If you want to make a quick, versatile and flattering top extra quick, the fastest way to do it is with an easy pattern. If you don't have one handy, you can trace the outline of a top you already have. But which one? Button-up blouses are too intricate and copies T-shirts can make your final project end up looking like scrubs. That got me thinking: what is the one article of clothing that is practically universally owned by every person nowadays?
The zip-up hoodie.
By using the zipper as a line for a seam and a gauge for a neckline, you can make a top out of virtually any material without looking like you're wearing nurse's scrubs (not that there's anything wrong with those, they do look pretty comfy). The really cool thing about this clothing construction is that you can use the pattern in so many different ways.
In addition to the variety of fabrics, you can adjust the neckline length, go sleeveless or not, insert darts or a princess seam for a more fitted look or leave it long and loose as a tunic.
All you need are:
1. Enough fabric to fit your body size. A good way to measure this is to look at a pattern for a top you already have and see how much yardage is needed for that. I am a size 14 lady, and used 2 yards of fabric for the back piece and two front pieces, and 1 yard of fabric for the sleeves. Of course, it's better to have slightly more fabric than to have slightly less and end up with something uncomfortable and tight. You also need to allot enough material for hemming.
4. Fabric Marker
5. A sewing machine.
6. A tracing board, or just anything big enough to lay your hoodie flat across. A board is really helpful though because it has inches printed right on it.
7. (optional) additional embellishments, i.e. beads, sequins, lace, embroider, yoke, etc
Some basic sewing knowledge is needed, like how to attach a sleeve, clipping notches for a hemline and sewing raw edges to prevent fraying.
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Step 1: Lay Hoodie Down Flat
Here is where that board comes in handy. Lay you hoodie back down and flat across. Pin it down so that there are no wrinkles or folds in your fabric.
Take the fabric for the body of your top and lay across the hoodie. Imagine the zipper as a divider for where to make a cut, because the front of your top will be made of two separate pieces.
Also, you can use the zipper as a gauge for the neckline. However long you want it, move the zipper to that length.
Using a fabric marker, trace around the half of the front of the hoodie.
Depending on how tight or loose your hoodie is, you may need to add an inch or more to the border of your tracing for the hem.
Once your hoodie is traced, all you have to do is double you fabric and cut your tracing, so you have two identical front pieces.
Step 2: Cut Back of Top
Now flip over your hoodie and do the same tracing for the back. This shape will be the backside of your top, and it will be one solid piece
Step 3: Sleeves
Lay the fabric for your sleeves against the sleeves of your hoodie. Do the same as before (yadda yaddda yadda) and trace an outline, giving consideration to your hem allowance.
Here, you have two options: If you have enough fabric, you can fold over and cut around the outline, but not cutting the fold. So, all you have to do later is sew the two cut long edges and you have your sleeve.
Or, you could cut out the side of each sleeve individually so you end up with four separate pieces.
Step 4: Raw Edges
Sew all raw edges with preferred stitch to prevent fraying.
Tah dah! Short step. Kind of misleading because this process takes awhile. Let's go.
Step 5: Two Wrongs Make A. . . Whatever
Now we start to piece the fabric together. Remember to sew them right sides facing each other, so the two wrong sides are on the outside.
First, pin your two front pieces and the back piece together to make sure they match up. If something is a little off, you can make adjustments here before sewing them together. Everything looks ok?
Now, lay the two pieces on top of each other , right sides facing each other. Join the pieces by sewing the LONG part of the Y together. Then, continue the hemline by sewing hem of the "v" part of the Y.
Sew and press the seams open. To add more definition to your top, sew another line over the hem so the seams that are pressed open stay flat.
Step 6: Attatch the Back.
Pin the back to your two joined front pieces. Hem the bottom of the front and back pieces so they're all the same length too. Remember not to sew your armholes shut! Those are important.
There is no yoke connecting the front and back pieces, so you need to hem the back part of your collar. If your hoodie is like my hoodie, it is curved. As shown in the picture, you can clip notches in a curved seam to make it lay flat.
Step 7: Your Sleeves
So if you cut out sleeves in the 3rd step, you probably would like to stick them on, right?
First, sew your cut-outs together. If it's one giant sleeve piece, sew the edges together and voila!
If you do things that hard way, sew the long sides of the two pieces together, ALL TOGETHER NOW, wrong sides facing each other.
Now, fold sleeve right-side out. Take the body of your top, which is still folded wrong-side out. Put the sleeve inside the body of the top, wrist-end first. Pin the arm-hole of the body and the armpit-end of the sleeve together. Sew together at desired hem length. Once it is put together, you can alter the length of the sleeves however you want.
And here folks is a great link explaining how to attach sleeves way better than I ever could.
Step 8: Your End Result
So you sleeves are there, your front and back are attached, and everything is hemmed nicely.
Here is your final result. It's okay, but a little shapeless. And boring.
Step 9: Different Ways of Seeing
Say you want to give your top a little more shape. You can take in the sides of the top and put in darts.
Maybe you want to add embellishments to make it more body-conscious.
You could also emphasize the neckline with ribbon. Then, cinch the waist by belt loops so you can pass a belt or sash through.
Step 10: Infinite Options
Maybe you want no sleeves. Maybe you want some sleeves, just shorter.
Maybe you want groovy geometric designs.
There are infinite possibilities, including the choices of cloth and color.
This piece is pretty simple, but too many people are put off sewing because they see something that looks a little too complicated and think, "I could never make something like that". We forget that you can trace most clothes back to a very basic pattern. Alterations, lengths and embellishments can be added to give each piece a different style.
Clothing construction can be creative and (relatively) uncomplicated! Have fun!
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