Self-Drafted Ladies Shirt Dress

Make 22 – Ladies Shirt Dress

  • Pattern – Taken from existing garment
  • Material – Floral Summer Grey Crepe de Chine (Polyester)
  • Notions – Grey pearlised buttons

Having finished my shirt I have started drafting a shirt dress for a friend – she has a lovely long loose over-shirt type of affair, but it has pilled (fabric is bobbling) quite badly after a few wears – as it was bought in France it’s a bit tricky to take back.

Dress Template

You can probably see the problem across the bust area in the picture above.   The fabric that she has chosen for this is a lovely soft Crepe De Chine – unfortunately the picture does not do it justice:


I have taken a pattern off the garment above:

Dress 1

This is a relatively straightforward garment, so there was nothing too tricky about taking a pattern from it.  There are several different methods, but I simply laid the item out on my pattern paper and traced around it.  (For some pieces I pinned the garment to my paper to ensure that the piece was lying flat)

For the back, I folded in half as shirt backs are often cut on the fold, so the CB (Centre Back) is on the edge of the paper and marked as a fold.

I wasn’t able (without taking the item apart) to draw the sleeves so I used a sleeve Pattern Block (a basic template in multiple sizes for various standard items such as shirts, dresses, jackets etc.  You can find them to buy on various sites) – they look similar to this:

Basic Block

You simply trace around the size you want, then adjust to your body measurements.  However, the sleeve block that I used is far too big for the arm hole (arm scye) and I need to reduce it by about 3cm.

Dress 3

The sleeve head is quite a bit too deep – so I will need to reduce the depth there and then re-draw the curves either side (thanks to Patricia for the drawing):

Sleeve Adjustment

I’ll need to transfer this to my cut pattern pieces and check that they fit before stitching them.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get on to this tonight!


So, I sorted the sleeve pattern piece.  In the end I had to lower the head of the sleeve by 3/4″ (about 2cm) and re-draw the curves.

Dress 8

It doesn’t look like I’ve lost a lot in terms of area, but it means that the raw top edge of the sleeve is now the required 3cm shorter.

Unfortunately I completely stuffed up the first sleeve.   I hadn’t raised the thread guide on my overlocker, some of the threads tangled and snapped but as I was feeding the sleeve I didn’t notice and had to re-sew.   Once I’d re-threaded the overlocker (!) I re-did the first sleeve, but somehow managed to put 2 gathers in – one on the sleeve near the sleeve head and one on the arm scye (sleeve hole) near the bottom seam.

As this is a Toile, I’ve left it as it is – I can always correct it if the toile is needed as a beach over-shirt or similar.  The second sleeve however went in like a dream!

Dress 7


Yesterday was NOT the best day – really really bad headache from 3am – tried going to work and ended back home sleeping from 9am to about 6pm when I had to get up in order to be able to go back to bed!  I know that sounds illogical, but if I wanted to ensure that I slept at all last night, I had to get up at some point!

Headache didn’t really die down until about 7.30pm by which time I was a tad frustrated as I needed to get on with my toile as it’s being tried for fit tonight!

Well, I managed to get the collar and collar stand done and attached.  I thought that I’d made a mistake in the collar stand size, but it was my front pieces, I thought I’d cut them without the plackets, but I’d not cut them quite narrow enough so had to create a placket anyway.

Looking at it now, I think I can reduce the collar stand depth a bit and possibly the collar depth – it looks a little masculine….. but that could be down to it being white material.

It’s going to look very different with the actual material that I will be using:

Dress 6

Once I’ve got the fit right, I’ll start on the actual one and let you see how I get on.

Incidentally the one good thing was the postman’s delivery of two lovely patterns which I now need to find time to try…..

Patterns 2


LOTS of progress today.   I didn’t really get started until the afternoon – had lots to do, shopping for notions etc, but the progress once I’d started was pretty swift!

The fitting last night went very well, the left arm (which I knew was dodgy) was a bit tight, as was the collar.  I thought that there might be something odd about the collar as I had to hem both the front edges and I’d cut the pattern so this shouldn’t have been needed;  turns out the collar had been cut 3cm too small (2 x 1.5cm seam allowance) so that needed adjusting as well.

As I knew what the issues were, I decided to cut the main pieces (fronts and back) and re-draft the collar once I had a definitive measurement.


The collar pattern pieces in the above picture are the old ones.  I folded and pressed the button plackets and top-stitched these on my standard machine before moving on to the main construction.

I’d used some scrap material to check my overlocker tensions to ensure that everything was ok and was happy with the below – no threads pulling and everything neatly aligned.

I know that some people write down the tensions for their overlocker for specific fabrics, but I keep the sample piece with the good stitching and write the tension settings directly onto the fabric – that way I have a sample and the settings and how the stitching looked for reference.


Once the main body was together it was time to start on the sleeves.   You may remember that I’d already had to adjust the sleeves for the Toile to ensure a good fit, so I knew that I was ok to cut them.

Interestingly, like a man’s shirt, this pattern has a slit to let the hand through the cuff, but unlike a man’s shirt, there is no placket – what we had instead was a sort of bias binding over the raw edges of the slit and then a tack taken at the top on the inside to hold in place.

You may also notice in the first picture that there is a small tack to the left of the slit – this is to hold a tuck in place – it helps to ensure that the fabric fits into the cuff – you can see this on most men’s shirts.

The cuffs were already the right size, however again unlike a man’s shirt where there are two pieces, these are one piece which is folded along it’s length to make the cuff – it’s a little easier than a standard cuff, but it means that your interfacing  is across the entire cuff.  This worked fine for this material as it’s quite thin and stretchy, but for a different material I would probably create a 2-part cuff and interface only 1 side.


Above you can see the original collar pattern pieces and the re-drafted ones.   It’s clear that the top piece (the collar stand) is longer, but the lower piece (the collar itself) is also longer although it doesn’t look it.  Once I’d re-drafted these pieces, I measured the neckline of the garment and checked it against the pattern piece to ensure a good fit.  The pattern piece was 1cm longer than HALF the neckline measurement (remember we are cutting on the fold) which meant that it was correct, so I could go ahead and cut my fabric.


Collar stand and collar attached to the neckline – a perfect fit, although I would probably reduce the collar depth on future makes from this pattern.


Not a lot done today – I just overlocked the hem and then twin needled it into place and added the buttonholes.  Didn’t have time to attach the buttons as I was off out to a rehearsal for a musical that I’ve been cast in!  Exciting times!


I love the finish you get with a twin needle – it looks very professional – especially if you don’t have or can’t afford a coverstitch machine.

I simply overlocked the raw edge of the hem (to tidy it up and make a nice neat edge as this fabric doesn’t fray), folded the overlocked edge up to the inside, pinned and then top-stitched with the twin needle making sure I caught the overlocked edge on the reverse side.


Just buttons to sew on today – took me about 20 mins to do 10 buttons.  I use my button foot and cover the feed dogs with a plate provided.   You have to set your machine to ‘zig-zag’ stitch and ensure that the stitch width is set to allow the needle to go into the holes and not hit the button.   One everything is lined up each button takes about 10 seconds to sew.

I didn’t take any photos this time, but you can see from the above photos how it works.  Personally I prefer to hand turn the wheel rather than put my foot down to sew buttons on – it takes a little more time, but I think you get a better result.

Don’t forget to tie off the threads front AND back – otherwise if a thread pulls your button could come off (I’ve had this happen loads of times with commercial shirts.)

Once the buttons were on, I popped round to my friends to deliver and she was good enough to let me take a photo.  I think it looks better on her than on the mannequin!


If any of you lovely people are in Wimborne at the beginning of August 2018 (2nd to the 4th) you may well see this garment on stage in Dramatic Productions ‘Things we do for Love’ at the Tivoli Theatre.