Friday, November 16, 2007

How to Copy a Shirt


zacharypalmer said...

I was excited to find you rblog - I only wish they was more content. I just bought my wife a brand new Bernina sewing machine... I think I may be able to find good use out of it as well.. I want to learn how to make my own shirts. I just can't find anything I like in stores that costs less than a couple hundred dollars.... Ive heard you wrote a book about shirt design... Will it give step by step instrunctions like this video?


David Page Coffin said...

Hi, Zac

Yup, my book covers all aspects of making your own shirts, plus there's a DVD available, too, demonstrating all the most critical construction techniques.

The Book at Amazon:
The DVD at Amazon:

These days I'm blogging about pants, not shirts, over here:

There's some info shirting sources and a few other shirt-related items there, too.

Feel free to write me with any questions about this stuff; email's in my profile, or post more comments here.

Good luck!

Daevian said...

Hi David, I was wondering if it's possible to use your method with a non-buttoned long sleeve shirt.


David Page Coffin said...

Hi, Alvin

Buttons or no buttons shouldn't make a difference. Just fold the shirt in half to find the centers, front and back. And if there's any seams that can't easily be arranged to fall at an edge fold (like maybe the shoulder seam if it's not centered on the shoulder), use the folded-paper method demonstrated in my pants-copying video, over at my pants blog:

Anonymous said...

I am interested in learning how to draft shirt patterns. Is there a book or video that you would recommend that teaches the process of drafting shirt patterns?

Thank You

David Page Coffin said...

Hi, Marie

I suggest to go to this great forum on tailoring and search through the posts on Shirt Cutting in the sub-forum The Shirt and Tie Maker:

You'll find reproduced there most of the directions I've ever been able to find in books on drafting a shirt, and several I'd never seen before.

The best general books on pa-tern drafting that I know of are 'Patternmaking for Fashion Design' by Armstrong and Don McCunn's book 'How to Make Sewing Patterns'. The Armstrong book is a standard college textbook and details industry methods. McCunn writes for the home sewer and theatrical costume makers. He's got a very active online presence, teaches courses online and is readily available for questions and advice.

drafting to your own measurements is just the first step in fitting. You'll still have to make a muslin and will likely have further adjustments to make to the draft.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Coffin,

I'm really enjoying your shirtmaking book and am trying to copy the blouse on page 128 but I am completely stumped by the folds/pleating at the center back. there seems to be some sort of pleating that is gathered under a strap in the flat drawing but in the photo it seems that there is no strap but just stitching in a square. either way, then flowing down from the gather there is a different pleating than at the top half. and in that lower pleating in the photo there seems to be a seam at the center whereas in the flat drawing there is not. this is just a long way of asking, nay pleading that if you read this to put me out of my misery and kindly explain how to achieve this pleating or perhaps direct me where I might find some clues.

thank you,

David Page Coffin said...

Hi, Brandy

Sorry that shirt has you baffled, but I'm not surprised; it's complicated. I copied a RTW garment my wife owned and didn't intend to provide complete directions for it, but I'll do my best to describe it:
The pleats above the strap-thingy aren't actually pleats, they're shaped inserts and the shirt itself is slashed (to the strap), slightly spread (which creates the blousing around the panel), and folded away to accommodate them. First, there's a panel closest to the body that's the same shape as the final opening, then there are two triangular folded wedges of fabric inserted into each side of the opening. The whole thing is stitched to the sides of the slash which is folded over them and it's all held in place by the yoke. Below the strap, the pleats are really pleats, showing that the shirt back is quite wide before getting pleated down to fit the yoke.
It took a lot of playing around with folded paper and close examination to get it (or something close that worked); didn't want to destroy the original!

Good luck! I think your best bet will be to do what I did, i.e., play with folding paper and make a muslin or two until you get something you like that looks similar.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a beginner in sewing. I'm amazed by the simplicity of that technique to copy a shirt. Thank you very much.
I would like to know how you call that curvy tool you use to draw lines. I never saw it before and I would like to buy it but I'm unable to name it. Thank you

David Page Coffin said...

I use a straight edge and a couple of designer's curves, often generically called "French" curves. I've collected a variety over the years, but you only need one or two at most.
It's nice to have a long gradual curve for hip lines, and one that looks like an armhole curve at one end and either gets straighter or more curved at the other.

Here's some links to curves that'll work:

There's a good article on how to use designer curves in issue #82, APR/MAY 1999, of Threads Magazine:
How to Use a French Curve, by Peggy Sagers, page 44.

James said...

I confused on how to handle pleats in the back. Your books says to "pin out", but the diagram says to "pin closed" the pleats. "Pin Out" sounds like "Pin Open" to me, but maybe I have that wrong.

If I do make the pattern with the pleats closed, How do I add them back in?

David Page Coffin said...

Hi James

Sorry to be confusing; I meant both expressions to mean the same thing: Pin the pleat closed all the way to the hem. Otherwise, the back will appear to get wider as it goes towards the hem. You can add extra width for pleats or gathers back in anywhere along the back/yoke seam, and at any width, you want, either by slashing the pattern and spreading it where you want to pleat/gathers to be, or by simply placing the center back half the extra width away from the fold when cutting out, then distributing/positioning the extra as wanted when making the back/yoke seam. HTH!

James said...

OK. That seems so obvious now ;-)
Great book. I'm half practising techniques and half making my I can finish the pattern!

Kofi said...

Hi David,

i really hope you still reply these comments. Thanks for all the great work youre done. I've purchased most of your content. Regarding the copying a shirt video, it is not clear if youre pinning outside the seams, on them or inside the seams. Can you please clarify. The side seams are the main concern for me.

David Page Coffin said...

I'm poking the pin exactly into the well or ditch of the seam from the outside, or if the seam is right on the edge when the piece is arranged, as the underarm and sometimes the side seams are, I just run it along the paper exactly at the garment edge, poking every once in a while depending on how much curve. So, for a flat-felled seam or at the yoke, I pin in the same place when doing the piece on either side of the seam ditch, which is right up against the start of the seam ridge, so I'm pinning through a single layer. But I wouldn't worry too much, since the inning is just the rough start. You'll refine the exact lines you get when truing the pin holes with rulers and curves, and then fine-tune even further with the muslin version. HTH!

Kofi said...

Yes it did! Thanks!