Monday, September 17, 2012

Vintage Boho Top Tutorial

A little while back, I shared with you the absolute beauty of a vintage sheet I found on a thrifting trip.  I've been pondering what to do with it for some time, thinking it would probably become a dress.  Then my mom and I found these adorable little gray pants at Carter's and the idea for this top was born!

The print of this particular sheet lent itself perfectly to this shirt, but it would look beautiful in so many different fabrics!  It absolutely needed a Peter Pan collar.

It buttons up the back in keeping with the vintage vibe.

I adore the bell sleeves gathered at the elbow.  Definitely one of my favorite details and super easy to make!

The girls love it and didn't want to take it off!

Want to make your own?  For most little girl sizes, you will need:

- 1 1/4 yards main fabric

- 1/3 yard lining fabric (more if you also want to line the bottom part of the shirt)
- scraps for collar fabric (I just used my white lining fabric)
- 3 coordinating buttons, size of your choice
- 1/4 elastic
- sewing stuff (coordinating thread, sewing machine, scissors or rotary cutter/mat, hand sewing needle)

To get started, we'll need to make a quick bodice pattern.  You can use any basic sleeveless bodice pattern you have on hand or you can make your own by tracing a well-fitting t-shirt.  I suggest using one that doesn't fit too tight or too loose and doesn't have a lot of distracting details like big gathered sleeves or a ruffled top.

First, fold your t-shirt in half and lay it out on some paper.  I just use plain white copier paper.  Trace around the outer edge of the shirt, adding seam allowance as you go.  I suggest using 1/2".

Now trace your front bodice onto another sheet, but this time use the back neckline (usually a couple of inches higher than the front neckline) and also add 1" to the fold side so you have room for your button flaps to overlap on the back.  Mark your pattern pieces with size, fold marks and seam allowance info in case you use it again in the future!

To draft the sleeve, pattern, take your front bodice pattern piece and lay it at the edge of another sheet of paper.  You will probably need to tape two pieces together so you have enough length.  Trace the curve of the armhole onto your new sheet of paper.

Lay an existing well-fitting sleeve on top and mark the length, making sure you add enough length to hem it (usually 1" is plenty).  Also mark the approximate center of the sleeve, where the child's elbow would be.

Now if you've made sleeve patterns before, here is where you're going to think I've completely taken leave of my senses and this is never going to work.  I assure you that while I probably lost my senses long ago, this will work!  Draw a line straight out from the top of the sleeve to your final length marking.  This will be the fold line for your sleeve pattern.  Where you marked for the elbow, make a mark about 8" away from your top straight (fold) line.

Now connect all the lines together by making a large swooping curve down from the bottom of the armhole to your mark, then head straight out to the end.  Also make a line to connect the top and bottom.  We need all this extra fabric to make the sleeves bell at the end and to gather them up at the elbow.  I know it looks totally weird, but it will work!

Mark and cut out your sleeve pattern and cut two sleeves on the fold (sorry, no picture).  Also cut your front bodice pieces on the fold, one of main fabric and one of lining fabric and cut your back bodices (not on the fold), two of your main fabric and two of your lining fabric.

For the collar, lay your front bodice out on a sheet of paper and trace the neckline curve and the shoulders.  Also mark the center of the front neckline on your paper.

Curving down from the center mark, draw a Peter Pan collar shape extending up to the shoulder.  Remember you'll need seam allowance, so don't make it too small.  You might have to play with it a few times until you like the shape.  You can see I had to!  I felt like it was too small at first, so the line farthest out is what I ended up going with.

Cut 4 of your collar pieces, right sides together if you are using a printed fabric.

With right sides together, sew two of the collar pieces together along the sides and bottom, leaving the top (neckline curve) open.  Repeat with the other two pieces.  Flip the collar pieces right sides out and press well with your iron.

Take your main fabric bodice pieces and sew them right sides together at both shoulder seams.  Repeat with the bodice lining pieces.

Pin your collar pieces to the right side of your main bodice piece.  The inner edges of the collar should just touch.

Now lay your bodice lining on top, right sides together, matching up the shoulder seams.  Carefully pin the two layers together with the collar sandwiched in between.  Pin and sew around the entire neckline and the inside edges of the back bodice.  Do not sew around the armholes or the side seams.

Flip the entire bodice right side out and carefully press with your iron.  It will take a bit of work to get it to lay flat, but take your time and really press everything neatly.  The collar should lay flat.  If you are having trouble getting it to lay down, flip it up and topstitch the neckline seam underneath the collar. 

Next take your sleeves and line them up with the armholes.  Pin the sleeves into the bodice armholes, right sides together and sew.  

Finish the seams by serging, zig zag stitching, or trimming with pinking shears.

Find the center point of your sleeve.  Cut two pieces of 1/4" elastic, each about 9" long.  Use a disappearing fabric pen to mark a line straight across at the center point of your sleeve.  Pin the elastic at the start and end of this line.

Stretch the elastic all the way across the sleeve and sew it down.  I would suggest using a zig zag stitch when you sew over elastic.  You may have to stretch and hold it in sections, but make sure it stretches all the way across.

Once your elastic is stitched down, it should gather the center of the sleeve up like this.

It's a good idea to make your buttonholes before moving on.  Mark and make buttonholes according to your machine's instructions.

To make the main body piece of the shirt, measure across the bottom of your bodice.  Mine is 13".

For the front, cut a piece that is 3" wider than your bodice measurement (so 16" for me) by however much length you need (don't forget to add allowance for a hem!).  My front piece was 16" wide by 12" long.  For the back, cut a piece that is the same width as your bodice, so for me that was 13" wide by 12" long.  I also chose to line my piece because the vintage sheet was a bit thin, but for most modern fabrics, you shouldn't need a lining piece.

Mark the center of your front piece and then make a mark 3" away from both the right and left of center.

Run a gathering stitch (longest machine stitch length) between these two marks and pull the threads to gather the fabric until the width matches your bodice.

With right sides together, stitch the bottom piece to the bodice.  Finish the seams using your preferred method and press the seam up towards the bodice.

Do the same with the back piece, making sure when you overlap your buttonhole area that the buttonholes are layered on top!

Lay the shirt out right sides together and match up the bodice seams, underarm seams and elastic ends on the sleeves.  Pin and sew both sides of the entire shirt together, starting at the bottom of the shirt and going all the way down to the end of the sleeve.

Turn the shirt right side out and topstitch just above the bodice seam, all the way around the front and back of the shirt.  I usually start under the underarm just to hide the beginning and ending point of my stitches.

All that's left is to hem the sleeves and the bottom, sew on your buttons and you are done!

Pick some of the final summer flowers for your hair and enjoy the cooler weather!  Remember if you make one, I'd love to see it in the flickr group!  


  1. I love it ! Thank you for sharing

  2. What a sweet top--found it from TRH link party. I have a vintage sheet that is screaming to be made into something like this! Thanks for the tutorial.

  3. Darling!! Visiting you from the Train to Crazy.

  4. So beautiful! I love the peter pan collar with the vintage sheet material!

  5. visiting from tea rose home. absolutely cute and gorgeous (the pattern, top and the little lady)

  6. Such a cute top! I LOVE vintage!!!!! Thanks for sharing this tutorial x


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