This would be a fine project for a person with just a little sewing experience. Shirts from this time were made much differently than modern dress shirts. There doesn’t need to be much cutting. Almost all the lines are straight, so you can just tear the fabric to get a perfectly straight line.
You will need:
4 ½ to 5 ½ yards of woven fabric in cotton or linen (depending on how large a shirt you will make)
A long sleeved, button down shirt that fits the person you are making the pirate shirt for.
Needle and thread
Sewing machine (if possible)
An off-white color looks more pirate-y than a pure white shirt. Calico is also appropriate for a truly period shirt. Sailors also wore red shirts at this time, although a historically correct color would be a tomato red, rather than a blood red. Black also looks good for a pirate, or dark brown, though neither were actually used at the time.
Cut a front and a back, which are the same size. You may use the old shirt for guidance. Otherwise, measure the diameter of the wearer at the widest point (shoulders, bust or tummy) and add 12”, then divide by 2. This is your width. Length is about 30”
Cut 2 sleeves. Use the shirt to gauge length, but make then 30” wide.
Cut a collar piece, 20” long by 6” wide.
Cut 2 cuffs, each 10” long by 4” wide.
Cut 2 gussets, each one a 4” square.
Cut 1 more 4” square, and then cut it on the diagonal, to make 2 triangles.
The basic design is a straight front, and a back that his gathered at the neckline. The shoulders extend past the wearer’s natural shoulder. The sleeves are very wide and gathered at the top, where they join the shirt. Notice that the front of the shirt doesn’t open all the way down. Also notice that this shirt does not have a button closure on the sleeve cuff. Make sure the wearer can get his hand through the opening, and if necessary, cut another cuff piece and make a wider cuff opening.
Take the front and back pieces and lay them together, one on top of the other. Pin and sew the top edges together along the shoulders, from the outside in, for seven inches only. This will leave a very wide neck hole.
Step 2 Designate one Piece the front. On this piece only, find the center, and cut a straight line from the top edge down 10 inches. This will be the front of the neck opening.
On each sleeve, sew a gathering seam 1/2" from the edge, along one of the long (30") sides.
On the opposite side, sew another gathering seam, 12" long, centered on that side.
Gather the long seam and attach the cuff. Repeat on the other sleeve.
Starting at the cuff, pin the raw edges of cuff and sleeve together, closing the sleeve into a tube. Leave 4" open at the side opposite the cuff.
With the sleeve still inside-out finish the cuff by rolling the outer raw edge back, and hand stitching it to the seamline where the cuff meets the gathered edge of the sleeve.
Open the 4" unsewn area at the other end of the sleeve. Pin the 4" side of the square gusset to one side, and the adjoining 4" side of the gusset to the other side, as shown. Sew.
Gather the top of each sleeve, using the 12" gathering seam inserted in step 3
With the sleeve right side out and the body of the shirt inside out, put the sleeve inside the shirt. Line the top of the open sleeve edge (opposite the gusset) up with the shoulder line of the shirt and pin the opening of the sleeve to the shirt. Stitch the sleeve in place. Repeat with the other sleeve. Now, when you turn the shirt right side out, the sleeves will be properly placed.
Sew a gathering seam all along the back of the neck hole, from shoulder to shoulder, and draw in the backof the neck.
Finish the 10" cut down the center front by rolling the edges under and stitching them down.
Stitch one of the triangular reinforcements over the end of the center cut, tucking the edges under for a finished look. (This is easier to do by hand-sewing.)
To attache the collar, pin the center of the collar piece to the center of the gathered back neck opening. Pin the front edge of the collar to the finished edge of the front opening, leaving 1/2" of collar for hemming. Pin the length of the collar along the neck opening, adjusting the gathering at the back so that the collar fits the neck opening. Repeat on other side.
Hem the sides of the collar. Turn collar right-side out and roll the unfinished edge under. Whip stitch the open side of the collar to the shirt neck.
Sew the sides of the shirt closed, and hem the bottom.
Well, there we have it, instructions for making your own pirate shirt! Please leave feedback in the comments, and I'll try to clarify anything that's hard to understand. I'm also uploading a video of this shirt to YouTube. Click here to see it. Please watch and comment. (But be easy on me this is my first instructional video!)
Next week: Back to Sam Bellamy's exploits in the Caribbean.