Pattern making and converting an oversize henley nightshirt to a semi-fitted shirt

What I did:


I have lots of nightgowns, but only a few shirts that fit me well. I decided to turn this oversize nightshirt that had been my Grandmother's into a shirt, shaped to fit me just the way I prefer. I liked the henley style neck and buttons of my Grandmother's nightshirt and wanted to retain these on the finished shirt.

Scroll through for thumbnail pictures, or click on any image for slideshow view.

Reenactment of the statue of Christ in Rio? Nope — me in the oversize nightshirt.

The Process

I didn't have a pattern of the sort of shirt I wanted, so I made one, based on two shirts (see pictures below) with elements that I like.

Process: I based my pattern partially on this brown shirt because I like the shaped side seams (slightly smaller on the waist and wider at the hip) and the tunic length.

Process: I heightened the shaping of the brown shirt just a bit by taking the upper waist in with a safety pin, and copied this silhouette for my pattern.

Process: I like this black shirt (from the Somerville Homeless Coalition's 5k several years back) for the way it fits around the shoulders and sleeves.

I made the pattern by mashing up the measurements and outlines of these two shirts and adding seam allowance. I then plotted these dimensions and drew lines connecting the dots on a large sheet of paper, eyeballing the curves between the dots. The paper was upcycled: it was the packing material from something that I had bought. I cut out the paper along my drawn outlines and then used my pattern to cut out a front, back, and sleeves from my grandmother's nightshirt.

Here's a progress shot of cutting the turquoise nightshirt into the new shirt, using the pattern I made. The green object in this picture is a knee pad, given to me by my mother-in-law. It was designed as a pad to kneel on while gardening but it also works very well for protecting my knees while cutting out pattern pieces.


The finished shirt looks more or less how I envisioned it. I didn't get the pattern 100% right in my initial cutting. The neck was too tight and the sleeves were too long. But I was able to fix these issues by sewing into the seam allowance a bit to widen the neck and using a very generous hem for the wrists; then I went back and corrected the paper pattern. I was satisfied enough with this project that I'm planning to use the pattern again, refining or adapting it further as needed.

After: front view of the shirt

After: side view of the shirt

After: back view of the shirt

After: another back view of the shirt