Are you ready for The Pirate Fairy? I know I am!
My daughter was soooo excited to see this costume come together. Granted, she was a little poop when it came to taking pictures in her new outfit, but whatever. She tends to be that way when we want her to cooperate with something.
Today I’m going to show you how to make the shirt. I made this for my daughter (obviously) but you can use the tutorial to make the costume for yourself, too! (Click here for the corset tutorial, and click here for the skirt and belt).
- A white, lightweight knit fabric – I recommend using a knit because knits are stretchy, generally don’t fray, and can be pulled on and off easily without needing buttons, zippers, etc. T-shirts are made out of knit fabric. I got a yard of fabric and it was more than I needed (but I always like to make sure I have extra in case of mistakes!)
- A sewing needle for knits. These are the kind I use.
- White thread
- Elastic thread for shirring OR 1/4 inch elastic (enough to go around the neckline and sleeve cuffs)
Okay, I have a confession to make. I had to make several drafts before I got the exact shirt I wanted. I kept trying to make a pattern from a short, cap-sleeved shirt and obviously that wasn’t ideal. Finally I wised up and grabbed my daughter’s jacket from the hall closet. Lesson learned. I recommend that you use a long-sleeved shirt (or whatever) to make your pattern as well.
Making your own pattern is pretty simple, really.
Grab a shirt (or jacket) that is about the size that you want your finished product to be. Put it so that half of the shirt is on the paper. Trace that half on a large piece of paper (or several pieces of paper taped together), adding an extra 1/2 inch to 5/8 of an inch for seam allowances. This means that you need to make your pattern 1/2 – 5/8 inch bigger than your original item on all sides.
NOTE: You need to make your neckline quite a bit larger than you want the finished neckline to be. This is because we are going to shirr (or use elastic in) the neckline. This will cause the fabric to gather and the neckline will shrink quite a bit. Before making my pattern, I shirred a test piece of the fabric I was using for my shirt. I measured the length before shirring and after shirring one row and determined that the shirring caused it to shrink by about 25%. I wanted my finished neckline to be 18 inches in circumference so the neckline on my shirt before shirring was about 24 inches. The pattern piece represents 1/4 of my total shirt size, so the neckline on my pattern was about 6 inches.
If you’re doing this with your own fabric, take a piece of fabric and measure it before shirring and after shirring. (Pretend it was originally 10 inches and shirred becomes 7.5 inches.) Divide the length of the shirred piece by the length it was originally (7.5/10=.75). Then, whatever you want your final neckline length to be (pretend you want it to be 18 inches), divide that by the percentage you just came up with (18/.75 = 24 inches). That is the length you want to make sure your neckline is.
Here’s something to keep in mind: Patterns always look HUGE when you hold them up to the person who will be wearing the clothing. Don’t let this freak you out. When I first started sewing, I ruined many an article of clothing by cutting it down prematurely. Seams eat up a lot of fabric. You can always cut down or adjust fabric pieces that are too large. You can’t really make too-small fabric pieces bigger!
Here is what my pattern piece looked like in the end. Truth be told, I wish I’d made the sleeves a wee bit bigger (to have a more baggy look) but they were fine.
Now, for this shirt I decided to make the sewing easier by just cutting the fabric so the sleeves and the bodice were already attached. This meant that there would be a seam along the top of the sleeve, which was fine with me. If, however, you want to make a more traditional sleeve, you can do that. It is fairly simple. Just follow the instructions from my t-shirt tutorial.
Once you have your pattern piece cut, fold your fabric in half, place your pattern on the fold like you see above, pin and cut! Do this twice.
When you’re done, you should have two shirt pieces that look something like you see above (unless you’re sewing the sleeves on separately).
Pin your fabric pieces together, right sides together (if you have a right side). You’re going to sew along the sleeves to the neckline on the top, and from the sleeves, under the armpit, and down to the bottom of the shirt on the bottom. Use a ballpoint needle in your sewing machine, and sew with a zig-zag stitch.
This is a bad picture, but I was trying to show the length and width of my zig-zag stitch.
Okay, once your shirt is sewn, turn it right-side out. Guess what? You’re almost done! At this point, it’s time to shirr. Need help? Check out my tutorial here. (If you don’t want to shirr, I’ll include an alternate option at the bottom.)
Now, you’re going to shirr one row along the length of your neckline. Knit fabrics don’t tend to fray (although I discovered my nylon fabric runs, ugh!) so you don’t need to hem the raw edge, although you can if you want to (just hem it before you shirr). I figured this is a pirate shirt, and pirates are supposed to look a little rugged, so not hemming the neckline worked great be great!
Also shirr a row around the cuffs of your sleeves.
If one row of shirring looks good to you, you’re done! If not, you can shirr another row if you like.
I back-stitch like normal when shirring, but just to make extra-sure my elastic didn’t come undone, I tied each end together before I clipped them.
And you’re done! You can hem the bottom of your shirt if you want, but you don’t really need to.
The neckline will look like this.
And the bottoms of the sleeves are like this.
Of course, if you want a bigger “ruffle”, all you need to do is sew your row of shirring further from the edge of the neckline or sleeve.
Now, say you can’t quite get your machine to shirr or you just don’t feel like shirring. No problem—I’ve got you covered! Instead of shirring, you’re going to make a casing in your neckline and sleeve-ends and insert elastic instead.
To show you this, I’m using my rough-draft shirt that didn’t quite work out (the sleeves were too small).
Turn your shirt inside-out. Turn your neckline down about 1/2-3/4 inch (it needs to be big enough to accommodate your elastic + your seam allowance).
Pin all the way around.
You’re making a casing for your elastic, so you’re going to sew all the way around the neckline, leaving an opening. Use a small seam allowance, making sure the casing is big enough to insert your 1/4 inch elastic.
I used these two blue pins to mark where my opening would be.
Once you’ve sewn around the neckline, cut your elastic so it is about an inch longer than you want your final neckline to be.
Insert your elastic into the opening and pull it all the way through, making sure both ends still hang out the opening when you’re done. (For more about inserting elastic or a drawstring into a casing, be sure to read my casing post.)
Once your elastic is pulled through, overlap the ends and pin.
Sew the elastic ends together. I usually use a double zig-zag stitch (a setting on my machine). Your main concern is making sure it doesn’t come undone.
Slip the elastic the rest of the way into the casing
Sew the casing shut, spread and bunch the fabric evenly over the elastic, and that’s it! Repeat for the bottom of the sleeves (my sewing job isn’t that great because I knew I wasn’t using this shirt, but yours will be better!)
This is the neckline with the elastic casing.
And that’s it! You’ve got yourself a pirate shirt! Perfect for Pirate Fairies and regular ol’ pirates alike.
My little girl was a little happier once she had her wings! (Please ignore that bunchy white fabric that I put over those awful green straps.)
Have fun sewing!
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