Normcore Tonic Tees

A little while ago, I decided to give up on trying to make basic t-shirts. I had tried two different patterns—the Maria of Denmark Birgitte Basic Tee and McCall’s 6658—but after making both up multiple times and making lots of adjustments, I couldn’t get either pattern to fit the way I needed through the chest and shoulder. It didn’t seem like it should be such a struggle to find a basic pattern that fit well where it matters most, so I decided to just give up the ghost and start buying t-shirts from Old Navy again.

SBCC Tonic Tee

And then I actually bought some T-shirts from Old Navy and remembered what a shitty solution that was. Such is the plight of bodies that span 3-4 sizes on a standard sizing chart. So I went back to the drawing board to find yet another t-shirt pattern to try. I’ve come very close to buying Sewaholic’s Renfrew pattern several times, but even as a pdf download, it’s a bit more money than I want to spend for a pattern that only goes up to a 41” bust. In my searches, I was reminded of the SBCC Tonic Tee, which is not only available in plus sizes (albeit as petite sizing) but is also free. And lo and behold, I’ve finally hit on a t-shirt pattern that I’m really pleased with.

SBCC Tonic Tee

Honestly, the only reason I tried this pattern was because of its lack of price, which, combined with a length of stashed fabric that I had no plans for, meant that I had nothing to lose with this experiment but a bit of time. But I am really impressed with some of the drafting details on the Tonic Tee. It’s drafted with a slight forward shoulder, a high and scooped armscye, a sleeve head that is shaped differently for the front and back of the body, and a slightly dipped front hem to account for the stretch of the fabric over the bust. I also really like the shape and depth of the neckline.

SBCC Tonic Tee Back

As far as sizing, I started by tracing off a straight 1X. My high-bust measurement actually matches the XL size, but my fabric had less than the 75% stretch called for by the pattern, so I sized up per the pattern instructions. Since the pattern is drafted for petites and I am not (especially in the torso), I added an inch of length at the pattern’s shorten/lengthen line just above the waist and an additional inch around the hip. I also added ½” of width to the back at the hip and did a 3/8” narrow shoulder adjustment. Finally, I did a 1” FBA, rotating part of the dart out to the hem and easing the rest of the dart in to the side seam at bust level. It seems like a lot of adjustments, but they didn’t take long and, more importantly, they gave me a really good fit with this pattern right out of the gate. All told, I’m wearing these shirts with 1” of negative ease at the bust, ~2” of negative ease at the hip, and zero ease at the sleeve hem.

SBCC Tonic Tee Neckline

All of these shirts are made with lightweight cotton-spandex blends. The charcoal, black, and olive fabrics are all from Girl Charlee and the black and gray stripes are a Riley Blake print I ordered from as a reward for finishing a long dissertation chapter on a film that goes to great lengths to make fat bodies seem disgusting and pathetic from the inside out. So, you know, self-care all that jazz. Sadly for the filmmakers, I feel neither disgusting nor pathetic and will continue flaunting my fat in these horizontal stripes. I give their film two hearty middle fingers.

SBCC Tonic Tee

Anyway. I had kind of discounted SBCC patterns because of their petite sizing, but now that I know I can make a couple of easy adjustments to make them work for my non-petite body, I’m planning to try out the Cabernet Cardigan this fall. Hopefully I won’t bore you too much with all of my normcore fashion decisions.

14 thoughts on “Normcore Tonic Tees

  1. Hi Anna,
    These look great on you!
    Thanks for writing up all your pattern modifications, they seem to be very similar to the ones I would make on my tops. Except… I always leave the dart on knits after an FBA and I had never thought of extending at the back.
    I may try them next time.

  2. Your fit on these is great! Debbie Cook is a little taller than the height that SBCC drafts for, and she’s had really good luck with their patterns, too. I snapped up the Cabernet when it was on sale (sooooo happy to see a cardigan that didn’t have a waterfall front!), but I’ll probably hold off on sewing it until fall.

    • I’ve only seen a few versions of the Cabernet cardigan so far, so I’m hoping to see a few more pop up on blogs this fall. The Muse Jenna cardigan is nice, but I prefer a v-neck cardigan so I’m excited to try the Cabernet.

  3. I really like the striped one on you, too. It seems to go with the colour of your skin very well. Please more of that. I love the neckline. So neat! I want to do it this way, too. Btw … I wanted to thank you for showing me how and where you put your darts in knitwear a few posts back. That helped me quite a lot 🙂

    Now if you would only share HOW on earth you´ve learned to make such a neat neckline, I´ll be in your debt forever 🙂

    • Thanks! I’m glad the sweater shaping post was helpful.

      I have struggled so much with t-shirt necklines–the green one in the picture above is the first time I’ve ever managed a neat neckline on the first try. Maybe I’ll have to take some progress shots the next time I make this pattern to show how I sew the neckline.

      • It is a regular straight stitch, although at a longer length (3, I think). For a deeper neckline like this, I’ve found that a longer straight stitch provides enough give to wear without danger of popping stitches. It wouldn’t work on something like a crew neck, but I don’t really wear crew necks anyway.

  4. I second your two hearty middle fingers, even though I don’t know what film you’re talking about – your description is enough to know that I’m right there with you! I really love these tees and will definitely be trying out this pattern. I’ve only tried the Renfrew but I’ve eyed the Tonic. I’ve been wanting to try some SBCC patterns so a free one would be a great intro. I’ve thought about the free Plantain, but I’m out of Deer and Doe’s size range now, so it would probably be easier to stick with something where I’m actually on the size chart.

    • The film in question was The Weight of the Nation, not that I recommend anyone watch it. 🙂 I’m kind of floored (and grateful) that this pattern is free, given its wide size range and thoughtful drafting. But I suppose that when your company drafts for a rather specific body type, a free pattern is a very useful way to let people see that your drafting will work for them. It’s not that hard to size up simple patterns, but it’s still really nice to be able to start with something where I’m actually on the size chart!

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  6. i too was about to give up and buy RTW for tee shirts. i printed Tonic 2 a long time ago and Tiramisu has a free tee pattern but i don’t like the hem band on it and thought about leaving it off. i was looking at images of StyleArc’s Ann t-top with ruched sides. All of the folks wearing it look nice in it but i wasn’t convinced the ruching is for me and then i found your pictures. i actually like the look of the Tonic better than the for-purchase Ann. You look great in them – my favorite is the striped one. i’m getting out the scotch tape and putting my tonic together this afternoon. Thanks for posting this!

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