Sometimes it amazes me just how much time and money I'm willing to waste in my quest to do it without a pattern... Knitting, sewing, whatever. I like tutorials but, I'll be honest, I enjoy the mindlessness of working from a pattern sometimes--especially when I don't really know what I'm doing.
I found this tutorial for a little boy's shirt on Cirque du Bebe which I am totally addicted to. She has done some very inspiring versions of the 90 minute shirt. The tutorial has you draft a pattern from an old shirt and it's got a cute little lapped collar (is that what you'd call it? I don't even know.
On my first version I forgot to add seam allowances... but only to the bottom half of the shirt. For some reason I thought it'd be okay to just add them on to the top half which hadn't been cut yet. The result was pretty much unwearable, or, at the very least, a bit too far off the shoulders for a little boy. Plus, I used a straight stitch instead of zigzag which isn't stretchy enough.
Version 2 was done with some old sheets that were lying around. While better, the stretch of the fabric ran perpendicular to the pattern so it just looks weird. I know Dj doesn't much like wearing it. I think this pic says it all =P
Version 3 was the first one I went all out on; I went and bought a thrifted shirt for 99 cents, ribbing from the fabric store for significantly more than that, used a zigzag stitch, did french seams (why? i don't recall). Unfortunately, the shirt is a bit tight in the armholes and Dj hates wearing it, too.
On Version 4 the fit is all right but a bit loose in the body and Dj still doesn't like wearing it. I finally decided that it's the neck detail (which I thought was soo cute) that he doesn't like!
Finally I bought a pattern. Actually, I bought the book Sewing for Boys and used the raglan pattern out of it. I measured Dj and opted for the 4/5 size with a bit of length added. The first one fit perfectly even though I had some problems cutting out the pattern pieces and ended up making the back piece lower on top (and as a result had to make a longer neckband) which was still almost impossible to stretch enough. But finally a shirt he doesn't mind wearing!
There will be more of these to come. As a matter of fact I have one almost finished (just need to finish sewing on the collar and hem it) and another one mostly cut out (just deciding on sleeves). I finished the first one this morning, so they're definitely quick to make. As a matter of fact, if you strategically plot your pattern pieces onto thrifted shirts you can even get finished edges without doing any finishing!