Are you just getting into sewing or do you have an interest in learning to sew clothing? This is an easy to follow tutorial from Make it Love it on how to sew an easy shirt for beginners. It literally lays out how you can use your own clothing to build a top that will fit you perfectly. No patterns, no printouts, no measurements. When it comes to learning to sew your own clothing, this is a great place to start so you can learn the basic construction behind a simple project.

NOTE: When working with knits, be sure to use a stretch needle! Yes, your needle does make a big difference when working with these stretchy fabrics. Also note that a zig zag stitch is required with knits in places that you will need the fabric to give a little. If you use a straight stitch, the stitch will pull out once the fabric is stretched. And one final note… as much as I love the stiped print she used in her tutorial, be mindful when choosing your prints. As a beginner it might be easier to choose a fabric that does not have a print that needs to line up like a bold stripe.

Not ready to make this top yet? Save it here on Pinterest for later…


Tutorial from Make it Love it.

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I kept it simple and cut out a very forgiving Dolman shape shirt, with a banded bottom.

The dolman style isn’t clingy but the banded bottom still flatters.  Cool.

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And because it’s made just for me, the length is right, the sleeves are right, and the neckline is right.  Hooray.

dolman shirt

And oh those sleeves.  So comfy.

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How to Make This Shirt for Yourself

Okay, grab some jersey knit.  Nothing too stiff.  I was originally going to use an oversized knit maxi skirt that I bought a year or so ago (to use for the fabric)…..but then I remembered about this striped fabric that I had stashed away.  Just keep in mind that if you can’t find any knit at the fabric store/online, check out the clearance racks.  You may find some great large pieces of knit just hanging there, waiting to be re-purposed.

Laying it out

Now, the shape of this shirt is nice and big and roomy up top and then a fitted bottom band to keep it snug on the hips while the middle remains a bit baggy.  You can make it all fitted from right below the bust line if you keep the cut of the sides more narrow.  Or keep it wider and more baggy.  It’s up to you.  I used a knit shirt of mine as guide but didn’t actually cut that shape.  I used the same neckline shape but didn’t cut a different front and back piece.  Both my front and back pieces are exactly the same.  Both have the same swoop as the back of the black shirt I was using as my guide.  Then, I cut a straight (but slightly downward) line from the neck out to the end of the sleeve length that I wanted.  And then made a nice big arm and curved the under side of each sleeve to meet with the sides of the shirt. 

Because knit hangs, these sleeves will kind of hang and drape nicely.  The length of the shirt is variable.  I made it a little longer than I needed because I was worried about it being too short.  Because after you add the band that sits snuggly on the hips, the part above that (where it would hit your abdomen) will kind of bunch up and look a bit more baggy.  If you don’t make the shirt extra long, you won’t have that baggy look in the middle.  And if that’s what you prefer, go for it.  (Make sure to include a little extra on all sides for a seam allowance.)

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Sewing the front and back

Like mentioned above, I cut my front and back pieces exactly the same.  But if you want your front neck line to swoop downward a bit more, cut accordingly. Then I sewed the front and back pieces together, with right sides together, right along the top of each sleeve and then along each side of the shirt. 

(HINT: When sewing with knits, it helps me to increase the stitch length just a bit to help jump over more fabric, eliminating some of the stretching and bunching.  For the step shown below, I used a straight stitch but a zig-zag would work too.  Practice on scrap pieces of the knit you’re working with, to get a feel for it first.)

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Making the bottom band

Then I cut a strip of fabric that was twice as tall as the band height that I wanted (because you fold it in half) and then long enough to go all the way around the bottom of the shirt.

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Then, I cut a little bit off the width of the strip of fabric so that the band would end up slightly smaller than the bottom of the shirt.  Because you want it to slightly pull the bottom of the shirt in.  Not tons, just a bit.  And how much you cut off really depends on how stretchy your knit is so you may have to try on the shirt and then wrap the band section around you to see how much smaller to make it, to have a snugg-ish fit around your hips.

Then fold the strip in half (with right sides together) and sew the two ends together.

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Now you have a circle of fabric.  Next, fold down the tube down into itself, creating a double layered circle of fabric, matching up the two raw edges of fabric.  (Right side of the fabric is facing outward.)  Pin edges, to keep them together.

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If you lay this folded tube down, you should see that it’s slightly smaller than the bottom width of the shirt.  That’s a good thing.

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Sewing it together

Next, slide the tube up and around the bottom of the shirt, matching up all raw edges together.  Now, you will have to stretch the band just a bit, to get it match up just raw with the bottom of the shirt.  Evenly distribute the tube around the bottom of the shirt.  Pin in place. 

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Now sew these 3 layers (1 layer of shirt and 2 layers of tube) together, sewing all the way around the bottom of the shirt.  Use a very narrow zig-zag stitch (or something similar) to allow the fabric to stretch even after it’s sewn.  Because you want it to stretch around your hips.

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Here’s a peek of the inside.

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Finishing the sleeves

Then fold under the sleeves and sew a straight line or two (or a zig-zag) to give each sleeve a nice finished look.  I actually used a double needle here, making a perfectly spaced double line. 

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Finishing the neckline

For the neckline, I cut a strip of the same fabric (one of the darker red stripes) and used that for my neckline.  (Make a circle out of your strip of fabric and then fold it down into itself to create the neckline piece.  The same concept as the bottom band of the shirt, shown above.)  I attached my neckline, just like I did here but no, you don’t have to have ribbing…….just pull it slightly as you are attaching it to the shirt, so that it is slightly smaller than the shirt opening.  (Once it’s in, steam flat like crazy.  This will help put your neckline lay flat and in place and not look so handmade.)

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Now, here’s the basic finished shape.  The armpits are tons lower than normal, the sleeves way bigger, and the shirt is longer than you’re used to.  Perfect.

(Be sure to iron/steam all of your seams open and flat.  This will help shrink any “stretched seams” and will help your top look more professional.)

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Joan Mantini

About Joan Mantini

After several years of being the Facebook page owner at Beginner Sewing, I noticed there was a desperate need to have a single go-to spot for members to be able to find answers to their common questions, get some useful tips & tricks, as well as find reputable places to purchase sewing products online. Taking my role as a trade publication editor by day, and combining it with my knowledge of frequently requested beginner sewing advice, I created An outlet that gives new sewists a free digital magazine geared for entry level sewing as an extra bonus!

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