How to Self Draft a T-Shirt

Spoonflower Ambassador Michael Gardner has been making clothes for his daughter Ava for years. This Father’s Day, Ava is returning the favor with a shirt she not only sewed for her dad, but self-drafted, too! Continue reading to see how Ava makes a brand new T-shirt out of Spoonflower’s Cotton Spandex Jersey using one of her dad’s favorite shirts. Michael also shares tips on self drafting so that you too can sew new garments using your much-loved clothes as a guide!

Featured design: Holographic Waves by sveta_aho
Ava sews the neckband of a shirt to the body of the shirt with the wrong side of the fabric up.  The right side of the shirt fabric is shown where the fabric has curled up, it has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.

Michael: I’m a proud Father, self-taught sewist, life-long crafter and DIY enthusiast. I’m also known as “Ava’s Dad.” I can usually be found exercising my creative abilities and spending quality time with Ava. My online platform Daddy Dressed Me by MG is my expression of love for my daughter. I use my creativity to teach her about self-love, confidence and I share our beautiful bond.

For eight years, I’ve had the pleasure of creating clothes for Av. Seeing the expression of joy on her face and observing her strut with confidence has always made this journey worthwhile. Teaching her to sew has been a great bonding experience and I love the pieces she’s made for herself. When she first mentioned the idea of ​​sewing something for me, it warmed my heart. I knew she wanted to return the favor for all the work I’ve done to create for her. Now, I know the feeling of having a one-of-a-kind garment made with love especially for me, and honestly, I need this feeling more often.

Many of the garments I make are self-drafted, so I prefer to cut directly into the fabric. Being self-taught, this technique is how I began my sewing journey and it’s how I’ve taught Ava as well. Using my favorite T-shirt, Ava created a well-fitted and comfortable shirt in Cotton Spandex Jersey that I want to wear every day!

A note on self drafting: I’m a big believer in always having a little extra fabric, rather than running the risk of running out. I usually go by the width of the fabric and my/Ava’s measurements to gauge how much fabric I’ll need. I also like to cut bigger and take the piece in if I need to. Completing a garment and it’s too small is one of the worst experiences so I learned to overestimate and upsize to get the fit that works. Plus, it’s always nice to have some scraps for other projects!

DIY T-Shirt Tutorial

Materials

  • Cotton Spandex Jersey fabric
  • Matching thread
  • Sewing clips or pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Your favorite T-shirt (for use as a pattern)
  • Scissors or a rotary cutter
  • Marking pin or chalk
  • Iron
  • Magnetic sea guide (optional)

Notes:

  1. Seam allowance: 3/8” (.95 cm) unless otherwise stated
  2. Recommended stitch: zig-zag stitch

Step 1: Fold, Trace and Cut the Body of the Shirt

Double fold the fabric in half (lengthwise) with right sides facing and the selvage centered.

Fold the T-shirt in half, lay it on one of the folds and tuck in the sleeves.

Trace around the neckline, shoulder, side seam and bottom hem to create the front and back pattern.

Cut out two pieces in this shape with a rotary cutter or scissors for the front and back parts of the shirt.

Ava uses a pen to trace the outline of a black t-shirt placed on the wrong side of fabric placed on a gray table.
Ava uses scissors to cut out the body of a t-shirt, the wrong side of the fabric is showing, and the fabric is laying on a gray table.

Step 2: Fold, Trace and Cut the Sleeves and Neckline

Sleeves:

Fold the fabric (widthwise) with rights sides together, the fold should be at the top.

Add 1/2” (1.27 cm) seam allowance to the pattern.

Lay the T-shirt sleeve on top and trace.

Cut out the sleeves with a rotary cutter or scissors.

Neckband:

Measure the T-shirt’s neckline and cut a strip of fabric that is a) 2″ (5 cm) wide and b) the length of the neckline minus 2″ (5 cm).

For example, in inches, if your shirt has a 21” neckline, you would cut a piece of fabric that is 2” wide and 19” long for the neckband, as 21” minus 2” = 19”. In centimeters: If your shirt has a 53 cm neckline, you would cut a piece of fabric that is 5 cm wide and 48 cm long for the neckband, as 53 cm minus 5 cm = 48 cm.

Cut out the neckband using the dimensions for your shirt using the formula above with a rotary cutter or scissors.

Ava uses a pen to trace the outline of the sleeve of a black t-shirt, which is laying on the wrong side of fabric placed on a gray table.
All the pattern pieces that Ava has cut out, which include the front of the shirt, the back of the shirt, two sleeves and a neckband are laid out on a gray table.

Step 3: Sew the Shoulder Seams and Neckband

Shoulder seas:

Place the front and back shirt pieces together at one of the shoulder seams, right sides facing and sew with a zig-zag stitch.

Open the seam and press with an iron.

Leave the second shoulder seam open, lay the two pieces flat and pin or clip the neckband, right sides facing, to the front and back neckline.

Neckband:

Sew with a 5/8” (1.59 cm) seam allowance using a zig-zag stitch, stretching the neckband only while sewing.

Trim the seam allowance, press and top stitch the neckband to make it lay flat.

Sew the other shoulder seam with right sides facing.

Ava sews the shoulder seam of a shirt to the body of the shirt with the wrong side of the fabric up.  The right side of the shirt fabric is shown where the fabric has curled up, it has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.
Ava sews the neckband of a shirt to the body of the shirt.  The shirt fabric has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.

Step 4: Sew On the Sleeves and the Side Seam

Lay the shirt flat, right side up and clip the sleeve right sides facing along the curve.

Sew with a zig-zag stitch.

Sew the side seams from the end of the sleeve to the bottom hem of the shirt.

Repeat for the second sleeve.

A photo of the wrong side of a shirt sleeve clipped and ready to be sewn on to the shirt.  The shirt fabric has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.
Ava sews the side seam of a t-shirt with the wrong side of the fabric facing up.  The right side of the shirt fabric is showing slightly at the seams and has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.

Step 6: Hem the Sleeves and Bottom of the Shirt

Sleeves:

With the shirt inside out, fold the sleeve back 1/4” (0.6 cm) two times, then hem.

Bottom of the Shirt:

Turn up 1/2″ (1.27 cm) and hem the bottom of the shirt and you are done!

The wrong side of a shirt sleeve faces up with the left side of the sleeve connected to the body of the shirt.  The right side of the sleeve has been hemmed.  The right side of the shirt fabric is showing slightly at the seams and has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.
The wrong side of the body of the shirt faces up and is hemmed at the side and at the bottom.  The right side of the shirt fabric is showing slightly at the seams and has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.

Ava’s Thoughts on This Project

Ava: Making a shirt for my dad was such a fun experience. It’s the first time I’ve ever sewn him something. All I could picture was how he would look in the shirt. I loved the fabric, it’s so soft and stretchy. My dad is such a great role model for me. He’s so loving, caring and encouraging. I love him so much, he’s the best and I’m so happy to be his daughter and proud I made this shirt.

Ava holds up the t-shirt she drafted and sewed for her dad.  The shirt fabric has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.
Michael stands near a stone wall and turned to the left.  He is smiling at the camera.  He is wearing a t-shirt sewn by his daughter Ava that has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it and dark green pants.

Leftover Fabric Can be Twice the Fun!

Michael: Anytime I have the opportunity to create matching daddy-daughter outfits, I go for it. With the remaining fabric, I self-drafted Ava a maxi dress and she loved it. I lengthened a sleeveless tank that I traced for a pattern and used the same process in above for Ava’s neck and armbands. There is nothing better than twinning with your best friend.

Ava stands wearing the dress her dad drafted in the leftover fabric from her shirt.  The fabric has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.
Ava stands in the dress Michael made for her and Michael stands wearing the shirt Ava made for him.  They are in matching fabric, which has a black background and blue, pink, yellow and purple holographic wavy lines all over it.

Self Drafting Frequently Asked Questions

What does self drafting mean in sewing?
This means instead of sewing with a pre-purchased pattern, you create a custom pattern on your own. While that may seem daunting, this approach allows you more freedom to experiment with sewing because you can make what you design vs. what someone else has designed.
How do I draft my own patterns?
You can use a favorite garment as a guide, but there are plenty of other ways to self draft too. You could experiment with traditional pattern making tools like a compass and a French curve, or go the draping route by pinning fabric to a dress form and cutting each piece into shape.
What are the advantages of a self drafted garment?
You are making a garment tailored to your likes, not the likes of someone else. This means you have ultimate control on the size, shape, style, stretch, seams, structure… the list goes on! You also learn a lot about sewing since you’re creating something completely from scratch and have to educate yourself on every step of the way.
Is self drafting hard?
While there are many aspects of drafting patterns that require technical know how and skill, especially when it comes to sewing items in different sizes or for clients, first trying to recreate a favorite garment of your own or someone you love is a great way to learn how customizable sewing can be!

Want More Father’s Day Gift Ideas?

See 10 DIY Projects for Dad

About the Author

The post How to Self Draft a T-Shirt appeared first on Spoonflower Blog.

Leave a Comment