December 20, 2006

A boy's shirt pattern fix

About a year ago I was asked to make a a white shirt for an infant boy's christening. I didn't have the time to draft the pattern myself, so I turned to a ready-made pattern. Out of the big 4 pattern companies only one had a "traditional" woven shirt pattern. I could have saved myself a lot of stress by drafting the pattern anyway. I didn't really have time to fix the problems in the pattern either and I was disappointed by the results. Here is a picture of the pattern envelope. Maybe you can spot the problems too.

The first obvious problem is the collar and neck. The collar points splay apart too far. The collars don't meet at the center front neck and the front neck seems too low. On top of that the collar looks proportionally too large. Compare the drawings with the actual pictures. The drawings show a convertible collar with a stand in the back.

The problems become more obvious when you study the pattern pieces (sorry the pictures are fuzzy - tissue paper is hard to photograph).

1. On the front bodice piece the front neck is a V-shape and the neck is too low at center front. The front neck is just too big. To correct this problem the neck needs to be raised at center front and the front neck needs more curve.

2. Notice the large, built-in front facing. It is at least 2" wide, way too large for an infant shirt. This should have had a traditional built-in, double fold facing found in adult shirts. I will illustrate this later.

3. The collar is too wide. Of course, this piece has the obligatory 5/8" seam allowances. The collar has little shaping, except for a slight narrowing at the back neck. It is essentially a rectangle.

4. When I sewed the sleeves in the first time - there was too much ease. The shirt has dropped sleeve. There should be no ease in this style of sleeve at all. Also notice the strange jog on the right side seam. I have no idea why the sleeve turn back would be extended longer on one side than the other. I drew a red arrow down to indicate that the sleeve cap needs to be flatter.

5. The other major issue is the sizing used by the pattern company. The infant patterns are sized S-M-L-XL, divided up by height and weight. To me, those size labels are almost meaningless. I had to pull out my size charts to figure out what size matched up with the appropriate ages, heights, and weights. The sizing doesn't break-down very well because their height-weight measurements didn't match up with any of my industry charts. This is my best guess on Butterick's sizing:


I have wanted a basic infant shirt pattern for a while, so I am going to take this pattern and fix it. The first step is to trace off the pattern pieces, minus the seam allowances. Normally, I do my pattern drafting with the seam allowances on - typical of the industry. In this case, I want to redo the seam allowances so they are appropriate for the seam. I will add 1/4" seam allowances for the neck and collars and 3/8" for everything else. The hem will have a 1/4" rolled hem - 1/2" hem allowance. I will fix the neckline and correct the sleeve. Finally, I will redraft the collar completely - the original is useless.

Once the pattern is fixed, I will re-sew it up. The hope is, it will look better and be easier to sew.


  1. And this is why I refuse to sew button-up shirts. My grandmother always made them and my dad has begged me for handmade shirts for years. Maybe if I had her pattern!!! She had her pattern down.

    I have no formal sewing education beyond high school and years of experience and I have never had success with commercial patterns that I am not experienced enough to "fix."

  2. I have this pattern and only made it once because it didn't look or fit right when finished. I also don't like the S-M-L-XL sizing. Thanks for the tips on correcting the fit.

  3. I can't tell when you posted this. But my d-i-l has her heart set on a hawaiian shirt for her baby's first homecoming. So I've been trying to find a pattern. What's the chance of my talking you out of the newly fixed pattern? I'm no drafter. But I'm now considering buying a commercial shirt and just taking it apart - I actually kind of love doing that.

  4. Unfortunately, I did lazy pattern making with this one and I don't have a finished pattern worthy of sharing with anyone. I would take a part I shirt I liked or try a different pattern company.

  5. I actually DO like making button-up shirts. I had the best success with a men's shirt pattern from Vogue combined with David Coffin's book on Shirtmaking