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Mardi Gras: Cut & Sew Button Down Project

“Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.” — Chris Rose

Follow along with us as we create this GAUDY, multi-print, brightly colored top for those who are known to be the life of the party at every Mardi Gras! We’ll show you how we chose our pattern, made it into something we could work with digitally, and added all the colors & designs our hearts could desire!

Choosing a Pattern

When you’re creating “Cut & Sew” projects like we are, it would be best to find a digital sewing pattern that the pattern designer has made available in its full uncut form. All this means is, instead of purchasing a pattern that has been broken down to 8.5″ x 11″ paper size pieces, the pattern will be all together in one large document. This can be identified by pattern designers who supply the A0 file, usually used when sending to a specialty print shop that offers large format printing, or if they offer the PDF specifically identified as the original or complete uncut pattern.

If a digital pattern designer doesn’t offer this, you can sometimes request if they could provide this file. Having this will mean you can skip a step in this process and get you that much closer to the FUN part of this project….the designing!!!

Note: If you have fallen in love with a design that doesn’t have this file version available you’ll have to puzzle these pieces back together in your preferred photo editing software before getting started. Keep reading for reference on how we pieced our pattern pieces together in Illustrator.

Once you’ve chosen your pattern, you’ll need to skim over the instructions and see if there are any pattern pieces that weren’t provided in the file. Sometimes the dimensions of a pattern piece are listed to cut out instead of providing the actual pattern piece. If that is the case, you’ll likely need to draw these pieces out in your software.

We chose “Man’s Shirt Pattern PDF” by PatternsMart on Etsy

NOTE: This DOES NOT come in a full uncut pattern

Setting Up Illustrator & Pattern Pieces:

If using an image editing software you already own, the workspace should mimic the dimensions of a yard (or multiple yards) of the fabric.  Since the width will vary based on which fabric you choose to work with, you’ll want to decide the fabric before you begin this step. The height of your workspace will be however many yards of fabric you think you’ll need.

We chose to make this shirt in Organic Cotton Sateen as it’s a natural fiber which makes it very breathable with the added bonus of being lightweight and soft to the touch.

Settings for Image Editing Software:

  1. Width (of fabric) =                 56″ Wide
  2. Height (Length of Fabric) =   72″ Height (for 2yd of fabric)
  3. Color Mode =                        RGB
  4. DPI, PPI, or Resolution =        150

NOTE: Our printers are set to print all designs at 150dpi, any other measurement in this box will result in your design uploading in a different size than what was set in your width and height box. 

We will be using Illustrator in this tutorial to show how you can use this or similar software’s to set up your designs. Once you open Illustrator, you will be asked for the settings to set up your New Document, use the setting previously shown and fill them in like shown below. Click Create when done.

Piecing Together “Printable” Patterns

Since the pattern we chose only came in PDF printable format, we had to open our pattern piece in Illustrator and piece them back together in a single document.

  1. Convert your multi-page PDF pattern to individual TIFF or PNG images.
    1. You can do this by opening your PDF in Adobe Acrobat and using their Export PDF function to export as Image.
      1. You will be given the option to choose what file type to use, and we selected TIFF (as this is more compatible with Vector software like Illustrator)
      2. There are also many free online sites that you can upload your pdf to & they will convert your files in a wide range of file formats to suit your needs.
  2. When your PDF has been converted, you will then have a new file for every page of your PDF pattern.
  3. Open all pages into Illustrator
    1. Each page will open into a separate Illustrator tab, so you will need to Copy & Paste them into one large artboard/workspace.
  4. Using the Selection tool, click and drag each pattern piece into the large workspace
  5. Click & drag your piece until they are pieced back together like seen below

Tracing Pattern Pieces

Once your pattern is ready to go, you will now redraw or trace the patterns with the Pen tool to recreate the pieces as line art.

Optional: You may also want to redraw your pattern notches and placement markings to use when sewing up. You can also draw these on later with a printed pattern and fabric marking tool.


With the pattern pieces done, we can now go in and easily change the colors of the pieces, add words, Monograms, designs, decorative patterns, etc!

To change the color of each shape

  1. Select the Direct Select tool
  2. Then click on the shape you would like the change the color on,
    1. a Properties menu will open on the right side of the screen with the option to adjust the Fill &/or Stroke color for that object. (stroke is the outline of the shape).

Use this method to color all you fabric pieces!

You can see the final design below and a video of the process we took to create this design. We chose a color pallet with 5 colors that are very true to the Mardi Gras theme. The shirt front shows a classic saying “Laissez Lez Bon Temps Rouler”, which translates to “Let the Good Times Roll”.

Lastly, we printed TWO sets of collar facings. We had some extra fabric left to use and weren’t sure which color to go with, so why not! The facings become part of the lower collar and will definitely change the overall look. In the end, we ended up using one of each color!


We recommend you save your designs as a PNG image, to do that in Illustrator you will need to go to…

  1. File
    1. Export
      1. Export As
        1. Choose PNG from the “Save as Type” drop-down menu

Now you have your file to upload to MyFabricDesigns and have printed on any of the 27 fabrics we have to offer! For a project like this, you may consider using

  • Basic Combed Cotton
  • Premium Cotton
  • Organic Cotton Sateen
  • Cotton Poplin
  • Cotton Voile
  • Silk Crepe de Chine
  • Cotton Silk
  • Silk Crinkle Linen
  • Silky Faille
  • Faux Linen Slub

Happy Sewing!