Pirate Shirt UN-Pattern

Pirate Shirt UN-Pattern

We are calling this the Pirate Shirt UN-PATTERN. I totally winged this pattern and don’t have the normal step-by-step photos you have come to love about WeeFolkArt (although there are still a good handful). There was a lot of just fudging it that went on and fortunately Pirate Shirts are very forgiving that way. So instead of a pattern here… I’m going to walk you through my thought process.



First I grabbed a button down shirt of the boy’s. I wanted to get a feel for size/scale. I roughly traced the front piece onto a paper bag. I added a V to the front by looking at where the shirt would open if he left the top two buttons undone. I also made the arm hole just slightly bigger.








I used an old (wrinkled and slightly stained… which adds a nice touch to the pirate shirt) piece of muslin fabric. I cut out both the front and back on a fold, leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance all the way around (even at the fold… I wanted him to be able to wear something under the shirt if it was cold on Halloween). On the back panel I did not cut out the V. I sewed the front and back together at the shoulder, right sides together. I pressed the seams open.







I cut out two sleeves an inch or so longer than the ones on his button down shirt and about 2″ wider at the shoulder and 1″ wider at the cuff. Pirates have puffy sleeves. I ran a loose running stitch along the top edge and ruffled it before lining it up on the open shirt, right sides together. I sewed in in place (no fancy setting in a sleeve done here 😉 ). Then I cut out floppy cuffs. They were made with about 6″ wide fabric cut the length of bottom of his sleeve. I folded them in half, right sides together, cut the edges on a slight angle that flared out at the fold, stitched up the edges, turned the cuffs right side out and ironed the edges. I then lined up the cuffs on the bottom of the sleeves. I had to ruffle the bottom edge of the sleeves a bit to fit it to the cuff. I stitched them together adding a 1/4″ wide piece of elastic (cut to fit just a bit stretched at my son’s wrist) with an open zig-zag stitch.




I folded the whole shirt over at the shoulders, right sides together and stitched up the side seams and arms, reinforcing at the armpits, stopping just at the elastic in the cuffs so that the cuffs flared open. I then hemed the bottom edge of the shirt.





I don’t have any photos of the collar. This was where a lot of fudging went on (AND I’M SURE THERE IS A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS PART). I made a collar similar to the cuffs only longer so it wrapped around most of the opening. I made a piece of fold over binding to finish of the bottom of the V. I added the binding, then the collar right sides together. Then, because the collar was folding at the seam and you could see the seam, I pressed the seam down and top stitched around the collar just to hold the seam down inside the shirt. That seemed to work just fine for a costume shirt. When I make the next one (I’m going to have to since Bug hasn’t taken the shirt off since I made it) I will revisit this step.





Of course the minute it was off the machine it was on the boy with him asking for a vest now. Which I whipped up, although we weren’t happy with the color selection I had on hand. I see a navy or black one in our future… in which I will take some pics.





He raided the dress up clothes and found an old belt of Daddy’s, a red play silk and a belt from an old robe. He strung some wooden beads and I make him a quick ring with a large brass button and a piece of pipe cleaner. We managed to pull off a pretty quick AND FREE Captain Jack Sparrow look. All we will be purchasing for his costume is a hat.







Michelle ~ Wee Folk Art


  1. This Un-Pattern is all kinds of awesome – thanks for sharing!

      1. That is cute! Thanks for sharing… but Bug wants the authentic "Captain Jack Sparrow" look. Gammy bought him a hat from the costume store… and it is way too big and I’ve already had to tweak it. Frankly, after seeing one up close I’m toying with making my own to fit him better. He likes the attached hair though.

        Glad our little gnome has a good home. 🙂

        1. You are soooo awesome, thank you so much for these pictures! I decided to make my own costume this year and have never sewn before. I’ve been looking everywhere for a pirate top pattern and I just so happened to stumble upon this. Thank you! It looks great 🙂

  2. I read it over a couple of times but I’m confused about the binding on the neck. Is that like binding you buy in a package? How did you make yours. This shirt is too unbelieveable for words. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I made my own binding by cutting a 2" strip of fabric (I didn’t need much so it was only about 8" long). I folded it in half, ironed it. I opened it back up and folded both edges in to meet in the middle, ironed it. Folded in back in half again (with the edges inside) and ironed once more. It was pretty quick with such a short piece like that. There are some gizmos out there you can buy to help you fold it if you want to make enough binding for the edge of a blanket or something.

  3. Fabulous work. I think I might try this out for my boy this year. It’s too bad you don’t have any pictures for the collar process: I have strictly no idea how I can do a collar! Could you briefly explain what shape of fabric I should cut out for the collar and a 1-phrase explanation on attaching it? Thanks.

    1. I don’t have photos of the collar because I was making it up as I went. Basically what I did was cut out another cuff (piece of fabric 6" wide)… but long enough to wrap around most of the neck opening (plus about 2" to taper the edges). I folded it in half, right sides together, cut the edges on a slight angle that flared out at the fold (id the open end was the narrower side), stitched up the edges, turned the collar right side out and ironed the edges. I then lined up the collar by centering it on the back center of the shirt neck. I hope that helps clear it up a bit more.

      I’ve actually thought about making a fleece version of this shirt since it has been so cold here lately and my son will hate to have to cover up his costume with a jacket. If I can get to making another this weekend I will definitely take more photos.

  4. Ok, so I’ve put into practice your instructions, but I have a question concerning the sleeves before I sew them in (and have to go through the hassle of taking them out!).

    In your picture, the sleeves seem wider than they are long; mine seem longer than wide, even though I added 2″ for my 3 year old (smaller size than your six-y-o).

    On the one I’m working on, the length of the shirt’s arm hole is about 12″ (30cm) and the width of the sleeve at the shoulder is 15″ (38cm). Should that be enough to get a good ruffle without overdoing it?


    1. Actually, his sleeve was about the same size in length and width or a bit longer than wide (I think in the photo it might be hanging off the table a bit). I just measured it on him (he is wearing it atm) and the finished arm hole is about 16" around and the finished sleeve length to the cuff is about 18" long. 

      As for ruffle… 2-3 inches should be good. I would error to the side of too much puffiness, rather than too little. You can try ruffling it and safety pinning it in place and then safety pin the side seems and turn it right side out to get a feel for it before stitching it in place. I had Bug try it on a few times along the way doing that. But again, this is a very forgiving shirt… as long as the arm hole is big enough for your little one the amount of ruffle is a very ish sorta of thing.


      1. I’d like to make a larger version of this for my fella but I’m also confused about the sleeves. Are they just trapezoids or did you actually make a sleeve shape, with the wacky curve at the top? Thanks so much for this awesome un-pattern, Michelle. xo

        1. No I didn't cut the sleeve with any curves. I made it as easy as possible. The arm hole did have a slight curve… but I just lined the top edge of the sleeve (after it was ruffled) up with the arm hole. It wasn't presicion sewing… but it worked out fine and has gotten tons of wear. Actually I think I need to make a new one… he has pretty much outgrown this shirt… the vest still fits fine.

          1. Thanks again Michelle! I’m off to my sewing machine!!

  5. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I used it today to make my son a pirate shirt for a themed party later this month. It was really easy, and it turned out really well. Yay for muslin fabric scraps sitting around my house, too!

  6. Your kids are very lucky to have such a talented mommy! The shirt, and the whole costume, looks awesome. My youngest wants to be Yoshi from Mario for Halloween with games for boys. Hmm….not to sure about that one.

  7. Thanks, this is just what I was looking for! Pirates definately need puffy sleeves.

    1. Thanks for putting this up online! We modified it a little bit so my daughter can dress as Michelangelo for a school project. It only took about 90 minutes to make. Perhaps I made the sleeves a little TOO puffy… but that’s hard to judge beforehand! LOL The UNpattern was perfect, thank you –

  8. Thank you so much for this! Both my kids wanted to be pirates this year and I didn’t know how to go about it. Their shirts came out great and they are both very happy!

  9. Thank you so much! I did a bit of a different sleeve: didn’t do a cuff, just a small ruffle. So, now I’m on the collar…kind of worried about that, but the rest of it was so easy and it looks great on my 7 year old Will Turner…this is just what I was looking for for his shirt! I’m just gonna go for it now on that collar…Wish me luck!

  10. I just wanted to say your Pirate Shirt UN-Pattern is perfect! I have been making my sister’s two boys (now 7 and 5) their Halloween costumes since they were one years old. They use them as dress up all year round. I even got a theater/fashion show last time I visited. Which makes me a very proud Auntie!!This the last year that I am making them-so the costumes needed to grand finale quality. The pirate coats I am making the bill for sure-but I was still having difficulty finding a simply puffy pirate sleeve shirt pattern that would be
    1. simple to make
    2. work with other costumes for dress up
    3. be fun for me to make .
    Your Pirate Shirt UN-pattern was SPOT ON!!!!
    Thank you very much!

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