How To Copy Your Favourite Tee

Do you have that one perfect tee that you have worn to threads?  Well, now you can copy that tee so you can go on wearing it the same fit - but in so many wonderful fabrics!


Step 1.  Draft the Body

Begin by ensuring your shirt is free of wrinkles (a light pressing may help you out). 

Lay down the paper you would like to trace your pattern to.  I like to use the medical paper rolls or the Prym Gridded Pattern Paper (the grid is fabulous), but in a pinch wrapping paper does the trick.

Place your shirt on your work surface on top of the pattern paper being very careful not to stretch it out of shape.  Next, fold your tee exactly in half (front neckline folds in half and you bring the shoulder seams together).  Place pattern weights to keep it from shifting.  Alternatively, you can use foam core and pins to really stick it down for the most exact measurements.  That being said, I find this method is a bit of overkill for a tee and the pattern weights work just dandy. 

Copy your clothes by tracing them

Using a pencil, trace around your tee around the seam, the hem and fold line.  Note where the neckline highest and lowest points are (both for the front & back of the neckline) along the folded edge.  Also note where the neckline finishes.

Trace around your t-shirt to create a pattern

Reposition your pattern weights, if needed, around the armscye so we can trace this area as well.  A tip for creating a perfect curve is to either use pins to “prick” into the pattern paper along the armscye curve or use a tracing wheel from your sewing kit.  Then trace over this in your pencil.

Trace the armscye to make the pattern

Mark where your shoulder seam joins the armscye and trace the shoulder seam onto your pattern paper. 

Trace the shoulder seams onto the pattern paper

Next, trace the back neckline (the one that is higher), being sure not to include the neck band in your tracing; you want to trace right were the seam meets the neckband.

Move your pattern weights (or pins) lower, so that they just meet the seam on the front neckline.  Trace the front neckline onto your paper. 

Draft the pattern for the front and back neckline on the tee pattern

Label the necklines front and back for your reference.

Step 2.  Refine the Body Pattern

Now you can pull the tee away and we can begin to refine the pattern piece.

Using a clear ruler (drafting rulers or quilting rulers work well for this), true up the centre front, shoulder, and hem lines you traced.

Either freehand, or with a French Curve ruler as a guide, true up the curves in the armscye and the necklines.

Use a French Curve Ruler to draft the armscye and necklines on the tee pattern

Step 3.  Add Seam Allowances

Add in the size of seam allowances that you would like on your tee.  I went with ¾” on the seams and ½” on the hem (which is the same hem length of my Ready to Wear (RTW) tee). 

 Add seam allowances onto your shirt pattern

Step 4.  Draft the Sleeves

The sleeves on my tee are the same for the front and the back, so we can just fold them in half.  Trace the outline of the sleeve and mark the centre fold and trace down that line.

NOTE:  If your tee has a slightly different shape for the front and the back, then you will need to align the sleeve along the centre fold line and trace the front, then flip it on the fold line (marking the centre line with a pin is a great way to ensure you are exactly in the same spot) and then trace the back of the sleeve.

Alternatively, you can place your bodice pattern under your tracing paper (if it is transparent) and then trace the armscye.  Then continue to trace out the full sleeve.  I like to use pattern weights to assist with this.  Mark the fold.

 Drafting sleeves for t-shirt sewing pattern

Step 5.  Add Seam Allowances

As you did with the body of the tee, add in your seam allowances.  I kept the ½” hem allowance the same on the sleeves as it is on the hem of the body.

Step 6.  Refine the Sleeves

Place the sleeve pattern you drew onto the paper and tape in place.  Fold in half so you have an even sleeve.  Many times, the sleeve will not come out looking exactly as it should (remember the ‘Bell Curve’ in math class, it should have a similar shape to this.  This is when we refine the sleeve but keeping the same length as the curve but changing its shape slightly to look more like the bell curve shape that set-in sleeves have.  You can also grab a sleeve pattern you have lying around and use it as a template to get the correct shape.

Drafting a sleeves for a tee shirt sewing pattern

Step 7.  Draft the Neckband

Measure the front and back neck curves on the body piece of your tee (not including seam allowances).  (I like to record these measurements on my pattern, so I have them as a reference later.)

How to draft a neckband for a t-shirt

Double these numbers (as the tee front and back bodies are cut on the fold); add those two numbers together.

In order for your neckband to sit flat on your tee, it needs to be slightly smaller than the circumference of the neck hole you just measured.  A good rule of thumb is to make it 1/5th the size of the neck hole.

Here is an example:
Front: 6.5”
Back: 4.5”
Multiply by 2 (as they are on the fold):
Neck Opening Circumference = (2*6.5”)+(2*4.5”) = (13”)+(9”) = 22”
Reduce Neck Opening Circumference length by one fifth:
               22”*(1/5) = 4.4”
               22” – 4.4” = 17.6”
The neckband will be 17.6” long.


Next determine how wide the neckband should be.  I copied the exact width of my current tee, which was ¾”.  As the neckband will be folded in on itself, you will need to double this, making the width of my neckband 1.5”.

Add on your seam allowance to the neckband.

How to calculate neckband size for a t-shirt in sewing

Now cut out your pattern.


Sewing the Tee

Using a serger makes this very quick, but I you do not have a serger (overlocker) make sure to use a stretch stitch on your sewing machine.

Step 8.  Sew the Shoulder Seam

With right sides together sew the front body to the back aligning the shoulder seams.  Stitch along the shoulder seams.

Sew the shoulder seams on the tee

Step 9.  Inset the Sleeves

With right sides together, sew the sleeves onto the tee.

Sew the sleeve to the t-shirt bodice

Step 10.  Sew the Side Seams

Now that the sleeves are attached to our tee, fold your shirt so that it is right sides together and attach the front to the back along the side seams. 

 Sew the side seams of the tee together


The side seam will continue up the sleeve to finish the sleeves.  This method is much easier to set the sleeve in when working with knits, rather than setting in a sleeve that is already in the round.

Step 11.  Attach the Neck Binding

With right sides together, sew the binding into a tube along the short ends.

Fold the binding in half lengthwise so that the wrong sides are together.

Draft a neckband for a tee

Using the seam as one of your markings, quarter the neck band and either snip or use a water-soluble marker to denote the quarters of the band.

Quarter the neckband to sew it evenly on the t-shirt

Next, quarter the neck opening of your tee.  Find the centre front and centre back and mark this.  Then fold the tee in half matching the centre front and back marks to find the quarter points (this will NOT be the shoulder seams).

Match up the quarter marks on your neckband to the neckline opening on your tee.  Pin (or clip) the neckband onto the opening with the raw edges matching up.  Sew in place.

Sew the neckband onto the tee neck opening

How to sew a neckband onto a t-shirt evenly

Step 12.  Hem the Sleeves

Fold under the hem allowance you chose (mine was 1”) and using a twin needle, stretch stitch, zig-zag or cover stitch machine hem the sleeves.

 Hem the sleeves in your t-shirt

13.  Hem the Bottom

Just as you did for the sleeves, hem the bottom of your t-shirt.

 Hem the tee

You are done and now it is time to ROCK your new favourite tee!

How to copy your clothes - How to draft and sew a t-shirt