Garment Dyed, V-Neck T-Shirts

mens t-shirts laying flat

These shirts are made from an organic cotton/hemp blend jersey, which gives them a slightly “heathered” look, and adds a little bit of visual texture.

Yes, there is hemp in this fabric. No, I can’t smoke my t-shirts. I tried. It doesn’t work. Just kidding (kidding about trying to smoke them of course!). There are lots of misconceptions about hemp, and I didn’t intend on bringing this up, but I had several comments from people along those lines while making these shirts, and feel like I need to say something about it.

Put simply, industrial hemp, the plant grown for its fibers, which can be used for fabric, yarn, rope, webbing, etc., is different from the stuff that people smoke, or bake with, or….you get the idea. The plant produces a really strong fiber that can be made into a wide variety of textile products, and fortunately for me, it is relatively easy to dye.

I have a ridiculously hard time finding fabric for my projects, and I am always looking for the perfect combination: the right fabric for the garment, the right color, and the right price. So when I found this organic cotton/hemp blend jersey and it was reasonably priced, I decided to buy some. The only problem was that originally, the fabric was sort of an off white yellow-ish hue, which isn’t really my thing.

t-shirt dyeing

Although I enjoy the dying process, it does consume a lot of water, and I’m guessing that the dye and fixative aren’t the best thing for the envrionment. These two concerns probably cancel out any “eco-friendly” benefits of using organic cotton and hemp. My original plan was to use natural dyes, but it appears that they aren’t always more environmentally friendly, and you still have to use harsh chemicals to make them set.

The fit isn’t quite perfect, but it will work for now. I might want to revisit the pattern and see if I can clear up some of the bunching in the arm pit area. I based the pattern off of a t-shirt I wear all the time, and after examining several ready to wear t-shirts I have, they all bunch like this on me in the under arm/chest area. While technically a V-Neck, the “V” is so shallow that these fit more like a crew neck t-shirt, which is fine by me. I wanted the center front to come to a point, but didn’t want a plunging neckline.

mens t-shirt fit

Arms can be so awkward. Thankfully my jeans have pockets. Also, I’m awful at posing for photos.

This was my first time sewing with knits, and it really wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be. I used my serger for all of the construction, but used a zig zag stitch on a regular sewing machine to baste the neckband in place before serging, and a double needle on the same machine to top-stitch the sleeve and bottom hems. I completed the shirts (except for the hems) first before dying them. Since polyester thread does not absorb the type of dye I used, I saved any top-stitching for after the dying process to make matching the thread color easier.

My plan is to work on some lightweight summer pants next. Shirts and pants, shirts and pants, shirts and pants…

18 Responses to “Garment Dyed, V-Neck T-Shirts”

  1. Ann — April 23, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    Those turned out really well! I’ve never sewn an adult tee-shirt, but I use adult tees to make kids’ shirts all the time. I’ve found that raglan-style shirts sometimes have a nicer fit under the arms (but I don’t know if that’s because I just hacked out a better pattern for those). I love hemp. I think it has a nice nubbly texture and drapes very nicely. Does every sewer have a mental list of fibres they love? (In order of how much I like working with them: linen, cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo. . . )

  2. Wil — April 23, 2013 @ 10:26 am

    Very professional looking. I like the colors you chose.

  3. Cathy — April 23, 2013 @ 10:51 am

    Another great project! ‘Round here we still call it ‘Ditch Weed’ as the farmers here in the midwest used to grow hemp for ropes and other industrial applications and can still be found in the ditches…but they get mowed down…

    Love the shirts, I agree with the v-neck, you don’t want it too low. I guess as long as you’re comfy that’s all that matters. They look great!

  4. Lauren — April 23, 2013 @ 11:04 am

    Haha oh man, people still get riled up about hemp? WHATEVER, HEMP IS AWESOME. It makes such a soft, lovely fabric, totally eco-friendly and easy to dye. I feel the same way about bamboo πŸ™‚ It’s too bad there are still misconceptions about it, because people are totally missing out!

    Your shirts look great, btw! I love those colors you ended up with. Just an idea, have you tried natural dyes – like using actual plants? I know my homegirl Lauren Winter ( has been playing around with different plant dyes and gotten some neat results. I mean, you probably won’t get that pretty teal with anything 100% natural, but for the reds and browns and other earthy colors, that might be an option πŸ™‚

  5. Taylor — April 23, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

    Thanks Ann! Up until this project, I’ve pretty much only used 100% cotton, but would love to work with linen, wool, and bamboo at some point.

  6. Taylor — April 23, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

    While I was researching hemp in the U.S., I came across that term “ditch weed” and thought it was funny. I’ll probably experiment with the neckline a little bit when I revisit this pattern at some point, but for now they are pretty comfy.

  7. Taylor — April 23, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

    I agree about hemp. There are so many different things you can make with it, and bamboo sounds interesting as well.

    I haven’t tried any natural dyes yet, but may do so in the future. Thanks for the link to! I’ll definitely have to check it out. I could totally see myself getting carried away with trying to concoct natural dyes πŸ™‚

  8. Drew — April 23, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

    These look good. The shallow v neckline is reminiscent of the smaller/wider collar points on your button-down. Your “collection” is very cohesive.

    I wouldn’t bother adjusting the pattern — the tightness in the chest is very Brando.


  9. indigorchid — April 24, 2013 @ 2:11 am

    Wow, looking great! You always have such professional looking garments!

    I wanted to suggest something for the sleeves: I suspect the bunching is from a little too much fabric at the armpit from the sleeve, and basically because the sleeve cap shaping is too shallow. I’d try making the difference between the top of the sleeve cap and the armpit bigger. It does mean slightly reduced mobility as the angle that the sleeve sticks out from the main body would tilt down somewhat. It’s a tradeoff I guess.

    Thanks for sharing your impressive work!

  10. Taylor — April 24, 2013 @ 10:47 am

    Thank you for the great suggestion. This sleeve cap is fairly flat, which makes it easy to sew, but doesn’t provide the best fit. I will experiment with this at some point in the future. I’m not too worried about reduced mobility since knits are so stretchy.

  11. Ginger — April 25, 2013 @ 11:52 am

    These are beautifully constructed! I love the colors that you achieved, too. I’ve never sewn with hemp or a hemp blend, but I’ve heard great things. I’ll have to keep a lookout! I love the neckline– it’s a little dressier than a crew neck, but doesn’t have the dreaded hipster deep v. Think I’m gonna try to draft something similar for my husband. Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Taylor — April 25, 2013 @ 11:54 am

    Thanks Drew!

  13. Meagan — April 27, 2013 @ 12:52 am

    I have also been trying out dye on light fabrics to get colors I want. I chose to use a 100% cotton thread that would also take dye so that I didn’t have to worry about thread matching.

    As an aside, where have you been getting the blank leather patch/label for your jeans. Everything that comes up in google has ginormous minimum orders…maybe something to consider for your supply shop (wink wink).

  14. Jonathan — April 29, 2013 @ 10:17 am

    Very nice!

  15. Taylor — April 29, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

    Thanks for the leather patch suggestion. I actually buy leather scraps and cut my own patches for jeans, rather than trying to find pre-cut patches. It is much cheaper, really easy to cut, and you can make them any size you want.

  16. Adrienne — April 29, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

    Beautiful! Just started reading and I love! Tip for knits… use a wooly nylon thread in your bobbin and lower loopers of your serger. It will last longer in the wash than regular thread and it has the recovery needed for a stretchy seam.

    I just began a huge foray in knits and I have found this to be a next step into the quality of store bought knits.

    Keep up the great sewing πŸ™‚

  17. Taylor — May 2, 2013 @ 9:27 am

    Thanks for the tip! I’ll have to look into wooly nylon thread.

  18. L.R. — June 7, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

    Very cool. You should try natural dyes. You can fix some of them to fabric using food-grade alum. Any good modern natural dying book can explain the process. In the seventies home dyers used harsh mordants like copper but those aren’t recommended any more.

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