Tutorial: Make an easy shirt pattern from an existing top

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
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FYI I made the tee a little bit longer than the pattern.

This has to be the easiest top you can put together. The finished top consists of exactly pieces that are identical except for the neckline, so you really only need to create one pattern piece.

Making the pattern

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Step 1: Lay a t-shirt on a piece of paper for your pattern. In a pinch I use newspaper or old flyers like my grandma, but wax paper or parchment paper is good too. I have a jumbo roll that's lasted me forever.

Step 2: Use a pen/marker to trace around the contour of your shirt folded in half.

I left a 1" allowance around all sides because I wanted the shirt to fit a little loosely. You can shrink the allowance to .5" if you want it to fit exactly like the old shirt. You don't need to mark out a sleeve, just trace around whatever you have. I also always trace the back neckline instead of the front so I can cut the front however I like. It's easier to cut away than to calculate additional fabric.

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Step 3: Add notes and markings to the pattern. I always note the fold, and how much allowance I've left. If you want to have a lower neckline for the front of the shirt you can mark it out on the pattern as well.

I've placed the pattern on top of my old shirt so you can see how they compare. You can see I marked the neckline for the front of the shirt but didn't cut it out of the pattern.

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Assembling your the shirt

Step 1: Fold your fabric in half and place your pattern on top. Pin or use pattern weights to keep the fabric and pattern from shifting while you cut out your fabric. Repeat so you have two identical pieces of fabric.

I usually just grab whatever I have lying around to use as weights. I prefer this to poking holes in the pattern.

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Step 2: Cut the neckline for the front of your shirt, and pin front to back with good sides facing the inside of the shirt.

Tip: If you're not sure which the 'good' side of your jersey or knit is, stretch the of edge of the fabric that you're not using for your new shirt - preferably a scrap. Whichever side it curls towards is the 'good' side of the fabric. This also works for fleece.

Step 3: Sew the shoulders with a tight zig zag stitch.

Step 4: Finish the neckline. This is easier to do when you haven't sewn the sides up yet.

Ideas: sew a classic t-shirt neckband, sew a narrow neckband with a twin needle. Jersey/knit doesn't ravel so you can leave it unfinished if you're in a pinch.

Step 3: Sew up the sides of the shirt with a tight zig zag stitch.

Step 4: Finish the sleeves and hem.

Ideas: tips for hemming knits, or fold the fabric towards the interior and stitch down (if you have a twin needle this is perfect for the job). Again, jersey/knit doesn't ravel so it really depends on what look you're going for.

For this shirt, I wanted a bit of a frayed edge so I just used a tight zigzag along the raw edges of the knit without any folding or hemming.

And once you have this pattern you can reuse it and reuse it! I added extra length to this shirt so it fit more like a tunic. I'd like to try it in a non-knit as well. Oh the possibilities...

And yes, those are horsies on my top. Don't judge. :)
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