, ratty T-shirts, a few skirts but almost no tops to go with them, 2 pairs of shorts that fit. Yeah, I am getting depressed thinking about it.

    1. Don’t worry! My everyday wardrobe is painfully bare too! Were I to be going to a soiree every night, then maybe I would have something more to work with, but as it stands now, its just kind of sad. Don’t get too depressed – just until it motivates you. That’s what I did and now I’m on a roll!

  7. Really nice project! I love the idea to build your own everyday wardrobe, I am aspiring to do that. I would really appreciate a tutorial about how to alter a pair of jeans.

    Thanks for the inspiration, looking forward to your next posts 🙂

  8. Sunni, I’m so glad you’re doing this. I realized this summer that a solid year of making icing has not addressed the real problem in my wardrobe which is that I have so few comfy, stylish wear around town gear. I was also drafting a “sew up some basics already you lazy beast” plan and I’m glad I have some inspiration coming from you! These tees look great!

  9. Great work with that tshirt. I have been very distracted with the backgrounds in this post because I noticed some gorgeous fabrics in the first few images and an amazing gradient of color on the mountain in the last photograph. I hope I can start planning some everyday wardrobe pieces soon.

    1. I’m in Yellow Bird fabrics in the first photos – those are the bridal fabrics! They are beautiful – sooooooo lovely! And in the second, well that’s them there Rocky Mountains. They are rather amazing, if I do say so myself.

  10. Fantastic start to your Everyday Wardrobe! You look adorable in both outfits.

    I love the Renfrew pattern – I’ve made it 4 times already, and have fabric on hand for a few more. It was my first foray into knits, and using this pattern definitely took some of the scariness out of it. I’m currently enrolled in and watching Meg’s knits class as well!

    1. I love this pattern for exactly the reasons you state here! It’s a great entrance into the world of knits – which are so not scary when you start working with them. It’s also a win win with fit – so easy! Definite high marks from me!

  11. I just finished my first pair of jeans! 1940’s Dungarees to be precise. They were really fun to make (though topstitching the seams was somewhat of a pain at first). Can’t wait to see the jeans you make!


  12. Jeans are my go to outfit choice for the weekend. Their the dressed up way to be casual. And you can never go wrong with pairing it with a tee. Your take on the look is superb!

  13. Love wearing jeans, especially bootcut jeans or skinnies with knee high boots when the weather is cool. This type of top is so perfect with them. Your Renfrews came out great, as usual. So I went ahead and ordered the pattern 🙂

  14. You’re off to a great start! And you’re totally inspiring me to re-assess my wardrobe and figure out the gaps, and what I’d actually wear on the (many) days I’m around the house during the week instead of dressing like a lump.

  15. I love that you’re doing this series: I try to make garments that I’ll wear everyday since I never have anywhere to wear fancy gowns with boning. My problem is that I always gravitate towards making dresses! I hardly sew any sportswear, and when I do sew separates, I have nothing to wear with them (no tops to go with skirts and vice versa). I’m looking forward to getting a lot of inspiration from your blog on tackling this topic that seems to be a problem for a lot of stitchers!

    1. I agree! I think many of us want to make a million dresses and find that not every dress will work in the everyday – I know I’ve found that myself. There will be something for many different occasions that I’ll be posting about. My next NWG is a skirt!

  16. I am trying to make more tops for the same reason as you; I don’t have much to wear with jeans. I’ve been brainstorming for ideas but it’s hard to think of something to make because I always gravitate to dresses, and T-shirts are not my style 😥 Back to the drawing board it is for me…

    1. Why not try a woven top? Like the Pendrell blouse from Sewaholic patterns. Colette Patterns has a few different, pretty and sweet tops that would work fabulous too.

  17. Love the idea!

    Now, what I REALLY need is a tutorial on how to get the neckband on the v-neck Renfrew to go together without puckering…

      1. I tried to do it with my sewing machine… I also tried to do it by hand. I keep ending up with a pucker at the base of the V. Oh, well, at least the pucker is symmetrical and centered – I tell people it was a design element!

  18. Those shirts look great! I just bought the Renfrew pattern (and a few others) and I really love this idea of sewing an everyday wardrobe. I plan on making a bunch of slightly embellished t-shirts—I know I tend to wear stuff when it has a little bit of extra interest, whether it’s an interesting hem treatment or a little pocket detail like on your white shirt. Love it!

  19. The Renfrew looks great! I thinkn every sewist needs a basic knit top pattern that we can adapt to our fancy – for some of us it’s Burdastyle’s Lydia, others it the Renfrew, or others. It’s essential and is so self-satisfying…. I have a load of tops that are thanks to my basic knit top pattern, and I love it. Especially love your styling by the way!

  20. Love the idea of making very wearable items. I’m relatively new to sewing and have only made a few things but have already figured out that while I do sew with the intention of everyday wear or work, all these woven tops are not ideal for me becuase I prefer the ease of knits (no ironing!). I bought the renfrew a few months back and need to try it! also looking to get a serger to speed up the process. Did you use the sewing machine or serger for your Renfrews?
    Oh, and I second the commenter above who would love to see the jeans tutorial!

  21. Love the two Renfrews and looking forward to see what is next! Yesterday when I was looking through my closet for NWG, I found an oversized buttondown that I never wore – I took in the sides and took off the sleeves, and wore it today! Thanks to you that is no longer NWG!:D

  22. Awesome! Your 2 new tops are super cute. I’m glad you kicked off with something simple. I find that’s the best way with just about anything. Kudos and looking forward to what’s next.

  23. Wow, Sunni! You’re so inspirational! Everytime I come to your blog I want to run to my sewing room and create! I love the new series. I was just thinking that now that I finally finished the two costumes I was working on (pictures will be up sometime soon on my blog), I have time to sew “normal” clothes. I have two knit tops that I want to make. They are also for my favorite pair of jeans and something I can wear to work on casual days. I still need to finish that wrap dress from the sew-along though! It’s been languishing in the forgotten pile!

  24. Where do you buy trendy knits? When i go into Joane’s there are bolts of quilting, some special occassion
    Bolts, and then it seems to jump to upholstery fabric. Am i looking in the wrong section?

  25. Have you tried out StephC’s Blank Canvas Tee? It’s brilliant. I’m not a tshirt wearer much any more – in fact, I’m thinking of turning most of them into knickers :)….. Changed my style completely last summer when I took up sewing again and now live in dresses and skirts – mostly made by me… but this pattern I like, and her hacks are amazing.

  26. Am I the only person who’s been having trouble with the Renfrew pattern? I’ve tried 3 times now, and I just can’t get the fit right! I thought a tshirt would be so easy, and everyone says knits are so forgiving, but all 3 of my Renfrews are unwearable. Apparently I must have some sort of weird upper chest 😛

  27. Great T-shirts! I’ll have to give t-shirts a try, although I’m weirdly afraid of sewing with knit fabric. Could you please, please, please post the jeans tutorial you were talking about? I have so many RTW jeans with bagginess in weird places, esp. in the legs.

  28. Two great Renfrews! Have yet to dive into this pattern but I love the variations and fabric you chose.

    By the way, and maybe this is just me, but I do feel like you’ve got a couple blouses that you’ve made that could work well with jeans? I’m thinking of that fuschia button down you made out of the AMH swiss dot (which I think is super cute, I’ve given up on ever copying you because I don’t think I’d be able to track down the fabric, BUT if I could I would do it!) … and then the Megan Nielson blouse you made out of the strawberry linen. Yes? No? Just a thought. (I know, why do I have a mental catalogue of the clothes you’ve made, right??? The large buttons on the linen blouse totally caught my imagination (and I just made a blouse with oversized buttons, thanks to that blouse), and again, that half idea to copy the idea of taking the swiss dot + button down look. But yeah, I have a weird stalkerish appearing memory. You can ask my friends.)

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