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Isn’t it fun how we’re all different? Straight, curvy, plump or lean—we’re all trying to rock what Mother Nature gave us, and often it’s hard to find clothes that fit just right. You know what I’m talking about—too short, too long, too wide, ill-fitting, unflattering, and on and on. That’s why pattern drafting can be so worth it; you’re designing for yourself based on your own unique measurements. It’s an amazing fit, and really pretty simple. Don’t get intimidated by the word “drafting,” it’s really just measuring, straight lines, and then connecting the dots. One of my very first posts on this blog was a tutorial on drafting a tee pattern from measurements, and although it’s a great method, I’ve simplified, tweaked and improved the process here. If you’re still overwhelmed at the thought of making your own pattern, then head on over to Miranda’s to learn how to draft a pattern by rubbing off your favorite tee, and next week we’ll review a couple of women’s tee patterns which are easy enough for anyone!
Drafting a tee from measurements.
Before you begin you’ll need to add ease. Ease is the space between the garment and your body; without added ease, this pattern will produce a skin tight shirt because the measurements of the shirt will equal your body measurements. So if you want a little more room, then you’ll need to add some ease—I suggest 1-2 inches (mine has 2). Add it to each of these calculations, and always add it in before you divide (i.e. neck measurement plus 2” ease divided by 2). You will add the ease to the measurements that are marked with an asterisk (*)
You’ll need: a tape measurer, tracing paper (exam table paper works famously!), acrylic ruler, seam gauge, and tailor’s chalk. It also helps for you to wear a fitted solid colored tee while measuring yourself.
Measure and calculate: (click on the measurement chart for a printable pdf).
Tip: I find it’s easier if before I start, I mark my high shoulder point, shoulder point, upper chest, bustline, true waist and hip with a sliver of soap or tailors chalk. This makes it easier for me to find the right spot and be consistent.
1. *Half neck: Neck divided by 2. (To find neck width, hang a string around your neck and allow it to hang down on either side. Measure from one side of the string to the other –4-5” for women).
2. *Half shoulder: Shoulder divided by 2. Your shoulder points are easily located as the points that depress or crease when you lift your arms straight out.
3. *Quarter bust: bust divided by 4.
4. *Quarter Waist: True Waist (smallest part of your waist) divided by 4.
5. *Quarter hip: Hip divided by 4. Take this measurement at the point you want your shirt to hit. This is can be the high hip (hip bones) or low hip (most ample part of bum) depending on how long your want your tee. I prefer a length right in between the two.
6. *HSP to upper chest: To locate the High Shoulder Point hang that string around your neck again; the HSP is the point on the string between the neck and shoulder. Measure from the HSP to upper chest (tape measurer should go right under your armpits).
7. HSP to True Waist
8. HSP to hip (or where you want shirt to hit).
9. *Bicep half (with arm down, the fullest part of bicep (without flexing, you bad A!) divided by 2.
10. Sleeve length: from shoulder point to where you want sleeve to hit, OR for a long sleeve, from shoulder point to wrist.
11. Underarm seam length: measure from you under arm (the pit) to where you want your sleeve to hit, and MINUS 1” from that measurement for ease.
12. Wrist half: (for long sleeve) wrist divided by 2.
Plot shirt front:
Cut a piece of paper that is plenty longer than your HSP to Hip and quarter hip measurements (give yourself at least 6” more on both). One edge needs to be completely straight, as it will become your center front and fold line.
- Starting a couple inches down from the top, draw a perpendicular line out from the Center Fold edge that equals the distance or your half neck. Mark; this is your High Shoulder Point or HSP.
- A half inch below that line, make another perpendicular line from CF that equals the distance of your half shoulder. Mark.
- From your HSP, measure straight down the distance of your HSP to High bust and mark. Directly over this mark, draw a perpendicular line from CF that equals your quarter bust measurement.
- From your HSP again, measure down the distance of your HSP to waist and mark. Directly over this mark, draw a perpendicular line from CF that equals your quarter waist.
- Once more from your HSP, measure down the distance of your HSP to hip and mark. Directly over this mark, draw a perpendicular line from CF that equals your quarter hip.
Connect the dots:
6. Starting from your HSP, draw a gentle concave curve to the CF that will be your front neck drop. Make it as deep or shallow as you please, but take care that it hits the CF and HSP perpendicularly for at least a ¼”.
7. Connect the HSP to shoulder point with a very slight convex curve.
8. The concave curve between the shoulder point and quarter bust line is your armscye (or armscyth), which is a fancy word for armhole. Draw it more straight coming down from the shoulder point, with a sharper curve going into the side perpendicularly. Check out your fave fitted tee (off your body) to get a good idea.
9. Now unless you dig the boxy look, draw a curved line from the bustline to waistline to hip. This is a gentle curve that happens gradually about 1” from the top and bottom of the side seam. Because I didn’t want my shirt super fitted through the waist, I drew my waist curve about ¾’s of an inch away from the quarter waist point.
10. The bottom hemline is the final convex curve; like all your other corners, it must intersect with side seams and CF at perpendicular right angles. Begin this curve just above you hip line, and then descend down about 3/4” below the hip line, where it hits the CF.
True up. Make sure your angles are squared, and you’ve added ease where needed. Double check your measurements, and it might be useful to compare your drafted pattern to a favorite tee.
The shirt back is a whiz. It’s basically the same as the front, but with a small tweak. I suggest tracing the front, and then drawing in the alterations. The back neck drop is much higher than the front, and usually only dips down about a ½”-1”. Everything else is the same. Cut out, and make sure to mark clearly “front” or “back”, “cut 1 on fold”, and maybe your bust, waist and hip measurements so you have a size reference for the future. Your CF is the fold line as well as the grain line.
Fold in half height-wise a cut of tracing paper that is several inches larger than your bicep half and sleeve length.
A) Plot sleeve length along folded edge (CF) starting at least an inch from the top.
B) From the bottom edge of the length line, measure up the distance of your underarm seam length, and mark.
C) Directly over this point, measure out perpendicularly the length of your bicep half.
D) Now you’re ready to plot the upper curved edge of your sleeve. You’ll need to first measure carefully the distance of your front armscye. On a measuring tape, measure out this distance and pinch. Starting on the folded edge, arrange your measuring tape to help visualize the upper curved edge and get the proper distance. It will meet perpendicularly into the bicep line for about 1” before it curves upward and intersects the CF at a right angle. Play around with it until you get a nice even curve and then trace that line.
E) To finish, you’ll draw another line perpendicularly out from the CF bottom edge the distance of your bicep half minus 1” or so, and then
F) Draw a straight line connecting line C and E to close sleeve side.
Now fold paper down CF again, and trace the your plotted half sleeve onto the other side.
Before you cut, you’ll need to add ¼” seam allowances to shirt front, back and sleeve (the width of a serger finish or overlock stitch on a sewing machine) everywhere but the hems, where you’ll add a generous 1”. Keep a seam gauge and ruler handy, or just eyeball it if you feel confident. Optionally, you can choose to not add the SA to the paper pattern, but add them to the fabric as you cut out. If you choose this method, you should mark clearly what seam allowance should be added during cutting on the pattern, so you don’t forget.
*It’s best to cut the neckband after cutting other pieces so you can hold the front piece up to yourself to check the depth of the front drop. If you’re not quite happy with it you can alter the depth and width at this point before calculating neckband width.
Measure carefully the front and back neck curves on seam line (not cutting), and then times those numbers by 2 and add to each other for the full neck opening circumference. The neckband should be smaller than opening—anywhere from ¾’s to 7/8’s of that measurement. It’s difficult to make a hard and fast rule because the stretch for different knits vary so much. Start with 7/8’s of your neck opening (neck opening times .875 for all you math phobes like me!), and know that you may have to shorten that length in order to get the band to lie flat.
The width of the band will be however wide you want plus the seam allowance. I find a 1 ¾” width makes a great band.
Cut a rectangle using this length and width on the crossgrain so that the length has the greatest degree of stretch. Alternatively you may cut this rectangle on the bias, which helps the band lie flat against your chest. This isn’t necessary, but look nice if you have the fabric to spare.
Don’t miss Miranda‘s post on making a pattern from a favorite tee, and come back tomorrow and we’ll teach you the ins and outs of knit t-shirt construction as well as knit sewing and finishing finishing techniques!
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