Whether you want to make a shirt for your favourite man, woman or child (or for yourself, of course), this tutorial will guide you through tracing a ready made shirt.
Before we get started though, I feel it is important to say that I do not encourage learning to take patterns from garments so that you can rip off other peoples' designs. To me, that is not the point of tracing patterns. I advocate tracing patterns if you are replicating a vintage piece that you just love, or copying your mum's favourite shirt because it is just getting awkward seeing her wear it so many days in a row, or you have a dress that is oh-so-perfect except for one minor detail (like your bum no longer - or never did - fits into it)...
Or, like me, you want to make your boyfriend a custom fitting shirt for his birthday and know that the quickest and most accurate way to do this would be to pick his favourite shirt out of the wardrobe and slyly trace it while he's at work.
For this tutorial you will need:
First and foremost, the garment you just love so much that you have to replicate it.
Choose something (if possible) that fits you (or who you are making it for) well. Things like pockets and collars are much easier to change than a bad fit.
Give it a good iron before you start.
A large piece of pattern paper.
A tracing wheel. This little tool will be your best friend during the process.
A tape measure.
And some dressmaking pins.
Before starting on your pattern, it is also a good idea to have a rough idea of what your pattern pieces should look like. So you know if you are on the right track, or not. Do you have a commercial pattern around to refer to? Or simply Google "shirt pattern" and you should get a rough idea.
Take some pattern paper (roughly the half the width of the front of the shirt, and the same length). Be sure to allow some space around the edges for any changes you would like to make to the pattern and for adding seam allowance.
To start, draw your grainline down the length of the paper.
Take your shirt and pin the edge of the placket along the grainline.
Be careful to keep the shirt flat, but do not stretch it. Place a pin every 8-10cm.
Continue pinning until you reach the collar stand (or neckline, if the shirt doesn't have a collar).
It's now time to move on to the side seam.
Flatten out the shirt, as much as possible, and place a pin at either end of the side seam, once again, be careful not to stretch the pattern horizontally or vertically.
Now place pins along the seam, between the first two pins.
You can also place pins along the hemline at this stage.
Pin around the armhole. This can be a little tricky, so just take your time and use a few more pins than you did for the straighter seams.
Pin the shoulder seam and neckline in place, ensuring that the shirt is flat, but once again, not stretched.
Now this is where your trusty (and painfully spiky) tracing wheel comes to the show.
Carefully trace around the pattern, along each seam.
Take it nice and slow so that your markings are accurate.
If the shirt is made from something really fragile, you can opt for just making a small pin prick every 10cm or so, instead of using the tracing wheel.
If you come to any design features (pleats or darts etc., mark them with a horizontal line made with the tracing wheel).
Buttonholes can be marked with a pencil.
Carefully remove the pins from your shirt to reveal the markings underneath.
Now, take your pencil and ruler (and french curve, if you like to use it) and draw in all the lines, by joining the dots made by the tracing wheel. Although you feel that you are making them perfectly straight, sometimes the lines made by the wheel can be a little wobbly - make the line as straight as possible.
For the placket, we will be making the piece from scratch (it is much faster and more accurate than trying to trace it off the shirt). I will go through the process in the following post, but for now, all you will need to know is the width of your placket.
Divide the placket width by two. Mark a point this distance in from the grainline on your front pattern piece.
Continue this line down through the pattern, parallel to the grainline (I have drawn in my placket in the picture, but you don't need to worry about that just yet).
Mark as the centre front.
And now it's time to move onto the back pattern.
In the same way you prepared for your front pattern, draw a long straight line down a second piece of paper. This will be your grainline as well as your centre back.
Take your shirt and fold it in half, down the centre back. Check that it is straight by checking that your fold is even at the hemline, yoke and collar.
We will just be tracing half of the back piece and labeling the pattern cut on fold.
Place a line of evenly spaced pins in the fold.
Also place a pin through the yoke seam. This will indicate where to notch the two pattern pieces, so that you can check that they fit together properly (and will be an aid when you are sewing the two pieces together).
Now line up the first pin (at the hemline) with the line on the paper, and pin in place. As you can see, this is very easy when using a checked fabric!
Now, take the next pin and poke it through to the wrong side of the shirt and line it up with the line on the paper.
Put the pin through the paper and then back through the shirt, to hold it in place. This bit is a little awkward to do, so take your time.
Continue all the way up the centre back, until you reach the yoke seam (if your shirt doesn't have a yoke, then just continue to the neckline).
Once the centre back is in place, you can pin along the side seam and around the armhole.
Pin along the hemline.
And then pin along the yoke seam.
Once again, take your tracing wheel, and slowly trace along all the seams (or mark with a pin if you are not using a tracing wheel).
Remove the pattern and join the markings with smooth clean lines.
Check that your front and back patterns match together nicely at the side seam.
Move onto the yoke.
As you did with the lower part of the back pattern, pin the centre of the piece to the pattern paper (along the grainline).
Pin around the edge of the piece.
Trace with the tracing wheel.
Be sure to mark the vertical pin on the yoke seam as a notch.
For the sleeve, fold it in half, along the side seam.
Place pins along the side opposite the side seam.
Pin the sleeve to the paper underneath.
Pin along the side seam and the fold.
Pin around the armhole.
Trace around the sleeve with the tracing wheel.
Mark the location of the opening on the sleeve (placket) with a notch.
Remove the pins and the shirt, and trace around the markings to create one side of your sleeve.
It's now time to trace the other side of the sleeve.
Flip the sleeve over and pin the fold to the centre line.
Pin around the outside of the sleeve, keeping it as flat as possible, and trace around the edge with the tracing wheel.
Before taking out the pins, make note of any details, such as pleats, tucks, darts or gathers.
Remove the sleeve, and trace through the markings to complete the shape of the sleeve.
The shirt I copied has a small tuck at the cuff.
To transfer this detail onto the pattern, first put a pin through the tuck.
Turn the cuff inside out, and measure the distance between the pin and the end of the tuck. Take note of this measurement.
Now to transferring the detail onto the pattern.
Take your sleeve pattern and extend the line that indicated the tuck placement, up to the sleeve head.
Cut along the line - up from the wrist, towards the sleeve cap. Do not cut through the cap line. Leave a small hinge, to keep the two parts of the pattern together.
Open the wrist by the width of the tuck (measurement take from sleeve).
Stick another piece of paper behind the opening, or trace the sleeve onto a separate piece of paper, including the adjustment.
Indicate the tuck with two notches and an arrow to show which way to fold it when sewn.
Fold the tuck and check if your wrist line needs any adjustments to accommodate it (use the same technique as if you were checking a dart).
Remark your grainline and add cutting instructions.
Check that the sleeve fits nicely into the armhole and add notches on the sleeve cap.
The instructions will be:
- Front pattern - CUT 1 PAIR
- Back pattern - CUT 1 ON FOLD (the grainline is the fold)
- Yoke - CUT 1 PAIR ON FOLD (you will need one for the inside of the shirt, as well as for the exterioe. This provides extra stability across the shoulders, and helps you get a nice finish).
I had hoped to get this all done in one post, but it is just getting too looooooong. So I am very sorry to say you will have to wait for the next post (or two) to find out how to finish the pattern. I will cover: making a placket, making your collar and stand, and making your wrist placket and cuff.
Oh and adding pockets! Every shirt needs a pocket (or two).