The easiest shirt ever

I thought this shirt was easy to make, but it doesn’t compare to the one I made for Isabel this weekend. She started describing a shirt she’d seen: square, slightly cropped, very drapey. I asked her to draw a picture and she drew a rectangle. Yes, I can do that.

We found the drapiest fabric in the house, a fairly loose knit left over from Rosie’s weekend project. I measured her, cut out two rectangles, sewed up the sides and shoulders, cut out the neckline, and 10 minutes after she asked for it, she had a new top.

To make your own you will need half a yard of drapey knit fabric (a bit more if you want it longer). Avoid fabric that is in any way stiff or you’ll end up with a boxy shapeless shirt.

Decide where you want the sleeves to come to. Holding your arms straight out, measure from one sleeve edge to the other. This will be the width of your rectangle. Measure from the top of your shoulder to the point where you want the shirt to end. This will be the height of your rectangle. Cut out two rectangles as long as the sleeve to sleeve measurement and as tall as the shoulder to hem measurement.

Put the two rectangles together with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Using a slight zigzag stitch (so the seams will be stretchy like the fabric), sew half way up each side and all the way along the top. Cut out a neck hole in the top. I cut a boat neck, but any sort of neckline would work.

You’re done!

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85 Responses to The easiest shirt ever

  1. Patty B. says:

    This is super cute! You make it seem so easy. I have a feeling if I try this it won’t quite look as cute – but thanks for giving me the inspiration and confidence :-)

    • naomi says:

      Thank you! You definitely need to pick the right fabric to end up with a cute top, but as long as you use something drapey it’s really easy. Three straight seams!

      • Judy says:

        Does it look not so good if the neck is just finished with zig zag stitching,
        epecially in silk?

        • naomi says:

          If I were using using silk I would face the neckline. To do that, cut out a strip of fabric with the same neckline as the top and three or four inches wide. Sew the necklines together, like you would for a lining and turn the facing to the inside. Press under 1/4 inch along the edge of the facing, then sew it to the front of the shirt.

  2. Fabric Fascination says:

    Great looking shirt. I remember making something similar out of a patterned pillowcase when I was young. It didn’t drape as well though.

  3. stephchows says:

    Could you just fold a larger rectangle in half? That way you didn’t have to sew the top edge together? Then just cut the hole for your head? Even easier :) If you think it would work that is!

    • naomi says:

      Yes, that would work well. You’d need a bit more fabric to cut it out in one piece, but if you had the right shaped piece it would save you a seam.

    • Patti O'Gara says:

      Seams you sew make your sleeves! This would make it harder to make. It just would not work that way, but I am sure you can find a pattern for doing a dress your way. Works for strapless, maybe. Good luck.

  4. naomi says:

    Yes, I think it would look beautiful in silk!

    • Manda Djinn says:

      You can do the same with two silk scarves:
      Sew the side seams, leaving an opening for the arms, and sew the shoulder seams leaving an opening for the head.

      • Rhea says:

        larger scarf could have elastic for empire waist

      • Patti O'Gara says:

        Yes it does and I buy longer scarves so I can put a dart in front to keep it from being boxy since I am large in the bust. Material needs to be soft and drape well. Keep sewing!

      • Judy says:

        After you cut a hole for the neck opening how do you finish the edge? Also, how do you know how to cut the line for the neck opening?

        • naomi says:

          I didn’t finish the edge, because the knit I used doesn’t unravel, but for woven fabrics and some types of knit you do have to finish the edge somehow. Someone recently recommended using bias tape to finish necklines. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like a good approach:

          An easy way to get a good line for a neck opening is to trace another shirt you like.

          • Celia says:

            I haven’t tried this, but if you used a fine fabric you could make it double-sided and reversible, and seam the fabrics together to solve the neckline problem. You could do the same at the arms, or leave them separate so you see a flash of contrast colour showing from the inside layer – and them could be left separate too. I’m going to try this when I find the right fabric(s).

          • Anonymous says:

            Serge the edge

  5. Laurel says:

    This really is a cute and simple top! I’d love for you to submit this to the M&T Spotlight at

  6. Kelly Brady Satterthwaite says:

    Simple and fun. Choosing the right material is essential. I used a gorgeous silk print and the draping is wonderful.

  7. Terry says:

    I’m new to sewing but this looks like something I can do. One question. After cutting the neck opening… do you need to do something to keep the seam from coming apart?

    • naomi says:

      I didn’t, and the top’s held together well. Because it’s so loose there’s no strain on that seam, and a machine sewn hem should hold together. If you’re sewing by hand, cut out the neckline first and sew each side up separately, since cutting a hand sewn seam would make it fall apart.

  8. Alice Teunis says:

    I remember my mother making shirts for me as a young girl out of the big red men’s handkerchiefs this same way. Took two and sewed the sides and shoulders together and that was all there was to it. (We are talking the late 50’s here?)

  9. Kathy says:

    We used to use the large red or navy “farmer’s” kerchiefs as our rectangles. Even the 10 minutes was an over-estimate of time involved. All edges are already finished!

  10. Barbara says:

    I have made them for myself and two daughters out of big hankies. works well, but I use a serger and that would finish the collar and bottom and arm holes if needed.

  11. Jessie says:

    I love this. Would you ever consider embelishing this with some hand stitched flowers?
    My sister used a piece of thick dark green material once and cut two rectangles. She tied the top right shoulder, and under each arm. No top left shoulder. It was so super cute. then she decided the next week to sew seams instead of knots. It was even cuter. I wish I had pics from about 10 years ago. Just reminded me of this.
    I am a new sewer and can’t wait to try this. Very exciting!!! THanks, Jgirl

  12. maggie says:

    i love this shirt ..thank you so much for sharing grand kids will love it. thanks again maggie in midland

  13. Kim says:

    I made some dresses and tops this way, but the only problem is that sometimes the shoulder would rip, so I found it better to sew the shoulde together instead.

  14. Shannon says:

    I’m LOVING this! I made one yesterday, and one of your slouched front ones. Both SUPER easy and look great. Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. Connie says:

    Did you use any finishing technique on the neckline after you cut it?

    • naomi says:

      Not for a knit fabric like the one I use – the edges won’t unravel and they even curl up a bit, sort of finishing themselves. But people have been talking about using silk, or cutting a top out of a pillow case, and for those you would want to finish the edges.

  16. Marilyn says:

    In the early 70’s I made these in a dress length from a silky polyester material. Had to take the extra step and add a section of material for facing at the neck. Just follow the outline of where you cut the neck and make it a couple inches wide. Made one for a friend of mine at work and we added a belt and wore them to the office.

  17. Rachel says:

    This looks great! Can’t wait to try. One more question: how do you cut the boat-neck neckline hole? Thanks

  18. Gerri says:

    My great aunt made this top out of large towels for my sister & I. We used them as cover-ups at the beach.

  19. Gloria says:

    Made these for my daughters from very fancy napkins from a snooty dept store ( in the 50’s). They loved them and had enough different ones for a few years. May try this in a silky fabric that I have been wanting to use for a long time for myself. Thanks for reminding me of these may also try it for my snotty 8 year old ggc. lol

  20. Donna Close says:

    Wouldn’t this be a great upcycle from a man’s or large t- shirt? Might try it that way for my daughter!

  21. hilzi says:

    omg im sooo in love with this top but i really cant bring myself to get out the sewing machine again i really love sewing…do you think you could tell m where you got that materia from?

    • naomi says:

      Thank you! The material comes from a fabric store in Berkeley called Stone Mountain and Daughter.

      • hilzi says:

        well thanks very much ill try find it actually today i am sick and have nothing to do so i think im going to get out the sewing machine and try to find some material at hime like this because all the stores are closed
        thanks again

      • Janis Bowman says:

        I love Stone Mountain and Daughter shop. They that the most delectable fabs. Got daughters wedding gown fab there. Wish I lived closer like I use to.
        Know any place in Sacramento that has a fabric selection like Stone Mountain I would love to know.
        Thanks for all you wonderful patterns.

  22. Cathy says:

    I’m sure this has to be made out of a certain material as not to fray. Very refreshing.

  23. Mary says:

    I love this top. But the necklace is too cute with the shirt. Is there a pattern for the necklace?

  24. hilzi says:

    is it possible to save hemming properly that you could just sew around the bottom of the top about a centimetre from the bottom and then when it frays it will just stop where you have hemmed?

    • hilzi says:

      sorry i didnt mean to say stop where it hemmed i meant to say stop where i sewed

      • naomi says:

        The jersey I used doesn’t unravel and I didn’t do anything to finish it, but if you want to use a woven fabric or some something else that is likely to fray, that’s an easy solution.

        • hilzi says:

          alright thanks do you think it would look as good hmm maybe not ohwell i might do a few experiments(:

  25. m-m-m-my sharona! says:

    ive been looking for a pattern like this for a while now. im glad to have found it! im going to wear this to my birthday party. what kind of fabric should i use? should i finish the seams on the neckline? what stitch should i use? im not really a beginner but i still dont really know a lot about sewing. my great grandmother gave me her machine and ive been sewing since 3rd grade. im really looking forward to making this. C: thanks a bunch

  26. Susannah Wollman says:

    What a gorgeous girl!

  27. Pkae says:

    Been a while since this originally posted, but I’ll take a chance you might still read this. I am at the age I don’t want my upper arms showing (youth is wasted on the young, they say; too bad we don’t love our bodies while they are young and gorgeous ;-))
    Is there a simple way to add a 1/2 to 3/4 sleeve w/o losing the coolness factor of the drape?

    • naomi says:

      Yes, you could make it with longer sleeves. The length of the sleeve depends on the length of the top edge of the shirt. You could just use a much longer rectangle of fabric. But if you don’t want all that extra fabric hanging under your arms, you can angle in the seam bellow the arm hole for a batwing shape, or curve it for something more sleeve shaped. Either way, be sure to leave a very large armhole, since these sleeves won’t be as flexible as set in sleeves.

  28. The Handmade Sewing Project says:

    Just browsing the internet searching for some simple sewing projects and I came across this… all I can say is THANK YOU! It looks so beautiful and easy and perfect and I simply can’t wait to try it! Also, with something as great as this, how could I NOT immediately follow your blog?! Thanks so much <3

  29. michip says:


    I really love this idea, I’m going to try it sometime. Would you mind terribly if I credited you and linked this page to a DIY-crafts blog that I’m trying to start?

  30. Lindsay says:

    Love this top! It would be even more cute if you added some fringe to the bottom. Great tutorial for a cute and simple shirt.

  31. Steph says:

    I have to try this as soon as I can get some more fabric!

    • Steph says:

      OMG!!!!!!!!!! I got tons of compliments and my buddies couldn’t believe I made it myself!!! I also made a cute headband out of the same fabric. I wore it with a belt around my waist also.

  32. Joann Drye says:

    I am dating myself, but back in the early 60’s we would take two of the big red or blue bandana’s and sew them together like this.. for a shirt to go with shorts or jeans…. the bandana’s only came in red or blue back then…. after they were washed a couple of times then they draped… but of course you couldn’t be any larger than two bandana’s, haha….but this is a great idea!! Thanks

  33. debbo says:

    I am going to try this with a heavy jersey knit. Thx so much

  34. annamgarza says:

    I love the shirt and as I am slightly on the heavier side I see how I would be able to wear something like this and make the allowances for my weight. I am out the door to the fabric store to pick up material for myself. Thanks!

  35. Millie/WV says:

    Love this easy top. been looking for something like this. a big Thanks

  36. Ebony says:

    Love it!!! Would it be possible to just not sew the top all the way across, and just leave an opeopening for your head?

  37. naomi says:

    It should be fine. You could whip stitch at the ends of the neck hole to make sure it doesn’t run, but if it doesn’t fray at all it shouldn’t be a problem. I used a knit here and I didn’t finish the edges in anyway, and it’s held up quite well.

  38. Jana Leland says:

    i’m 65–i’ve always known of this shape of shirt-blouse–it is called “boat neck.” and it’s called that because it is from sailors shirts from eons ago. when i was a young whipper-snapper, i wore boat neck blouses all the time–they were big fashion, at the time (the 50s and dior)–i could even wear mom’s blouses because they WERE boat neck. now i go to walmart, buy two cotton scarves–they have very interestingly patterened cotton scarves for a dollar apiece and just sew them together as described above. i also “design” the edges and corners, so i can put my “stamp” on them! they are already hemmed and wash nicely–getting softer with each washing. if you want to be “formal,” you can even iron them (oh, horrors!). they also make GREAT presents when you forget to send one–just sew it up, decorate it, fold it and stick it into a size #10 envelope! Voila!! a wonderful present, right on time!!!–jana

  39. Emily says:

    I think this shirt is sooo Adorable! but, I do not have a sewing machine, do you think i could hand sew it?

  40. Anonymous says:

    using the knits for these adorable shirts gets even “greater” for those using a serger–use the “lettuce” feature and viola you get the little ruffle effect at (well just where ever u want )neck, bottom, arm cute huh??

  41. Melissa says:

    Do you have a video tutorial? I love this!

  42. Angela says:

    One thing I don’t i don’t understand the kneating material, once you cutted don’t the fray? Using the sewing machine to sew the ends won’t look natural.

    • Naomi says:

      It depends on the fabric, but tightly knit t-shirt jersey will just roll in on itself and not unravel. If you’re not sure about your fabric, rub at an edge and see what happens.

  43. Sue says:

    I used to do this 50 years ago. My Mother was very overweight and couldn’t find anything to wear on vacations at the cabin so I took cotton and did same thing. She loved them. OOPS – did I say I was 16 at the time?

  44. Libby says:

    I just made one of the tops tor my daughter. Did it all before she got on the school bus. Super easy and she loved it. Wants more in different Colors. Thanks.

  45. Carol Taylor says:

    We made these as children. We used 2 large mens handkerchiefs, and sewed them together. Kept us busy, except we argued who was going to get to use the sewing machine next. My mom, then, showed us that we could also sew them by hand just about as fast. We sewed them all summer and just about had a new shirt for every day of the week. We loved them and were so proud to tell our friends that WE made them ourselves! We simply called them our “square shirts”.

  46. Rob james says:

    Hey Naomi

    Someone gave me a link to this pattern yesterday to help fill my retirement time. I guess Rosie is your daughter or a young friend. If what I make can look half as good as hers, it’ll be a winner.

    Thank you for your simple inspiration. I’m going to have a go at it.


  47. Rob James says:

    Hi Naomi,

    I thought I’d start with a large size tee-shirt to trial as I had some available. I cut off all the seemed edges and the knit rolled as you said. I asked my daughter to model it for me but my wife and daughters would not take me seriously and fell about laughing; not at the design, I hasten to mention, but at the situation!

    Put it on myself this morning and I am well impressed with the effect. Should have tried it on myself in the first place!


  48. Susan says:

    As I read the directions, I read sew the arm seams and then across the top. I must not be reading and understanding something. You close the top and THEN cut out the neck? Everyone else seems to understand your directions so I know it’s me. Would you please clarify for me? I haven’t sewn clothes for 15 years, but this would be a great way to get back into clothes and take a break from quilting. Thank you!

    • Naomi says:

      The way I did it was to sew straight across the entire top edge of the fabric and then cut out an opening for the neck. It would, however, be just as easy (and perhaps more intuitive) to cut the neck hole first, and then sew just the shoulder seams.

      • Erin Van Zante says:

        I made one for myself today, and like everyone else who’s responded here, thought I would cut the neckhole first, well, because it’s just “the way you do it”, I guess. I really wish I would have done it backwards like you told us to do! It would have been MUCH easier, especially because Jersey is such a pain to cut and sew evenly- even with a mat and cutter. I ended up spending way too much time fiddling with the neck afterwards! I wound up putting a little bar-tack at the edge of the neck and armpit seams, I didn’t trust my threads not to unravel. So for all the doubters: Sew first. Cut neck hole after!!! Don’t question it, just do it!!!

  49. Celia Casey says:

    What a super pattern for a beginner, I am going to make this tee shirt.,going to the fabric place tomorrow,

  50. Liz says:

    Thank you very much for this idea. I made a pink one for my 10 year old granddaughter who urgently needs a pink shirt! I only just finished it and am wondering how you stop the bottom curling up, because yours doesn’t? Maybe your fabric is a little heavier. I am wondering if I should put iron on fusible tape on it (on the wrong side of course) to make it firmer. But I’m worried about ruining it!
    What do you think?

    • Naomi says:

      It depends on the fabric. This is a looser knit, which is less prone to curling. Iron on tape would work, but would make the bottom quite stiff. A regular folded hem, sewn down with a zig zag stitch so it stretches, would look better.

  51. mary ann seymour says:

    NAOMI, great pattern–seasoned sewer. I am really jealous of those who say they have to head out to the store for fabric!!

  52. Colette Cox says:

    I used my husband’s large old t shirt.

  53. Cheryl L. says:

    I had an idea for a rectangle knitted and beaded top. When I googled “rectangle shirt” your site came up. This post validated my idea. I knitted up my two rectangles (I actually used different needle sizes for some light shaping), and now I have a beautiful beaded top that only took a few days to make!

    Since then, I have browsed your blog and am completely in love with your style and all of the amazing garments you make. I’m terrible at sewing, even though I’ve been doing it since I was a small child. Many of your posts have inspired me to keep trying! Thanks!

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