Tutorial Tuesday- Ruffly top

Thank you sooo much to everyone that helped me out of my funk yesterday. You guys = so awesome. Sadly, the day ended with one of my favorite dogs in the world being put down. I was completely devastated, she wasn't my dog but I'm not really a dog person so for me to actually love a dog is a huge deal. It was so sad. But, I watched a lot of funny youtube videos and spent a few hours making Oreo balls, most of which went to the family who lost their dog. (I snuck a lot just a few and man are they delicious!! Thanks Courtney!) But really, thanks so much for all your comments, it honestly did help my day get so much better. :)

Well, enough people asked for a tutorial for my Sew & Tell/American Crafters entry, so here it is! It didn't win either contest, so hopefully you're still ok making a "loser" shirt. :)

I couldn't come up with a better name than "ruffly top," so if you've got a better name let me hear it! Aside from breaking my sewing machine this top wasn't very difficult to make! It only took a few basic sewing skills and almost all straight stitches! To make one, you'll need:
  • A cotton t shirt one size bigger than what you wear (mine was a men's shirt, so you'd probably be safe with two sizes larger.)
  • A shirt that fits
  • Disappearing ink pen
  • 1/4" elastic
  • Sewing machine, matching thread, pins, scissors, seam ripper, and all that jazz

I started out with this $2 men's tee (gotta love target clearance!) I knew the little guy had potential hidden under there.

The first thing was getting rid of that little pocket. Not that I don't like pockets (I saved it for another shirt!) I just didn't think it would go with the shirt. The seam ripper showed it who was boss.

Next, introduce your sleeves to the seam ripper as well. Don't cut them off please; unpick them. You're going to use them later! You should now have a sleeveless, too-big shirt.

Put your shirt on, and mark an inch and a half below your bust. Take off the shirt, draw a line across the shirt where you marked it, and cut all the way across. Set aside the bottom half, you'll get back to it.

Take the shirt that fits and turn it inside out. Tuck the sleeves in and lay it on your larger shirt. Make sure to center it and line up the shoulder seams!

Take your disappearing ink pen and mark a half inch all the way around the shirt that fits you. This is the seam allowance.

Cut along the lines you just drew. You should end up with a shape similar to the one you had before, just your size!

Get really excited about your new shirt because it's starting to take shape!

Make sure it's inside out, and pin all the way up the sides of your shirt, but not the armholes! (I'm an obsessive pinner ok?) Sew in place using a ZIG ZAG stitch and 1/2" seam allowance. If you use a straight stitch, the shirt won't be able to stretch, so make sure it's a zig zag! Figure out why your cats love to get into your crafts.

I totally forgot to take a picture of the next step. Oops! Take each of your sleeves and using the longest straight stitch on your machine, stitch all the way around the edges (not the hemmed edge at the bottom, the unpicked edge at the top) using 1/4" seam. Don't back stitch and leave long threads. You should now have half a sleeveless shirt and two sleeves.

This is the part where you need to pay attention! To make ruffles, gently pull on the long threads and the fabric will start to bunch. Slowly push those ruffles to the top of the sleeve (opposite the seam). Push all of them up there! If you look carefully, there are almost no ruffles towards the bottom of the sleeve. All of them are pushed to the top. This creates a flirty little ruffle and ensures you won't have bunches in your arm pits. Ugh. Keep ruffling as much as you can until the circumference of the sleeve matches the circumference of the arm hole. Do this for both sleeves.

 Pin the right sides of the sleeves to the right side of the arm holes, matching up the seams at the bottom. If you've never sewn a sleeve before, don't worry! Just sew slowly, reposition if you need to, and breathe.

I tried the top on at this point to see if it fit and check out how it looked, and man oh man it looked soooo funny like this. Especially the sleeves, like a bad remake of Victorian era clothing. I knew I had to do something to fix it.

I cut off the hemmed edge of the sleeve because it was too t-shirt-y. I planned on shirring the unfinished edges, but this is the point where my stupid machine broke. (Since I am unable to give you a shirring tutorial, click here for Disney's fantastic tutorial if you want to ta).

Stupid machine ripped a hole through my sleeve. I had to cut off an extra sliver from both sleeves because of this! Take a day to freak out about your broken machine and let your stress subside.

I tried this next method with two different braided elastic but the old machine I borrowed from my MIL couldn't handle it. So I dug through my stash, and ended up using this weird bathing suit elastic that the lady at Hobby Lobby said would work like fold over elastic (which they didn't have, btw) and it SO DIDN'T. Anyway...back to the tute. Use some thin (1/4" or so) elastic for this next part. On the inside of the sleeve, stitch the elastic down to the seam and make sure it's secure. Then, continue sewing over the elastic, but pull on it (the elastic, that is). The harder you pull, the more ruffled your sleeve will be. Pull and sew normally, it will take a decent amount of work to keep the sewing straight because of the pulling, and you'll need to help the machine feed it through, but it should work just fine. Sew all the way around the edge of both seams.

See how the elastic is still flat but the fabric underneath is all ruffled. That means you're doing it right!You're done with the sleeves.

Go find the bottom half of the shirt. Along the top, cut edge, sew two gather stitches, one using 1/2" seam, one using 1/4" seam. (Remember how you did it on the sleeves? Use the longest straight stitch, don't backstitch, leave long threads.) If this part is confusing, see this tutorial I did earlier, I explain it a little better there.

This part is just what I like to do, so feel free to skip it. I like to ruffle the entire thing up as much as it will go, and then slowly pull out the ruffles until the circumferences match. I find it so much easier to pull out ruffles than to keep pulling for them to match. But, whatever works for you.

Pin the right side of the "skirt" to the right side of the "shirt" and using a zig zag stitch, sew all the way around using a 5/8" seam (anything smaller and your gathering stitch will peak through!) This is the point where I thought it would be done, but when I tried it on it still looked too t-shirt-y, and the hubs and I both decided it was the ribbed collar that made it look weird.

 I thought and thought about what kind of neckline I wanted. V-neck seemed too "sexy" for this sweet top, round neck too plain, square neck too angular, so I finally settled on a sweetheart neckline. I took an existing shirt I had for a pattern and traced along the edge. I took my scissors to it and....

Wah bam!! Love it. I also tied a ribbon around the waistline to give it a little something extra. Whaddya think? Is this Valentines Day date material? I know the tute might have been a little confusing, so please email me with any questions. And don't forget to check out all the parties I link up to!


Katie@a mom, a wife, and a me said...

I can not wait to try this!! Thanks for the tutorial and sorry about your machine... stupid machines!

Unknown said...

I love your "loser" shirt! (I can't believe it lost the American Crafter audition. What the heck? Really??) I'm gonna make it and post about it and you'll become famous anyway. They don't know what they're missing.

Barbara K. said...

Great tutorial :-) I tried reconstructing a T-shirt. I am pretty sure I was using zig zag stitch, but my material kept geetting stuck in my machine, and the zig zag stitch ended up looking just like a sort of fat straight stitch (not zig zaggy). Any suggestions on what I might be doing wrong? I am reluctant to try and sew T-shirt material... :-) Thanks Barbara

Ali Holt said...

adorable! Great craft, wish I was as talented as you! I am folling your blog now.Im a new blogger, please stop by and follow if you would like! Happy v-day!



Julianna said...

Wow! Great! Thanks for linking this up at Singing Three Little Birds.
You've inspired me!

Kileen said...

Love this! I will definitely be trying this. Thanks for sharing!

Ginger said...

Visiting from Sew Can Do! Hope you'll stop by:


Tawny said...

Really pretty top! Well done! A great idea for turning a boring top into a pretty one :)

Titti @ Shoestring Pavilion said...

Very cute! I did something similar recently and plan to do it again so it's good to see how others do it :) Love that fabric you used :)

Dominique @ Craft Couture said...

Great tutorial & cute shirt. Thanks for linking up to Craft Couture Monday. I just wanted to let you know that I featured this project, check it out :)

kim west said...

omg..it's not a loser shirt! I love it!!! I still con't believe it's from a plain shirt..blows my mind.

Unknown said...

So cute! and I love the "wah bam" ;)

Olivia said...

Definitely a great shirt!! I love the fact that an old men's shirt can become something beautiful and sexy. : )

Julie Wasson said...

this is awesome and so easy!

Is it important to have your cat walk on it? I hope so because my cat most certainly will


Julianna said...

Hi again! I featured your project today!

Sachiko said...

Great tutorial! Thank you for sharing your project at my link party!

Jenny said...

That is a beautiful shirt! I'm going to keep an eye out at the thrift stores for a good t-shirt to try this on.

Aisling said...

That is incredible and all without a pattern, you are awesome.

Alisha said...

Very cute. Good job, its nice to be able to just cut knit and not have to finish a seam (i.e. for the neckline...looks really cute).

Christine said...

um. this is so cute! I am just getting to know my sewing machine again, maybe this is a future project....thanks for linking it up with my Show and Share party.

Jill said...

That is a super cute shirt! I'm going to have to try it. (Hmm, do I already have a shirt that wants to sacrifice itself for the good of my crafting?...) I especially like that you did it without a pattern.

Avtar Ram Kaur said...

The sleeves look very sweet.

It's a bit too low-cut for my taste, though! I feel really uncomfortable showing cleavage. I would probably have made it more of a boat-neck or something. To each her own!


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