Boxy Tee Three Ways

A good friend of mine teases that when we go shopping she can guess what I will pick out before we even enter the store. “Anything that’s cut like a square or a rectangle,” she says. The thing is, she’s right! I always make a beeline for clean lines and simple silhouettes, and this usually means a box.

But boxy doesn’t have to mean boring or unflattering. When working with a shape this simple, it’s all about the details. A pop of color, a pretty side slit, and a well-shaped neckline make all the difference, turning a boring box into something worth wearing.

I made my Boxy Tees in Kokka’s lightweight and beautiful Fine Solids with fun, electric bursts of Michael Miller’s Neon Solids. Loose fitting and airy, but with all the right details, this Boxy Tee is just my style. And since I designed the pattern to mix and match three arm lengths, color blocks and a back tie detail, it can easily be just your style too!

When I showed my collection of tops to my good friend, the first thing she said was, “Oh! I want one!” Ha! Now I know just what she’s going to wear too! –Corinne


For Version A

For Version B

For Version C

For all versions, you will also need the Boxy Tee Neck templates available for free download here, printed and cut out.


Measurements are shown for sizes XS (S, M, L, XL)

Finished Measurements



Prewash all fabrics before starting. If you are using Michael Miller’s Neon Solids, be sure that it is completely unfolded when you put in in the washing machine and wash it separately.

For the sake of clarity our instructional photos show a fabric with a clear right and wrong side. If you are working with the Kokka Fine Solids and Michael Miller Neon Solids, or similar fabrics which don’t have a clear right or wrong side, choose either side as the right side for the first seam and follow this precedent for all subsequent steps.



Note: When cutting simple rectangular shapes for patterns such as this, straight, clean cuts are key. The best way to make these cuts is with a rotary cutter and a non-slip quilting ruler on a self-healing cutting mat. If you have limited experience using a rotary cutter, I recommend visiting our Rotary Cutting Tutorial.

For all Versions you will also need to cut a 26 ¼-inch by 1 ½-inch piece on the bias.

Use the charts below for help with the layout of the pieces on the fabric.

Version A

Version B

Version C

Fold one of the Shirt Top pieces in half, lining up its two short sides.

Place the prepared Back Neck template on the fold of one of the Shirt Top pieces, lining up the top edge of the template with the raw edge of the fabric. Cut along the dotted lines. This is now the Back.

Repeat with the second Shirt Top and the Front Neck template. This is now the Front.

Piece the Back and Front

Lay out the Back with the wrong side facing up and the long straight edge at the top. Place a Shirt Bottom piece on top with the right side facing up, lining up one long side of the Bottom with the top edge of the Back. Pin in place.

Sew along the pinned edge with a ¼-inch seam allowance.

Fold over at the seam so that the right sides are now facing and press. Pin along the fold. Sew along the pinned edge with a ½-inch seam allowance.

Press the seam allowance toward the Shirt Bottom.

Repeat with the Front and the second Shirt Bottom piece.

Sew the Shoulder Seams

Lay out the Back with the wrong side facing up and the Neck opening at the top.

With the right side facing up and the Neck opening at the top, place the Front on top of the Back. Line up all the straight edges.

Pin along the two top straight edges. Sew along these pinned edges with a ¼-inch seam allowance.

Fold the garment at the seams so that the right sides are facing. Press flat and pin along the folds. Sew across the pinned edges with a ½-inch seam allowance. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.

This is the Shoulder Seam.

Press the seam allowance toward the Back. Sew the Shoulder Seam hems down with an edgestich. At the Neck edge of the Shoulder Seam, sew past the end of the hem until you reach the raw edge of the Neck.

This is now the Body.

Attach the Sleeves

NOTE: The 13 ½ (14, 14 ½, 15, 15 ½)–inch side of the Sleeve is the Shoulder Edge.

Fold each Sleeve in half at the center of the Shoulder Edge, press to create a crease and then unfold.

With wrong sides together, pin the Shoulder Edge of one Sleeve to a raw shoulder edge of the Body, lining up the center crease of the Sleeve with the Shoulder Seam (be sure to line up with the Shoulder Seam, not with the edgestitch).

Starting ¼ inch before the Sleeve and ending ¼ inch after, sew along the pinned edge with a ¼-inch seam allowance.

Make a ¼-inch cut into the Front and Back pieces at the edges of the Sleeve. Do not cut past the seam line.

Now, fold the garment at this seam so that the right side of the Sleeve is facing the right side of the Body. Press this fold flat and pin.

Sew with a ½-inch seam allowance.

Unfold the garment and press the seam toward the Sleeve.

Repeat with the second Sleeve on the other side of the Body.

This is now the Shirt.

Attach the Back Tie (Version C)

For Version C you will attach a Back Tie. If you are working on Versions A or B, skip this step and continue on to Sew the Side Seams.

Cut the cord into two pieces at least 25 inches each.

Tie a knot at one end of each cord. At the other end, lightly singe the cut edge with the flame from a lighter or a match. This will seal the threads and prevent fraying.

Lay the Shirt out flat with the right side of the Back facing up. Line up the singed end of a piece of cording to the raw side edge of the Shirt, 12 ¼ (12 ½, 12 ¾, 13, 13 ¼) inches down from the Shoulder Seam. Pin in place.

Sew the cording to the Shirt with a ½-inch seam allowance.

Repeat with the second piece of cording on the other side edge of the Shirt.

Sew the Side Seams (All Versions)

With the wrong side facing out, fold the Shirt at the Shoulder Seams so that the raw edges of the Sleeves, as well as the long sides and bottom edges of the Front and Back, meet.

Pin all the sleeve and side seams, making sure the Front and Back Shirt Bottom seams line up.

At one side edge. measure 4 inches up from the Shirt’s bottom and mark with a double pin. Repeat on the other side edge.

In the underarm, measure ¼ up from the raw edge of the Sleeve and 1 ¼ inches in from the raw edge of the Body. Make a small mark. Repeat on the other side.

Starting from the end of one Sleeve and working toward the underarm, sew along the pinned edge with a ¼-inch seam allowance.

Right before you reach the mark you made in the previous step, backstitch, then insert the needle and pivot the Shirt. Backstitch again and continue to sew down the side of the Body with a 1 ¼-inch seam allowance.

When you reach the spot marked with a double pin, end the seam with a backstitch. The unsewn space at the bottom of the Shirt will become the Side Slit.

Repeat on the other side.

Make a cut into the seam allowance of one side of the Body: start at the raw edge directly across from the end of the side seam and cut diagonally up, ending ¼-inch before the seam line.

Make a small, horizontal snip into the seam allowance at the end of the diagonal cut, making sure not to cut past the seam line. Trim the remaining seam allowance of the side and sleeve seams to ¼ inch. Repeat on the other side.

Cut a small notch into the underarm, making sure not to cut past the seam line.

Repeat on the other side.

Sew along the trimmed seam allowances of the side seams with a zigzag stitch. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seams. Repeat with the sleeve seams.


Fold the bottom edge of the Shirt Front up ½ inch towards the wrong side and press. Now, fold the edge up 1 inch towards the wrong side, press and pin. Sew the hem down with an edgestitch.

Repeat with the Shirt Back.

Sew the Side Slit

Following the line of the side seam, press open the two flaps at the Side Slit so that their wrong sides face the Body’s wrong side.

Fold the raw edges of the two flaps in towards the wrong side so that the raw edges meet the creases. Press flat. Sew the folds down with an edgestitch.

Repeat on the other side.

Hem the Sleeves

Fold the raw edge of one of the Sleeves in ½ inch towards the wrong side and press. Now, fold the edge in 1 inch towards the wrong side, press and pin. Sew the hem down with an edgestitch.

Repeat with the other Sleeve.

Finish the Neck

Fold the bias strip in half lengthwise with wrong sides together and press. Unfold.

Fold the bias strip in half widthwise with right sides together so that the two short sides meet. Sew along the short side with a ½-inch seam allowance. Press the seam open and refold the strip along the lengthwise crease.

Pin the bias strip to the right side of the Shirt, lining up the two raw edges of the bias strip with the raw neck edge of the Shirt and the seam of the bias strip with one Shoulder Seam of the Shirt

Sew the strip to the neck edge with a ¼-inch seam allowance.

Fold the bias strip to the wrong side of the Shirt along the seam line, press and pin. Sew the strip down with a ¼-inch seam allowance.

It’s all done and ready to wear!

Click here to add a comment

28 Responses to Boxy Tee Three Ways

  1. m(i)e says:

    thanks ! I think I may make this one day

  2. heather says:

    Yay! I love that someone finally came up with a formula and method for this sort of top! I love boxy tops too! Thank you so much!

  3. cup + penny says:

    Any chance we can see what it looks like on a person? They're beautiful on the hanger but I'm wondering if they'll fit me nicely.

  4. Alix says:

    These tops are beautiful!! I think I am going to make them in jersey or linen with a touch of stretch – thank you for the very clear patterns!

  5. Laura says:

    I adore boxy tops! Can't wait to make one!

  6. Brienne says:

    Bravo! This was quite the undertaking! Would love to see the top on a body if you have a willing model. Just so excited to see the sewn garments showing up here more often. Woot!

  7. Amanda says:

    Hi there,

    Just perfect. Thank you so much. I love a boxy top too!

  8. Mira says:

    I love the projects on the blog, including this one, but I am always reluctant to take on a sewing or knitting project when I can't see it being worn. What looks lovely on a hanger doesn't always look very good on a person. I wish you would post photos of these garments on people!

  9. Pam S says:

    Can you tell us more about, or give measurements for, the neck opening cut outs? The photo is helpful, but I'd just love more details about how to size those cut outs. Thanks so much!

  10. Suziedavo says:

    It's coming up to winter here in Australia and this is just the thing to pop over long sleeved t-shirts with a cosy scarf at my neck. I'll try for a heavier weight material.

  11. Anne says:

    I love this! I would like to see someone wearing the tee because I am a bit insecure if its something for me (small bust and wide shoulders).. Do you have a flickr group?

  12. angelica mantellatto says:

    Gosto muito do seu trabalho. Vou fazer uma dessas para mim. Amei!

  13. purl bee says:

    Hi Anne-

    We don't have any shots of this on someone at the moment be we will try to get a pic on a person and post it on Instagram or Facebook in the next week or so. Thank you!


  14. purl bee says:

    Hi Pam-

    The neck templates are available for free download directly above the "pattern" and "finished measurements" section of this pattern.

    Thank you!


  15. Preethi says:

    Just the right thing for the summer. Love it

  16. purl bee says:

    Hello to everyone who wanted to see this project being worn-

    We just put up shots of version B and C on a mannequin on Instagram! You can see them here:

    and here:

    Thanks for writing in!


  17. Nancy says:

    Thank you for the wonderful photos and instructions.

  18. vicki says:

    This is perfect for summer, thanks so much, right now I can't find a tee shirt with sleeves longer than my arm pit. This is nice, cool and stylish!
    Your the best!

  19. Veebane says:

    Great design. I love all the little details (french seams) that give this a nice polished finish. I have finished my first one and am halfway through my second.

    Thanks for the great free pattern!!

  20. Kristin says:

    Hi everyone! I just made Version C in a soft, drapey double cotton and I LOVE it. I am NOT actually a fan of boxy tops but this one spoke to me and I adore the fit. I made the small (I am 5'6", 120 lbs) and it fits perfectly. Much less voluminous than I anticipated and for which I am grateful, also shorter than I thought. I would consider adding some length next time, though I admit I have a longer than average torso. I will definitely be making more, soon!

    I still need to put on the neck binding and once I do, if I can figure out how, I will post a picture of me wearing it.

    Thanks again Purl Bee for another brilliant, elegant, simple project.

  21. danzfool says:

    For those who wanted photos, here's my first attempt, with some pintucks (?) in the back for a little shaping: I think I'll also add the ties from version 3. I used more fabrics than suggested, but really like the patchwork look that resulted, and the way it enabled me to use up some pretty quilting scraps.

    For my next attempt, I think I'll plan on the version C ties off the bat and drop the neck a tad. Otherwise, a great use of rectangles! So exciting to have a fairly quick, finished project *for myself*!!

  22. Gail says:

    I made this today and it was so easy with your instructions! I managed to finally use up some scraps of lovely material that I've had for years and for which have never found the right project!

    I'm a UK size 10 and I used the small size dimensions and it fits great. I made the short sleeved version (as I only had just enough of the material) although I suit/prefer a longer sleeve normally. Once made, the sleeves reached to mid-humerus anyway- so it was perfect.

    I always find bias tape a bit of a nightmare to get right and so I finished off the neckline before sewing up the sides as it gave me more room to manoeuvre . I also hemmed the sleeves with the tape to match.

    I learned a lot on this project and I'm really pleased- can't wait to try a different version!

    Happy sewing everyone, Gail

  23. danzfool says:

    Hi, a quick follow-up comment on the tie variation. I think the instructions are a little confusing/out of step with the design. The first time I made this shirt, I initially didn't add the tie, so I had to go back, open up that part of the side seams and sew the ties in. When doing that, singing the end of the cord made sense.

    However, when I tried a second shirt for which I added the ties before sewing the side seams, the instructions didn't jive with sewing the side seam 1 1/4" in. If I attach the tie — as directed — so close to the raw edge, I'm going to end up cutting off both the singed end and the initial point of attachment when I trim the 3/4" to 1" of the raw edge off later. So, at a minimum, I think it's safe to not singe the end and just assume you'll zigzag over it along with the trimmed raw edge. Otherwise, I think you should pin the ties 3/4-1" in from the uncut raw edge. Does that make sense?

    Hoping to post a picture of version 2 soon. :)

  24. purl bee says:

    Hi danzfool –

    Thank you for writing in. I'm so glad you like the project – and enough to make it twice! The first top you made looks great!

    It is true that the singed end of the cording and initial stitch line get cut off in later steps as you point out, but this was a conscious decision in the pattern making process. The end of the cord is aligned with the raw edge of the garment for simplicity in the pattern, and the initial stitch line is meant only as a tacking stitch, to eliminate the bulk of an extra pin in this spot. As you point out, the side seam and zigzag stitch in later steps will finish the edge of the cord, so there is no issue with these pieces getting trimmed off.

    That said, the construction methods that you suggest sound like they would also work well, though I would recommend that you still singe the end of the cord. My experience with this cording is that if frays quite quickly and I would hate for it to start unravelling before you've had a chance to sew it down!

    Looking forward to seeing version 2!

  25. danzfool says:

    Corinne, thanks for the explanation. I'm a little obsessed with this pattern, in case you can't tell. :) Last night I finally finished changes to version #2: Later this week I hope to try version #3, with no bottom section and some Liberty fabric I originally intended for one of PurlBee's scarf patterns.

  26. Susan D. says:

    I just made this top and it came out great. The only issue for me is that the sleeves seem to fit too closely under my arm. I think this problem could be resolved, though, by lengthening the sleeve piece.

  27. danzfool says:

    I finally finished version #3 with a couple classic Liberty prints. This might be my favorite version so far: Corinne, thanks to all this practice, I felt brave enough to try my first shaped blouse by adapting a vintage dress pattern that I had already created a muslin for. It turned out great! (Picture forthcoming.) Thanks for sharing such an inspiring pattern.

  28. purl bee says:

    Hi Danzfool-

    Thanks so much for sharing this picture and for your kind words about the pattern. It looks great!!!



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