How to make a shirt from scratch

Written by margaret morris
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How to make a shirt from scratch
Use a pattern to begin your shirt-making project. (sewing image by Greg Pickens from

Making a shirt from scratch is a good project for anyone with intermediate sewing skills. Shirt patterns are available in a variety of styles, from casual short-sleeved designs to dressier long-sleeved garments with cuffs, yokes and back pleats. Your fabric and pattern selections will result in a one-of-a-kind shirt you made yourself. Choose buttons and trims to customise a standard pattern and make it your own.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Shirt pattern
  • Fabric
  • Iron
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine

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  1. 1

    Measure the wearer's neck, sleeve length and chest circumference carefully with a measuring tape. Since some pattern companies measure sleeve length starting at the centre of the neck, and others measure sleeve length starting at the shoulder, take that measurement in both ways.

  2. 2

    Wash and dry your fabric according to the manufacturer's directions to pre-shrink it. Press out the wrinkles with an iron.

  3. 3

    Cut out the pattern pieces. Press the pieces to remove the wrinkles.

  4. 4

    Fold your fabric according to the pattern layout guide, with right sides together.

  5. 5

    Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric as shown in the layout guide, using straight pins.

  6. 6

    Cut the fabric along the pattern's cutting lines, using fabric scissors or a rotary cutter with a mat.

  7. 7

    Sew the shirt pieces together on the sewing machine, following the pattern's step-by-step instructions.

Tips and warnings

  • Use cotton, a cotton-polyester blend or linen for your first project, since silky or slippery fabrics are more difficult to sew.
  • When you're buying fabric, buy interfacing, buttons and thread. Consult the pattern to find out exactly what you need.
  • If you're cutting interfacing that uses the same pattern pieces as the fabric, cut the interfacing first, or photocopy those pattern pieces.
  • If you select a patterned fabric that has to be matched, such as a plaid, stripes or large repeating motifs, buy extra fabric to allow for the waste involved in matching.
  • If you haven't made a shirt before, choose a pattern with just a few pieces before you tackle a more complex project.

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