The only downfall is that I designed this as a spring/summer top to be worn alone, but it's just too chilly to subject my child to the torture of not wearing something under it for pics :) But, I couldn't wait until it was warm to take pics or post the tutorial, so we just put a top on underneath. Still looks pretty cute if you ask me (see more pics here)!
I still have lots to learn about tutorials, but I feel pretty confident that anyone with basic sewing skills will be able to knock this out in no time. It is SO super easy, and all you need is a cute shirt to pattern it by (or some mad skills of drawing out patterns from your model's measurements...actually it probably wouldn't be that difficult to do that). Anyhow...here goes...
- Fabric (I used about a half yard for the main and half yard for the lining for my size 4/5)
- Basic sewing supplies (scissors, rotary cutter, etc.)
- Sewing machine - any will do...even the most basic!
- Bias tape for straps (make your own or buy pre-made) OR make your own straps with tubes of fabric (save yourself the trouble and just use bias tape...the thought of turning all of those straps makes my head spin!)
That's all you need to get started! Remember, the top is reversible so you can go wild with the fabrics and have two totally different tops!! Unfortunately, I was trying to use up some fabric from my stash and used a really weird print for one side (from a Halloween project...) so I probably wont be using that side
Part 1: Creating Your Pattern Pieces
First, chose a simple halter, tank, etc. top to make your pattern from. Other tops will do as all you are doing is creating the basic shape, but be sure to tuck the sleeves to the inside.
Trace around your top adding a little extra for seam allowance (~ 1/2 inch) all the way around. You wont be hemming this top (yay!), so 1/2 inch on the bottom is fine too. I just did a little extra to add some length.
Cut this piece out; this will be your front piece (you will cut on the fold).
To create the back piece, trace your front pattern piece onto another sheet of paper (I use freezer paper). We are going to make the back pieces curved at the bottom, so start about the middle of the shirt and make a curve all the way down to the bottom. There is no science to this, just curve it how you like it! I actually made mine a little more curved when I cut it out (made it blend into the bottom line of the pattern a little more...see the cut out shape). I think it might be cute to start the curve from the top corner as well...especially for a little one. Since my little one is 3 I decided to go with a more modest approach :)
Cut this piece out and you will have your pattern pieces made. Easy peasy! Go ahead and label them, and mark where the fold should be. **Note that only the front piece will be cut on the fold**
Part 2: Cutting out Your Pieces - Fabric and Bias Tape
The top is reversible with no exposed seams, so you will need two of each piece - 1 main and 1 lining (there really isn't a "lining" since both sides will be able to be seen, but I'll call it the lining, for lack of a better term, to differentiate between the pieces).
For the front of the top, use your front pattern piece and cut out 1 main and 1 lining ON THE FOLD.
For the back of the top you will be cutting out 4 separate pieces (2 main and 2 lining); two for each side of the back of the shirt. Start with the main fabric and fold it in half (or stack two pieces on top of each other wrong sides together) so that when you place your pattern and cut it out you will be cutting out two pieces opposite of each other (does that make sense?). Put your pattern piece on top and cut it out (you will be cutting through two layers of fabric but not on the fold). Repeat with the lining to get two opposite lining back pieces. Once cut, you should have the following pieces (6 total - one of each piece in main and lining fabrics that match)...
I apologize for not taking pics of this next part, but you will also need to cut out your pieces of bias tape for the ties in the back (we'll get to the straps later...). You need 6 ties (3 for each side) about 12 inches long.
Part 3: Putting everything together!
The assembly of this top goes super quick...no finishing edges, hemming, etc.!
The first thing I like to do is finish up the ties (my least favorite part...get it out of the way first!). If using bias tape, you will simply need to sew down the open edge to close them up. On one end, stop sewing when you get close to the end, open the tape, turn the end toward the inside, then fold back up. This will enclose the exposed end of your strap (you only need to do this on one end b/c the other end will be inside the top and wont be seen). Repeat with all six ties and set them aside.
Next, we need to assemble the inside and outside of the top. Lay your front main piece right side up, then lay the two back pieces right sides down on top, matching up the sides (as shown below). Pin the sides and then sew straight down along both sides connecting your back main pieces to your front main piece.
Repeat the above steps with your lining pieces. You should now have two pieces that look like this when opened up...
Next, lay one of your pieces right side up (doesn't matter which one) and pin the ties to the edges as shown below. Make sure to pin one at the top on each shoulder slightly more than 1/2 inch down (so that it doesn't get caught in the seam allowance). Space them out however you like, but you can see about where I put mine (my bottom tie is about halfway down on the sides). I folded and pinned the ends of the ties down so that they don't get caught when sewing around the edge.
Fold your piece in half to check to make sure that your tie placement matches up (it'll look kind of funky if your ties don't match up right in the back, so don't skip this step!), then open it back up.
Make sure all of your ties are securely pinned, then place your other piece right side down on top of your piece with the pinned ties (the ties will be sandwiched in the middle and right sides of the fabric will be together). Pin all the way around the edges, leaving the top straight edges open.
Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance (or whatever seam allowance you chose when creating your pattern), sew along your pinned edges. **Remember to leave the top straight edges, unsewn (shown with a blue line below).**
Carefully notch the curves along the edge and arm holes (so they'll lay nice and flat) then turn right side out through the open area at the top. Now you should have this...
Un-pin your ties and press well around all edges. At the top open edges, fold the main and lining pieces in 1/2 inch and press (see second pic below). Looking good, huh!?
Now, it's time to create and insert our straps (almost finished!)! Hold the top up to your child to figure out where the front and back pieces will fall, then measure over the shoulder from the top of the front piece to the top of the back piece. On my little one this was about 8 inches. Be sure to add an inch to the measurement you get to allow for the seams. Cut two pieces of bias tape the length you came up with, then sew them up along the side (no need to fold under the edges on either end b/c edges will be inside the shirt).
Fold your back pieces of your top behind the front piece (just like it will be when it is worn) and pin the straps inside the open edges as shown below. The straps will be pinned inside the outside corner of the front piece, then flipped over to the back and pinned in the outside corner of the back pieces. Insert the straps between the two layers about 1/2 inch so that they will be sandwiched between the layers once sewn. It will make sense when you get to this part (if my explanation doesn't...).
Once both straps are pinned in place, start at one corner of one of the back pieces and topstitch along the entire top all the way around (w/ about a 1/4 inch seam allowance). The topstitching will secure the straps, close the open edges, and provide a nice finish on the edge of the top.
Tie the back ties together, then stand back and admire!