How to make a draped t-shirt

This cowl neck top is quite easy to make. It has only four seams and you can create the pattern yourself.

The cowl neck comes from making the neckline of the shirt wider at the front  than the back – this extra fabric hangs down creating the drapey neckline. The folds in the sleeves come from extra fabric as well, which is added by angling the shoulder seam upward.

You will need:
Measuring tape
⅔ yard stretchy fabric (I used a cotton/lycra jersey)
Matching thread
Sewing machine
Chalk (or pencil and large paper to make a pattern)
Pins (optional)

The first step in making this top is to measure yourself. You will need four horizontal measurements and the vertical distance between the shoulder measurement and each of the others. These measurements are:

1. Shoulder: measure across from the edge of one collarbone to the other
2. Bust: measure all the way around at the largest part of your chest
3. Waist: measure all the way around at the smallest part of your upper body
4. Hem: measure all the way around at the point where you want the top to end (I recommend at your hips)
5. Bust height: measure from shoulder to bust
6. Waist height: measure from shoulder to waist
7. Total length: measure from shoulder to hem

Before you start, wash your fabric the way you want to wash the finished top.

I like to draw the pattern directly on the fabric with chalk, but if you prefer to make a paper pattern the steps are just the same. If you draw directly on the fabric, make sure to draw on the back!

Drawing the pattern for the front:

Beginning about 4 inches from the top of your fabric and 6 inches from the right side, draw a line 4 inches longer than your shoulder measurement. This will be the neckline.

Mark the center of this line.

From each edge of the neckline, draw an angled line five inches long up to the top of the fabric. This is the shoulder seam/top of the sleeve.

Measure down from the center of the neckline to the bust line (this is measurement 5) and mark this point.

Mark the sides of the shirt at the bust – you can do this by measuring ¼ of the total bust measurement (measurement 2) on each side from the point you just measured.

To make a fitted shirt, measure down from the center of the shoulder seam to the waist line (this is measurement 6) and measure out the width at the waist. Mark these points. Skip this step if you want a simpler, loose fitting shirt

Measure down from the center of the shoulder seam to the hem line (this is measurement 7). Mark the sides of the shirt at the hem and draw a line connecting the two sides.

For a fitted shirt, draw a curve up along each side connecting the hem, waist, and bust marks, and continuing 2 inches above the bust mark. (Note: none of these measurements are all that important – the fabric will stretch if it’s a bit tight and drape in if it’s a bit loose. So if you need to move the points around a bit to connect them easily, that’s fine.)

For a looser shirt, just connect the sides of the hem with the bust marks. Continue this line for two inches above the bust.

Draw a three inch line out from the top of the curve you just completed. This will be the bottom of the sleeve.

Draw a curve connecting the top of the sleeve to the bottom of the sleeve. It will end a bit further in than it began. This is fine.

Cut out the front of the shirt.

Drawing the pattern for the back:

The back of the pattern is a lot like the front, only without the extra length added to the neckline. In fact, you can save some time by just tracing the lower half of the pattern for the front – everything is the same bellow the armpits.

Beginning about 4 inches from the top of your fabric and 6 or more inches from the left side (depending on your size), draw a line the length of your shoulder measurement.

Mark the center of this line.

From each edge of the neckline, draw an angled line five inches long up to the top of the fabric. This is the shoulder seam/top of the sleeve.

At this point you can place the front of the shirt on top of the pattern you are working on, lining up the neckline centers, and trace the lower half of the pattern up to the armpits and along the lower seam of the sleeve.

Draw a curve connecting the top of the sleeve to the bottom of the sleeve.

Cut out the back of the shirt.

Sewing directions

Sew the front and back together along the shoulder seams, up the sides, and under the arm. Use a slight zig-zag stitch, or something else with a bit of stretch to it. If the seams can’t stretch with the fabric they’ll break when you move.

You’re done!

Edit: I recently made another of these shirts. My sister also made one.

This entry was posted in Sewing, Sewing patterns, Tutorials. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to How to make a draped t-shirt

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks so much for the tutorial, I may just give it a try. I love the simple style of the shirt.

  2. Aster says:

    Lovely. Can you tell me about the skirt? It is a skirt, isn’t it?

  3. Hanna says:

    This was an amazing tutorial, I stumbled upon it today after buying stretch knit and knowing only it would be a summer shirt. It took no time to sketch, cut and sew and looks awesome. THANK YOU!

  4. karen says:

    hav been looking all over net for pattern for this top had almost figured out pattern for cowl neck but really wanted sleeves thankyou!

  5. Marilyn says:

    Fantastic tutorial, I wish I knew how to sew because this top is lovely. I plan to share this on my next DIY Tutorial post (on 7/19).

  6. bimbo says:

    awesome. I love it. I will try my hand on it

  7. kris says:

    I’ve been looking for a pattern like this for ages! I made one last week and it turned out great, but I would like a bigger drape. Can this be achieved by simply adding more inches to the front neckline measurement?

    • naomi says:

      I’m glad it worked out! Yes, the bigger the difference between the front and back neckline measurements, the bigger the drape.

  8. abby says:

    Really looking forward to making one of these. And then another. And another. Considering cutting it loose and adding a fitted band at the bottom like this:
    Thanks for posting!!

  9. Yussy says:

    Hi! How do you finish the bottom of the shirt? I’m new to sewing :)

    • naomi says:

      I just cut it in a straight line. Stretchy knit fabric like this doesn’t unravel, so you don’t need to do anything special to finish it. If you’re using a fabric that frays, you can fold under 1/4 inch, then fold it over again, and sew down the edge. But there’s no need with a stretchy fabric.

  10. Yussy says:

    Thank you so much for your quick response and thank you sooooo much for the tutorial! You are very talented and very generous! Thank you for sharing your beautiful creations! You’re my inspiration! God bless you

  11. Marci says:

    I am loving learning to sew and this shirt is awesome. Browsing you blog makes me feel a little more confident in pattern-making and maybe this is the one I will start with. Thanks for making the process seem so, well, comfortable! Now I just need to find a site with tips and tricks for sewing that stretchy and slippery fabric I and my kids like so much!

  12. CC says:

    I just made this and it was super easy and came out great. I can’t wait to make more. Thanks!

  13. Kate Mackey says:

    This shirt is so cute. I just got a new serger and this would be a great project to try out the new beast! Thanks. This site is great.

  14. Jessa B says:

    Looking at the shape of this shirt, I plan to make a wrap version out of some jersey knit. It is beautiful.

  15. Susan says:

    This is by far the easiest shirt I have ever made! And I got so many compliments on it :) thanks so much for sharing the tutorial… I know I’ll be making at least one more of these in the near future!

  16. Karen says:

    Thank you for the simple pattern. I’ve been looking for one to make doll clothes (American Girl and larger) and your pattern makes it easy to adjust to the different sizes. Should I feel ambitious enough, I might even make one for me! Many, many thanks! Can’t wait to try it….

  17. Stephanie says:

    I am very new to sewing. I bought a machine and just jumped right it. Learning as I go. Making this shirt has thought me a lot.

    My first one was a disaster, my second one is better maybe 3rd time is the charm.

    I will say That I am a Size 14 and I had to make a few adjustments to the sleeves.
    Your tutorial was great but us wider girls will have to make some adjustments. LOL

    Thanks again for the great Tutorial, and helping me develop my skills.

  18. doyin says:

    Stumbled on this tutorial and I’v tried it, bt I dnt seem to get d calculation right. Mayb cos I’m still new to sewing. I’ll b b very greatful if I can c d sketch of d front on a fold line from d first 4inches …………thank u.

  19. elisabeth says:

    it really does look very nice, I like how simple it is. two questions ( I am to lazy to try it out and then realize its not for me),do the shoulder seams “slide of” when you wear it (or does the fitted back keep them in place?) and how “deep” does the cowlneck open when one bends over (_; (I have to toddlers so bending over a fair bit and I hate it if people can catch not just a glimpse of my bra but see almost everything,haha). If that is the case with this shirt I might be thinking of making a shirt with a more fitted neckline and then just adding a cowlneck separately….does that make sense?

    • Naomi says:

      Keeping it on your shoulders is not a problem – as you guessed the back holds it in place. However, bending over is more of an issue. It’ll hang open when you bend over as much as it hangs down when you’re standing. As in, if the neckline dips down four inches, it’ll hang open by four inches when you bend over. So the lower the neckline is to begin with the more of a problem this will be. I think your other plan, of starting with a fitted shirt, is a good one.

  20. Rora says:

    This is such a flattering pattern. I can make it just as loose or fitted as I want. It’s easy and cheap and simple. I love the first one, though I’ll make a couple of minor adjustments for next time. I just need to go find more fabric. ^_^ Thank you!!!

  21. Laura says:

    This is a gorgeous pattern… BUT like Stephanie said in 2012, and I wish I’d paid more attention, anyone who isn’t slim will need to make adjustments – the sleeveholes are only about 8 inches round and my upper arms are 16, oops!

    I’ve tried various adjustments to the pieces I’ve cut, including leaving the underside-seam of the sleeve unsewn, and using the scraps of fabric to insert a triangular gusset in the side seam, but I’m just going to have to find more fabric and cut it all out again with a MUCH bigger area allowed for my arms to get through!

    I’ll do it, though, because the pattern is so lovely, and will be really flattering to anyone – in fact, ironically it will be really much more flattering to those of us with curves! :)

    I think what I’ll do is just take the concept and draft my own pattern to fit it – if I blog anywhere, I promise to credit you and it is your concept. And it is beautiful – thankyou!

    • Naomi says:

      If you do share your version, let me know and I’ll put a link at the bottom – I’m sure other people would like to know how to adapt the pattern for larger sizes.

  22. MJ says:

    Thanks for this! I just made one and it was so easy! I added 6 inches to the neckline for the front for a deeper scoop. Lovely.

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