Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Haven Top Sew-Along Day 1: Pattern & Pieces

Welcome to the first day of the Haven Top Sew-Along!

Today I will walk you through making your pattern and we'll cut all the pieces.  To make your pattern, grab a t-shirt that fits your child well and some paper to trace onto (copy paper, freezer paper, whatever you have!).  I suggest using a shirt with a plain neckline and sleeves (no big ruffles or gathers).  If you have a square neck top that fits your child, you will be one step ahead!

To begin, you first need to decide what seam allowance you will use.  3/8", 1/2" and 5/8" are all common.  I tend to use 1/2" because it's easy to remember and easy to add on (I was NOT a math major!).  Use whatever you are comfortable with!  Fold your t-shirt in half and place the fold on the edge of your paper.  Using a pencil, trace around the outside edge of your shirt, adding in seam allowance as you go. When deciding how long to make your pattern piece, remember that we will be adding a 2" band to the bottom, so you might want to cut your pattern a little shorter than you ordinarily would.  I also like to make sure the "skirt" part is a little A-line.  With woven fabrics, it's nice to have a little wiggle room since it won't stretch like knit.

Trace both the front and back neckline, again adding seam allowance.

For the armhole, fold the sleeve back and trace the curve, meeting up with the side edge of your shirt and the shoulder.

This shirt will have an empire waist, so you need to decide where to cut the bodice off.  I placed my guide t-shirt next to my pattern and figured out how long I wanted the bodice to be.  I added seam allowance and drew a straight line across the shirt at that point.

Now we need to square off the neckline.  Place a straight edge horizontally in line with the front neckline.  Draw a straight line out to underneath the shoulder area.

Then line up your straight edge vertically going down from the inside edge of your shoulder to meet the horizontal line you just drew.  If you have a small-shouldered child like I do, you may want to bring your shoulder in a 1/2" or so and use that as your new inside shoulder edge.  The square neck will fit a little wider than a traditional crew or scoop neck.  Once you are happy with the width of your shoulder seam, draw a line connecting the down to your front neckline. 

Line up your straight edge horizontally again, this time in line with your back neckline.  Draw a line meeting up with your vertical line.

Now you should have a squared off neckline.  You can erase the curved neckline and cut our your pattern pieces.  I like to trace the outside edge with a sharpie, using my straight edge to make sure all my lines are nice and straight.  I also like to label my pattern pieces.  I typically put the name of the pattern, the size, seam allowance, and cutting instructions.  I also label front and back (or front neckline and back neckline) and any fold markings.  For this pattern, you can use the same pattern piece for the front and back bodice.  Just be careful to cut on the appropriate front neckline and back neckline when you cut your fabric.  Also, when we cut the back bodice, we will not cut on the fold, but we will add 1" to the fold side on each back piece.  If you aren't comfortable adding the extra inch while you're cutting, feel free to trace the bodice pattern piece and add that 1", creating a separate back bodice pattern piece.

To make the sleeve pattern piece, I simply place a new sheet of paper over my bodice pattern.  I trace the curve of the armhole, then make a straight line out from the shoulder seam.  This will be your fold line.  Make another straight line out from the bottom of the armhole.  

To determine length, I find it easiest to measure the inseam of your guide t-shirt.  You can also measure your child, if you can get them to stand still!  Remember, we'll be adding a 1" band to the sleeve, so cut your length accordingly.   Mark the length, label your piece and cut it out.

You should now have 3 pattern pieces, resembling a shirt!  You should have a sleeve, a bodice and a "skirt" pattern.  If you cut a separate back bodice pattern, you will have 4 total pieces.

Now we'll make a pattern piece for the bodice detail.

It's basically an hourglass shape, but we need to add seam allowance to make it fit properly.  This is a little complicated to explain, but just look at the pictures, which always make more sense than my ramblings!

First I traced a complete bodice by tracing the bodice piece using the front neckline on half my paper, then flipping the bodice pattern and tracing it backwards.  I drew a horizontal line down from the front neckline and up from the bottom of the bodice.  The width of the space is my seam allowance.  I wanted the design to be about an inch wide in the center, flaring out to 2" wide at the top and bottom.  To get this shape, I drew a straight vertical line down the exact center of the bodice.  I then made dots spaced 1/2" from the center line in the middle and 1" from the center line at the top and connected the dots in a smooth, even curve.

Still with me?  I was fairly specific about my drawing, but if you have a good eye and aren't worried about perfection, you could just draw the shape freehand!  Once I had the basic shape, I added seam allowance on each side and drew it in with my sharpie.  Once I hit my seam allowance line at the top and the bottom, I just drew straight up because you won't see that part in the final shirt.  It will be hidden in the seam allowance so it doesn't need to be nicely shaped.

I cut the piece out around the outside lines and that is the final pattern piece!  Yay!  Now it's time to cut our fabric!

Using the front bodice pattern piece, fold your fabric and cut on the fold 1 exterior fabric and 1 lining fabric.

Using the back bodice pattern piece, keep your fabric folded but do not cut on the fold.  This will ensure you get a left and right back bodice piece.  Adding 1" to the fold side for each piece, cut 2 exterior fabric and 2 lining fabric.

Using the sleeve pattern piece, cut 2 sleeves on the fold (exterior fabric :))

Using the "skirt" pattern piece, cut 2 pieces on the fold.

Using the bodice detail piece, cut 2 pieces out of your contrasting fabric.

We also need the bands for the sleeves and bodice bottom.  To make them the correct length, measure the straight side edge of your sleeve (the part opposite the armhole curve).  This will be your length.  The width should be 2.5".  Cut two pieces of contrasting fabric 2.5" x your length.

For the bottom band, measure the bottom edge of your bodice.  For this piece we will need to add seam allowance to each side.  So, if your seam allowance is 1/2", add 1" and this will be your length.  The width should be 5".  Cut 2 pieces of contrasting fabric, 5" x your length.

You should now have all your pieces cut out!  To recap, here is what you should have:

1 front bodice (main fabric)
1 front bodice (lining fabric)
2 back bodices (main fabric)
2 back bodices (lining fabric)
2 bodice detail pieces (contrasting fabric)
2 sleeves (main fabric)
2 sleeve bands (contrasting fabric)
2 "skirts" (main fabric)
2 "skirt" bands (contrasting fabric)

For my lining, you can see I just used a really lightweight white cotton I had in my stash.  Since I hoard am frugal with my fabric, I just used the white, but you can use whatever you prefer.  You can use your exterior fabric, your contrasting fabric or anything else you have on hand!

Great job!  You just made your own pattern!  Tomorrow we'll assemble the bodice, so you'll need your thread, machine, and coordinating buttons (or snaps, if you prefer).  Any questions so far, please let me know!  

*For Day 2: Assembling the Bodice click here*
*For Day 3: Sleeves & Finishing Up click here*


  1. This is awesome! I'm not sure why I didn't see this last week. I hope to follow along next weekend.

  2. Very cute, and I love the fabric you chose!


I love reading your comments! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!