The previous posts are about the simplest top pattern, with cut-on sleeves. And all the variations you can play with, starting from such a pattern.

Cut-on sleeves do not work well for everyone, either for fit or style. So once you’ve gained some confidence from making cut-on sleeves, you may well want to develop a basic pattern with a separate sleeve, which you can vary in the same ways.

Several levels of base pattern with separate sleeves :

– several of the cut-on sleeve patterns have an optional sleeve.
These sleeves have a straight line at the top. They are added to the top before the side-underarm seams are sewn. So the top can lay flat while the sleeves are attached.

– raglan sleeves are very easy to sew, see sleeves and armholes post.

– a casual loose fitting top with slightly curved armhole seam.
As in this example :
flat set sleeve LC
from Pinning sleeves to a garment, photo tutorial from Cutting Line Designs.
Also ‘flat-set’, but a bit more complex, as you’re sewing together 2 different curves. See sleeves and armholes post.

– a casual top with a loose fit and loose armhole, no fitting darts.
This is the focus of this post.

– a ‘fitting shell’, close fitted with fitted armhole and body shaping darts. This is what most pattern making books and personal pattern drafting classes try to get you to make. The second section of this post has some easier suggestions, for getting a fitting shell without drafting.

So the main sections in this post are :
– casual top with separate sleeves, casual fit, no darts.
– fitting shell, close fitting and with darts.
– developing a personalised armhole and sleeve cap.
– more variations.

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Casual top

You might start from a fitting shell pattern (see later) and loosen it to be more casual. In fact most pattern making and fitting classes tell you to get your basic casual pattern this way.
But it is much easier to develop an intermediate casual pattern with separate sleeves, looser fit, and no fitting darts, by starting from a similar pattern, without taking all the trouble to get a close fit first.
Perhaps by taking a video class, such as :

Sonya Philip‘s class at Creative Bug includes a basic pdf pattern up to body bust 53″, and is on sewing rather than fitting. See my second cut-on sleeve post for fitting the body, and below on fitting the sleeve and armhole.
Sonya’s book, The Act of Sewing, includes full size traceable paper patterns (up to body bust 56″) for 2 tops : both cut-on sleeve and separate sleeve with fitted armhole. Quarter of the book is on making, quarter on fitting, and half is on pattern hacking and sewing instructions for many variations (there are also simple basic patterns for skirt and pants).

Cal Patch has two video classes at Creative Bug, which show you how to :
draft a master dress pattern from your own measurements,
test and refine the fit.

The patterns at Jennifer Lauren Handmade all include cup sizes A-F, up to 62″ body bust sizes. The nearest she gets to a basic top is the top of the Luna Lounge set, with cut-on or separate sleeves, easy add-ons for tunic/dress. Pants included.

There are also basic casual sleeved patterns oriented to helping with fit, such as :
Judy Kessinger’s Fit Nice Master top.
The Sure-Fit master shirt pattern is a casual shape with no darts and looser armholes.

Or take a basic commercial pattern which is like what you are aiming for, make a test garment, and adapt it to your preferences – as in the fit section in the second cut-on sleeve post. You may also want to adapt the fit of the armhole-sleeve cap area, see later section here.

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Fitting shell

If you love fitted styles, you may want to work towards a fitting shell as your starter pattern. Very much the opposite end of pattern making and styling to what the cut-on sleeve posts are about.
The big pattern making college tomes (and many on-line pattern drafting classes) start with drafting a fitting shell. But many people these days don’t wear clothes this closely fitted, so we don’t need a fitting shell. And it is much easier to develop a casual top basic pattern, with separate sleeves, looser fit and without darts, without starting from a fitting shell, as above.

If you do want to develop a personal fitting shell, you haven’t got to start by drafting your own. I’ve tried several pattern drafting methods, and haven’t found one that works well for me. Most of them resort to using ‘average’ measures for some areas, usually areas where I’m not average. I have to spend much time and effort adapting what I have drafted until it fits me. So I might as well have omitted the drafting step, and just do all that adapting and fitting on a starter pattern.
There are several patterns specifically intended to help you with getting a good close bodice fit, such as :

Butterick 5627, up to body bust 44″.
Butterick 5628 up to body bust 54″ is sadly oop but still findable.

McCall’s 2718 up to body bust 48″, includes 5 cup sizes.
If your cup size is above B, try choosing the size by using your (above bust measure +2″/5cm) as your bust size – because most commercial patterns are drafted for a B cup, and that has bust = above bust+2″/5cm. For many people, choosing your size this way should give a better fit on your shoulders.

These patterns from Alison Glass, up to body bust 50″, are available in paper or pdf formats :
Woven essentials.
Knit essentials.

The Sure-Fit master dress pattern aims to produce a fitting shell including darts, up to body bust 62″. Much help with extra fitting adjustments, on the site.

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Fitting your personal armhole and sleeve head

There’s some extra fitting issues to add to all the body widths, lengths and neckline shapes considered in the second cut-on sleeve post – fitting the sleeve and armhole.

Just when I was thinking about all the things I needed to include in talking about sleeve and armhole fit, Sew Sew Live posted an extensive tutorial (not free). You get two downloads :
– a .doc with links to two videos, one on fitting one on sewing (if you have a Mac the .doc will open in .pages).
– a .pdf with summary notes on fitting, and pattern pieces for practicising sewing in a sleeve.

If you look carefully at the time line of the 1hr50min. fitting video, you can see it’s in sections. Hover your cursor over a section, and what it covers appears above the time line. Though I suggest watching the whole thing first, to get oriented to the issues.

There’s also a 13min. video on sewing in a fitted sleeve. Lots of good detail. She sews from the sleeve side, which I prefer. I do use lots of pins, especially at the notches. But there are many sleeve sewing videos, so if you have a favourite, don’t worry about this one.

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You can have a happy time adding all your favourite variations from my third post on cut-on sleeves to your personal base pattern with separate sleeves. Change style elements, change proportions, celebrate your textile-arts skills and ideas 😀

If you’d like some help with doing the hacking, momosAtelier starts from a casual boxy top with separate sleeves, and includes some sleeve variations (body bust up to 44″, ease 8″). She has many collar and cuff patterns on her site, which could also be added to her (and other) patterns.

If you would like to start from a fitted sleeve pattern with bust darts, there’s Woolfork, up to 64″ body bust.
That dress is combined with knitting patterns here.
She has no pants pattern (see Muna & Broad for those if you’re a larger size).

Style elements
When your base pattern has a separate sleeve, there are also many possible sleeve variations.
When your base pattern has darts, there are many options for moving darts or replacing them with draping.

Here’s a pinterest board with some sleeve style options.
And a post on sewing some of them.
If you like enclosed wrists, here’s a post on sewing placket openings.

If you’d like more guidance on pattern making for changing style elements, there’s the book Make your own dress patterns by Adele Margolis. She starts from a basic fitting shell. But you can apply many of the variations in this book to almost any starter pattern, such as a cut-on sleeve top 😀 This book is till in print after many years, which is a testament to how helpful it is – much easier than the hefty college pattern-making textbooks and many pattern altering online classes.

Judy Kessinger of Fit Nice has several books, with videos, on adapting a basic sleeved pattern to other styles, including jackets. She has a gift for making things easy. She also has pdfs on many individual styles.

Her Fit Nice book Top it off has instructions and videos for 40 top styles. You can watch the videos for free ! not complete sew-alongs but full of ideas.

The books included with the master shirt and master dress patterns from Glenda Sparling of Sure-Fit designs (links above) include many suggestions for ‘hacking’ her patterns. There are also extra books with more supplement designs. And an ‘academy‘ of videos about making other styles from her patterns. Add a selection of pdf pattern leaflets. Most of these ideas can be applied to any base patterns, not just hers.

I’ve already mentioned Sonya Philip’s book, The Act of Sewing, half of which is about style variations.

The possibilities can be overwhelming, so focus on your favourites 😀 😀 😀

– – –

In theory, you can now move on to making a pattern for anything you like!
Which is very exciting 😀
or can definitely seem a bit too daunting.
So perhaps you would like to take a brief time-out to consider what you do like 😀
There are many ‘explore your personal style’ options in this group of posts from Sewingplums.

Good Luck, whatever you choose to do, with your pattern making, fitting, hacking, and embellishing adventures 👍 😀 👍

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