Learn how to sew a simple, casual dolman t-shirt with this FREE sewing pattern and easy to follow step-by-step tutorial. This size inclusive pattern is beginner-friendly and comes in baby, toddler, child, teen, and adult sizes.
A casual, well-fitting t-shirt is the ultimate everyday clothing item. It's also one of the most rewarding garments to sew.
Sewing a t-shirt is simple and quick - and the end result will be sure to get a lot of wear.
Today, I'm sharing my versatile, easy-to-sew, and FREE drop shoulder t-shirt pattern with you! Plus, I've put together a step-by-step tutorial to help you sew your t-shirt with ease. You'll be filling your closet with handmade t-shirts in no time!
Table of Contents
What Fabric is Best for Sewing a T-Shirt?
For this t-shirt pattern, I recommend a knit fabric with at least 5% Spandex/Lycra/Elastane. This Spandex content will give your fabric good elasticity and allow it to recover back to its original shape after being stretched out.
It's also important to choose a fabric with at least 50% stretch. To measure this, hold a 4" section of your fabric between your hands and pull your hands apart to stretch it as far as it will go. If it stretches to at least 6" then your fabric has enough stretch! Make sure to test this both horizontally and vertically.
As long as your fabric is a knit that has at least 50% stretch and 5% Spandex content, the remaining fiber content of the fabric can be anything you like. I love a good cotton t-shirt, but rayon or polyester are also great choices.
Need Extra Serger Help?
Looking for help learning how to use your serger? This pattern is a freebie from my Ready, Set, Sew! Serger Edition course. Get the full video tutorial and extra resources inside of the online, self-paced course.
Choosing the Right Size for Your T-Shirt - CHILD
Choosing the Right Size for Your T-Shirt - ADULT
This T-Shirt pattern includes adult sizes 0-40. To choose the right size, you'll first need to grab a tape measure and get a few body measurements. To make sure your measurements are accurate, it's best to do this step while wearing just your underwear or tight, body-hugging clothing such as leggings.
You'll need to take these 4 measurements to choose your size:
- Full Bust: Measure around the widest part of your chest, making sure to keep the tape measure parallel to the floor.
- High Bust: Take the tape measure around your back, under your armpits, and up over the top of your breasts. The tape measure will be at an angle across your sides. Make sure to take the measurement with your arms down.
- Waist: Measure around the smallest part of your torso, which is typically near belly button level.
- Hip: Measure around the widest part of your hips and bum.
This t-shirt pattern includes 3 different cup sizes: B, D, or DD. Choose the correct cup size based on the difference between your full bust and high bust measurements:
- B: 2 inches difference between full and high bust
- D: 4 inches difference between full and high bust
- DD: 5 inches difference between full and high bust
Once you've chosen your cup size, choose the pattern size that corresponds most closely with your waist and hip measurements.
Supplies to Sew a T-Shirt
These are the supplies you'll need to sew your new t-shirt.
- .5 - 2 Yards 4-Way Stretch Knit Fabric
- Sewing Machine or Serger
- 4 Serger Thread Cones
- Ballpoint Needles for Serger
- Ballpoint Sewing Pins
- Scissors or Rotary Cutter & Mat
- Thread (Optional Eloflex)
- Acrylic ruler
- Iron & Ironing Board
- Ballpoint Needle
- Tapestry Needle
- Fray Check
- Printer Paper
Step 1: Download and Assemble the T-Shirt Pattern
First, download the free t-shirt pattern in the correct cup size to your computer.
Open the file in Adobe Acrobat. You want to avoid printing from the browser because this can result in incorrect scaling.
Once the file is open in Acrobat, click print. In the print settings, set the scaling to "100%" or "actual size." Print the first page of the pattern.
The first page includes a test square to make sure your print scaling is set properly. Measure the 1" x 1" test square. If it measures 1" exactly, print the rest of the pattern. If it does not measure 1", you'll need to double-check your print settings and try again.
This pattern also includes layers so that you can print only your size, making cutting and taping it easier. To use this option, click on the icon on the left-hand side of the PDF that looks like 3 stacked papers. Then, deselect the "eye" next to the sizes you don't want to print.
Once printed, assemble the pattern by matching up the lines and pink stars. The numbers on the pages will also help you keep the papers in the right order.
You can trim away the excess paper along the black lines before taping the pages together or just overlap the edges.
Once assembled, cut out the pattern pieces for your t-shirt.
Step 2: Cut Your Fabric & Mark Notches
Once you've got your pattern assembled and cut out, it's time to cut into that beautiful fabric!
Fold the fabric with wrong sides together, aligning the cut edges on either end and keeping the selvages towards the top or bottom. Lay the pattern pieces on the fabric, lining up the fold markings on the shirt front, back, and neckband pieces along the fold of the fabric.
*PRO TIP: Make sure to keep your grainline markings straight along the grain of the fabric. The direction with the most stretch should be running horizontally across the shirt.
Cut the following number of pieces from your fabric:
- Front: Cut 1 on the fold
- Back: Cut 1 on the fold
- Neckband: Cut 1 on the fold
- Armband: Cut 2
Next, you'll need to transfer the pattern markings to the cut fabric. Wherever a notch is shown on the paper pattern, make a marking on both sides of the fabric piece. Another option is to snip into the notches with your scissors - but be very careful to not snip more than 1/4 inch.
Step 3: Sew the Neckband and Armbands
With all the pieces cut out, it's time to start sewing! Let's start with the neckband and armbands.
Fold the neckband and both armbands in half lengthwise with wrong sides together. Press them well with your iron to get a nice crease. This will help you get bands that look crisp and professional.
Allow the bands to cool, then unfold them and lay them right sides up on your table. Fold them in half widthwise and match up the short edges of each band with right sides together. Pin the short ends of the bands together.
Next, prepare your serger. I like to use a 4-thread overlock stitch with ballpoint needles. Stitch with your serger for a few seconds to create a 4-5 inch tail.
Then, serge the pinned short edges together on one of your bands. Keep the raw edge of the fabric against the knife of the serger to create a 1/4 inch seam. Keep sewing after the fabric is through to create another thread tail, then stop and cut the threads.
Repeat this process to stitch the short edges of the remaining 2 bands.
Once sewn into loops, press the seam allowances to one side. Then, refold the bands lengthwise along the already pressed crease. This will hide the newly serged seam inside. Give the bands another good pressing, then set them aside.
Step 4: Sew the T-Shirt Body
Next, you'll need to sew the body of the t-shirt.
Start by laying the t-shirt back piece on your table with the right side up. Place the front piece on top of it with the right side down.
Match up the front and back at the shoulder seams and side seams and pin.
Stitch both side seams and shoulder seams on your serger with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
*PRO TIP: Take it slow when sewing the curved side seams and try your best to keep the raw edges of the fabric right against the serger knife.
Once the body of the shirt is sewn, turn it right sides out. Press the seam allowances towards the back.
Step 5: Attach the Neckband and Armbands
Now you've got something that's really looking like a shirt! It's time to finish the neckline and sleeves with the prepared bands.
Grab the neckband and pin the seam of the neckband to the right side of the neckline at the notch in the back bodice. Align the center notch in the neckband with the notch in the front neckline and pin.
Keep in mind that for a neckline that doesn't gape, the neckband is slightly shorter than the neckline of the shirt. It will have to be stretched evenly around the neckline to fit.
Hold the neckband and neckline at the two pins and stretch the neckband slightly until it fits the edge of the neckline. Place another pin at the center of the area you just stretched to fit. Repeat this process until the neckband is fully pinned to the neckline.
Then, pin the armbands to the right side of the sleeve ends using this same method. Make sure to match those notches!
Once the bands are pinned, turn the shirt inside out. I find it easiest to sew with the bands underneath the fabric of the shirt.
Start by lifting the presser foot of your serger and slide the pinned neckline edge underneath the foot until it's against the knife.
Making sure to keep all 3 layers of raw edges aligned, sew around the entire neckline. Stretch the neckband slightly between the pins to fit the neckline as you serge.
Once you reach the start of your serging, overlap the stitching by about 1 inch, then angle the fabric to serge off of the neckline. Continue serging until you have a 4-5 inch tail, then cut the threads.
Repeat this process to sew the armbands to the sleeves.
Once you've finished attaching the bands, you can fold them out away from the shirt and check your work to make sure all the edges were caught and there are no gaps.
Step 6: Secure the Thread Tails
If you're happy with how the neckband and armbands are sewn on, you'll want to do something with those long serger tails!
I like to weave my serger tails back into the seam. Not only does this create a clean look, but it will give your neckline and sleeves more strength and prevent the serger stitches from unraveling.
Start by threading one of your serger tails into the eye of a tapestry needle.
Push the end of the needle under the stitching at the base of the serger tail. Thread the needle further under the stitching for about 2 inches, then pull the serger tail through.
Take the serger tail out of the eye of the needle and trim away any excess threads close to the fabric of the neckline. For even more added security, dot some fray check on the trimmed end of the serger tail.
Repeat this process to finish the seams of all 3 bands.
Step 7: Press the Neckband and Armbands
At this point, your neckband and armbands may look a little bit wavy and wonky. That's where pressing comes in!
Give those bands a good pressing, pushing the seam allowances towards the body of the shirt.
*PRO TIP: Instead of pressing the iron directly onto the fabric, start by hovering your iron over the fabric and hit the steam button a few times. This steaming will help to shrink your knit fabric back into its original shape.
This method will give you a really professional-looking finish to the neckline and sleeves of your t-shirt.
Step 8: Hem the T-Shirt
Your handmade t-shirt is almost done - all that's left is the hem!
Start by pressing the bottom edge of the shirt to the wrong side by 1" and press it well.
Now here is where it gets a little bit different than your standard hem. This is my favorite method of sewing hems on my serger - no need to pull your sewing machine out for topstitching!
Instead of folding the hem again to the wrong side, fold it up to the right side by another 1". You'll want to ensure that the raw edge aligns with the fold at the bottom of the shirt.
Press your hem well and pin it in place.
Next, take the hem to your serger and carefully place it under the presser foot against the knife. Slowly stitch around the entire hem of the shirt, making sure the fabric is along the knife but you're not cutting into it.
When you get back to the start of your serging, overlap the stitching by about an inch, then angle off and leave a 4-5 inch tail. Weave the serger tail into the seam and trim the excess threads away.
Fold the hem down away from the shirt, giving it a good pressing. Press the seam allowance up towards the body of the t-shirt.
Press the whole shirt one more time for good measure and you're done! Enjoy wearing your new handmade t-shirt!
Did you sew up your own t-shirt with this pattern? Share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #sweetredpoppy. I would love to see how yours turned out!
Don't forget to join my Facebook group where you can show us what you're making, ask questions, and learn from others.
Looking for help learning how to use your serger? This pattern is a freebie from my Ready, Set, Sew! Serger Edition course.
Get the full video tutorial and extra resources inside of the online, self-paced course.