DHDR Doberbutts tee design mockup on female model

Doberman Rescue fundraising tee design

Sometimes a project comes along that’s a magical fit. That’s how I felt when a friend asked if I’d be interested in working on a t-shirt design for a local Doberman rescue organization with one of her colleagues. Not only was it great timing, it was perfectly in line with my love for designing for pets.

The project is for a great cause — raising funds to support the rescue and placement of Dobermans. Although there are a number of causes I believe in, helping animals is the one I focus on.

Christy, the Executive Director of Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue, already had a concept in mind for the t-shirt design. So in order to get the project moving in the right direction, we started by establishing a few style keywords. That way, we could build toward the final design without unpleasant surprises or missing a key idea. She chose:

  • classic
  • hip
  • fresh

I used these keywords to create a mood board of visual elements that we could use as inspiration for the artwork. At first, I was unsure how I’d connect classic with hip and fresh, but doing the mood board research helped me shape how they could come together into one design. I proposed that it:

  • have a classic graphic tee layout
  • be very wearable — something that people love putting on and doesn’t get relegated to the bottom of the drawer
  • look cool and make other people say “Hey, I love your tee!”
  • be casual, but can be worn in a hip and fresh way
  • combine handwritten and sans-serif fonts (the juxtaposition of handwriting with sans-serif fonts makes it hip and fresh)

mood board for Doberbutts t-shirt design - Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue

Then, building off the mood board, I created rough pencil sketches of a few different layout concepts for Christy to review. Going into the project, one of the things she wanted to see was a tee with a large Doberman graphic wrapping from the front to the back, with the words “I like Doberbutts & I can not lie”. To help make the tee fresh and wearable, I suggested we outline the dog rather than do a solid fill of color.

Taking the Skillshare class Lettering Layouts: Create Beautiful Messages came in really handy for this project, since it was essentially a lettering layout applied to a t-shirt. I used the process of establishing a hierarchy for the words and deciding on lettering shapes to bring the elements together with the dog illustration.

DHDR Doberbutts tee concept sketch

While the diagonal lines between the words adds a complementary decorative element to the layout, it made the tee too swing too masculine. Removing the lines helped balance it back out to be more neutral and universally appealing.

DHDR Doberbutts tee design mockup

DHDR Doberbutts tee design mockup on female model

DHDR Doberbutts tee design mockup on male model

If you’d like to support Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue and get one of these tees for yourself, visit azdoberescue.org/store.


Short sleeve Coco with contrast yoke

Coco Top with Contrast Yoke and Short Sleeves

My favorite type of tee is a boatneck Breton in blue and white stripes. I’ve had my eye on the Tilly & the Buttons Coco pattern for awhile, and after my t-shirt sewing challenges decided it was finally time to buy it.

Project Features

  • Wonder Tape (optional)
  • contrast yoke
  • stabilized shoulder seam
  • side splits
  • flat sleeve construction

Process notes

  • made size 3
  • used a thrift store tee for the yoke and sleeves
  • followed the contrast yoke variation and short sleeve instructions
  • trimmed 1 1/2 in. off bottom before hemming
  • used Wonder Tape to stabilize the neckline and hem


Short sleeve Coco with contrast yokeBetween the straight-forward design, options for sleeve lengths and collar, contrast yoke tips, and the super clear instructions on how to sew it up, this top was a complete pleasure to make. The fit in the shoulders is good, but the pattern flares out at the hips more than I’d like — which is a quick pattern adjustment next time.

I think it would be cute to try the short sleeves in more of a cap style, and I’m looking forward to making the 3/4 sleeve and funnel neck versions once the weather cools.

I’m on the fence about the Wonder Tape…it was tricky get all the wrinkles out while sticking it down around the neck and hem lines. But once it was down evenly it was nice not to have to deal with pins.

Count me in the Coco fan club! Next up is a sleeveless version with contrast yoke, in a smaller size for comparison.

Tee drafted from ready to wear

T-shirt Sewing Mission: Shoulders

As an addict of online courses (Craftsy and Creative Live in particular), I enjoy learning what different platforms have to offer and how they differ from each other. There are many Craftsy classes in my library, so when BurdaStyle opened up a new sloper class, I wanted to see how that platform works as well. I own the Craftsy course Sewing with Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials and it has been tremendously helpful for getting me comfortable sewing with knits. The first tee I made was from the pattern that comes with that course, with my adjustments for square and broad shoulders. But the adjustments didn’t pan out:

White tee from Sewing with Knits
The shoulders are too square and it’s too tight under the arms

The square shoulder adjustment was totally wrong for me, and the shoulder seams were too short. It was also too tight under the arms and there are pull lines on the fabric (and I can feel it pulling uncomfortably). After seeing how square the shoulders were I pinched out some of the fabric and re-sewed the top of the sleeve/arm hole seams but it didn’t fully solve the issue. When BurdaStyle opened up their Draft Your Own Personal 5 Piece Sloper Collection for May enrollment I jumped on it. Through this course we learned how to draft slopers for the bodice, sleeve, pant, dress/torso for wovens, and the sleeve and torso for knits. One of the great things about the course is gaining familiarity and comfort with the drafting process — drawing over and over helps me feel like it’s no big deal to rip off a sheet of tracing paper and get to work. After drafting each of the woven slopers I sewed up muslins to see how the fit was going. I learned that just because the sloper is drafted from my measurements, it doesn’t mean the garment will fit right out of the gate. The shoulder area was challenging, especially once it came time to add the sleeves. I fell pretty good about where the woven bodice/torso slopers landed, but we’ll see what happens when I eventually draft a pattern from the slopers. I was really excited about the knit sloper. But when I constructed a tee from mine, the arm holes and shoulder placements were off.

White tee from sloper class
Shoulders are too wide and it’s too tight under the arms

It’s also too short, but that’s an easy to fix in the future. After these two experiences, I was looking for a win. So I drafted a pattern from a tee from my closet that I know fits me well following the Craftsy class Pattern Drafting from Ready to Wear. I love this class so much. It takes a lot of the mystery out of garment design and construction — not in the sense that it teaches how to design and construct garments, but rather by reverse-engineering the pieces of the garment it demonstrates that it wasn’t created through magic.

This tee turned out much better, and I’m pretty happy with the fit. I think the under arms are still a bit too small, and the neckline in front is a little high. There are several more tees in my closet to copy — my goal is to get a good basic fit to which I can apply different necklines, hemlines, and sleeves.