How To Make a Kid’s BCT Pattern From An Old Favorite Tee

My little girl needs some clothes.  I have a little hoard of fabrics for her wardrobe and a stack of Oliver + S patterns.  Since I made my own Blank Canvas Tee pattern last year, I’ve wanted one for Lila.  It’s easy to alter the cut for fun designs, it’s simple to sew and comfy to wear.  I also find the BCT sews together very quickly, always a plus.

I haven’t played much with patternmaking for Lila, mostly because kids’ bodies differ greatly from adult bodies in terms of topography.  I’m more used to making patterns for women’s bodies.  With a kid, I don’t need to worry about accommodating the bust.  Easy, right?

However, many little kids have nice round tummies that poke out in front.  Lila is still young enough that’s true for her, that’s her fitting “topography.”

She and I talked about this, and she’s happy for me to share with you all the process of making a capsule wardrobe for her.  I thought if I documented dolly’s process it would help me show how I put together a wardrobe sewing plan.  She’s small, so the sewing will go quickly!

But first I want a good basic tee pattern in her size.  Despite her belly, she’s rather taller than wide.  I grabbed one of her old shirts in a size 3 that fits well through the shoulders and arms and torso, but is too short:

When I laid it flat, the seams wanted to twist.  This is because it’s a mass-made tee and in that environment, they cut t-shirts off grain to “save” fabric.  I ignored the seams and just patted the shirt flat.

I used one half of the shirt as a template.  I made dots at the neck-binding seam, at the shoulder, at the sleeve openings, the underarm and the lower edge.  The template shirt has regular sleeves, but I’m making one with cut-on sleeves.

Took away the shirt, time to connect the dots!

First, I connected the dots along the straight edges and the CB using my ruler.  I’m making the back piece first.  I also extended the side seams and CB several inches beyond the original shirt hem.  If it’s too long, I can call it a tunic and she’ll grow into it anyway.

At the underarm, I drew a little curved line.

At the CB, I added a scant 1cm (about 3/8″) because I want this shirt to be just a little wider than the template shirt.  Then I drew a curved line at the back neck.  I decided at this point I didn’t like the shape of the sleeve, so I corrected it.

I laid another piece of tracing medium on top of the back piece and traced it off identically except the neckline.

The template shirt was a crewneck.  I measured the difference between the CB neck seamline and the CF neck seamline.  It was about 1 3/4″ (3.5cm).

On the front pattern piece, I measured down 1 3/4″ (3.5cm) from the back neckline and made a mark for the front neckline.

I drew a nice neckline curve and labeled the pattern pieces with Front/Back and the month and added seam allowances.  1/4″ (6mm) is customary for knits.

To finish the pattern, I measured the neck and the sleeve openings and made bindings.  I think I’ve written about that before, but if you want a refresher just click on the mini-tute.  My bindings for knits are almost always 1.5″ (2cm) wide.

Then I stitched the little shirt together.  I used a tiny piece of cotton interlock I bought on sale some time ago, with the idea I’d make some baby pj’s.  It never happened.  I grouped these photos together as well, it’s just a basic tee construction like the adult Blank Canvas Tee.

We took a few quickie photos after preschool.  It’s not bad.  Note the gentle wrinkles.  They’re pull lines because the pattern doesn’t match her body.

The back is fine.  I decided the sleeves looked a little weird and I should make the openings larger.

You can see the pull lines in this photo, too.  It’s not a big deal, it’s just because I didn’t draft her tummy into the front pattern piece.  Other than those two tiny details, I was quite happy with the draft.  She likes the shirt, too, and wore it all day.

On each piece, I dropped the underarm curve about 1cm (3/8″).  For the back piece, I then re-traced the whole back and set it aside.

On the front, I dropped the underarm curve and retraced all but the CF line.  The blue line here shows the original CF.  To accommodate her tummy, I swung the bottom of the CF out by about 1/2″ (1.2cm) but kept the same CF point at the top.  These little tweaks were minor enough that I didn’t make a second muslin.  Instead, I’m looking forward to chopping into it for a little mini-hack!

I want to open the floor to questions about wardrobing, from those who may not have sewn one before.  I’m planning the posts I’ll write for this and I’d love to answer questions or clarify the process as much as possible.  I find “wardrobing” is the most efficient use of my sewing time and materials, and I tend to put together collections of garments to be sewn at the same time rather than one-offs.  This is what I am working on for Lila.  Even though she’s a little girl, I use the same “framework” I’d use for a grownup wardrobe.

So… What are your questions about wardrobing?  What would you like to see covered while I document her wardrobe process?

If you use this tutorial, let me know or link me… I really love to see what others do with the ideas I send out into the universe.


  1. Lila looks like you in these pictures. I’m really looking forward to you wardrobing posts. Even though I think I know how to do it, I learn a lot and get great tips when I read what others do.

    • Whew- me too.. And the wardrobe contests on PR were amazing. I learned SO much from the others who posted in the forum, and really pushed myself too. I hear they’re not running the wardrobe contest anymore.. : /

      She’s really growing up, good company in her little girl way.

      • They’re doing the mini wardrobe contests still (there’s one starting next month), but I think they’re moving away from multi-month contests. Which is a shame. The one I joined up was my very first contest and right at the beginning of my sewing experience. It was fantastic for learning very quickly, and my skills (and sense of putting together a cohesive wardrobe) grew by leaps and bounds! It was nice to be able to talk issues out with others doing the same thing, too. I learned so much from you all!

        • I went to check it out… I may use it/enter… We’ll see. I haven’t done a contest there in ages!

          I was a lazy sewist when I joined up with that first wardrobe contest.. Lazy an undisciplined. I learned to crack right on through the work from start to finish and stitch in all the hooks and eyes I needed, etc… and learned to organize myself a bit better too.

  2. Steph, some day can you show us the same method for pants tracing too? I’ve seen other people do it, but your tuts are always the best. Thanks and be well!

  3. Lila is so beautiful! I was reminiscing about my three when they were small (they’re not soo big now – my youngest is only 9 – but it feels like a lifetime ago when they were all small eager inquisitive bundles of energy). I have never EVER done anything in the wardrobe department – only outfits that may or may not work with other pieces in my closet. I guess it should be on my bucket list (!) but I keep getting distracted by a fabulous piece of fabric here and that design there…. And, quite frankly, I’d not know where to begin, so the more info the merrier, Steph! I love your posts – they’re always thought-provoking and informative.

    • Thanks. :) She wiggles a lot for photographs, they’re often so blurry…

      I have a few wardrobe “orphans” (mostly from sewing for Sew Weekly) but mostly my clothes go together alright.. Which makes it much easier to dress myself decently. :)

  4. Wow! What a great idea for a series of posts! I do tend to make mostly special-occasion clothes for my daughter (birthday dress, Xmas dress, etc.), but I am really looking forward to learning from this series.

    • Yeah, I really need to get off my backside and get to work on this… It’s been one of those “yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it” projects and now she’s just so big it’s stitch up the fabrics I have for her or go spend more money (and shopping energy ugh) finding clothes in the shops… It’s usually pretty easy to find basics (not always) but harder to find clothes for little girls that looks like clothes to me… And when I do, it’s often expensive… (Pumpkin Patch, Seed, Milkshake, etc)

  5. You always have such useful information to share! I’d love to see a post on the planning stages of making a wardrobe- deciding what kinds of pieces, how many, picking material, how you decide which to sew first, et cetera!

    • I’ll get right on it… She and I went through “her” fabrics the other day and talked about them.. It’s really fun now she’s old enough to be involved in the process. :)

  6. My goodness, your sweet little girl is your mirror image! I love this tutorial! Thank you to you and Lila for sharing it :) I would love to see pants tracing, too, as well as leggings and a basic knit dress pattern. Those are my daughter’s favourite pieces.

  7. Great tutorial as usual Steph. Your daughter is absolutely beautiful, like her Mother! Anyway, I agree with the wardrobe concept. Once planned, the entire process is easier, more organized and completed in a more timely manner. I used to do that but sort of got away from it. I would love to see how you do it and what ever information you can share.

    • Thanks. She looks a LOT like daddy, but she has the same kind of personality I did when I was little… :)

      I’ll be documenting what we do carefully….

  8. Was she being Lilasaurus there? Button does very loud dinosaur impersonations.
    Love the t-shirt. I’ve linked to it on my blog…hope you don’t mind!

  9. Lila has so much personality, you can totally see it in these pictures! I’ll bet she’s a really fun kid. :)

    I like the tut on tracing a shirt. I have one that I really like, and I should try to trace it like this. That’s what I used to do, long before I started working with patterns. I don’t know why I moved away from it, they usually produced some cute tops!

    I’d love to see some of your thoughts on wardrobing.

  10. I actually just tried my first rub-off method last week and I wish I had had your tutorial to guide me then. Really informative, thanks. I really like the idea of making a wardrobe rather than single pieces – it keeps you from having too much frosting in your wardrobe.

  11. Love it! I made a batwing sleeve top for one of my girlies last summer, by putting her on the tracing paper and drawing her little body. The tum was one area that I forgot to make adjustments, but all in all it was still good, if for nothing else than it didn’t twist and turn on her!

  12. Looking forward to reading your tut on wardrobe planning. I don’t do this and have been thinking I really must as I have way too much frosting. I like the idea of going through your stash and actually using some up. I hadn’t thought about making multiple garments before as I usually make one thing at a time, but this makes a lot of sense and I might actually get a capsule wardrobe at the end of it, with things that match. Thanks for sharing your knowledge :)

  13. Oh, do write a wardrobe planning series! I’ve just been lamenting the lack of coordinated clothing in mine; everything is a standalone piece, which makes mixing and matching hard. Of course, part of it is that I buy fabrics based on what’s available at the thrift store or on sale…

  14. I don’t know if this will be of interest to you (or your readers) or not since it is slightly off topic, but the problem with mass made knit garments twisting isn’t because they are cut off grain to save fabric.

    The problem is that most knits are created as a tube of fabric, not in a flat rectangle, like woven fabrics. This makes knit fabrics faster to manufacture and therefore cheaper to purchase. When it comes time in the manufacturing process for the fabric to be spread out for cutting patterns out, tube fabrics either have to be cut up their length to become a rectangle or laid out carefully to form a rectangle on the rectangular cutting table. If the tube is not cut carefully the “rectangle” will easily be off grain. If the tube is not laid out carefully it will also form a “rectangle” that is off grain. Any garments made from these pattern pieces cut from these off-grain “rectangles” will skew around the body of the wearer. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to spot this problem until the garment has been washed and dried, because it is possible to cut a pattern out in knit fabric with the pattern’s horizontal lined up with the fabric’s, but have the pattern’s vertical be cut out on a diagnol or bias.

  15. Pingback: Wardrobe Planning: Lila Edition « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  16. Pingback: Finished Objects: Trio of Tiny Shorts and Valuing The Sewing (with worksheet pdf goodness) « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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