I bought some discounted fabric with the intentions of making a Dolman style top. The top was great, the fabric was wrong. It was way too heavy for a Dolman top, instead of looking light and airy, it looked like I was being weighed down. Then I tried to make it into a more fitted top that seemed more appropriate for the fabric, but since I didn’t really have a vision and was just making stuff up as I went the end result was less than desirable. Next, I opted to try and remake the thing into a pencil skirt, but at this point I was frazzled and trying to sew too quickly during nap time which was a bad idea. The skirt was a flop. Complete disaster. I realized at this point that I’d lost my sewing mojo, so I needed to make something I could be sure of. Remember this yellow this top? (Also above and below.) I wanted to make another one like it, but by this time my fabric had been downsized so much that I didn’t have enough fabric to make a top that would actually fit me. (Although I still tried to squeeze into it when it was finished, which was another type of disaster.) While this was sad news for me, I decided to try and make some good come out of the situation and attempt my first ever tutorial. If you give this tutorial a try I’d love to hear about it. If you have any questions or need clarification leave a comment about that as well so I can hone my explanation skills. Enjoy!
I call it the Audrey top, not out of sheer narcissism, but because I patterned it after a little black dress I own that reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. (One time when I was wearing it I was actually complimented for it’s “Hepburn class,” no joke.)
The Audrey Top
1+ yard of knit fabric
Pattern making materials (pen and something to trace on)
Sewing stuff (sewing machine, measuring tape, scissors, etc)
First we need to create the main pattern. Take a tank top (can also use a shirt, you’ll just have to eyeball the armpit curve), fold it in half, and lay it on your pattern making material. (I save the brown paper that often comes in packages for this purpose. I’ve also seen people use grocery bags, so get creative. If all else fails you can just tape 8 1/2 X 11 sheets of paper.) Since the top is slightly flowy I moved my tank top 1 1/4″ from the edge. If you want your top to be even more flowy move the top you’re tracing even further over. Keep in mind that your piece will be cut on the fold, so the added width will be doubled. (By adding 1 1/4″ to the pattern piece I’m adding 2″ to the width of the final product and 1/2″ for my two 1/4″ seam allowances.)
Trace around the bottom and side of the tank top. When you get to the top just make a straight line from the shoulder seam to the edge of your pattern instead of tracing the dip for the neck hole. If you want your finished top to be longer than the one you are tracing simply extend the line to your desired length.
Finished pattern piece should look like this. Cut two pieces out of your fabric using this pattern piece.
Next we’ll make the band and tie. These pieces are much more straightforward. Measure your waist and add 1/2″ for your seam allowance. Cut a rectangle that is 10″ by the width you just determined (My measurements were 34″X10.”). For the tie, cut a piece 5″X60.” (Can add more to length if you want a longer tie.) Right now your collection of pieces should look like this.
Take your main front and back piece and with the right sides together pin them together along the sides from the armpit notch to the bottom edge . Sew each side with 1/4″ seam allowance. Most knits won’t fray, but if you want a finished look serge or zigzag the edges. (Side note: I don’t have a serger yet, but if you zigzag along the seam and then do a straight stitch on the other side of the zigzag and it doesn’t look too shabby. Ignore the fact that my zigzag sometimes gets wonky. Cursed machine.)
Take the band piece. Match up the short ends with right sides together. Sew 1/4″ seam.
You now have a tube of fabric. This is a great time to slip the band around your waist and check the fit. Adjust if needed. Turn right side out and match up raw edges to fold in half. Iron.
At this point your main piece should be wider than the band. Do a basting stitch. (Put machine on longest stitch length, back-stitch ONLY at the beginning and sew ALMOST all the way around. Leave a tail when you cut the thread.) Take the band and insert inside the main piece (main piece is still inside out). Take the tail on the basting stitch and pull it until the piece bunches up enough to be the same size as the band. Make sure to evenly distribute the gathers this creates.
With the band still inside of the main piece, line up the raw edges and pin together.
Sew the pieces together. (Can use elastic thread in your bobbin for added stretch. I didn’t do this with my yellow top which was a very stretchy knit, but did do this with the blue knit that was less stretchy.) I used a 1/2″ seam allowance here so my basting stitches wouldn’t be seen on the outside. Zig-zag or serge if desired.
Serge or zig-zag the armpit curve if desired. Fold in 1/4″ (or more if you serged/zig-zagged and the threads show), pin in place, and sew. (Sorry no picture of this.)
Serge or zig-zag the top of the front piece if desired. Fold the piece down 1 1/4.” Iron and/or pin in place. Sew 1/4″ seam allowance from the raw edge you folded down or 1″ from the edge the fold made. This makes the casing you’ll thread the tie through. (Sorry no picture of this either, I think I was getting lazy about picture taking.)
Fold the tie piece in half the long way. Sew one short edge and all along the long edge. Trim corners and flip inside out. (Using a pencil or chopstick can make this a lot easier.) Fold the raw edge inside the tie, pin, and hand sew shut. I used a really lightweight knit for the yellow top, but if you used a heavier fabric like I did for the blue top it’s a good idea to at least top stitch along each short end, although if you go this route I’d advise top stitching around the entire piece since it produces a more finished look.
Zig-zag or serge the top of the back piece if desired. Take the finished tie and pin to the back piece w/ right sides together. You want to pin the tie slightly off-center with one side being several inches longer (this one will thread through the front). Sew the pieces together with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Now we’re to the final step! Take the longer side and thread it through the casing in the front of the top. (I use a safety pin to make this easier.)
Now the top is ready to wear. Put it on and tie the two ends together in a bow or not, whichever suits your fancy.
Ingnore the fact that my band is gathered and not the top, as you may recall I was having fabric issues . . . Now I just needed to find a beanpole pre-teen who this might fit 🙂