Learn to draft your own sewing pattern and sew a yoga top in performance fabric with Spoonflower team member and independent clothing designer Jamie Powell!
The idea of creating your own sewing pattern can be intimidating but it shouldn’t be– you probably already have everything you need to get started! This tutorial will guide you through making your own yoga top using our new Perfomance Piqué fabric, but I also hope that it will serve as a helpful introduction to creating your own custom-fit garment patterns. One of the great things about the Performance Piqué is that it’s stretchy and lightweight, and stretchy fabric can give you a little leeway in fit and drape that you won’t get from woven fabrics.
What you’ll need to get started:
1-2 yards Performace Piqué fabric in your favorite print, or another knit fabric
a tank top you already own that fits well in the neckline and bust
a measuring tape and ruler
blank paper for drawing out your new pattern
Phase 1: Creating Your Pattern
To start, you’ll trace the neckline and top/bust of your existing tank top. Lay the top out on your preferred choice of pattern paper and trace the neckline, shoulders, and armholes of the tank, and down about 4-5 inches of each side seam. I found the easiest method for tracing was to fold the tank in half down the side seams, so that I could clearly see half of the front and half of the back.
I lined the center front of my top up along the edge of my paper and traced along the neckline, armholes, and the first few inches of the side seam, then repeated with the back. Tracing the shirt this way will help ensure symmetry, since your existing shirt may not be perfectly even due to multiple wears and washes. Here’s what you should end up with after this step:
Now you’ll get the length for the side seams and the circumference for the bottom of your top. Use your measuring tape get these two measurements for a perfect fit. Measure from the armpit of your top– where the bottom of the armhole hits under your arm– to wherever you want the top of your bottom band to begin. My measurement was 11 inches from armpit to the top of my hips. Measure around your middle where you want the bottom band to fit. I measured below by waistline, at the top of my hips, and got 35 ½”.
How to transfer these measurements to the pattern you’ve started:
Step 1: Starting at the armpit of the front of your top, use your ruler to mark the point at the bottom of your side seam length straight down from the armpit (for me, this was 11 inches down from the armpit)
Step 2: Figure out your bottom hem line measurement by dividing by 2 (splitting the bottom hem circumference between the front and back pieces), then divide by 2 again (since you are drawing your pattern out along the center fold line). So for me, 35.5/2 = 17.75 inches; then 17.75/2 = 8.875, which I’m rounding to 8 ⅞ inches. That is how far out from your center fold line that you’ll measure for your bottom hem.
Step 3: Using a french curve, complete the line down the side seam (or you can just draw this line free hand if you don’t have a french curve. It should be a slight curving line connecting the underarm to the bottom hem line.
Repeat the same steps for the back of your shirt. Measure down the side hem, and out from the center fold line, and connect the lines where those points intersect. Use a french curve or freehand draw the side seam line.
Now you’ll want to square up your front and back pattern pieces to make sure that the side seams and shoulder seams match. Cut out your front pattern piece and use it to check the back side seam length and shoulder seam width. Mark any adjustments needed on your back piece before cutting your back piece out. Your side seams aren’t straight lines, so to make sure they are the same length, line up armpits, and “walk” your front pattern piece side seam along the back pattern piece side seams, matching curves. Once any adjustments are made, cut out your back piece.
The final pattern piece you’ll make is the bottom band. You can decide how wide you’d like this band to be– I made mine 6 inches wide. You’ll want your bottom band to be slightly smaller than your actual measurements since this fabric stretches and the point of the bottom band is to keep your shirt from flying up over your head during downward dog! If you have curvy hips, you may want the bottom edge of your bottom band to be slightly wider than the top (cutting this band more in the shape of a trapezoid than a rectangle). I kept mine a rectangle since my bottom band isn’t too wide and will only go down to the mid point of my hips.
Use one of the straight edges of your pattern paper to create a box in your desired dimensions. My hip measurement from before was 35.5, half of which is 17.75. I decided to draw out this bottom band 17.5 wide so that it would be ½ inch smaller overall than the bottom of my sewn front and back pieces, although after finishing the shirt, I discovered that I could have made it a bit smaller for a tighter fit at the bottom. Mark a center fold line along the bottom of your bottom band piece; you will cut the fabric on a fold so that you don’t have an unfinished bottom edge.
Before you actually cut your shirt out, take just a moment to bask in the glory of the fact that you have just created a custom-sized pattern for yourself from scratch!
Phase 2: Assembling Your Shirt
Cut out your front and back pattern pieces, with your fabric folded in half along the center fold line of your pattern, so that the fabric can stretch along the width– the Performance Piqué fabric stretches along it’s width, but not along it’s length, so test your fabric’s stretch before you start cutting to make sure it’s oriented the right way. Add seam allowance as needed along the side seams, armholes, shoulders, and neckline as you are cutting. Leaving about ½ inch seam allowance will allow you to fold under the armline and neckline edges for a more finished look.
Cut out 2 copies of your bottom band piece, with your fabric folded along the center line you marked at the bottom edge of the band pattern piece. Check again to make sure your fabric is oriented to stretch along the width of your band before cutting, and add seam allowance to the side seams and top edge of this piece.
I like to go ahead and do the finishing of the neckline and armholes before I start putting the shirt together. I used a serger to serge along the raw edges, then turned them under and pressed with the iron on a synthetic setting, then topstitched with my regular sewing machine. You don’t need a serger to make this, a zig-zag stitch on a regular machine will give you the same kind of guideline to fold under.
Once the raw edges are finished, it’s just a matter of assembling your pieces. Sew the front and back bottom bands together down the side seams. Sew the front and back of the shirt together down the side seams and across the shoulder seams.
Fold the bottom band in half (right side out) and pin the raw edge of the bottom band to the bottom of the assembled shirt. Remember that your bottom band is a bit smaller than the bottom of the shirt, so you will need to stretch the shirt a bit to fit in the band.
You can create more of a blousy effect by increasing the diameter of the bottom of the shirt relative to the band –this will create more gathers– OR by increasing the length of the side seams of the shirt –this will allow the fabric to blouse or bag over the bottom band.
Now that you’ve drafted your own pattern and sewn up your yoga top, celebrate with some poses.
In addition to being part of the Spoonflower team, Jamie designs a clothing line, Seven Sages, that produces limited edition runs of women’s clothing with a mission to deliver high quality garments with low environmental impact. When she’s not busy working at Spoonflower and sewing, Jamie enjoys being a thrift store addict, a dog lover, and a pretty good cook.