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.
- 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.
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.