Fit to a T baby romper tutorial part 2: Making the Pattern and Cutting
This post is intense, since you are making lots of decisions at this stage. Really it’s much simpler than it looks (isn’t that what they all say?), but I will ask you to please make a test piece to make sure you are perfectly happy with your fit and technique before you cut up your vintage concert T’s!
1) Trace a foundation garment to make a block pattern. Find a garment that fits your intended recipient. I like to use a close-fitting onesie as a sloper of sorts and go from there, so I’ll refer to this chosen garment as a onesie, although a sleeper, romper, or even a T shirt can work too.
Turn the onesie inside out and trace all of the pieces. I trace the back neckline (the higher one) and then make adjustments for the front later.
When tracing a onesie, I trace the longer of the panels that goes between the legs, but more importantly I also snap the onesie closed and mark this depth too.
I used to try to make fancy-shaped sleeves such as you’d find in a pattern, but I’ve since found that I am just as happy if I just fold the sleeve in half (oxter to shoulder) and cut on the fold. I use a length of yarn to measure my armscythe along the seam line and then use that yarn to fine-tune my sleeve tracing, also at the seam line. Classy, eh? There is a certain amount of sketching involved in the tracing process, but use your foundation garment as your guide and take the plunge.
onesie traced, with depth between the legs marked
To make a nicer pattern, I often will trace the whole thing, then fold my tracing in half, lift it to a light source, and cut on the average (so to speak) of my two traced lines (but I didn’t do this when taking my pictures! Argh!). This way when I open it up, both sides are identical and I get the chance to edit my tracing. In addition, this makes it easy to preserve a centered image on the T-shirt and cut an identical front and back.
But…I have been known to trace and cut on the fold like I did in these shots, if I’m feeling lucky. So do you feel lucky?
2) Make some decisions about romper style and add seam allowances. Lay your “block” on a fresh sheet of paper or tissue and trace it again.
If you’ve traced the onesie exactly as it is, you’ve already incorporated a 1/4″ seam allowance into some of your seams. You will need to add 1/4″ seam allowances to sleeve seams, both on the sleeve and romper. You may need to add seam allowances to the neck, sleeve hems, bottom hems, and legs, depending on the style you choose. I’ll tell you where to add them as we go.
Now you get to make some decisions and do some sketching.
2a) What kind of romper are you going to make–straight or with a gusset? (You could also make a center back seam and shape it like a pair of pants! We won’t be doing that here, though.)
For a straight romper, starting from the underarm, simply draw a straight line the gradually goes out from the block pattern, as shown in the example below. I tend to make my legs long and make my decisions about length in the hemming step. Freehand a curve for the leg opening from the leg depth marking you made with the onesie closed by making another mark about 1 1/2 inches below it and then sketching a curve, as shown below, about the shape of an upside down “U.” Add a 1/4″ seam allowance around this curve.
leg line sketched for a STRAIGHT romper
For a romper with a gusset, do the step above (starting from the underarm, simply draw a straight line the gradually goes out from the block pattern, as shown in the example above), but then draw another line out at a sharper angle, starting from about the waist (see photo below). Freehand a curve for the leg opening from the leg depth marking you made with the onesie closed by making another mark about 1 1/2 inches below it and then sketching a curve, as shown below, about the shape of an upside down “U” but a little wider at the bottom. Retain the inside of your curve–this will become your gusset pattern piece. You’ll want to tape some extra paper into this hole to add a 1/4″ seam allowance to the romper front and back, and also tape extra paper around the gusset pattern piece to add a 1/4″ seam allowance to it.
leg line sketched for a romper with a GUSSET (see how I worked off of my straight romper pattern, but widened the leg even further from the waist?)
2b) What kind of head opening do you want? I’ll show you how to do a back placket (which could easily be a cute front placket too) and a snapped shoulder.
For the back placket, do nothing! You’ll cut out placket strips in the cutting stage but don’t need to make any alterations to your pattern to accommodate the placket.
For the shoulder snaps, you’ve again got options. One option is to do self-faced snap carriers, which is a little simpler in execution and adds less bulk but requires interfacing and is a little less sturdy, or added snap carriers, which adds the bulk of a seam but also the stability.
For self-faced shoulder snap carriers, simply add 1 1/4″ to the shoulder you’d like to use for the closure (seems like most of Gracie’s clothes that close this way have it on her left shoulder, perhaps easier for a right-handed person to dress her?).
For added shoulder snap carriers, simply make sure you have a 1/4″ seam allowance on to the shoulder you’d like to use for the closure (seems like most of Gracie’s clothes that close this way have it on her left shoulder, perhaps easier for a right-handed person to dress her?). You’ll cut the carriers in the cutting stage, but don’t need to change the pattern.
2c) What about neck, arm, and leg finishes?
Here’s where you can go crazy or go easy.
Neck: You may wish to cut the front neckline a little lower than the back neckline, as mentioned above. I usually freehand it after I’ve cut the front, but you can take this opportunity to make a separate front and back pattern if you’d like.
To finish the neck, you can simply turn the edges under, press, and, working from the wrong side, use a mid-sized zig zag to secure the raw edges to the front. Simple, looks good, and depending on your thread choice can be a design element. For this neckline treatment (which I’ll henceforth refer to as a “simple turn,” add 1/2″ to the neckline of your pattern.
To girl-ify this neckline a little further (as seen below), you can then use the widest zig zag stitch, up the tension on your machine, and stitch directly over the folded edge. I’ll call this one “simple turn with shell zig zag.” The increased tension will pull the fabric in and give it a little shell effect, while retaining the stretch. It’s a great finish, although it works better on knits that are a little thicker. For this neckline treatment, add 1/2″ to the neckline of your pattern.
neckline: simple turn with shell zig zag. My T was rather thin, so it didn’t show up as much as I’d hoped.
Another neckline finish is to use a strip either from the T itself or the retained T-shirt neckband, as seen in the photo below. For this neckline, add 1/4″ to the neckline of your pattern. You’ll cut the strips in the cutting stage.
added strips for neckline, original T-shirt hem used for sleeves, simple turn used for leg openings.
added strips for neckline, arms, and legs
Arms & legs: The easiest option for arms & legs is to cut them out so that the hem of the T-shirt becomes the hem of your sleeves and legs. Ta-da! Otherwise you can do the same finishes described above (simple turn, simple turn with shell zig zag, and added strips) for the neckline, or do one of those and add a ruffle as follows.
To add a ruffly hem on arms and legs to your pattern, like this one:
simple turn with shell zig zag for neck; simple turn with shell zig zag AND ruffly hem for arms and legs
1) Make the pattern adjustments for one of the finishes describes above (plain turn, turn with zig zag edging, or added edge. In the picture above I used a turn with zig zag). Then add about another inch to the length of the arms & legs, or more, but mark the original line. This is where you’ll sew the elastic.
2) slash & spread your pattern so the sleeves and legs are about twice their original size at the hemline. When the time comes, you’ll sew 1/8″ or 1/4″ elastic onto the elastic line you marked in the step above, using a wide zig-zag stitch and stretching the elastic as you sew. Another ta-da is certainly warranted for such an easy and cute effect, don’t you think?
3) Make alterations as needed to fine tune the fit to your baby. I added an inch in the trunk by cutting my pattern in half at the waist and taping in extra paper an inch apart. I also extended the legs an inch, mostly to give myself room to play with leg finishes. Since you’ve used a foundation garment that fits well, this shouldn’t be a big deal. I just wanted to give her a little room to grow.
straight romper pattern, altered c. 1″ at waist.
That’s it for pattern adjustments!
Cut it out already, would you?
Cutting out your pattern is great fun. Figure out how you want to preserve the image on your T shirt first, then arrange the rest of the pieces around that. Since we are cutting the front and back are identical (you could raise the neckline in the back and lower it in the front if you wanted to), you can simply lay out your T-shirt, smooth it down, and begin cutting your pattern pieces.
A tip: don’t throw away any T shirt scraps yet. They may come in handy later! Especially if you tend to mess up experiment a lot like I do.
Pieces to cut:
- romper front and back, using the pattern pieces we’ve been making above.
- strips for leg closures: cut one that is 2 1/2″ wide and a bit longer than the length of your center leg openings, with the grain running the length of the piece, and one that is about 1 1/4″ wide and a bit longer than the length of your center leg openings, with the grain running the length of the piece.
Pieces you may need to cut out, depending on your style
- gusset, for gusseted romper, using the pattern piece from the curve you sketched.
- snap carriers, for added shoulder snap carrier closure: cut 2 pieces 2 1/2″ wide and the length of your shoulder seams, with the grain running the length of the piece (opposite the direction of the grain when you stitch them on)
- plackets, for back placket: cut 2 pieces 2 1/2″ wide and 6″ long, with the grain the length of the piece
- strips for neck, arms, and legs: cut 1″ wide and a bit longer than the the length of your arms and legs, with the grain running the length of the piece.
Here’s how mine worked out on the straight romper:
- romper front & back -middle front & back of the T
- romper sleeves- one cut on the fold of each T sleeve
- T neckband to be used for romper neckband
- long side remnants to be used for back placket (cut 2: approximately 2 1/2″ wide and 6″ long, with the grain running up and down the length) and edgings for the sleeves and leg (approx. 2 1/2″ wide and a bit longer than the sleeve and leg edgings. Don’t stress about it.)
- long bottom remnant to be used for leg opening snap reinforcement (approx. 2 1/2″ wide. Length is, well, just make it longer than your leg opening!)
straight romper cutting
straight romper cutting, without pattern pieces
gusseted romper, cut out lazy style on the fold