How to make a shirt pattern

Written by virgil dudley
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While retail stores offer many varieties of shirts, creating your own allows you the freedom to customise the pattern to fit your body perfectly. You'll acquire the technical skill for pattern making through experience and knowledge of the sewing process. Though a difficult activity at first, after some time and practice, it becomes much easier.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Pattern paper
  • Pencil
  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric
  • Fabric chalk

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  1. 1

    When learning the process of pattern making, begin with a T-shirt. This most basic form of a shirt provides a useful way to start understanding how pattern making works.

  2. 2

    Measure the body you are designing a shirt for. Measure from shoulder to shoulder, shoulder to hip, hip to hip, the waist, the bust and under the bust. Block out the measurements on a piece of pattern paper. This will not necessarily create a square, so create a midline so the top and bottom horizontal lines match up with one another. These measurements will give you a basic structure for beginning your design.

  3. 3

    Using the block as a guideline to sketch the shirt pattern, begin designing the shirt. The pattern design should extend beyond the block of measurements from the body you are designing for. A basic T-shirt generally has four pieces: two sleeves, a front, and a back piece. Create the front and back pieces first. Use one of your own T-shirts for reference on shape and structure if you have difficulty with the pattern making. Make sure the armholes line up on the front and back pieces.

  4. 4

    Once the front and back are completed, add 1/4 inch to the edges of the pattern to allot for sewing salvage.

  5. 5

    Measure the lengths of the arm opening on the front and back shirt pattern pieces. Using that measurement, draw a pattern piece for the sleeve. Both arms will have an identical sleeve pattern, so it is only necessary to create one piece and copy it for the other sleeve. The sleeve pattern generally curves the opposite way from the shirt pattern, so it lies down when sewn together, but this depends on the style of shirt you are creating.

  6. 6

    Add 1/4 to the edges of the sleeve pattern piece.

  7. 7

    Trace the pattern with fabric chalk onto a flat piece of inexpensive fabric for sampling. Cut out the front, back and sleeve pieces of the pattern. Sew the pieces together to create a sample of the pattern.

  8. 8

    Make any alterations to the pattern based on how the sample fits. Change the pattern piece and sew another sample. Continue this process until the shirt fits properly. The first pattern you create will take more time than the subsequent patterns. Keep this in mind as you learn how to create patterns.

Tips and warnings

  • Start with a basic design until you understand the pattern-making process.
  • Make sure to wash your fabric before making the shirt or allow for shrinkage in your pattern.

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