I wanted to provide a full tutorial about drafting your own camisole and how to sew it, particularly how to get really great looking bias bindings and straps. I recently purchased the newly released MADEIT Patterns Go Shorties and Camisole but didn’t love the pattern or the methods, but that’s not why I buy patterns. I know I’m usually going to draft my own pattern and make up my own methods. I bought the pattern because it’s helpful to have a reference for drafting, and their pattern had this cool color blocking option. This post is how I created my own pattern, and my next post will be about how to construct the camisole. The take-home point about this post is that PATTERN EASE MATTERS.
Self-drafting a camisole pattern
I started with my version of Hey June Handmade’s crew neck t-shirt (see here). This entire tutorial assumes you have a relaxed fit, basic t-shirt pattern to start from. My Union St. Tee has approximately 3 ½ inches of positive ease at the chest and 5 ½ inches of positive ease at the hips. You also want to make sure your t-shirt pattern fits well. For example, if the armscye on your t-shirt pattern isn’t scooped out enough or is scooped out too much, then the camisole armscye will also look wrong. If anyone does try this, remember your results may vary.
Before explaining how I drafted my pattern pieces, I need to also discuss fabric. The entire point of this post is about style ease and fabric choice is going to have a big impact on ease. I’m pretty particular about my knit fabric and right now this is my list of sources: Art Gallery knits, Pico Textiles cotton spandex jersey, Fabric Store merino jersey, Hemp stretch jersey, and maybe Swafing solid jersey. The key thing about all these fabrics is that they are between 220-240gsm, and they all have a 50% 4-way stretch. Blackbird Fabrics has a medium weight rib knit that is 332gsm with a 70% 4-way stretch. My pattern pieces would have to be altered to accommodate a fabric with more than 50% stretch. Conversely, if you plan to use fabric with less than 50% 4-way stretch, this pattern will be way too tight. Fabric choice and fit preference will greatly impact how you draft your pattern.
Here is how everything lines up; center front stays in the same location for both the t-shirt and camisole, and the location of the underarm remains on the same horizontal plane.
First, bring in or narrow the side seam by 1 ½ inches. Why did I choose 1 ½ inches? My full bust measurement is around 40 inches. My Union St. Tee on the final garment is 43.6 inches, which is slightly over 3 ½ inches of POSITIVE ease.
However, I wanted my camisole to have 0 to 2 ½ inches of NEGATIVE ease.
If I want a garment with no ease, I need to remove 3 ½ inches from the side seams. Remember, I am just removing the 3 ½ inches of positive ease to have no ease.
If I want 2 ½ inches of NEGATIVE ease, I will need to remove 6 inches.
3 ½ + 2 ½ = 6
Removing 3 ½ (no ease) to 6 inches (negative ease) needs to be evenly distributed across the side seams (left front, right front, left back, and right back). If I want no ease, I can remove from each side:
3 ½ ÷ 4 = ⅞
If I want 2 1/2 inches of negative ease, I can remove from each side:
6 ÷ 4 = 1 ½
I choose to go with the most amount of negative ease I thought would be comfortable. Obviously, if your t-shirt pattern is more fitted, to begin with, then 1 ½ inches may be too much. If your t-shirt pattern is oversized, then 1 ½ inches may not be enough. Additionally, if you want a tighter fitting camisole, you can move the side seam more than 1 ½ inches. If you want a straight cut camisole, you can also just draw a line straight down from the underarm. I wanted some shaping for my camisole, so I just moved the entire side seam over by 1 ½ inches. Hopefully explaining the maths helps you understand why I chose 1 ½ inches. I didn’t just come up with some random value.
Second, I plan to wear my camisoles under t-shirts, so I wanted my hemline to be slightly higher. I raised my hemline by 1 ½ inches. You can easily lengthen or shorten the hemline based upon your preference.
Third, there’s a really convenient notch at the armscye on the Union St. Tee. I moved the notch over 1 ½ inches along the same horizontal plane and redrew my lower armscye line back to the new side seam.
Fourth, my t-shirt pattern is the crew neck version, not the scoop neck version of the Union St. Tee, so I lowered my neckline by 2 ½ inches.
Last, luckily I had the Go Shorties and Camisole pattern to use as a template to draft the final bit from the front neckline to the armscye.
Like the front, the back piece will be drafted with center back matching, and the location of the underarm remains on the same horizontal plane.
I repeated the same process for the back piece. I moved the entire side seam over by 1 ½ inches.
I raised the back hem line by 1 ½ inches just like I did for the front piece.
Instead of drawing a horizontal line from the underarm to center back, I lowered the line at center back by ¼ inch.
Double check that your side seams match. You don’t want them to be different lengths!
All binding should be cut to 1 ¼ inches wide. Seam allowance is ⅜ inches. The binding consists of three layers (⅜ × 3 = 1 ⅛). To accommodate for the bulkiness of knit, add ⅛ inch for the turn of cloth (1 ⅛ + ⅛ = 1 ¼). The length of the binding is less important. One piece needs to be slightly longer than the front neckline. For me, that’s at least 12 inches. The second piece is a little more involved to calculate; it needs to be the length of the camisole back edge plus 2 times the straps’ length. My binding for the second piece needs to be 54 inches or more. Because this all started with trying to upcycle my long sleeve t-shirts, I sewed together strips cut from my sleeves to get a final piece long enough.
The Go Cami pattern uses the same type of knit fabric, 50% 4-way stretch. My full bust is 40 inches, and the fullest part of my hips is 42 ½ inches. That puts me at size 16 based on their charts.
However, when you compare my self-drafted pattern pieces, my front piece is a size 18, and my back piece is a size 20 at the bust and grades down to a size 18 at the hips.
This type of pattern is drafted to have negative ease. The Go cami has 5 ¼ inches of negative ease around the chest (40 – 34 ¾ = 5 ¼). That’s a lot of negative ease, and I find that amount too much. In the end, my pattern pieces give me 2 ¼ inches of negative ease. I would want stretchier fabric like the Blackbird Fabrics’ 70% 4-way stretch to push my negative ease to more than 3 inches, or maybe if I was trying to make the camisole more supportive like a sports bra.
The size 16 of the Go cami gives 3 ½ inches of negative ease at the hem (43 – 39 ½ = 3 ½). On my self-drafted pattern, the negative ease at the hem is 1 ½ inches. Again, not as much.
For a tight-fitting shirt, you want your negative ease to be around 0-2 inches. For a supportive top like a swimsuit or sports bra, your negative ease will probably be closer to 5 inches. I think this is where the discrepancy between my self-drafted pattern pieces and Go Cami pattern pieces exist. I’m going for a fitted camisole, and they’re going for a supportive camisole. Ease matters.
I’m sure I opened up a whole issue when it comes to wearable ease and patterns. Hey June Handmade has a good discussion about patterns, style, and ease: https://www.heyjunehandmade.com/what-is-style-ease-and-why-the-term-runs-big-should-never-be-used/. I jumped into the Go Cami with little knowledge about how much ease I would want for my camisole. Ease is very subjective because it depends upon style, fabric, stretch, preference, etc.
Whether you use a pattern like the Go cami or draft your own, I suggest measuring yourself (i.e., full bust, waist, and hips) and comparing your measurements to the final pattern. Ease will greatly affect the comfort and style of your garment.
Next time, I will, again, be going off script and showing you my method for attaching binding and straps using your own knit fabric. My methods include how to stabilize the seams, reduce bulkiness, get an even stretch across necklines, and makes the process so easy that it’ll look better than RTW clothes. That’s a lot of hype over my method, huh? Stay safe, stay healthy!