Introduction: Princess Leia Hooded Tank Top
This easy top is simple enough for beginners sew but looks cool enough to wear to a con. The top has one seam going down the back, a keyhole opening with hook closures at the back of the neck (authentic to the actual dress worn by Carrie Fisher in the films) and the signature waist-length hood.
The fabric I used for mine was crushed panne velvet in white. Yes I know that this is not accurate but it was the only fabric I had that would work. I suggest you try a white stretchy knit like the kind they use for t-shirts if you can find it (I had some I was going to use but found out it had somehow gotten stained in storage...hence, the panne velvet version I ended up making).
You will need:
-white, stretchy knit fabric - the yardage depends on how big you're making your top. I used roughly 3 yards making mine.
-yard stick (or long stick-type thing for marking straight edges)
-pencil or chalk for marking
-sewing machine and basic knowledge to use it
-tank top for reference (one that fits you comfortably)
-2 hook closures
-fusible fabric interfacing
-tips for handling stretch fabrics
Before we start: Before I go on I want to clarify my own measurements, which I'll be using as we go along:
As you can see I'm 5'11 tall, so if you follow my measurements and are 5'7, the shirt will be too long/big on you. I'll be using my own measurements as I show you how to make the top, so make sure you don't forget to use your own measurements! The only part of the top where you can follow the measurements I give is for the hood.
Side note: because this is white it IS a bit see-through unless you use a thick fabric, so you may want to use an undershirt when wearing it ;)
Step 1: Figuring Out the Measurements
The basic top I'm going to show you how to make is very simple - it's pretty much just a rectangle cut on the fold of the fabric. This makes a simple tube-style top that will fit most people well.
Figuring out the length: This is the most simple measurement to determine. Using the measuring tape, measure from the top of your shoulder down to where you want the shirt to end - I made mine longer to give it a tunic-look, so the length I wanted was 30 inches. Add an extra inch to account for seem allowance to your final measure meant - mine was 31 inches long.
Figuring out the width: We will cut the shirt out on a fold so you actually need half of what you want the circumference of the shirt to be. The basic top is a tube that is the same width at the top as it is at the bottom. To determine the width to cut the fabric, I did the following: measure around the widest part of your bust and and the width of your hip where you want the shirt to end. Then, add those two measurements together, then divide by 4. In other words: bust + hip / 4 = width needed. For me, that was 20 inches (ok, so it was a little bit over 20 inches but I rounded it down to 20 because the fabric is stretchy). Add an extra inch to the measurement to account for seam allowance, and my final measurement was 21. Remember that the fabric we will be using is stretchy and therefor forgiving of minor miscalculations, but when in doubt, make it bigger than you think it needs to be. It will be much easier to bring it in if it's too large than to start over.
Write your measurements down so you don't forget, and let's move on to cutting out our top.
Step 2: Cutting Out the Fabric
Now that you know what size you need, measure it out on the fabric with one long side on the fabric fold, using the yardstick to make straight lines to cut on. Try not to pull on the fabric too much as it will easily stretch out of shape - using a sharp pair of scissors really helps.
Make sure that you cut the fabric with the grain going across - in other words, you want the fabric to stretch from side to side, not from top to bottom. This is important - the the side-to-side stretching will give you a nice fit.
Cut out your fabric.
Before you go any farther place a pin in the cloth at the top of the fabric fold - this will let you know where the center of the shirt front is and will help later.
Step 3: Sewing the Back Seam and Keyhole
The only seam on this shirt runs down the back, with the top of the seam becoming a keyhole opening to make it easier to put on and will give shape to our collar. You can see the keyhole opening on Ms. Fisher's dress here.
Start by measuring 6 inches down from the top of the shirt. Pin the fabric past the 6 inch mark - this will be the back seam.
Sew the seam (from the 6 inch mark down) using a half inch seam allowance. This is important as you'll need that extra allowance to neatly finish the seam.
Once sewn, remove the pins. You'll now have what is basically a tube. Turn it inside out and slip it on to see if the width of the shirt fits comfortably over your bust and hips. If it looks good, turn it wrong side out again and prepare to cut the arm holes and finish the back seam.
If the shirt is too big, determine how much smaller it should be, turn the shirt wrong side out again and mark where the new seam should be. Pin the new seam and sew it, making sure to leave the keyhole opening intact. Cut off the excess fabric and try the shirt on again to see if it fits properly.
Step 4: Cutting the Arms
Before we move on to finishing the back seam, we need to cut our arm holes out.
If you placed a pin at the top of the fabric fold earlier, you now know where the center of the shirt is. Lay the shirt out so that the back seam matches up with the pin, meaning the seam will now be running directly down the middle of the shirt.
Using your tank top, place it on the upper corners of the shirt (see picture). Mark the shape of the arm hole and then cut it out. Repeat for second side.
Step 5: Finishing the Back Seam
*NOTE* If you are making this top for a one-time only wear, you can save time and skip finishing the back seam unless you used a fabric that frays badly. Most knits don't fray at all so it's safe to leave the edges raw and it will look fine - however the seam will not be as smooth or lay as nicely, and the durability of the top will be compromised. You will also still need to finish the keyhole edges.
Now we're going to finish the back seam. Start at the top of one side of the keyhole opening, folding the edge under by 1/4 inch and then again by 1/4 inch, and pin in place. Work your way down to the start of the seam and then repeat for the second side.
With the keyhole edges neatly folded and pinned, go down the back seam doing the same thing. Fold down the raw edges from the seam by 1/4 inc and again by 1/4 inch on both sides, then pin in place. This will cover the raw edges and make the seam nice and neat.
*Note: You can iron the edges down if you want but I find that doesn't typically work very well on knits. I just fold it under and pin.
Starting at the top of one of the keyhole sides, sew down the folded edge, going all the way from the top to the bottom. Make sure to stay right near the edge of the fold to catch all the fabric! Go back to the other keyhole edge and repeat, sewing down the other side of the seam (you may need to remove the pins on the second side as you sew to avoid catching them with the footer head).
Remove the pins - the seam should be neat and tidy now :)
Step 6: Sewing the Shoulders
Next, spread the top out so that the top and front lie directly over one another with the outer edges even. There will be a gap between the two keyhole edges but this is fine, it's from finishing the edges. Your pin should still be in place marking the middle of the shirt front.
Decide how wide the neck hole should be. For my top, I measured around my neck (14 inches) and then cut that in half (7 inches). That means I needed 3 1/2 inches of space on either side of the pin marking the middle. Using your measuring tape, mark out where the neck hole will start and end.
Pin the fabric on either side of the marks to make the shoulders and sew, once again using a half inch seam allowance.
Once both shoulders are sewn, finish the raw edges like you did on the back seam, by folding the fabric under twice, pinning and sewing down both sides of the seam.
Step 7: Finishing the Hem and Shoulder Holes
Finishing the hem and shoulder holes is very easy - simply fold the edges under by a 1/4 inch and then again by a 1/4 inch, sew (staying close to the edge of the fold to catch the fabric) and remove the pins. There will be a lot of fabric to sew through when you go over the seams, but the machine should be able to handle it. You should end up with a nicely finished edge.
Step 8: Cutting Out the Neck
The base of the top is nearly done - all we need to do now is cut out the neck shape. This looks a little tricky but isn't really.
Start by laying the shirt out flat. In the middle of the neck opening (once again using your marking pin for reference) mark down by 1 1/2 inches. This is how deep your neck will scoop down.
After I marked down from the middle by 1 1/2 inches, I used that as a guide and simply free hand sketched out where the cutting line for the neck scoop would be on either side of it. The neck doesn't have to be perfectly shaped or rounded as there will be a collar to hide most imperfections in shape.
Once you have the shape of the neck scoop drawn out, cut the fabric. Yes, you will end up cutting through some of the keyhole's seamed edges but this is fine.
Step 9: Making the Hood
Unlike your stereotypical hood, the hood for the top does not have a back seam. While researching the type of hood Princess Leia's outfit had, it appears (and I might be wrong) that the hood simply consisted of a rectangle of fabric with the ends sewn at the collar. This is what allowed the hood to drape smoothly over the head, unlike hoods that have a back seem (which gives them that pointed look). I used the instructions for this Leia cosplay as a basis for my hood.
Start by measuring out on a fabric fold a rectangle that is 19 inches wide by 23 inches long. Take a look at my picture, you'll see that one side of the rectangle is longer and one side is shorter - this will allow the hood to lay over the head without being too tight. To do this, measure on one side 21 inches and mark. Then lay your yard stick from the long edge to the 21 mark, giving you a sloping line. Mark and cut - you should now have a shape like mine.
Before you go any farther, use a sewing pin to mark the longer side of the hood, as it will be hard to tell later on once the edges have been gathered.
Pin the long edges by folding under the raw edges twice like you did with the hem. Sew, staying close to the edges to catch the fabric. Once both sides are hemmed, baste both the short edges with a long stitch and then gather the fabric. This is what you'll pin the the collar to make the hood.
Now it's time to pin the hood to the collar. With the fabric's right sides together and starting with the long edge (the edge that should have your sewing pin marker) pin the edge flush with the shoulder seam. Leia's hood starts directly above her shoulders, not all the way around her neck as you can see here.
Now pin the shorter edge flush with the edge of the keyhole opening. Tighten your gather so that the hood fabric is the same width as the space between the shoulder seam and the keyhole opening, and then pin down. Repeat for the other side, taking care not to twist the hood accidentally while pinning!
Step 10: Cutting Out the Collar
The collar is very simply shaped, like the top. Instead of doing a complicated rounded collar, this collar is a rectangle folded over. It gets it's shape from the hook closures at the back of the neck that make it tighter at the top of the neck and looser lower down. A piece of fabric interfacing gives it stiffness so it stays up properly.
To start, figure out how long your collar needs to be. I did this by holding the measuring tape at one edge of the neck opening (NOT the entire keyhole opening, but where the collar edges will join) and then measuring around the neck hole. I determined I would need roughly 20 inches, and then added 2 inches to that measurement for seem allowance. Just like with the top, it is much better to make your collar too long than too short, as we'll easily snip off the excess when we finish the collar.
Next figure out how tall your collar will be. I decided to have mine 2 inches tall, which is probably what most people will use. I then added an extra inch for seam allowance, giving the final measurement of 5 inches.
Now that you have your width and length, measure it out on your fabric. I cut mine on a fabric fold so I divided my length in half to 11 inches.
Now fold your collar with the long edges together. This is how the collar will be pinned to the top, but for the moment what we want to do is shape the collar a bit. By making the top of the collar shorter than the bottom, it will force the top of the collar to be tighter, giving the same effect as if the collar had been cut rounded (only much easier to measure, cut and sew).
Along the side with the fabric fold (which will be the top edge of our collar) mark in about 1 inch. Using the measuring tape or yard stick, angle down from the mark to the corner of the bottom edge of the collar. Mark a line and then cut. This will give you the angle needed. Repeat for other side.
Now repeat the entire process for the fabric interfacing, only making the entire thing about an inch smaller in all dimensions. When you lay the interface down on the collar, it should be at least a half inch shorter all around. Follow the instructions for your interfacing to fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the collar.
Step 11: Attaching the Collar
Attaching the collar to the top is one of the trickiest parts simply because it's important that the collar lays smooth and flush. Start by folding over the edges of the collar by about half an inch (the edges should lay over the interfacing). Starting with the middle of the collar and hood, sandwich the raw edge of the neck hole between the two sides of the collar and pin. This will neatly finish off the raw edges. Make sure you pin at least a half inch of the neck hole edge between the collar so that it can be held well in place once sewn.
Continue carefully placing the neck hole edges between the collar sides and pinning, making sure to catch plenty of fabric when pinning. This may take a while as you need to go slowly to ensure that the collar is smooth and there are no puckers from the top or collar. Don't worry about folding under the edges at the back of the collar as we'll take care of that later. All you're worried about right now is the bottom edge of the collar.
Once pinned, sew the collar down to the top by sewing close to the edge of the collar to catch the most fabric (even though I pinned the fabric from the inside, I chose to sew along the outside so that I could ensure the fabric didn't pucker and that the needle caught the fabric from the collar). There will be a lot of fabric to sew through when sewing over the gathered hood edges, so go slow and take your time.
Once you've sewn all the way around, go around a second time, this time sewing about a 1/4 inch higher than your last seam.
Step 12: Finishing the Collar
Now we are going to finish off the raw back edges of the collar. If the fabric isn't flush or is too long, cut it down to about 1/2 an inch. Fold the edges under, pin, and sew neatly.
Try the top on again. Decide where the hooks will go on the back of the collar and use a sewing pin to mark if necessary. Remember that the hooks are what keeps the collar tight and shaped properly against the neck. For my collar, I ended up putting the hooks quite far over to the side as the collar was too long, but I got the nice shaping I wanted.
Try on your top once again to check the size and placement of your hooks, and you're done!