For my birthday last year I received one of the greatest gifts of all-time: a little baby sewing machine (Brother brand). Over the last couple of months, I’ve scoured the internet for tips and tricks while teaching myself how to sew and recalling the couple of lessons that my mom had given to me when I was younger. It’s funny how you come to appreciate things in a whole new light when you get older, don’t you think?
I didn’t want to discourage myself by starting off with super-challenging projects, so I started out with very easy envelope pillow cases and other easy-to-sew projects that I found online. Since then, I’ve been working on my pattern-reading skills, and have really enjoyed making myself clothing!
In the future (once life slows down a little bit), I’d really love to take some sewing classes and learn more of the ins-and-outs of my little machine, but until then, I sit happily at my little desk by the window and experiment. I mess up a lot, but with every misstep, I learn something new. And what better way to get better than by learning how to fix your own mistakes, right?
Luckily for me, the fashion craze these days tends to be on my side: simplicity. We’re kind of seeing a resurgence of old patterns coming back to life, and companies like Madewell and GAP thrive on the simplest silhouettes. A craze that I can really get behind is the linen craze. A simple fabric and a simple silhouette make for articles that will never really go out of style.
So, while experimenting one day, I sort of created my own little tunic-top pattern. And it was so easy, that I thought I would share it with you guys in 15 easy-to-follow steps! For anyone looking to break into sewing or looking to bust out their old machine, I think this is a super easy project to build your confidence up! I made two versions of this top — the first one (with a striped airy linen and embroidered anchors) is longer with smaller sleeves, and the second one (a pretty pink linen) is more of a cropped look with flouncier sleeves. The fun thing about this How-To, is that you can tweak it to fit you!
What You’ll Need:
1 and 1/4 yards of a linen fabric.
Pinking Shears (you know those zigzag scissors you always wanted to buy but thought you never had a reason for? yes, those).
A shirt with a neckline you like.
Sewing Machine (unless you’re really into hand-sewing, then godspeed to you!)
Terms to Know:
Right-side: the side of the fabric that will appear on the outside.
Wrong-side: the side of the fabric that will be on the inside, against your body.
What To Do:
- Start by folding your fabric in half horizontally. Measure 36 in. (one yard), and trim off any excess. If you bought a yard and a quarter, you’ll use the extra quarter for your neckline later. Your fold should be at the top – this is your shoulder line.
2. Fold your fabric in half again – this time vertically – so that you have a crease on the top and on the right side.
3. Find a shirt with a neckline that you like. (A V neckline works too!) You’re going to use this as a template for your new shirt’s neckline, but make it a little bit smaller than you’ll actually want it. Trace a dotted line, but do not cut yet!
4. Now open up your fabric, and this time only have the crease on the right side (down the center of your shirt). Now you can cut on the dotted line, and when you get to the crease, finish cutting with a shallow curve for the back of your neckline.
5. Make sure that you can fit the shirt over your own head!
6. Now hem the bottom two seams of your shirt. I like to do a double-fold hem for a clean look and to avoid any fraying. (Make sure that you’re folding onto the wrong-side of the fabric). And trust me, using an iron will help A LOT.
7. Slip the shirt over your head (wrong-side facing out, right side to your body), and decide how tight or loose-fitting you’d like your top. This particular pattern works better if you leave it looser, especially if you are going for a more cropped look. Mark where you want your shirt sewn together on the sides.
8. Measure from the side to make sure that you are keeping both sides balanced. I measured about 8 in. from the side. Pin down to the bottom and leave room for sleeves. (Here is where you can decide if you want larger or smaller sleeves). If your fabric doesn’t have a pattern on it to ensure you’re sewing a straight line, you can draw your own dotted line since this is the inside of the shirt. Sew from the hemline to where your sleeve will begin, for both sleeves.
9. Cut out a square to create a boxy-looking top, along your seam. I suggest using pinking shears on inside seams like this to avoid fraying. You can use these “scrap pieces” to make a neckline, like I did, or if you bought the extra ¼ yard of fabric, you’ll use that.
To Make Neckline:
10. Lay a piece of fabric on top of your neckline and cut out the same moon shape, but about 1.5 – 2 in. wide. Do this for the front and back, so that you have two half-circles. (Ignore the extra seam on mine, as I was just using whatever scraps I had leftover to make a piece large enough to work with).
11. Next, sew your half-circles together to create one full circle (your necklining). Pin this circle to your neckline – on the right side of your fabric. Start at the shoulders and pin there first. Then make your way around the rest of the neckline. Sew the circular necklining to the shirt’s neckline with a close-to-the-edge stitch.
^^ make sure your shirt is right-side-out when you pin the necklining to it.
12. You’ll then flip the remaining fabric into the shirt, and press with an iron. Flip your shirt wrong-side-out again, and make another stitch around the neckline to hold it in place. Trim the extra fabric inside the shirt with your pinking shears.
Back to the shirt…
13. Flip the shirt inside-out again and hem the edges of your sleeves with the same double-fold hemline.
14. Now, pin the bottom of your sleeves together and sew from the sleeve’s edge to side seam. Trim with pinking shears.
15. Finally, Press all of your inside seams open with your iron. Iron out all creases. Wear (I like to roll my sleeves twice) and enjoy!
Good luck and enjoy! And I’d love to see your creations come to life if you give this one a go!