If you’ve ever wanted to make a men’s T-shirt, then you’re in the right place! In this article, I’ve outlined the step-by-step tutorial of how to make a T-shirt, in beginner-friendly language. That’s everything from creating your own pattern, to adding the final touches. No jargon, promise.
I’ve also added my best tips and advice throughout–as well as giving an honest insight into how my first attempts failed! (and what you can learn from my mistakes).
If you just wanna jump straight to the tutorial, then that’s cool. I’ve linked to the steps below (so you can pick up where you left off). But, if you fancy hearing a bit more about my journey to T-shirt success, read on!
- Which fabric to choose?
- Make a T-Shirt pattern
- Cut out your T-Shirt pieces
- Sew the T-Shirt together
- Add the T-Shirt neck binding
- Finish off the T-Shirt edges
This post is written in collaboration with Singer Sewing Company, but all opinions expressed are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep me blogging!
It began with a hashtag…
Let’s just get something clear: a month before publishing this blog post, I had never made a T-Shirt before. I’d barely even worked with stretch jersey fabric, other than a bit of dabbling in some smaller projects.
However, back in May my Instagram feed became flooded with #mmmay posts. For those not in the know, this is the hashtag for the Me Made May campaign, which encourages crafters to wear something handmade every single day in the month of May. Anyway, I saw these Instagram posts… and I felt SO inspired!
I’d never really made my own clothes before, other than accessories like bow ties, neckties and scarves. However, since stepping up my sewing machine game earlier this year, I thought it was time to step up my projects, too.
I set myself the challenge of making a wearable T-shirt before the end of the month. And I did it!
And you know what? You can make one too.
Follow along with me on this tutorial. I’ll take you slowly through each step, and help you out along the way. Go slowly, practise, make mistakes, learn… and you’ll be well on your way to a handmade wardrobe in no time.
#mmmay, here we come!
How to Make a Men’s T-Shirt: the Ultimate Guide for Beginners
- Jersey cotton fabric for the T-Shirt body (approx 1m x 2m) – more on this below
- Optional: a strip of fabric for the neck binding (I usually use scraps from the jersey, rather than buying separate material)
- Matching cotton thread
- A good fitting T-Shirt to make a pattern with
- A large roll of plain paper to draw the pattern onto
- Tailor’s shears (or just some good ol’ sharp scissors)
- Pins. Lots and lots of pins.
- Tailor’s chalk or air erasable marker
- Also… a seam ripper. Because you’re probably going to make some mistakes (sorry). This is a part of learning! Embrace it, don’t fear it.
There are loads of fabrics you can use to make a T-Shirt. Which one you prefer will mostly be down to personal preference. However, I find that a mid-weight jersey cotton is a good all-rounder; it’s stretchy, comfortable and pretty easy to sew with.
Tip: Buy some cheap jersey fabric to practise on. Don’t waste your favourite fabric on your first attempt at making a T-Shirt!
What to do: step-by-step instructions to make a T-Shirt
Rather than buying a pre-made sewing pattern, it’s totally possible to make your own! You might not get a perfect fit on the first attempt–but that’s okay. If you get to the end of this tutorial and find that your T-Shirt is a little tight, just add some width to the pattern and try again. Or if the arms are too short, add a little extra length. Basically: give it a go, refine the pattern, and try again. It took me two practises before I got the perfect pattern (but now I have it forever, to use over and over again!).
1. Find a current T-Shirt that you love the fit of. Make sure it fits your body well: not too big, not too small.
2. Turn this T-Shirt inside out and lay it flat onto a large piece of plain paper. Smooth out the wrinkles so it lies as flat as possible (but don’t stretch or deform the shape).
3. Using a pencil, trace around the edge of the T-Shirt. Go along the sides, the shoulders, the back neckline and the bottom. However, do not draw around the arms. Instead, fold the arms up and draw along the line of stitching that connects the arm to the body. You’ll be left with a kind of vest shape.
4. Cut out the body piece that you’ve just drawn. This will form the back piece of your T-Shirt. Use this pattern piece to cut another, identical piece – except this time, cut the neckline a little lower (use your existing T-Shirt as a guide). Cut this second body piece out. This will be the front pattern piece.
5. Lie your T-Shirt flat onto your paper again. This time, draw around one of the sleeves. Go around all three edges of the flat sleeve, and the curved seam line (you’ll need to fold the sleeve out of the way to draw this seam line). The resultant shape will give you half of your sleeve pattern. To complete the pattern, simply draw a mirror image of the sleeve shape to extend it outwards – you should be aiming for the shape you can see in the photo above. Cut out the full sleeve pattern piece.
Cutting out your pattern pieces is just as important as actually sewing them together. Trust me, don’t rush this bit. Pay attention. Cut neatly and as accurately to your paper pattern as you can–it will make it so much easier to make refinements later on!
1. Find a large, flat surface (a big table is perfect). Lay your fabric over it, making sure it’s not got any wrinkles, stretched bits or other distortions.
2. Place one of your paper pattern pieces on top. Align it so that the stretch of the jersey fabric is across the width of the T-Shirt. For instance, in my mustard striped T-Shirt in the pictures, the stretch went in the same direction as the stripes.
3. I recommend that you do not pin the pattern in place (I know some sewists like to do this). I find that pinning it can introduce distortions or stretches in the fabric, which is a big no. Instead, use some heavy books or sewing weights to hold it in place. (I removed the weights for the photos).
4. Very carefully, draw around the edge of the pattern pieces with tailor’s chalk. Try not to tug or pull on the fabric as you draw!
5. Cut out the shape with some sharp scissors (tailor’s shears are best). Once you’ve cut them all out, you’ll have a front piece, back piece and two arms.
Here comes the fun bit–the actual sewing! For this, it’s super important to sew slowly. Luckily, my Singer Patchwork sewing machine has a speed control, which limits my speed automatically. But if you don’t have this function, just ease off the foot pedal. Set your stitch to a straight stitch and sew approximately 1cm from the edges.
1. Put your two T-Shirt body pieces back to back, so the wrong sides are facing out. Align them as neatly as possible, focussing on the neckline and shoulders. Pin them in place along the shoulders (aim to pin every 1 inch).
2. Sew along the pinned shoulder edges to join the two pattern pieces together. Remove the pins as you go. (It probably goes without saying, but do not sew the neckline closed! Just sew the two shoulders, leaving a hole in the middle for the neck).
3. Next, open out the two pieces so they are only joined at the shoulders (where you’ve sewn them). Take an arm pattern piece and find the centre point of the curved side. Line this centre point up to one of the shoulders and pin it in place, with the right sides facing in. This pin will be at the point that will lie on the very edge of your shoulder.
4. Now you need to pin the rest of the arm to the arm hole. Starting at the pin you have just added, work outwards along the curved edge of the arm and pin it to the body piece. Half of the arm piece will join the front body piece; the other half will join the back. Be very careful here, as it’s a bit tricky to pin curved edges together! Don’t be afraid to go crazy with your pinning–more is definitely merrier!
5. Carefully sew the pinned arm piece to the body pieces, along the curve you have just pinned. Remove the pins as you go.
6. Repeat this for the other arm piece.
7. Last up, you need to sew the two side seams (that will go down from the underarm to your hip), and the bottom seam of the arm. Start by folding the T-Shirt back together along the shoulder seam (right sides facing in), so the front and back line up neatly again. Pin the sides together, starting at the underarm and working your way down to the bottom edge. Sew in place, removing the pins as you go.
By this stage, you have the basic T-Shirt completed–woohoo! I’m giving you a virtual high-five for getting this far. 🙂 The next step is to add the neckline (at the moment, it will be unfinished and probably starting to fray a little…). Now, a word of warning: this is the tricky part. It took me several attempts to master this step. But now I’ve got the hang of it, I actually find it pretty easy. Have patience and you will totally master it too. I have faith in you!
1. Cut a strip of fabric, measuring 4cm wide by approximately 45cm long. Make sure you orientate your cutting so that it will stretch lengthwise, not width-wise.
2. With a medium-hot iron, press the fabric strip flat. Carefully and neatly, fold the strip in half along the long edge. Press this fold in place.
3. Find the mid-point of the neck binding strip. Turn your T-Shirt (from part 3) the right way round. Line the mid-point of the neck binding with the mid point of the neck hole, on the front of the T-Shirt. You’ll need to align the raw edges of the binding strip (i.e. not the folded edge) with the raw edge of the neck hole. Pin them together.
Tip: The next step involves pinning the binding to the neck hole. For this, the binding must be at a greater tension (i.e. more stretched) than the neck hole. This will ensure it sits flat when you wear it.
4. Make a mark on the binding strip 10cm to one side of the pinned mid-point. Pin this marked point of the binding to the shoulder seam of the neck hole (i.e. the bit of the T-Shirt that will sit beneath your ear). The length of fabric between the pins should now be shorter for the neck binding than it is for the neck hole.
5. You now have the neck line pinned in two places. Carefully add more pins in-between the two existing pinned points. You’ll need to gently stretch the neck binding as you pin, so that it lines up against the neck hole without any gaps. When finished, you’ll have a quarter of the neckline pinned in place. Repeat this step for the other quarter of the neckline that sits on the front of the T-Shirt. (In the image above, I added the pins in this order: red, blue, white, green).
6. Then repeat this for the back of the T-Shirt, so that the entire neckline is pinned in place.
Tip: We’re about to stitch the neckline. It’s really important to use a zig-zag stitch for this step. This type of stitch will allow you to stretch the neckline over your head, without the thread snapping. If you use a straight stitch, it has no give and will simply rip apart if you stretch it.
7. Set your sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch. (This is another point where my Singer Patchwork comes in handy. It has SO MANY stitch options to choose from. It even lets you customise each stitch with length and width!). Sew along the neck binding, removing the pins as you go. As you sew, ensure that you gently stretch the neckline so that the binding is at a higher tension than the neck hole.
8. When you get to the back of the neckline, where the two ends meet, stop sewing. Remove any last pins. Unfold the two ends of the neckline and lay them flat against each other, right sides together. Pin them together and sew in place (with a straight stitch). Trim any excess, then fold the neckline in half again (along the line that you pressed earlier). Then simply sew this to the T-Shirt, in the same way that you sewed the rest of the neckline (make sure you use a zig-zag stitch!).
Tip: At this point, it’s a good idea to try on the T-Shirt. Make sure the neckline can stretch over your head. If it’s too tight, simply unpick the neckline and cut the hole larger, then repeat the previous steps. If the neck strap does not sit flat against your neck, it’s probably because the binding was not held at a high enough tension when you sewed it. Unpick the neckline and repin it, but this time stretch the neck binding more tightly against the neck hole.
Congrats, you’ve pretty much finished your T-Shirt! These last steps are nice and easy. Before you know it, your new handmade T-Shirt will be ready to wear!
1. It’s now time to put the T-Shirt on. Let the fabric drop naturally, ensuring it’s not bunched up anywhere. Use tailor’s chalk to make a small mark on the waist section, at the length you would like to cut it. Do the same for each of the arms.
2. Take the T-Shirt off and find the three marks you made. At each point, add an extra 1-2cm as a seam allowance. Then cut off the excess fabric.
3. Starting at the waist section, fold the raw edge (that you’ve just cut) over by approximately 1cm. Make sure you fold it inwards, so the raw edge is hidden inside the T-Shirt.
4. Set your sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch. Then, starting at the side of the T-Shirt, sew over the folded raw edge. Keep sewing all the way around the waist, until you loop back on yourself.
5. Finally, repeat the exact same process for each of the arms.
Your T-Shirt is complete! I knew you could do it. 🙂 And hey–if it doesn’t quite fit perfectly, or if it’s gone a bit wonky in places, then don’t worry! My first attempts were totally unwearable! It’s normal. That’s how you learn. Try again and you’ll soon get the hang of it.
I hope this guide of how to make a men’s T-Shirt has been helpful. If there’s any section that isn’t clear, then please let me know in the comments! I’ll help you as best I can. Your feedback will also help me to make improvements to this guide.
Good luck with your sewing. And remember: enjoy it!
If you found this tutorial useful, I’d love it if you could spread the word on social media!