I hate patterns! Too many rules, too many lines, too much pinning and cutting, and no clear instructions! Not to mention flimsy paper that will never fold up and fit in the envelope again...
In all honesty, I'm sure store-bought patterns are useful and fun - for those with the intelligence and patience to use them. But I like my own way, my own vision. Which is why I create my own patterns and designs.
This is the Basic Pattern for a simple top with sleeves. It can be used over and over in different configurations! You can add different bottoms, sleeves and skirts too to make loads of unique dresses and shirts. Nearly all of my creations have stemmed off of this pattern!
(Note: If you've made the Basic 2 Piece Pattern you can use that and just adjust the shoulder and arm hole.)
Let's Get Started!
First, look through your closet for a shirt to trace to help you form your pattern.
It needs to be T-shirt like, but not large and frumpy like your old lazy camp T-shirts. The shirt should not be super stretchy! You want something that is very basic in shape and fits you well. It should not have fancy ruffles or gathers. It also needs to have attached sleeves, meaning you need to see a seam where a sleeve piece was sewn to the shirt.
Pick a top that's similar to these:
Great! Once you've found a shirt, grab some large paper and start tracing! I usually use butcher paper from the dollar store but some other materials that work are newspaper, wrapping paper, big drawing pad paper, or even just taping sheets of paper together.
Make sure your shirt is flat a possible. You will be tracing half of the shirt.
Start by tracing up one side of the shirt.
Trace the shoulder, only the part between the sleeve and neckline
Then trace the neckline from the BACK of the shirt
Now we want to connect these two lines. Looking at your shirt, find the seam between the sleeve and the body of the shirt. I've highlighted it in this picture:
We want to imitate this line and draw it on the paper.
Flip the sleeve back and imagine the line. Take it slow. I like to trace a little at the top and at little at he bottom and then connect the two.
There you go! Your pattern should now look something like this:
It's time for a little math.
You want to make sure that whatever shirt or dress you make using this pattern, can be pulled your head. So for most women, their chest is the biggest "obstacle" in putting something on or pulling something off. We need to be sure the pattern is wide enough to allow for it.
Use a measuring tape to measure around your bust, or the largest part of your upper body. Add 2 inches to that number for wiggle room. Then divide by 4.
Example) The distance around my chest is 34 inches, plus 2 is 36 inches. 36 divided by 4 is 9 inches.
Place your ruler on your pattern horizontally and aligned with the side, as shown:
Mark with a dot at the (bust + 2 divided by 4) measurement. (In my case 9 inches)
Move the ruler down a few inches, and measure the same number of inches again and mark it.
Now using the ruler, draw a straight line through the two dots. The dots may not match up perfectly (like in mine) but find a good middle. Draw the line so it is as long at the rest of your pattern.
Extend the neckline to reach the center line you just drew.
So far your pattern should look similar to this:
As you can tell, a lot of my lines are pretty wobbly. Now is the time to re-draw any of the lines that need to look neater. Make the curves smooth, straighten out pointy edges, and adjust any areas you think need to be re-done.
Example: On my pattern, I wanted to make the shoulder strap wider because I know the shirt that I traced slips off my shoulder easily.
Draw a line at the bottom of the pattern. Use square or the corner of a book to be sure this line is 90 degrees to the center line.
Along the center line, write the word "FOLD" as shown. When you use this pattern, you will fold your fabric in half. This line on the pattern and the fold of the fabric will match up. When you cut the pattern piece, it will form a whole front or back.
Here's the fun part: cut it out! If your paper curls up, set your iron to a very low setting, and iron over it quickly a few times until it is more flat.
Using the piece you just cut out, retrace it onto paper.
We will make this into the front piece, simply by changing the neckline. I am making a rounded neckline, but you are free to do anything you like! Square, v-neck, sweetheart, whatever!
Mark the center as the "FOLD".
Cut it out along this new neckline you drew.
Label the pieces as "Front" and "Back".
At this point you could stop, and just have a tank-top pattern. But I'm going to show you how to make a sleeve pattern.
Making A Sleeve Pattern
Draw a straight line across the paper about 6 inches long.
Take one of your pattern pieces. Line up the corner of the shoulder with the line you drew, as shown below.
Trace the curve of the armhole.
Line up your ruler vertically with the edge of the line down to the tip of the armhole curve. Draw a straightline down about 2 inches.
Draw a horizontal line at the bottom and a vertical line at the edge of the sleeve. The farther out you put the vertical line the longer the sleeve will be.
Mark as shown with "FOLD" and cut it out!
There you go! You've got yourself a pattern!
Everything assembles right sides together. Sew the shoulder seams first. Then the sleeves. Then sew up the sides of the shirt.
There are so many ways to use these three pieces. Infinite ways of changing, adding, and configuring - it's unbelievable!