Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Drawstring Tee: Free Pattern and Tutorial

It's here! The drawstring tee that I promised you when I posted this coral version is ready to go. Here it is via Google docs:

Drawstring Tee Pattern and Instructions

Note: When you print the pattern pieces, be sure to choose "actual size" in the printer options. The dashed boxes on each page should measure 7 by 9.5"

There are two files -- one with the pattern pieces and one with the pattern instructions. There are a few illustrations included in the instructions, but below you'll find a picture tutorial for (hopefully) more clarification. The instructions may seem lengthy, but that's just because I'm wordy and there are a few steps I wanted to describe in detail. This tee is really quite simple and can be sewn up quickly!

This tee has finished measurements of 31" bust, 33" waist, and 36" hips -- but keep in mind that knit garments have negative ease, and the fit of the garment will depend on the kind of knit fabric you use. For reference, my measurements are 34" bust, 29-30" waist, and 38" hips.

I have linebacker shoulders with almost no slope, so if you have sloping shoulders and find the the "flutter" sleeves are too revealing, you can try inserting some narrow elastic in the armhole hem or just rearrange the gathering on the drawstring.

So, if you want your own version of the Drawstring Tee, print your pattern, grab some fabric, and let's get going!

What You'll Need:

  • Approx. 1 yard of relatively stretchy knit fabric, light to medium weight 
  • Matching thread
  • Stretch or ballpoint needle (I like stretch, because you can use them on any knit fabric)
  • A scrap of fusible interfacing (1 1/4" by 2")
  • Double stretch or ballpoint needle (optional -- I have one but didn't use it)
  • Disappearing ink fabric pen (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Wash Away Wonder Tape (for hems; optional)

Things to Note:

  • All seam allowances are 3/8" unless otherwise noted
  • Instructions for finishing seams are not included, because I've given up serging seams that aren't going to fray. *wink*

{a} Prepare the pattern
  1. Print your pattern pages and trim the edges to the dotted boxes.
  2. Piece together your printed sheets following the markings on each sheet. Please note that the directional arrows do not line up with one another! They merely indicate which pages should be touching. 
  3. Tape your sheets together, making sure to tape the junctions where the pattern lines cross over to a new page. 
  4. Cut out the paper pattern. My recommendation is to then fold a large piece of paper (or non-fusible interfacing) in half and place the pattern on top, matching the center fold line to the fold in the paper. Then trace around the pattern and cut – when you unfold the paper you will have a full pattern that will not need to be placed on a fold! 

{b} Cut the fabric

  1. Lay the pattern out on your fabric, placing the pattern as close as possible to the selvages (this minimizes waste). If you only have a “half” pattern, you will need to fold the selvage edge back toward the fold in the fabric until you have a surface large enough for your pattern piece. 
  2. Cut the pattern out by either pinning the pattern to the fabric or (my favorite) using a disappearing ink fabric pen to trace the pattern shape. Once the two shirt pieces are cut out, you will cut one of the necklines to the “front neckline” marking on the pattern. 
  3. Cut your two casing pieces – 2 ¾” by 18 ½” for the back casing, and 2 ¾” by 22” for the front casing. The fabric should stretch along the longest measurement of each piece. 
  4. Cut your drawstring pieces – 2 pieces 1 ¾” wide by (at least) 26” long. Note: you’re going for an overall length of at least 50” – you can use more than two pieces to achieve this. 
{b} 1: Here's the "half pattern" option -- notice that the fabric selvage has been
folded back to create an "extra' fold

{b} 1: Here's the "full pattern" option, traced with a disappearing ink fabric marker.
Notice how the front neckline is also traced? I cut out both layers using
the higher back neckline, then separated the layers and cut the lower
 front neckline on just the upper piece

{c} Assemble the Shirt 
  1. Place the front and back of the shirt right sides together; pin and sew the shoulder and side seams. Set aside. 

{d} Assemble the Casing
  1. Mark the center of the front casing (the longer of the two casing pieces) with a pin. 
  2. Cut a 1 ¼” by 2” piece of fusible interfacing. Center it along the edge of the wrong side of the front casing (see below). Iron with a press cloth. 
  3. Match the center of the casing to the “center of front casing” line on the Casing Buttonhole Guide piece. Using the guide, mark the location of the buttonholes (the buttonholes will be placed over the interfacing). 
  4. Stitch two buttonholes onto the right side of the casing using your machine’s buttonholer, or by stitching two rows of narrow zigzag connected by a band of wide zigzag at the top and bottom. Cut the buttonholes open. 
  5. Pin the casing pieces right sides together along the short ends; sew them together to create a tube. 
  6. Press the casing seams open.
  7. Fold the casing in half width-wise, wrong sides together with the right side facing out. Your casing is now doubled and measures roughly 1 3/8” wide. You can stay-stitch the raw edges together if you wish. 
{d} 2: Center the interfacing along one long edge of the front casing -- make sure
you adhere it to the wrong side of the fabric.

{d} 3: Use the casing button guide to mark the location of the button
holes; the buttonholes should be on the side of the casing that
has the interfacing.

{d} 7: Fold the casing in half width-wise. It's now ready to sew to the shirt!

{e} Attach the Casing

  1. Turn the shirt right side out. Pin the casing to the neck edge, matching the casing seams with the shoulder seams. NOTE: It is very important that the buttonholes for the drawstring face the right way; they should be facing the right side of the shirt as you pin. 
  2. Stitch the casing to the shirt -- it's okay to ease the fabric a bit if they don't match perfectly, but try not to stretch the fabric too much.
  3. Press the seam allowance toward the shirt. To reduce bulk, trim the two under layers of seam allowance to 1/8”, leaving the “outer layer” of seam allowance intact. Topstitch ¼” away from the casing (i.e., stitch on the shirt front, not the casing itself), catching the seam allowance in your stitches. 
  4. Topstitch ¼” from the folded edge of the casing – this is optional, but will create a ruffle effect when the drawstring is tightened. 
{e} 2: The casing is now stitched to the shirt, with the buttonholes on the "right"
side of the shirt.
{e} 3: There are three layers in the casing/shirt seam allowance. You want to
trim the two closest to the shirt, and leave the one closest to the casing intact.

{e} 3: Topstitch the shirt, making sure the seam allowance is caught in the stitching
underneath. Take it slow!

{e} 4: Topstitch close to the edge of the casing -- this
is optional, and will create a slight ruffle effect when
the drawstring is cinched.

{f} Finishing

  1. Fold sleeve holes under 3/8” – use the Wash Away Wonder Tape to secure, if desired. You can also use a double stretch/ballpoint needle if you prefer a double-stitched hem, though you can also just sew one or two rows of stitching with a single stretch/ballpoint needle.
  2. Fold the hem up ½” and stitch, using the same techniques as the previous step. 
{f} 1 + 2: You can use Wonder Tape for a precise hem,
or -- like me -- just wing it! Be sure to press your hems;
a little steam can do wonders for a knit hem that looks
stretched out.

{g} Drawstring

  1. If you used more than two pieces of fabric for your drawstring, you will need to sew them together until you have just two pieces. 
  2. Fold each drawstring in half width-wise, right sides together. Your drawstring pieces now measure 7/8” wide. 
  3. Stitch along the length of each drawstring piece (1/4” from the edge), leaving one end open and sewing down to a point at the other end. Clip close to the stitching along the curved section. 
  4. Turn the two drawstring pieces right side out using a knitting needle, skewer, etc. – just be sure that your “turner” doesn’t have a point that will penetrate the fabric. 
  5. Insert one of the open ends of the drawstring ½” into the open end of the other drawstring (this part of the drawstring will be concealed in the casing, so the raw edges will be totally obscured). Stitch across the width of the drawstring to secure the two pieces together 
  6. Feed the drawstring through the casing on the shirt (using the buttonholes). My suggestion for getting it through is to attach both ends of a 5-6” scrap of ribbon to a large safety pin (forming a loop with the ribbon). Pull about eight inches of the drawstring through the ribbon loop. Now push the safety pin through the casing – the ribbon loop will pull the drawstring through as you go. 
  7. Adjust the drawstring so that the ends are even. Try it on and adjust until the neckline is right, then tie the drawstring in a bow! 

{g} 3: Stitch a curve at the end of each drawstring piece for a nice detail -- then
trim close to the stitching to remove excess bulk.

{g} 4: Turn the drawstrings right side out and carefully push out 
the points.

{g} 5: Don't worry about the raw edge -- it will be concealed in the casing.

{g} 5: Again, just topstitch the two piece together -- the stitching will be hidden.
{g} 6: Feed your drawstring through your "puller," leaving a long enough tail that your drawstring won't get lost
part way through the casing. 

{g} 6: It doesn't matter which buttonhole you pick to feed your drawstring through. 

{g} 6: Once the safety pin comes out the other side, shimmy out the end of the
drawstring ans start to even out the gathering

{g} 7: Once you've evened out the gathering and adjust it to fit, tie a bow and take a bow!

You’re Done! Great Job!

Enjoy your new tee, and thanks for sewing along with me!


  1. Thanks Shannon! I can't wait to try sewing this top!


    1. Traci,

      You are very welcome -- and I hope you enjoy the top as much as I do! I already have three in my closet. :-)


  2. As soon as I saw the first coral top you made I wanted to make one, now I can. Thanks so much for the pattern Shannon

    – Amy

    1. Amy,

      You're welcome! Thank you for your kind comment!


  3. YAY!!!! Finally a nice shirt. Do you have any suggestions for lengthening the length? (i have an 18inch long midsection from my shoulders to my hips, and most things are way to short) Also, if I didn't want to put elastic in the sleeves or anything like that, would it be possible to modify the pattern? I just want to know if anything would go drastically wrong if I did it. :) Just wondering, and if you don't know then that's fine.

    1. Grace,

      The bodice of the shirt is actually relatively shapeless, so you should be able to just add length to the bottom (or about half-way up, if you want to retain what little shaping there is. The versions I've made don't have elastic in the sleeves; I suggest it only for those who have sloping shoulders, because the gathering from the drawstring may reveal undergarment straps. :-) I think it would be entirely possible to modify the pattern!


  4. Thank you so much for this tutorial. My daughter has some sensory issues and she wants all of her shirts to come right up to her neck and stay there. The drawstring casing is going to be a perfect addition to the top of the knit dresses that I'm going to make for her. Thanks again!

    1. You're very welcome! :-) So glad to hear it will be helpful to you & your daughter!



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