Cut-on sleeves make possibly the simplest top pattern. Also possibly infinite variations.
What sort of pattern user are you ? Many types of people may make good use of such a simple style :
Are you a near beginner ?
Someone who likes to make something to wear quickly ?
Someone looking for a simple base to start from while developing your skills? You could use one of these very simple patterns to explore : drafting your own pattern, improving the fit, changing the style and sewing a wide variety of style elements, or embellishing your garments with textile-altering.

What I had to say about these simple tops became a very long post.
So I have divided it into sections :
1. Patterns – purchase or make your own (this post).
2A. Reasons to make a test garment.
2B. Making a test garment, and adjusting for fit and preferences.
2C. An example of a changed pattern, plus how to revise your pattern.
3. Make – techniques to make the underarm-side-seams and neckline of a basic top.

That third post originally also included suggestions for making variations, such as : changing the fabric, style elements, proportions, or adding embellishments. It was another section that became huge. The variations section was separated off as the ideas apply to most patterns not just this simple shape. That variations post in turn became huge, so I’ve further divided it in 3, starting here : Variations.

However this first section of them all focusses on the simplest starting point. Many possibilities for getting a basic pattern for this style. There are two usual features of most of these basic patterns :
– the cut-on sleeves.
– the ‘boxy’ straight sided style.
Of course both are optional, but for easy sewing they make a good starting point.
I have listed :
– a few of the commercially available patterns,
– some guides to drafting your own pattern from your personal measurements.

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Commercial patterns

Here’s one example :
Lou Box Top from SewDIY, up to body bust 58″, neckline has bias facing finish.

with supplements :
add a variety of sleeve lengths.
photo tutorials for sew along and variations.
dress version with choice of 2 sleeves, 2 hems, many pockets.
dress with gathered waist and another neckline shape and pocket.

Here are a couple more patterns with variations included. These companies also have simple patterns for pants and jacket, to make an easy outfit/ capsule.
All Well Workshop (body bust 32″-62″).
Tropical Research (body bust 30″-44″).

Many pattern companies include a cut-on sleeve pattern. I’m mentioning a few which claim to help beginners. See some other cut-on sleeve top patterns on this pinterest board.

Fibr & Cloth is a company that encourages slow hand sewing (though that isn’t essential !) Her patterns go up to body bust 64″, hip 68″. And also have some good skill expansions.
Her Yarrow top/ tunic with shirt-tail hem is a classic cut-on sleeve pattern, with free sleeve extension.

Sonya Philips' book The Act of Sewing includes a full-size cut-on sleeve top pattern (body bust up to 56″), and half the book is on pattern hacking and sewing for style variations.
She also has a Creative Bug class, with video teaching and a pdf pattern.

The Sew Liberated Strata top (body bust up to 55″) also has a sew-along video.

Seamwork magazine has a ‘learn to sew‘ video class which uses their Bo top pattern (up to body bust 54″). This class is only open to members.

There are a couple of links to photo sew-alongs in the Make section in the third post of this group.

Another source of more extended sizes, Muna & Broad’s Torrens top goes up to body bust 64″, and they offer to draft their patterns larger if you need it. Sew-along videos and hacking suggestions.

Elizabeth Suzann has two patterns you can opt to ‘buy’ for free ($0-15) (body bust 29″-58″). These are among the many cut-on sleeve patterns that do not include supplementary support :
a basic pattern with armhole bands
or an interesting shape with unusual armhole openings or sleeve option, plus big pocket option.

A little extra

If you would like a dress version, perhaps try the Sheath dress from The Avid Seamstress. This has an optional invisible zip, and a photo tutorial.

Here’s a slightly more complex ‘box-top but not cut-on sleeve’ pattern, the Peggy top from Sew Girl patterns. It has bust dart, faced neckline and back slit, and flat set sleeves with gathered cuff.
Detailed photo tutorial.
Video, from 2 hrs.

If you’re not looking for the easiest possible top pattern but a cut-on sleeve style really works for you and you’re looking for more of a challenge, the Jasmine top-dress pattern from Dhurata Davies is an example of a more difficult pattern. It has princess seams, big pockets, interesting sleeves, and flounced hem band.

Although I haven’t singled them out here, people with larger bodies may find it best to use pattern lines which have separate patterns for larger sizes. This is because the pattern grading [size of differences between sizes] is different in the two groups of people. For the smaller sizes, perhaps XS to XL, the whole underlying skeleton gets bigger from one size to another. With larger sizes, it is usually what covers the skeleton that gets larger, while features such as shoulder width and arm length do not change.

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Make your own personalised pattern

Video class
If you’d like guidance when drafting your own cut-on sleeve top pattern, Cal Patch has a video class at Creative Bug which covers :
– drafting a pattern from your measurements,
– simple variations,
– sew-along.
Or here is a free photo tutorial from her, at A Verb For Keeping Warm.

And there are multiple diagram guides to drafting your own pattern in the top half of this pinterest board.

Draw your own pattern
Or you might draw out your own pattern following your own thoughts. On a big sheet of paper, or direct onto the fabric.

One advantage of doing this is to allow for your own body shape.
Would you look better in a flared, straight, or tapered silhouette ?

Cal Patch’s drafting and most of the commercial patterns are for a ‘box top’, which is square or rectangle in shape. These are good for people with a ‘rectangle’ or ‘circle’ body shape.

I’m a ‘triangle/ pear’ body shape with small bust and large hips, so prefer something more flared, like this :
Test garment cut out of Pattern Ease (tunic length on me)

While if you are the opposite, an ‘inverted triangle’ body shape with generous bust and/or shoulders and slim hips, you might prefer to start from a ‘dolman’ shape – try lowering the armholes. This style has lots of ease over bust and shoulders, with a neat trim fit over the hips, like this :
batwing top
image source

(If you have a small waist, an ‘hourglass’ body shape, you may only be interested in making a cut-on sleeve top as a stepping stone on your way to learning to sew more fitted garments with darts and zips 😀 )

Best to know the widths and lengths you want your garment to be :
– length, measured down from shoulder point (measure the length of favourite garments).
– sleeve length, measure from nape of neck down to where you want the sleeve hem.
– bust, as on flared photo above, or measure the width of a favourite garment.
– sleeve width similarly : half biceps measure + 3″/8cm or more.
The 3″ added width will give you 2 seam allowances plus about 4″/10cm ease between body and garment. You can of course add more, but probably not less until you’re sure what fit you want.

If you plan to wear your top as an overlayer, take your bust, hip and biceps measures over the garments you will be layering over, not just over your underwear !

Not to worry about how good this pattern is. Don’t expect to get the pattern ‘right’ before doing any sewing, as that is close to impossible. The second post in this group is about altering a test garment until it’s comfortable and looks like what you want.
I once followed detailed instructions for drafting a bodice pattern from my measurements. Then made and altered a test garment. There was only one measure out of all I had started from which was unchanged by the time I had got the bodice to fit me.

You can take the pattern to use for a ‘for real’ garment from the altered test garment, also see second post.

Draw around an existing garment
Or, if taking measurements doesn’t appeal, simply draw around a garment that you know works for you – a tee (if you’re making a pattern for knits) or top (pattern for wovens).

drawing from Illustrated Hassle-Free Make your own clothes book.
Notice they have added seam allowances.

Here’s a free video from Simply Sewing magazine on how to make a cut-on sleeve top without needing a pattern. It uses a similar approach, and shows you how to do it.
Though I must say they don’t know much about beginners when they suggest crepe viscose or sandwashed silk as fabrics – those are fabrics that need extra care with both cutting out and stitching.

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So now you have your pattern. Well done 👍
At this stage it’s only a starting point. What are you going to do with it 😀 There are exciting possibilities :
– learn to sew a basic garment.
– revise the pattern until it is the best pattern for you of this style.
– make variations : change the style elements or add embellishments.

The posts in this group on cut-on sleeve tops are :

1. The pattern (this post).

2A. Reasons to make a test garment.
2B. Making a test garment, and adjusting for fit and preferences.
2C. An example of a changed test garment, plus how to revise your pattern.

3. Making a cut-on sleeve top.

The third post initially included a section making variations. Then that section was separated off. That too became very long so has now been divided in three sections. And the suggestions are no longer limited just to changing cut-on sleeve tops.
Variations A. Change style elements.
Variations B. Pullover top to jacket/ shirt.
Variations C. Using textile skills.

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