Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please! It’s time for a Pattern Throwdown. Three will enter the ring, but only one will emerge victorious!
Our contenders are:
- Hey June Union St Tee, sewn at size 3X ($10 PDF)
- Grainline Lark Tee, sewn at size 18 at bust, graded up to size 20/22 from bust down ($12 PDF)
- Cashmerette Concord T-shirt, sewn at size 20 e/f at bust, graded to size 22 at waist/hips ($14 PDF)
Your referee is Jennifer W. from We Bought a Manor. Weighing in at “none of your business,” she is a rectangle from the front, apple from the side, and all party in the back. Her measurements are:
- Bust: 48 inches
- Waist: 44 inches
- Hips: 54 inches
- Bra Size: 44D
- RTW: Size 20-22
- Usual Sewing Size: 20-24
A few important notes from the referee before we begin:
- The Union St. is sewn from an off-white jersey (95% cotton, 5% spandex), whereas the Lark and Concord are sewn from a slightly thinner, off-white bamboo jersey. The bamboo jersey is softer and has significantly more drape, so the Union St. tee in these photos naturally has more structure than its competitors.
- The Lark’s bottom hem has been shortened four inches (to hit at a length I prefer), but the original pattern length is similar to the Concord. (I went back and shortened the Concord after these photos were taken, since I prefer my t-shirts to hit at mid-hip and this was the tunic length version.)
- I didn’t do the cuffs or curved hem on the Corcord – my version is quick and simple, just looking at the fit of the neckline and torso. In future iterations, I’ll play with the fancier details.
- The sleeve lengths for all three t-shirts were eye-balled by me on the cutting table and are not true to the pattern pieces – partly because I wanted some variety in my “white t-shirt pile” and partly because I was running out of fabric and had to make some hard choices.
In short – for this round of Pattern Throwdown, I’m focused on finding the best “basic tee” pattern – something I can make and wear 100 times over the next few years. I can play with the details (cuffs, color-blocking, sleeve and hem lengths) indefinitely – what I wanted to find here is the basic block that fits the best through my shoulders, bust, waist, and hips.
For that reason, I’m photographing all three t-shirts without any styling and wearing a simple pair of black leggings. Let the record show that this is a fair fight. In all the photos below, the Union St. is on the left, the Lark is the middle, and the Concord is on the right.
Let the throwdown commence!
Round 1: Pattern Quality and Instructions
Honorable Mention: Concord
All three of the t-shirts have good bones. They all come with multiple necklines and multiple sleeve options. The instructions are all solid, and Lark and Concord have sew-alongs online if you need extra hand-holding. (After sewing up a couple t-shirts, you’ll probably never need to look at the directions again.)
In the end, I give the edge to the Lark, because it has the most options for necklines and sleeve lengths (4 each). And even more importantly, it comes with a separate pattern piece for every variation – e.g. there is a separate piece for the v-neck, boatneck, scoop neck, and crew neck, as well as a separate piece for each sleeve length. When making a bunch of t-shirts to fill a wardrobe hole, I’ve really appreciated being able to pull the exact pattern piece that I want without fiddling with tracing different necklines or folding inconvenient parts of the pattern down.
However, Concord has the advantage of having a curved hemline (with facing), arm cuffs, and optional sleeve tabs. These are really nice features that can elevate a t-shirt to something nicer when you are looking for something “beyond basic.” Plus, it has cup sizes! For those curvy ladies with a significant bust, being able to choose your bodice piece based on cup size may be a game changer that ends the competition right here. For these reasons, it gets an honorable mention.
Round 2: Neckline and Shoulder Fit
I found the shoulder fit of the Lark almost perfect – and I loved the shape of the scoop neck. The one thing I would change is the height of the sleeve head – you can see that it sits away from my shoulders a bit – both the Union St. Tee and the Concord skim more nicely over my rounded shoulders.
The wider neck band for the Union St. Tee was hard to lay flat, both the Lark and the Concord have a narrower bank that I think lays nicer and is more flattering. After washing, I found that the Concord band seam (which is the narrowest) wants to flip around and peek out, so I give the edge to the *slightly* wider Lark band.
Obviously, the Concord has the broadest scoop (showing my bra straps), but this is actually more a result of the upper back bodice piece being too broad – I need to take a 2-inch wedge out of the center back. Once I do that, the shoulders will be brought in to the right fit – and should fix the seam line connecting the back bodice to the sleeves.
Even with the narrowed back, the Concord will still have the deepest plunging neckline, which I think is quite flattering, but might not be office-appropriate (at least, not without regular cleavage checks). The Lark seems to be a good mix of scooped-but-not-too-scooped for my preference.
Round 3: Bust Fit
The Union St. Tee has a more relaxed fit than the Lark (which is specifically designed to be close-fitting for layering) and the Concord (Cashmerette Patterns are known to highlight the bust area).
Before I saw the photos, I thought the Lark had the best fit through the bust – snug but not too tight. Then I saw the side photos and realized that the armpit is pulling quite dramatically towards the bust – indicating that it needs an FBA. (I subsequently noticed that I can adjust the shirt to minimize the pulling, but don’t want to worry about making adjustments throughout the day.)
Without question, the Concord has the nicest fit through the bust when viewed from all angles. The armscye is beautifully proportioned with the least amount of wrinkling.
Round 4: Waist and Hips Fit
The Union St. Tee is more relaxed, as noted above – and therefore may be the best choice for those who like to hide their curves – especially in a cotton jersey or interlock.
I realize that the back view of the Lark is somewhat obscured in my photos. (I didn’t notice that the back wasn’t pulled all the way down. I was rushing to take all the photos in the front living room before the kids’ bus arrived home and I flashed everyone walking by…). So you’ll have to take my word for it that the fit around the hips is a bit snugger than the Concord, but not “sausage casing” tight.
In fact, the Lark is snug all the way down – perfect for layering. It’s not unpleasantly tight, but just right for wearing under a sweater, cardigan or blazer. I would comfortably wear it with jeans too – although it was definitely too tight to wear with leggings.
The Concord, on the other hand, is snug through the bust, but then slightly relaxed through the waist and hips – enough to highlight curves without sticking to them. Worn tucked in or loose, I feel like the Concord hits the right middle-ground. (And it would be easy to size up in the waist/hips for an even looser look, if desired.)
And the Champion is…
Straight of the envelope, I have to give the edge to the Lark – the fit through the shoulders is spot on, and I love all the options for neckline and sleeve length. While the bust does pull, I can minimize that by 1) adjusting the fabric a bit when I put it on or 2) bucking up and doing an FBA to amend the pattern.
But as long as I’m going to do adjustments, I might as well fix the shoulder fit on the Concord. I suspected that just bringing the back shoulders about an inch on each side would be an easy, quick fix. To test the theory, I tried it out yesterday… and lo and behold – a fit through the shoulders just as good as the Lark, but with a more flattering armscye and torso/hips that skims over my curves. Plus, bringing in the shoulders on the back fixed the gaping neckline (e.g. peeking bra straps) problem in the front. Here are the results (albeit with a less flattering bra underneath):
So, with my amendments to the Concord back piece, I think it becomes the go-to winner for me. Easy, flattering, with enough options to keep my wardrobe (and me) entertained all year round.
That said, all three patterns have a beloved place in my sewing room. I will continue to stick with the Union St. Tee when I want a more relaxed, slouchy look (for “t-shirt with jeans” days). The Lark will continue to be my standard for layering. And the Concord will be my staple for “nicely put together” days.
Everyone is a winner!
Next time on Pattern Throwdown…
I love these kind of compare and contrast “competitions, and I’m eager to try another one. So tell me, dear readers. What kind of pattern would you like to see me tackle next? I’m thinking maybe a trio of pencil skirts. Or straight-legged pants. Something to cover my bottom half, since I can’t just walk around in knit t-shirts and underwear (or so they tell me).