Thursday, January 7, 2010

Technique -- Drafting a Dolman Sleeved Top

For some time now I have been saying that I wanted to draft a knot top, similar to #111, from Burda World of Fashion, May, 2004. You can see that design here:

This top features a high knot, rather than a knot at the bustline, as you more commonly see. That style is too revealing for many women, such as myself. Some women solve the problem by wearing a camisole, or by using modesty panel, but Burda's design makes that unnecessary.

Unfortunately, this issue is not easy to obtain and, even if you do manage to get your hands on a copy, the pattern is provided only in sizes 34 to 40.

In order to draft this pattern, you need to start with a well-fitting dolman sleeve pattern. This tutorial explains how to draft a dolman sleeved pattern. It is assumed that these pattern pieces do not have any seam allowance. Cut away seam allowances from your original t-shirt pattern. At the end, you can add the seam allowances back.

  1. Start with a well-fitting long-sleeved t-shirt pattern.

  2. Lay the top on a large piece of paper, and trace around the shoulder, center front, hem, and side seam. The dotted lines indicate the lines we don't really need.

  3. Extend the shoulder line.

  4. Fold the sleeve in half, the long way. Lay the should point against the shoulder, lining the fold against the lengthened shoulder line.

  5. Trace around the sleeve hem, and the sleeve. Join the sleeve to the body with a curve. The higher the curve, the tighter the fit under the arm. If you make it too high, the top may pull at the bust. If you make the curve too low, it may be too baggy. Make a best guess and you may have to tweak the curve when you make your muslin.

  6. The final pattern. Repeat this process for the back.

If you are going to test this pattern, make sure to add seam allowances. If you are going to use this pattern to make a knot top, do not add seam allowances yet.

Next, I will post instructions on how to create a knot front top.


  1. Thanks! Very clear and helpful. Now, why didn't I think of that?


  2. Lovely top. You are very kind to show us how to draft it. Thank you!

  3. You make it look so simple, Shams. Thanks for the learning experience.


  4. Shams Thank you. this is just what I need

  5. I would love to see how the knot is done - is there a link to that please ?

  6. That's the previous post, Winifred. You can find it here (or from the navigation links to the left):

  7. Discovered your inspiring/instructional site after searching for that "just right" pattern for a dolman sleeve top. You're right: the Burda 05/2004 issue is completely impossible to find. Thanks for the dolman sleeve tutorial. You make pattern-drafting look easy!