Saturday, September 11, 2010

Basic Tank and Bow Ruffle Top Tutorial DIY

Top: Bow Ruffle Top DIY, $3 materials
Necklace:  Pearl Cluster DIY, $5 materials
Pants: LOFT Gray Cropped Pants, $15 (final sale find!)

I'm going to try another retroactive tutorial with illustrations so please bear with me :)  Today's tutorial will focus on how to make a basic tank and then embellish it with a bow ruffle as pictured above.

Instructions after the jump...

To create your own basic tank pattern is rather simple.  The first thing you need to do is select an existing tank from your wardrobe that you know fits your body well.  Another thing to consider is stretch - if you are using a non-stretch fabric for your tank, make sure the tank you choose to pattern is also non-stretch and vice versa.

Most of the things I make use a non-stretch fabric like cotton broadcloth, chiffon, silky polys (yes I know polys are evil but I'm not confident enough in my sewing skills to buy silks nor do they even sell silks around here) so here I've chosen an old Ann Taylor shell in XS to pattern off of.  Fold the tank in half the long way and align the fold with the edge of some tissue paper (or any other large sheet of paper you have around the house).

Trace the outline of the tank from the front and from the back.  For the front, make sure you tuck the visible parts of the back in (top photo is untucked and bottom photo is tucked) so that you are getting an accurate tracing for the collar.

Once you've finished tracing, cut out your patterns and you have something that looks like this.  Make sure you label them Front and Back to prevent confusion.

When it comes time to cut the fabric, fold the fabric and align your pattern edge (the middle of the shirt) to the fold.  Always allow about 1/4" extra for the seam when cutting the fabric.


So that's essentially the basic tank portion after the sides and shoulder have been sewn together and the tank has been hemmed.  For finishing the collar and armholes - you can either do it like your hem (fold inwards and stitch) or you can make a facing.  A facing is like a mini lining that you sew for collar and armholes so that there is no visible hemming.  To make a facing, re-trace your front and back patterns but this time you will only need the top portions as indicated by the red dotted lines below.

Now for the bow ruffle embellishment, you will need to cut the following:
  1. 2 pieces of 7x7.5"
  2. 4 pieces of 6x6.5"
  3. 2 pieces of 6x8"
  4. 1 piece of 1x5"
For items 1-2, pair up the matching pieces into sets of 2 with right side of the fabric in the middle.  Sew three out of the four sides together and flip inside out.  This will give you a rectangle with an open top.  Do this for all 3 pairs of ruffles.

For item 3, you can essentially do the same as above but you'll want to at least partially sew 3/4 of that open top before you flip it inside out.  Then you'll want to blind stitch the rest of the top.  Here's a nifty video on how to blindstitch.

For item 4, fold in half and sew the long side.  Flip inside out (using a chopstick or something similar).

Time to attach the ruffles!  Use item 4 to wrap around item 3 to make a bow.  Secure the bow by stitching item 4 into a loop around item 3.

Then affix the bow to the shoulder  aligning the middle of the bow to the shoulder seam.  Use the rest of item 4 to wrap around the shoulder and stitch in place on the shoulder's underside.

Next it's time to attach your first descending ruffle.  Pin it approximately 1 inch beneath the bow and pin in some pleats so that the top will be narrower than the bottom matching the width of the shoulder.

Do the same thing for the remaining 2 ruffles and voila, you're finished!


  1. Oh this is gorgeous! You are so amazingly talented. Do you have a tutorial on the necklace as well?

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! Seeing your blog always makes me feel a little more motivated to pick up my sewing projects again :)

  3. Thanks curls-and-pearls and PetiteXXS! :) If you looked at the necklace up close, you would see a bunch of mistakes, but thankfully looks fine if you're 2 feet or more away. Here's a link to the tutorial I used:
    The only thing I modified was using some doublet and triplet pearl drops rather than all singlets.

    PetiteXXS - You're a busy gal with your line of work. I only work Tues-Fri so it's easier for me to dabble in stuff like this :) But you should definitely sew again when you have a little time because that skirt turned out really well!

  4. THANK YOU for this tutorial! I cannot wait to attempt this when I have a weekend off. I just hope it can look as half as good as yours ;)

  5. Thanks Kimberly :) Let me know how it turns out!

  6. wow you are so talented! love the color of the blouse and the ruffles that falls off the shoulder. beautiful!

  7. Hi again Sewpetitegal!
    What a lovely DIY! Yours is incredibly detailed and oh-so-beautiful to behold!
    BTW, you've been featured again on this week's roundup here:


  8. oh my goodness you are so talented
    i have been following your blob for a while now and never cease to be amazed at your talent and how sweet you are.

  9. Carly - Thanks for the feature! Your blog always inspires me! :)

    Anonymous - Thanks for reading! When I started this blog, I never imagined that anyone would find it interesting so it absolutely warms my heart to have ANYONE visiting, let alone leaving me sweet comments :)

  10. It's so cute and sophisticated. I love how you spice up your simple tanks for a more expensive look. I just bought a sewing machine and I have no idea what to use it for. Where do you usually buy fabric/sewing material? Everything seems so expensive. I was thinking of going to thrift shops, sporting finds, and then altering it to suit me...a la

    I will try this one day! (:

  11. Whoops - so sorry Hui! I missed your comment when you first posted it. I usually shop at Joann's or Hancock's for fabric. The selection isn't amazing as I feel they typically gear towards quilting rather than sewing apparel but there are gems to be found. Your idea is also good! I know Kerry of also uses thrift items to alter and also finds fabric there - good luck!

  12. Hi,

    Wow, you make this seems so easy. Inspires me to learn how to sew. I kinda have to figure out the facing issue here.

  13. Hi Beatrice! Thank you! What is your facing issue?

  14. Hi SPG,

    I meant this:

    "A facing is like a mini lining that you sew for collar and armholes so that there is no visible hemming. To make a facing, re-trace your front and back patterns but this time you will only need the top portions as indicated by the red dotted lines below."

    Did you learn to sew by yourself?

  15. Hi Beatrice!

    I found a better definition here:
    A facing is the area of a garment or sewn item that turns to the inside, giving a finished appearance to what would otherwise just be a raw edge of fabric. The facing is usually interfaced to add shape to the edge of the fabric.

    Essentially what it does is that keeps all your edges nice, neat, and finished looking. Otherwise, you'd have to fold in all the edges of your armholes and neckhole (which is fine, but you'd have an additional line of stitching visible) and sew it down.

    I definitely have had a lot of help from my mom and am still learning :)

  16. My husband said I should learn how to sew as I can't find clothes to fit me properly being only 4 feet 8. His mother is a seamstress (she made my wedding dress) so I should have no problems learning sewing right?

    I could never get into it. Reading patterns whoa, lawyer's documents. But after I saw your post, I am very inspired.

  17. OMG, this is gorgeous--so feminine and dressy looking yet casual enough for pants. I love it! Now to try and find this "fally down fabric" at our local store. The color is so vibrant and jewel colors are now the rage again.

  18. I love this little top, what a good idea. I think I will make one of these tops, any excuse for a trip to Spotlight or Textile Traders as I don't have suitable fabric in my stash. Thanks for sharing. Cath

  19. How do you get the shirt loose should I cut the patterns out of a really large tank on me? And how do you sew the facing on?

    1. Hi Samantha - Yep, whatever fit you'd like, I'd just pattern it after that particular top. For the facing, you sew along the arm holes and the collar - I found a site with a better explanation and pics here: Hope that helps!

  20. Wow, this is such a pretty top! Thank you for the tutorial :) I am going to give it a go! I don't suppose you know a link on how to attach sleeves? I am only new to sewing and have basically only made babies and kids clothe so far! Time to make something for myself! :)


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