How to Draft Your Own Baby or Toddler Tee Pattern (From Existing Clothes)

Here at Stitches & Sunflowers I’m all about sewing to save money. One way to do this is to make your own patterns. This tutorial will teach you how to make a tee shirt pattern for your baby or toddler. This pattern is super simple to make, so it’s a good way to start making your own patterns. Making a tee shirt pattern is very forgiving since the fabric is stretchy and the fit doesn’t have to be exact (especially for a small kid).I think you’ll find that the precision and ease it gives you when sewing multiple (or even just one!) tee shirts makes the extra step of tracing a pattern onto paper well worth it.

You’ll Need:

  • Paper. I use medical exam table paper or the extra end of a newspaper roll (which you can buy from the local newspaper). You could make do with anything.
  • A tee shirt in the size you want to make
  • A pencil and a ruler (a clear ruler is really helpful for ALL sewing projects, but especially pattern making)

First you’re going to “trace” the sleeve.
  • Lay your tee shirt out on top of a piece of paper. Make sure you are using a flat surface underneath.
  • Start at the top of where the shoulder meets the body of the shirt. Trace down the top fold of the sleeve. Do the same thing from the armpit to the hem.

+ Note: In this picture I am using a onesie, but I found that an actual tee shirt makes a more accurate pattern which is why a tee shirt is shown in the supplies above.

  • Then you’ll use a straight line to make the hem by connecting the two “corners.”
  • Connect the corners at the top of the sleeve using a curve like you normally see on sleeve patterns. You can also use my photo as a reference.

  • Fold your pattern in half perpendicular to your hem line and cut out your arm pattern on the fold (like you are cutting out a heart). This makes a sleeve pattern you don’t have to cut on a fold. Be careful to not make your sleeve too big at this point. If you’re worried about the fit, just leave the sleeve pattern the way it is and cut out the sleeves on a fold.

Next, make the body piece of the tee shirt pattern.

You do this basically the same way you made the sleeve, there are just a few more lines to trace.

  • I start by tracing the shoulder seams, the side seams, and the hem.
  • Then use your ruler to straighten out the hem and the shoulder seams
  • Connect the armpit edge and the shoulder edge with a curved line on each side, as shown.
  • Connect the neck hole edges with a curved line to make the neck hole.

If you want your front and back pieces to be identical, you can cut two from this piece. Alternatively, you can trace your front piece and change the neckline to make your back piece.

Making the Neckband:

You can make a pattern piece for your neckband if you’d like. I just like to measure and cut a strip of fabric when I’m cutting out my fabric. You find out how long to make your neckband by measuring around the neck hole with your measuring tape. Add about a half inch for seam allowance (or larger, if you prefer). I usually make neckbands for little ones between 1 and 1 1/2 inches wide.

Draft Your Own Baby or Toddler Tee Shirt Pattern /

Now, add your seam allowance.

I like to use 3/8 inch seam allowance on baby tee shirts. You can use whatever you prefer.

  • Measure and mark 3/8 inch away from your pattern line all around each curve.
  • Carefully connect the marks, making a new curved line.
  • Mark the straight lines 3/8 away from your pattern edge as well.

Your pattern is finished!

If you used any paper other than tissue paper or medical exam paper you should cut out your pattern with paper scissors before you pin it to your fabric.

Don’t let pattern-making scare you away! Try this forgiving tee shirt pattern and make some tee shirts for your baby (or any kid, really). I have a tutorial for how to sew up this tee shirt here, along with a free pattern in 12 month size. If you want to add a pocket to your tee shirt there is a tutorial here with a free pattern for older babies/toddlers.

If you are looking for a more precise way to copy patterns, I am intrigued by this technique that uses pins or this technique that uses tape.

Love, Jess

Preparing for a Gender Surprise Baby + Three Tips for Finding Gender Neutral Clothes

So far in our family we’ve enjoyed waiting until the baby is born to learn whether it is a boy or a girl. We love the excitement of the surprise and the guessing. It’s kind of special to just love the baby without yet knowing much about him or her, and it adds some extra fun to the beautiful experience of birth.

When I tell people that we are having a “gender surprise,” I get varied reactions. The conversation goes like this:

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Oh, it’s a surprise.”

The reactions: “Oh, how fun!” “You’re not going to find out?! How could you do that?” “I could never be that patient,” and “How will you prepare for the baby?!”

Preparing for Baby: A minimalist approach

I’ve actually found it easy to prepare for a gender surprise baby. In fact, that’s the way parents have been preparing for generations before ultrasounds were available. The key is simplicity. We’ve never had the space to go crazy decorating a nursery, or buy a lot of baby gear. In fact, we’ve never had a nursery at all. While there is plenty of gender neutral baby gear and décor on the market, I think the easiest way to prepare for a surprise baby is to eschew all of the extras and only buy what baby really needs.

These basic things are fairly easy to find in gender neutral colors, especially large baby gear such as carseats and strollers. The biggest challenge in preparing for a gender surprise is buying gender neutral baby clothes. I bought/made exclusively gender neutral newborn clothes for my babies except for one dress and bow headband that I made in case the baby was a girl.

Here are three tips that made it easy for me to find (super cute!) gender neutral baby clothes.

Tip #1 Say Yes to Neutral Colors

There are wide range of colors that are considered “appropriate” for any gender of baby. These include orange, yellow, green, and red. With this baby I have also fallen in love with the neutral colored baby clothes: grey, brown, and beige. These colors are so classic, and with the right textures and prints I don’t think they are boring.

I also started buying all of the basics in white. White is the perfect classic, match-everything color (in my opinion) for sheets, swaddles, onesies, tee shirts, burp clothes, etc.  Yes, babies stain, but I’ve found that baby stains are easily sun-bleached out of white laundry.

Tip #2 Shop Boys and Girls Sections

There is typically no “gender neutral” baby section in most stores and online shops. I have the most success when I look through both sections. I keep my eye open for neutral colors along with classic and neutral silhouettes. If I’m shopping for gender neutral clothes in the girls section, I avoid clothes with bows and lace. If I’m shopping gender neutral in the boys section, I don’t usually buy extra baggy clothes or things with huge cargo-style pockets. You get the idea.

Tip #3 Shop Small (or Sew Your Own)

While it is possible to find clothes in bigger box stores by shopping both sections, the options are still sometimes limited. My favorite gender neutral finds have been in small shops on Etsy, or other small(er) businesses such as Billie Blooms, Little Cottonwood, or Fawn & Forest. They have GORGEOUS neutral clothes.

However, the price of handmade baby clothes is really high for me to buy much that way. I do splurge on some high-quality baby items that I can’t make myself (like these booties and a sheepskin), but I prefer to sew baby clothes that fit my aesthetic. Sometimes it requires some trial and error (the bloomers above ended up being too small for my cloth-diapered baby) but I love sewing for baby while I’m pregnant! It’s possible to save a lot of money this way since baby clothes require less fabric and it’s easy to use recycled grown-up clothes.

Benefits of Shopping for a Gender Neutral Baby

Since we would love to have a big family, I am all about longevity when I buy baby gear. Even if this baby will only wear something for a few months (or weeks), I try to buy clothes and baby gear that subsequent babies can use.

Enter… gender neutral clothes! It’s so nice to know that there is a whole newborn wardrobe waiting for the next baby whether it be a boy or girl. Other perks of shopping gender neutral are the fun of finding unique baby things and the classic look of baby clothes that are not overly pink or blue. Here are some examples of gender neutral outfits for inspiration (can you tell I’m addicted to baby bloomers?).

What are your thoughts on keeping baby’s gender a surprise? Would you ever do it?

Love, Jess

Baby Tee from an Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial)

If you have old tee shirts lying around the house and you’d like to make a free baby tee, this post is for you. All you need is a little over an hour of time, thread, and this free pattern.

As I’ve mentioned, we live on an island in Alaska with not many options for shopping. I suppose I could buy Littles a bunch of clothes at Wal-mart, but there isn’t much selection and I don’t like the idea of spending money on not-that-cute and cheaply made clothes when I have perfectly good fabric (read, “tee shirts”) here at home. It just seems wasteful and this mama doesn’t like to waste. BUT I do like to sew. I ended up sewing most of Little’s twelve month “wardrobe” (haha) from recycled adult clothes we already had.

If you feel the same, here is a pattern and tutorial for a twelve month size tee shirt which you can make from cotton stretch fabric or an old grown-up tee. Of course, if you have access to one of those wonderful large thrift stores where they sell baby t-shirts for 50 cents-1 dollar, go ahead and do that instead as well.


One adult sized t-shirt

Free twelve month t-shirt pattern

Thread….And that’s about it!

Step one:

Lay the pattern out on top of the adult tee shirt. You can use the existing hem, or cut the shirt out of the middle.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |  Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Step two:

Cut out the pattern. If your tee shirt’s design is too wide for the pattern, you have two options. You can either cut off the design or cut your tee shirt piece a little wider. As you can see, I chose to widen the shirt. In this case it’s important to make sure you cut the sleeve pieces a little bit wider as well.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |      Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Step three:

Cut the existing ribbing/collar off the adult tee shirt. If you’re worried about making the ribbing too thin to be a collar for the baby tee, you can always unpick the stitches and remove it that way.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Step four:

Using a stretch stitch or a serger, sew the shoulder seams and side seams.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |


+Tip: Instead of using a plain zig-zag stitch as my stretch stitch I like to use the blind hem stitch, which is a stretch stitch with straight stitches and zig-zag stitches. This makes it so that the points of the zig-zag stitch don’t show in your seam from the right side of the shirt. In order to do this, make sure that the points of the stitch are faced toward the seam allowance, or edge of the fabric, and the flat part of the stitch is along the seam.

Baby Tee From Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |
The points face inward the seam, and will show when the fabric stretches.
Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |
Here, the points face the edge of the fabric, or seam allowance, and the flat stitches line the seam for a neater look









Step five:

Cut the ribbing you separated from the original shirt to a length of 15 inches. You can measure around the neck hole with a measuring tape if you want to double check. Sew the ends right sides together to create a neck band.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) | Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Step six:

Attach the ribbing. With the shirt right sides out, pin or simple line up the edges right sides together. Sew or serge around the neck hole.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Step seven:

Sew the sleeves. Fold them in half with the right side in and sew the sleeve seams.

+Tip: I like to use the original hem of the tee shirt, but if you just sew your seams on top of the hem it can look sloppy and/or unprofessional. To avoid this I simply unpick 3/4 to 1 inch of hem on each side of the seam before sewing. Then, after sewing I can go in and hem that spot, imitating the stitches that were already there. It’s still not perfect, but I like it better.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |                    Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |      Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Step eight:

Sew the sleeves to the shirt. With the shirt inside out and the sleeves right side out, pin the sleeve into the armhole with right sides together. Sew around the armhole.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Step nine:

Hem the tee shirt. You can use a stretch stich like I showed earlier, but I tend to not like the zig-zag stitch showing on my hem. If you’re more adventurous than me you could also use a double needle, I just haven’t tried one yet. My solution is….. a blind hem.

+Tip: How to sew a blind hem:

  1. Fold up your desired hem (for this pattern, 3/4 inches). Press

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |    Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

2. Fold the other way (like an accordion) and press with 1/8 to 1/4 inch fabric sticking out.

3. Set your sewing machine to the blind hem stitch. Use the stitch that looks the same as where this arrow is pointing. Don’t forget to also set your stitch width if you need to on your machine.

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |     Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

4. Sew down the hem so that the needle sews straight stitches onto the hanging-off-edge of the fabric and catches the fold of the fabric with the zig-zag stitch. Go slow so you don’t miss spots. The zig-zags are what will hold your hem together.

5. Press the hem back down to it’s regular spot. Here’s what it should look like:

Baby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) | stitchesandsunflowers.comBaby Tee from Adult Tee (Free Pattern and Tutorial) |

Now, you’re done! Enjoy your new shirt. If you have any questions or favorite baby clothes to make, please let me know!

If you’d like to share your finished baby shirt with me, share on Instagram with #stitchesandsunflowers or post it on our facebook page. I’d love to see them!

Love, Jess