To make this shirt, use the BAB Pee-Wee Herman Costume Sewing Pattern, coming soon to my shop. You may also want use these instructions as a guide for following the shirt pattern of your choice. (When in doubt, trust any instructions included with your original pattern!)
The very first step is to cut out your paper pattern pieces. Try to preserve the original lines of your paper pattern by cutting along the outermost edge of each line. Then pin each paper pattern piece to your fabric, and cut your fabric according to the shape of your paper pattern. I would like to get into describing what the marks (such as arrows and triangles) on your paper pattern indicate, where to place the pattern pieces on your fabric for cutting, and how to adjust your paper pattern to suit your unique needs (how to tailor your pattern) in one or more follow-up entries. So look for those!
After you've cut out all your fabric pattern pieces, you'll need to match each of the (two matching) "shirt front" pieces to the (one single) "shirt back" piece, aligning them at the shoulders. The "right" sides should face each other, so that you're assembling this shirt "from the inside out". (Video tutorials about telling the difference between the "right" side and the "wrong" side of a fabric can be found here and here.) The curve under each arm should match, front piece to back piece, once your pieces are aligned properly. Next, you will need to run a seam at each shoulder using your sewing machine. Until you're ready to use the machine, simply pin these pieces together at each shoulder to secure their alignment.
The standard seam allowance marked on all my BAB patterns is 0.25 inches (which should comfortably accommodate a 16-inch Build-A-Bear Workshop toy). Depending on the size of your Build-A-Bear (BAB), you may want to increase your seam allowance. Doing so will make the resulting shirt slightly smaller in size, which is appropriate for both 15-inch and 14-inch bears. I don't have access to a 12-inch Duffy the Disney Bear or ShellieMay, just yet, but I suspect the fit may be comparable to a 14-inch BAB... Check my later entry about tailoring for tips on how to adjust a paper pattern to better fit your particular bear!
The seams at each shoulder should be simple straight lines, following the edge of your fabric. After you run each seam, open these seams and press them flat — see below.
Flattening these seams will help to reduce thickness or bulk, improving the look and feel of subsequent seams along the neckline and each sleeve.
The BAB Basic Shirt Sewing Pattern includes pattern pieces for sleeves, but adding sleeves to your shirt is optional. Joining sleeves to the basic shell of your shirt could be the most difficult step, because of the difference in curvature between your pattern pieces. As you can see in the image below, this puzzle doesn't look like it will fit together. I assure you, it will!
Take your time. Aligning your shirt sleeve to the shell may take you a few tries, pinning and re-pinning your pieces along this curve. You don't want any pleating, buckling, or folds along this seam, so adjust your pins as many times as it takes to distribute the length of these two curves across each other. Take your time running the seam on your machine as well, and don't be afraid to rip your stitches out and try again, as necessary. I often do!
The steps for finishing sleeves on a BAB shirt is the same as finishing sleeves on a BAB jacket. Please refer to my entry about assembling the jacket for those steps. Since I plan for my bear to wear this shirt underneath a jacket, I would like to make the shirt sleeveless. If I don't, I may have to struggle, later on, to force my shirt sleeves inside the jacket sleeves in order to put the outfit together on my bear. To make your shirt sleeveless, just turn the hem along the underarms. There are many ways to do this; what follows is the simplest method.
Fold the edge over once and pin it. Then carefully run an edge seam, following the curvature of the fabric. This curve should fall on the natural bias of your fabric, if it has a grain, making it easier to turn the edge and stretch it a bit to make it flat. And it should be relatively easy to accommodate an allowance around 0.125 inches (one eighth of an inch) or perhaps even 0.25 inches (one quarter of an inch). If you'd like to turn the hem further, there are much better ways to finish this edge. More on that in a later entry!
Every classic button-up shirt opens in the front. To achieve this classic look, you need to attach another length (a strip) of fabric to one side of the opening, and not the other. The opposite side gets a simple hem, turned so that it faces toward the inside of the shirt. Edges on the button-band or button-front side should be turned toward the outside of the shirt, the part that shows when the shirt is being worn. There will be no raw edges showing when you're finished.
If your fabric has a "right" side and a "wrong" side, as printed fabrics often do, lay the button-band "right" side down on the inside or "wrong" side of your shirt. Pin it, and run a straight seam along the edge. Then remove the pins and press both the edges of your seam AND the edge of your fabric (folded back like a hem) so that these are turned toward the front of your shirt in what looks like the wrong direction.
With these edges pressed, fold the whole button-band strip, just one more time. It should now be turned the full width of the button band, from the seam line to the folded edge line. Press flat, and run a topstitch along both vertical lines. Now, there should be two rows of topstitching running down the front of your button band: one for the innermost folded edge, and one for the outermost seamed edge.
Before I ran my topstitching for this tutorial, I went ahead and pinned the sides together in preparation for my side seams. This is a good time to do it, because the hem is still unfinished, and I don't have any sleeves. (See my entry about assembling a BAB jacket for finishing instructions that also apply to shirts with sleeves.)
Line up each of the front pieces to the back piece so that the hem (or seams) of each of the underarms meet. The distance between the underarm hem lines (or the seam lines where your sleeves have been attached) and the raw edge at the bottom of your shirt may not be equal, and that's perfectly okay! Turning your final hemline will resolve that problem. So don't sweat it. For now, just line these pieces up, as seen below, pin them in place and run a couple straight seams.
From here, there are only two features remaining to finish this shirt: a hem along the bottom edge, and a collar along the top edge!
For the bottom-most hemline, simply turn the raw edge, pin it along the entire length, and run an edge seam. Like before, with the underarms. In this case, you have more room and therefore a greater ability to turn the hem as much as you like. I'm going for a less bulky approach, so I chose to turn my hem just once. You can see in this picture that the raw edge is still exposed on the inside of my shirt. For a more finished and professional look, you may want to turn the hem once more, so that the raw edge is completely enclosed within the finished hemline. Run the edge seam twice, if it makes it easier for you. Or use your iron to press the hem as you fold it over.
You can also increase the seam allowance of your hem to make the shirt shorter. To decide how much shorter it should be, go ahead and slip it onto your bear. Now pin the hemline while he or she is still wearing the shirt!
For a very simple, no frills, folded collar, I recommend a quick rectangular piece of cloth, folded over once lengthwise, and seamed along each short edge. You'll want to align this piece to the neckline of your shirt to determine the proper placement of your seams. When you turn this piece "right" side out, its final length should be equal to the full distance around the neckline, neither longer nor shorter. I like to use a fabric marker (with disappearing, water-soluble ink) for this purpose, but you can use whatever works best for you, as long as it doesn't permanently damage your fabric.
Before you turn the collar "right" side out, trim away each of the corners. Something approaching a 60-degree angle is sufficient. The edges of this seam will end up on the inside of your collar, and you'll want the points at each corner to be crisp. Trimming away a little bit at each corner reduces the risk you may end up with a bulky corner that is too dimensionally round and soft looking, rather than pointed and crisp.
Now turn and press the collar flat.
With your collar turned "right" side out, match the collar to your shirt. Once your shirt is finished, one side of your collar will be folded over, creating an underside to your collar. This "underside" is the side you want to line up with the "right" side of your shirt's unfinished neckline, at this point. Use pins to secure the collar in place. Because the collar is "right" side out, your pins should run along the inside of the collar on what is actually the "wrong" side of the fabric. You'll need to run your seam along this "wrong" side, as well.
The remaining raw edge of your collar gets turned in a way similar to the button-band edge. A topstitch will also secure and finish the folded edge of the collar along the inside of your finished neckline.
For a more professional look, you can use your topstitching to delineate the traditional neck-band of a folded collar (which is usually a separate pattern piece). This extra stitching not only strengthens and stiffens the point where your collar meets the shirt, it also makes it easier to know where to fold the finished collar.
And that's it! You've finished sewing the pattern together! How does it look?
If you're thinking it actually looks a bit un-finished, you're right: I'm leaving one thing out.... Depending on the closure(s) you've selected, steps for placing and attaching them will vary. So I haven't included any instructions for adding buttons, snaps, or hook-and-loop closures in this entry. But if you'd like some pointers, right away, relevant information can be found here and here.
** Most of these photos were taken by Michael Caporale, so that I could use my hands. Thanks for your help, Mike! **