Introduction: Patchwork Summer Top From Upcycled Fabrics

About: Knitter, Textile creator, Designer, Teacher. Passionate about recycling and upcycling.

This top was created by making a paper pattern from another top I owned, choosing waste fabrics and cutting these into the pattern pieces, then sewing them together to create the whole garment.

You will need

  • Fabric (new or old)
  • Thread (I chose cotton as my fabric was cotton)
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Stick unpicker
  • Flat surface to work on
  • String or yarn for draw string

Step 1: Choose Your Garment to Copy

Following on from one of my previous Instructables on how to make a Shirt Pattern

I decided I needed to pick a top and make a basic pattern to copy it.

I chose this crochet white top which I've has for 15 years probably and last summer one of the straps broke (I'll get on and do some fixing and alterations Instructables later on in the year!)

I folded the garment in half from the centre front line and drew panels for

  1. the front upper
  2. the back upper
  3. the side panels left & right
  4. the sections under the waist (this was the same for the front and back)

After this, I found some cotton swatches that had been given to me for a previous project in red and blue stripes in slightly different patterns.. hence the patchwork look!

Step 2: Putting the Pieces Together

Once I had my pieces of fabric cut, I began to arrange them.

I noticed that the pieces for the sections under the waist could be flipped or mirrored and so I spent some time testing to see which panels should go where.

  • You could make a top with all contrasting patches
  • or you could choose fabric with all the same pattern of colour.

Ultimately I chose the arrangement as seen in Image 2, where I have sew the panel together for the front and back pieces above the waist

I also decided I wanted to keep the drawstring function the waist from the original white crochet top. Here you can see me starting to incorporate the idea

Step 3: Adding in the Waistband

As I also had some embroidered cut out cotton fabric, I chose this for the waistband.

This meant that later on I could create a drawstring in fabric or yarn and thread it through the embroidered holes.

I also had a piece of blue cotton fabric (to back the white embroidered fabric)

  1. I cut it into strips and sewed the ends together.
  2. I then sewed the blue strip inbetween the panels for the top (so attaching it to the bottom edge of the upper panels and the top edge of the lower panels)
  3. I then placed the white fabric piece on top of the blue and sewed over the top (Image 1)
    • The white piece was less wide than the blue so I has to sew the waistband skinnier than I originally wanted to
    • This was the only piece of fabric like this that I had so I needed to use it resourcefully

    • It also created more fabric than I needed inside and so I trimmed off the excess afterwards.

  4. The sewing in of the white fabric then trapped it between the edges and left a clean line. (Image 2&3)
  5. All the seams and edges are on the inside
    • I later sewed them down to make it flatter and more comfortable inside the top

The last image shows the top design starting to take shape, with all the outer edges still to finish

Step 4: Finishing the Edges and Straps

To finish the edges of the top

  1. I rolled over the edges of the top, making a double fold or folding the fabric edge not once but twice
  2. I then pinned this down with lots of pins! As you can see.
  3. Very gently, I sewed a straight line over the top of this edge
  4. I use the same technique for the armholes, neck line front and back and the base of the top hemline.

Afterwards I needed to add the straps

  1. Again I used some of the pale blue cotton that I had also used at the waist.
  2. I cut it into wide strips and sewed the ends together to create one long strip as before.
  3. This time I sewed two strips together along the length of the strips, on both sides.
  4. I then turned this inside out (you can use the safety pin or chopstick trick to help you) to create a fabric tube!
  5. I then cut this to the correct length for either shoulder side and these became the straps
  6. Before sewing the straps on, I turned the fabric ends of the straps inwards to make a clean edge and ironed them like this.
  7. I pushed in very top edges of the Front and Back panels where the straps usually start and pinned them
  8. I used a straight stitch on the sewing machine to attach them finally at the left and right sides on both the front & back.

Step 5: Now to Wear It!

After doing the straps, I had some tiny adjustments to make

  1. At the bust area, the top was a bit baggy and looked ill-fitting
    • So I made some small darts on the bust so that it fitted me a bit better
    • TO make the darts I actually put the top on inside out, and pinned together a fold with the amount of fabric I thought would be correct to remove.
    • Before sewing, I checked both the darts against each other as well as their location to make sure they looked even.
  2. I also noticed after trying it on a few times, that the side of the top at the base by the hips, were sticking out a bit
    • Here is what to do if you find the same thing: I unpicked the base hem at the points I though needed to be altered, then I trimmed those sections.
    • Afterwards I re-doubled the edges and sewed the base hem back.
  3. The waistband needed something
    • Happy as I was that the top fits me perfectly, I decided it did need the drawstring added
    • Using a 5.5 crochet hook and some cotton, I made a simple crochet chain with long tassel ends about 5cm in length.
    • I then threaded this through the white embroidered cotton waistband, starting at the from and going all the way around to meet up again. At the moment the cotton is a bit too white, if I do some dyeing with blue, I'll try to tint the cotton drawstring a bit.