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 / stitchesandsunflowers.com

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

Finish Seams without a Serger: Bias Bound Seam

For those of us who don’t have access to a serger, it can be frustrating to sew professional apparel without having straggly, fraying seams after a few washes. That’s why I’m giving you tutorials for my favorite and most versatile serger-free seam finishes! So far in this series we have covered French seams, false French seamsclean finishes, and zig-zag finishes. The last seam finish I want to teach you is a bias bound seam.

Bias Bound Seam

A bias bound seam is a very professional seam finish that leaves no raw edges and can be done without a serger. You might even notice it in high quality ready-to-wear garments (Can you tell I’m a sewing nerd that likes to examine the inside of clothes?). This technique encases the seam allowance in bias binding, covering all the raw edges so that your seams are beautiful!!

Using bias binding takes some practice and patience (I’m still working on it), but it’s so worth it! Unlike the French seam, false French seam, and clean finish it can be used on curves such as the edge of a facing or the armhole seam.

Tutorial:

I recommend that you practice all seam finishes on a few scrap rectangles before you sew them onto a project. It might be a good idea to practice this one a little more if you are not familiar with using bias binding.

Step One:

Sew a 5/8″ seam allowance.

Step Two:

Trim your seam to the desired length. I chose to trim mine a little smaller, but not quite hide the seam stitches. You may choose to trim it so that you cover your stitching from the seam (an example of this is here) or you might want to keep your whole seam allowance.

Step Four:

Now you are going to attach your bias binding. Encase the raw edges of your seam with the binding, using pins to keep everything in place. You can also finish your seams separately if you need to press the seam open.

Using a stitch length of four, slowly and carefully topstitch the bias binding in place, being careful to catch the fold on the opposite side of your seam.

Step Five:

Your seam is finished! Press it to one side as directed in your pattern instructions.

If you get frustrated with this particular seam, don’t give up! Bias binding is one of the most difficult sewing techniques for me. The more I use bias binding and carefully practice, the better I become. Have patience with yourself and you will improve.

Love, Jess

 

 

DIY Un-Paper Bag Tutorial (A Project for Beginners)

In a follow up to Tuesday’s post about the paper bag trick, I’m going to teach you how to make a re-useable un-paper bag. This is a great tutorial for beginners! It may look complicated, but the shape of the bag comes from folding the fabric, not from complicated sewing.

The paper bag trick helps to streamline your sewing process. It’s a tip that I’ve struggled to use in the past. The reason? I didn’t buy paper bags. In fact, I don’t like to buy disposable things like zip lock baggies or plastic wrap either. If you DO like your disposable goods, there is no judgement here! I just feel like I’m throwing money away when I use them, so I tend to use their re-useable counterparts, or do without.

 DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Enter the Un-Paper Bag

Even though you could probably reuse a paper bag indefinitely for the paper bag trick, it’s not really worth it (for me anyway) to buy a whole pack of paper bags.

You could also use this un-paper bag for whatever you would normally use a paper bag for. It would make a great (but small) lunch sack. If you’re making it for a purpose other than the paper bag trick, you should use fusible interfacing and make your bag taller.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Materials:

Quilting cotton or other stiff fabric *Note: If you use very thick fabric here, the difficulty level goes up just a tad. Check out my tips for sewing denim to help with that.

Iron and ironing board (very important)

Fusible interfacing (necessary if you’re using your paper bag for something other than the paper bag trick)

Fabric starch (optional)

 

Make it:

Step one:

Cut out a rectangle of your fabric 11″ by 19″. To do this precisely you can make a pattern and use it to cut out your rectangle, or you can tear your fabric on the grain line. I like to tear it (it’s fast and easy). Cut a slightly smaller rectangle from the interfacing (you won’t be able to tear this one).

  • To tear on the grain line: Cut a small notch in your fabric, and then rip the rest of the way.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Cut a slightly smaller rectangle from the interfacing (you won’t be able to tear this one).

Step three:

Iron on the fusible interfacing. Make sure that you press the sticky or bumpy side onto the fabric when you iron it. If in doubt, place a thin cotton cloth on top when you are ironing.

Step four:

Sew the short ends together and finish them (you can use a serger, French seam, zig-zag stitch, or pinking shears). Use a stitch length of 2.5.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step five:

Hem both ends. You could serge them, but I know many beginners don’t own a serger. I hemmed the bottom with a teeny little hem and the top with about a half inch hem.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step six:

Following the picture steps, fold the bottom of the fabric into the bottom of the bag. Press the creases as you sew. If you make a mistake, spray with water and iron out the folds you made.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step seven:

With the bottom pinned together topstitch along all the edges as shown. Use a stitch length of 4.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step eight:

Fold the bag like a paper bag as shown. Press well and use fabric starch if desired.

DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com DIY Un-Paper Bag: Make your own alternative to paper bags | stitchesandsunflowers.com

You’ve finished your un-paper bag!

Now you have a re-useable bag for all your sewing/carrying/lunch preparing needs. And you made it yourself! Look at you!

Love, Jess

Be sure to check out the rest of the crafty posts on Made by You Monday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paper Bag Trick (a Beginner’s Sewing Tip)

I realize that lots of the sewing tutorials I post might seem scary or too intense for a lot of beginners out there. I want this blog to make sewing accessible to everyone, so I’m going to start a series of posts specifically for the beginners out there. We’ll start with a trick that streamlines the sewing process, but that I forget to utilize too often! I’ll call it the paper bag trick.

 

Why use the paper bag trick?

The paper bag trick helps keep your workspace clean(er). It also encourages you to cut off strings AS you sew, instead of waiting until the end. This is important, because when you wait until then end you miss more threads, making your finished project less professional. You can use the little “blade” on the back of the presser foot on your machine to trim threads, or keep little scissors close. I sometimes prefer using scissors because I can be more precise, but it’s much more time effective to use the machine, and I know professionals who swear by it.

The Paper Bag Trick: A Beginner's Sewing Tip to Streamline your Sewing Process | stitchesandsunflowers.com

It’s as simple as this:

Take a paper bag and fold down the top a few times to make a cuff. This helps to hold the bag open

Tape one edge of the bag on the edge of the table next to your sewing machine.

Cut off strings as you sew and drop them in the bag. This keeps your sewing area clean. If you leave strings on the table around your machine, they tend to stick all over whatever you are sewing as you work.

When you clean up your workspace, dump the strings out of your bag and save the bag for the next project.

That is really all there is to it!

I was uncertain if I should share such a simple tip, but I was quite impressed when I learned it as a beginner. I also thought writing about it would maybe help me actually put it into practice (finally). 🙂 If you don’t want to buy paper bags to try this, check out my diy un-paper bag tutorial to make your own (hint: it’s beginner friendly!).

As a beginner, what sewing tips would help you improve your sewing? Is there something you’ve been dying to try, but just aren’t sure how? Let me know in the comments.

Love, Jess