Monday, November 23, 2009

One-Yard Wonder T-Shirt Tutorial

Last winter, I made a bunch of t-shirts with 3/4 length sleeves. That length seemed to be in style, and I was loving that I could make them out of just one yard of 60" wide fabric. But do you know what? I am cold, cold, cold natured these days, and I need a whole sleeve, darn it!

Even so, I persist in buying just one yard of fabric. It's easy to get a smaller sized front and back out of a yard, but obviously two 22" sleeve length from shoulder to hem can't be cut from a 36" long piece of fabric (I'm short, but I do have two arms!).

But there is a way to get that yard to yield long sleeves, and the way is called cuffs. Cutting this out is a bit improvisational for each piece of fabric, but I've tried to give you an overview of how I have gone about it. Prewashed fabric may shrink, your cut may have been off grain and you had to straighten it, your arms may be longer than mine: I can't guarantee that you can get a true long-sleeved shirt out of one yard. But now that I've done it four times, I have to say I think you have a good chance.

First, here is a sketch of the general approach:

After cutting the front and back, I fold the remaining fabric in half from top to bottom and mark the center of the fold. One sleeve can be cut above the mark, one below. Measure the distance from the top of the fabric to the mark. Knock of a half inch or so just to give yourself a tiny bit of wiggle room. Measure from the top of the sleeve pattern to that measurement and make a mark. That is your cutting line for the sleeve. You can fold that bit back so as not to cut your pattern. Then cut two sleeves. I try to stagger them in order to leave a larger scrap to one side for cuffs. Don't forget to turn the pattern over for the second sleeve!

Look how close I had to cut it to get my two sleeves:

Now you will make your cuff pattern. Lay your sleeve pattern flat and place a piece of tracing paper on top of it. Trace the part of the sleeve you omitted, but fold up the hem allowance. Add two seam allowances at the top (1/2" to 1", depending on what you like). I say add two because you didn't add one to the upper sleeve section.

Then make a duplicate of this piece and put the two together in an hourglass shape, like this:

Now, wherever you can fit the whole length of the neckband on the crosswise grain (from selvedge to selvedge), go ahead and cut that strip.

Assemble the t-shirt in your normal fashion. After applying the sleeves and stitching the side seams, you will be ready to attach the cuffs. Here is a view of the cuff seam folded right sides together, and then beside it the cuff folded in half.

Attach the raw edges of the folded cuff to the end of the sleeve, fold it down, and your sleeve is full length...and hemmed!

With this busy print, the finished cuffs are hardly noticeable.

But in a stripe, there are lots of options for playing up the cuffs as a design feature. Notice that the sleeves are cut with the stripes on the bias. I couldn't get even two shortened sleeves from one yard with the stripes running horizontally because I couldn't work out the repeats properly. Now that it's done, I am so much happier with all the crazy stripe directions than with a standard stripe layout.


  1. Very cool thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. What a great idea , thanks for this .

  3. Great idea, and sooo cute in stripes!

  4. Fabulous; thanks for sharing. And you look so happy!

  5. I saw your tip on Pattern review and thought I would find a review of the lovely striped t-shirt there to see what pattern you used. No luck -- What pattern did you use? The fit is quite nice.

  6. Gloria, thank you so much for the compliment on the shirt. I will have to go and review it on PatternReview. It is the tshirt from Ottobre Woman 2-2007. I have been working and working on this pattern for months (actually, it must be years,wow), and I'm not sure I can recall exactly how I've tweaked it. It's a great pattern, though. I like their draft.

  7. Oh! Thank you for this. Very helpful blog. Thanks for sharing.

    My Yard tee shirt