Tuesday, 9 August 2016

New Summer Outfits - Shorts and Tops - the Tops!

In my last post, I wrote about the shorts I made my three grand-daughters, you can find out about making shorts for toddlers here.

In this post, I'll tell you about the matching tops.

I do so like the top of Purl Soho's romper suit, by Corinne, that I used the top of her pattern to base all three of my tops on.  (You can see some of the romper suits I've already made using her pattern here.) It's such a good pattern, with such clear instructions, and I highly recommend it. 

The one above, Jane's version, was cut slightly longer than the pattern (to overlap the top of the shorts) and just has a hemmed bottom (1/4" plus 1/4").

Fleur's has two layers, with a flared frill attach to the underneath of the two layers.

And Rose's, which is a single layer, has a gathered frill attached.

You can find more about how I made these, adapting Corinne's pattern, after the jump.

I had such fun deciding on the fabrics to use. All three outfits were made of two different fabrics (actually, one had three). This was partly necessity, as I had only enough of some of these fabrics to make one garment and some trim for the other garment. But I thought that worked quite well. I'd already decided on using the two fat quarters of blue-green batik cotton for Fleur's shorts. There clearly wasn't enough to make the whole of the top, so I chose a pale green polka-dot material. It was rather thin and see-through, so as I had some other polycotton in a very similar colour, I decided to go for a double layer approach, and add what remained of the batik fabric as a frill.

I then turned to my stash, and picked out some pinks and greens, laying them alongside each other so I could decide which ones would pair up nicely. In the end, I went for top right and bottom left in the photo, and the stripey one with the balloon one below it. But several combinations of these would have worked.


I'll describe the similarities between the method of making the three tops first. All of them were cut out to be slightly longer than the pattern (which is intended to be joined to shorts). 

I then needed to make bias tape for the strings. In each case, the strings were made from the same material as the main body of the shorts. I didn't have much of the fabric left after cutting out shorts, so I had to piece each string with three diagonally cut strips of material. (You can of course use ready-made bias binding if you like.)

I used my brilliant 18mm  bias binding maker to make the bias binding from my joined strips. Each of the strings needed a bias strip 30" long by 1 5/8" wide. (Why didn't I know about this little gadget years ago? It's not expensive, I got 4 different sizes for about £4.99, and I've seen them even cheaper; and it's so easy to use.) 

First you stick the pointy bit of one end of the fabric strip into the gadget - this one is the 18mm one. I find poking it through with a cocktail stick in the gap helps ease it along to the end of the gadget, such that you can pull it out a bit:

Then, pulling just enough through to trap it firmly with your steam iron, you just pull the gadget slowly back, working your way along it with the iron. (I'm left-handed, so my iron is off to the left here.)

Finally, you can fold it in half lengthways and press it again. I sometimes roll it up at this point to keep the creases nicely in. 

For two of the tops I also made a frill, but I'll describe this later. Once you've got your two pieces of the top cut out, and your bias binding made, you are ready to start.

The first thing is to sew up the side seams, finish and press them, then make the neckline channels, front and back, for the elastic.The top hem is folded down and pressed 3/4" and then 1 1/8". 

 You then edge-stitch the neckline channels on the front and back of the top, and a further seam half an inch from the edge. Next thread in and sew the elastic, according to Corinne's tutorial and measurements. It goes between the two stitched lines. (Actually I put a very slightly longer piece of elastic in Jane's, in a size 3, compared with Corinne's 6 1/4" - all our girls are quite broad-shouldered.) 

I followed Corinne's advice and sewed the bias to the inside first, then folded over and sewed the outside. It is easier to get a neat finish this way, even though you may, like me, have been taught to sew it to the outside first. All you need to do is open out one fold of the bias binding, then find the centre of the length (i.e. 15") and pin that to the side seam. Work your way pinning along the back and front of the armhole until you reach the top of the neckline channels. Sew the first seam, then fold and press the bias back over and sew the straps from end to end on the other side, catching in the armhole as you go. Corinne suggests just knotting the ends of the straps, but I prefer to finish them by turning the ends under and stitching them inside.

Finally, the bottom hem, turned up 1/4" and 1/4", and then machine stitched. With Jane's. I had simply cut the top a little longer than the pattern to allow for this. The picture below of course doesn't show Jane's top but Fleur's, but I used the same double quarter inch hem.

At this point, Jane's top was finished. Here it is, and with the shorts.

With both the other tops, I added a frill. 

For Rose's top, after sewing the side seams I added a little gathered frill. There was just about enough of the material that I had used in the shorts and for the shoulder straps, to allow me to cut a strip about 1 1/2 times the width of the bottom of the bodice (43"), by 3". I hemmed this first, then gathered the other edge. To make it a bit easier to pull up the gathers, I sewed a gathering thread from one end of the strip to just past the middle, and another one from the other end to just past the middle. Then I could pull from both ends and from the middle.

Before I pulled up the gathers, I put in 4 pins, pinning each side and the centre front and back, so that I had a similar amount of excess material to gather between each pin. I put the frill right sides together with the bodice and went round drawing up the gathers in between the pins, pinning as I went, then sewed and finished the seam. 

I think this 1 and a half times gathering was just about right. Here's Rose's finished top with the shorts.

Fleur's top was a little more complicated (though I love the finished effect). I decided I would make it in two layers (as the materials were very thin) and I would add a peplum,  or flared frill, using some of the spare material from the shorts. The two layers of the main body were a light greeny blue polka dot fabric, and a similarly coloured plain fabric. (As for the waistband to her shorts.) I liked the idea of the peplum being attached not to the outer (dotty) layer, but to the inner layer, with the outer layer cut short to reveal the peplum below it. Look at my pictures if that isn't very clear. You don't have to do it that way - I just liked that effect.

I cut both the layers exactly as the pattern. Actually, that's not quite true. The outer layer was cut about a quarter inch longer to allow for it being hemmed with a double hem. 

I designed a peplum pattern in the following way.

I started with a folded piece of fabric a couple of inches longer than the piece of the top it would be attached to. (Ignore the fact that in the picture below there is a second fold at the bottom of the picture - that is going to be cut off. It was just my lazy way of cutting two frills at the same time.)  I marked down about an inch on the side with the fold, (left in the picture - let's call this 'A') then measured the depth I wanted the peplum to be (3") plus half an inch for a hem. This is the extreme bottom point on the left. Let's call it point B. I then angled the material so my one inch mark was touching the bottom of the fold on the top piece of the bodice, but the side top of the peplum piece was at the bottom of the side of the bodice. This point ('C') gave me the width for the top of the frill.

I then measured down from that point down the peplum the same measurement as before. (3 1/2"), but flaring out just a little, rather than following straight down the line of the side of the bodice.  (This is more or less where you can see the pointy end of the pin - point 'D'.) I then used my curve to mark two smooth curves: one between A and C, and 1 between points B and D, such that the peplum was the same depth all the way along. Here you can see me about to draw the top of these two curves, A-C.

Once cut out, each one looked like this. There were, of course two, one for the front, and one for the back.

I attached each piece of the peplum, front and back, to the respective top pieces before sewing the front and back together. Here it is pinned ready to sew:

...and pressed. Note that I chose to attach the peplum to the under-layer of the top.

Next, I pinned the top of the outer layer of my second fabric to the top of the inner layer (the layer with the peplum attached.) I folded and pressed down both layers together the 3/4" first fold for the neckline channel (see Corinne's tutorial), and then the 1 1/8" second fold. 

Having done this, I trimmed away the first (3/4") fold of the inner fabric to reduce the bulk.

 I then edge-stitched the neckline channels front and back through both layers, and the further seam half an inch from the edge, and threaded in and sewed the elastic, as before.

Finally, I hemmed the two layers: the outer layer and the bottom of the peplum. For both of them, I pressed a quarter inch, then another quarter inch, and sewed round on the sewing machine.If you were very particular, you could hand sew. I used to be particular, but I'm less so now. I make so many things and the girls don't seem to object the a machined hem. Most of the bought clothes have machined hems, so why shouldn't mine, I say!

The only change I might make in future is that I cut the outer layer the same width as the inner. I think it might have looked a little cuter if I had flared it just ever so slightly, perhaps just a quarter to half an inch at the side of the pattern, so it would stand away a bit from the inner layer. But that's a minor point. I'm happy with how it looks. Here's the top with the shorts.

Remember, if you want to copy my ideas, you'll need the Purl Soho Summer Romper pattern. If it will be a free-standing top, make it a little bit longer than the pattern, or add a frill. (Or, indeed, make it into a crop top - whatever is your preference!) Corinne gives a very good tutorial.

If you'd like to see other things I've made with this pattern, including full rompers with my own adjustments for toddlers not full toilet-trained, click here.

Footnote: I've already altered Jane's version (the first one) to have a frill, as it was already getting a bit short. It now has a gathered frill similar to Rose's version.

Here's Jane wearing the top with her jeans.

(And yes, that is a large green cow she's reacting to!)

Sadly, both Mummies love the outfits but find them a bit much as a set, so they are worn but with other tops or bottoms. I did catch the odd photo of a 'set'. Here's Jane's, which I enlarged in the pictures above, before I extended the top. Perhaps you can see why I did this, as well as adding an extended waistband to the shorts. Sorry the photo is slightly fore-shortened - her legs are not that small!


  1. Hey! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
    children clothing australia