Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Summer Top Tutorial

     Every winter I forget why I complained so bitterly that we don't have a/c. Every spring and summer I am reminded.  This summer I hope to beat the heat by wearing light weight and billowy linens and cottons. One of my favorite summer tops is just a few inches too short (which is very unusably for me, being 5 feet 2 3/4 inches) so I decided to see if I could remake it, just a little longer.  This is the first time I have worked without a paper pattern, so I really wanted to see what y'all thought. Then I thought that since it was easy enough for me to make without a pattern, you could do it too!  So here it is, my Beat the Heat Tank Top.

     This pattern is about as simple as it gets. You can easily make it for any age, and from almost any relatively lightweight fabric. (Unless you want to line it of wear a cami under it, you might want to make sure that it is not so lightweight as to be sheer though) This version is a halter top, but I have anther that that has spaghetti straps, and it could easily have any variation you could think out, or have no straps at all. You’ll need two large rectangles of fabric, mine were 22 inches by 20 inches, two narrow rectangles of fabric, mine were 3 inches by 22 inches, two pieces of elastic, and some ribbon.

     First you’ll need to take some measurements. Take your bust measurement, divide it in half, and add three.  This will be the width of each piece.  (If your waist measurement is wider than your bust, I would use this measurement, otherwise the top will be a little tight when it hits your shorts) Then measure from hem line to hem line. I wanted this top to wear with lounge pants so it is a little shorter than the second one I have made, (20 inches rather than 25).  Cut out two rectangles of fabric to these dimensions. Then measure how long you want your shoulder straps to be. Mine are a lot longer than they have to be, but that is partially because I wanted to make a halter top, and partially because I just cut strips from the bottom of my shirt rectangles.

     I like to hem my material at this point, rather than as a last step, I think it is easier to measure while it is still completely flat. The bottom hem is just a simple hem; in fact I used the selvages and did not hem it at all.  The top is a little different. It is a hem, but also a casing for elastic, so it has to be a little wider than you average hem.

     Begin by folding and ironing the raw edge down, just like any hem. (I folded the material at ½ inch because it allowed me to keep my fingers further away from the steam of the iron.)  Then make a second fold that is wide enough to allow your elastic to easily slide through. (Mine was ½ inch elastic, so I made this second fold at ¾ of an inch.) Sew along the bottom edge of the hem to sew the casing shut. Repeat for the back piece.

      Take out your measuring tape again, and measure where you want to put your waist line. I made an empire waist, but it could easily be moved to whatever cut you think is most flattering.  I wanted my waist line to sit seven inches below the top hem in the front, and six inches below in the front (I think the look is a little more flattering for women if the back sits ever so slightly lower in the back, but would make the measurement the same if I was making the shirt for a little girl.) So I measured down seven inches, marked the line,  folded the material along that line, and ironed it (I cheated with this material and used the polka dots for every straight line I needed)

     Then I made a casement. This is a little tricky to explain, so please bear with me.
     I fold the material back up under my first fold, so that there is one inch of my shirt where there are three layers of fabric. I think the picture help a lot, so please use them, and let me know if this still doesn’t make since and I will re-word it. Then iron the casement very well to make creases. Repeat for the back piece.

     Unfold the front piece, and sew two buttonholes in the middle of the casement.

     Then refold the casement, with the buttonholes on top, and sew along these two folds, just like you did with the top hem.  My material was thin enough that I could see the fold through the top layer, but you my want to mark where the bottom fold is if you have thicker fabric.

I sewed as close to the edge as possible. I like to use a twin needle. Not only does it make everything look fancier, it also makes the stitches a lot easier to rip out. And then sew the back piece in the same way.

See why these are easier to rip out?
      Take a break here if you need one, the hard part is over. 

     Cut two pieces of ribbon, each as wide as your shirt front. And then feed them through the casement (which is much easier if you use a safety pin.) Leave a little of the ribbon sticking out the side of the casement, it is easier to secure it if you can see where it is.

     Sew the casement side shut with a zig-zag
     Then wrap pull a piece of elastic around your back, lining each edge up with the side seams of your shirt. Pull the elastic comfortably snug. Feed this piece through the back casement, sewing each edge secure like you did for the front ribbon.

     Wrap your second piecee of elastic around yourself where you want the top of the shirt to sit, again pulling it comfortably snug. Then cut it in half, and feed one half through the front piece, and one through the back, agai sewing each side of each casement shut while secureing the elastic. The front piece will look like this.

     If you put your casement lower on your back piece then your front, you'll need to make the two meet before you sew the side seams.  If they are the same, you can skip this step. Sew a gathering stitch from the top hem to the casement on your front piece (it's just a straight stitch with the stitch length set to the longest setting possible)

Then pull the top thread on one side to gather the material slightly so that the hem and casement line up on the front and the back. Then sew your sides seams. I like to use a french seam so that there are now raw edges inside.

     If you wanted a tube top, you're done! If you wanted straps, you have just a few minutes left. If you have a tube turner, you can make the straps but turning a skinny tube inside out. I don't have  tube turner, so I had to get creative.

     Fold the raw edges of each strip in 1/2 of an inch.

     Then fold the strip in half, and sew it shut.

The last step is to sew your straps on! (I found the easiest way was to simply put the top on, and line the straps up with my bras straps and pin them there.) You could make a halter top, a racing back, or the traditional setting, or anything else you can think of.

     Tada! You're done! Slip into your new top and get ready to beat the heat. I finished this in an afternoon, even while taking pictures. My second one only took me an hour, and I'm sure that with practice, you could churn out a dozen of them in no time!     

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Lora said...

Great tutorial! Do we get a model? It'd be easier to gauge how I want to make my own if I got to see a picture with the tank on someone.

Daniela said...



Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Wow!! You did a fantastic job. I love it--looks so soft and light-weight. Great tutorial!

Thanks for joining my Weekend Bloggy Reading party. :) Hope you'll stop by Serenity Now again soon! :)