The Painter Top - Customizing Your Own Pattern


What isn't there to love about a simple gray shirt? It's oh so comfortable. And I've gotten multiple complements on it while running errands already.

Let's be honest, that makes you like any clothing item even more. 

The Painter top Fabric

I used this Window Pane Gray Poly Spandex Fashion Knit fabric from Joann's.  It was one of the first fall (gray) fabrics I saw and I fell in love with the print.  At 97% Polyester, it's heavy enough that it was easy to sew and it will be nice and warm for the fall and winter. 

You'll need 1.5 yards of fabric to make this shirt. 

The Painter Top Pattern

I used our free shift dress pattern as the base pattern and just made a few adjustments.  I wanted it to fit more like a tunic, but still be fairly fitted at my shoulders and arms. 

tools to create adjusted pattern:

Adjustments to base pattern:

  1. Raise neck scope
  2. Tighten armscye
  3. Widen at waist
  4. Widen at hip

Adjustments to Sleeve Pattern:

  1. Shorten sleeve length
  2. Shrink sleeve width
  3. Add rectangle for bottom of sleeve
The Painter Top Tutorial and Pattern

The Painter Top Tutorial and Pattern

Adjust base pattern

I use wax paper to create all my patterns. It's cheap and since it's mostly transparent it's much easier to create a variation of another pattern. I'm using a size four shift dress pattern as my base pattern.

Lay a piece of wax patter on a flat surface.  Use small items to weigh down each corner.  

Lay the base paper pattern over the top of the wax paper.  Use small flat items to weigh down the base paper pattern. 


1. Raise neck scope

I wanted the top of this shirt to be fairly fitted around the neck, so I tighten the neck by 1 inch in the front.  

  • Use a ruler to measure one inch directly above the center fold on the front neck.
  • Use a pencil to draw your new scope on the wax paper-- start at the top of the shoulder going down.
  • Use a ruler to trace that one inch down to the center fold.  
  • Trace the center fold line on the wax paper.

2.  Tighten armscye

I like the wider armscye for most dresses, but for some reason I always tighten it for a shirt.  For this shirt I tightened it by 1 inch. 

  • Use a ruler to measure one inch directly above the bottom point of the arm.
  • Use a pencil to draw your new arm scope on the wax paper-- start at the top of the shoulder going down. 

3. Widen at waist

Since I wanted the shirt to fit more like tunic, I added quite a bit of ease at the waist and hip. I added two inches at the waist. 

  • Find the narrowest point of the base pattern (the waist). Use a ruler to measure two inches out.
  • Use a pencil to draw from the new arm scope to the new waist measurement. 

4. Widen at hip

The base pattern already widens at the hip quite a bit, so I didn't need to add as much ease to the hip as the waist.  I adjusted the pattern out by 1.25 inches at the hip.

  • Use a ruler to mark out the new measurement. 
  • Use a pencil to draw from the new waist measurement to the new hip measurement.

5. Finishing the New Base Pattern

  • Trace along the bottom of the base pattern to the center fold line.
  • Use a scissors to cut out the wax paper pattern. 
  • Hold the wax paper pattern up to your body in front of a mirror.  Take note of where it hits on your neck hollow and how it fits around your arm. 
  • If something seems too tight or too loose, use the same process above to adjust the pattern to fit your specific measurements. Don't settle for something that's just not quite right. This will make the testing much easier for you. 

6.  Create the back pattern 

To keep life easy, I made my front and back pattern identical (aside from the neck of course). So you will just use the front pattern you created to draw the back pattern.

  • Trace the front adjusted pattern on a new piece of wax paper. 
  • Use the original back pattern to trace the original back neck scope on the adjusted pattern.  
  • Cut out the adjusted back pattern. 

Adjust Sleeve Pattern

This is suuuuper easy. I'm not sure I even need to tell you how to do it, but just for good measure I will. 

The most important thing with sleeves -- measure your arm length, don't use mine. I'm short, including my arm length. 

1. Shorten sleeve length

I wanted 3/4 length sleeves, so I know that's around 15-17 inches for me.  My actual sleeve was 8 inches from the top.

  • Use a ruler to measure eight inches (use your measurement) from the top center of the sleeve. Fold your sleeve pattern at that measurement.

2. Shrink sleeve width

The easy way to shrink your sleeve width is to use the original sleeve pattern when you sew your first test of the adjusted pattern. This will give you a true measurement for your new sleeve pattern. But for the best results with this method, start at the top of the shoulder and sew down when you're sewing your sleeves in. There are few things I dislike more than an off center sleeve. 

Make sure that you trace your new sleeve width on wax paper, so you have the pattern for the actual garment. 

3. Add rectangle to add the full sleeve. 

To add the full sleeve, you'll just need a simple rectangle.  Mine is 19.5 inches wide and 7 inches tall (these measurements do not include seam allowance).  

Adjust that measurement to fit the final length you want for your sleeves, and you're done creating your adjusted pattern!

Test your new pattern!

It's so important to take the time to test a new pattern before sewing the actual shirt you will make to wear.  Even after sewing for 15 years I still take the time to test new patterns.  There is nothing more frustrating than wasting amazing fabric because the pattern wasn't tested before hand. 

Use our shift dress tutorial to sew your test shirt and actual shirt.

Use our side split hem tutorial for the hem.

Full Sleeve Tutorial

Measure the bottom width of your sleeve and determine how full you want your sleeve to me.  For reference my rectangle is 19.5 inches wide and 7 inches tall.  My actual sleeve width is around 11 inches. 

I made a small pleat every 0.75 inches on the rectangle to fit my sleeve width.  

  • Pin the pleated rectangle to your sleeve.
  • Sew it together.
  • Finish the hem to your preference. 
  • Iron, iron, iron.

While I've been sewing for quite some time, I'm new to teaching others how to sew or create custom patterns.  I would love to hear your feedback! Let me know if you need more details, more pictures, or even videos. 

We want you to love sewing as much as we do!

Mindy MeyerShirt