18th Century Shirt Pattern
This is based on Deb Najecki’s instructions. With modifications based on suggestions from the 18th Century community. The original with with notes can be found here.
Hand sewing most of what I work on, I always wax my thread with beeswax. This keeps it from twisting and knotting. Best Linen thread? I consistently use 60/2 on my working shirts. 80/2 or 100/2 on my finer quality shirts (whichever I have around the house). If I use a machine for long seams, I use silk or a good quality cotton thread.
Linen. 2.5 – 3 yds White, off-white, unbleached, checks, stripes. Wool flannel and woolens are sometimes seen as well.
A common statement heard in the community about shirts is that too many people make them in too heavy a fabric weight.
On a public forum, Sharon Burnston stated that in her experience a linen upper class shirt weight is generally around 3.5 oz , and lower sort shirt around 5 oz.
One last piece of advice. If you want this shirt to last, do not buy from JoAnn Fabrics or from a random online store. The linen made that most of those stores sell is chopped linen. That means they take the beautiful long linen fibers and chop them up to be used in machines made for cotton. This weakens the fiber, and destroys a lot of the wonderful properties of linen. Stripping it’s sturdiness in the process. Strongly consider, that if you are going to put the time in to make a nice shirt, invest in decent material. It will last SO much longer.
There are sutlers listed at the end of the post who all sell good shirt material.
Cutting the Pieces:
This will continue to be modified based on community research.
30” wide X 80” long (40” when folded)
2 Sleeves 18” – 20” wide and 20”- 22.5” long
6” X 6”
2.5” x 9” OR 2.5” X wristmeasure + 2”
8” X neckmeasure + 2” or 8” X 19”
2.5” X 2.5”
Shoulder Bands (Appear Rev War) or Reinforcements (Believed to be post war):
2 Shoulder Bands: 1.5” wide X 10” long OR 2 Reinforcements: 9” wide X 12.5” long.
Tailslit Gusset (Can use binding stitch)
2” X 2”
Neck Opening Facing
2” X 11”
Heart Reinforcement (can use binding stitch)
1” X 1”
Before you move forward:
Now that you have cut the material out, make sure you have an iron. An iron, a little steam and some padding to iron on makes a huge difference in sewing. If you are not using an iron when you sew, start doing it, your sewing will look a lot nicer if you are working with pressed seams.
You should also want to prethread a few needles. Here is a video about preparing your thread to sew.
Stitches you need to know for a shirt.
- Backstitch – Burnley and Trowbridge
- Stroke Gathers – Golden Scissors
- Connection a Wristband – Burnley and Trowbridge
- Button Hole Stitch – Fort Ticonderoga
- Button Holes – Burnely and Trowbridge
- Felling Stitch – Burnley and Trowbridge
Helpful links for 18th Century Shirts
- Deb Najecki’s Original Pattern with Notes
- Larsdatter – Original Shirt Links
- Williamsburg Diligent Needle Exhibit – Two Nerdy History Girls
- Material Culture Shirts
- Steve Rayner Research on Shirts
- Garsault Shirt How To
- Kitty’s Stolen Shurt story
- Cat’s Stolen Shirt Story
Places to Purchase Fabrics and Shirt Accessories
- Deb Najecki of Najecki Reproductions is responsible for the majority of the content of the pattern that is being shared.
- A large number of images used in this are images found and cropped by the man otherwise known as Wm Booth Draper. I also quoted him liberally.
- Videos that I link to are Burnley and Trowbridge’s. They are intended to assist people in understanding sewing techniques used in the 18th Century.
- Tony Holbrook – Images of his original shirt.
- Ruth Hodges – Her copy of the shirt pattern, with suggestions I use.
- Kathleen Kannick – her books are liberally mentioned.
- Sharon Burnston
- Fred Lucas
- Klára Posekaná
- Elroy Davis
- An Anonymous Dear Friend