Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tutorial: Polka-Dotted Ruffled Top

I first showed you my Polka-Dotted Ruffled Top last week during Dressin’ Up Week.

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I wasn’t sure if you’d want a tutorial or not, since it’s more complicated than the tops I usually make. But if your comments are an indication, I’d say you’d like to make one for yourself! I am glad I waited though, because there are a few changes I would make now that I’ve worn it.

Items needed
-Material—depends on the size of your top. I bought 1 1/2 yards and used just about a yard, maybe a little more. My top would be classified as a size small, so keep that in mind when you do your shopping. This fabric was in the apparel fabrics section of Joann’s.
-1/4 inch double fold bias tape. I used one package but had no room for error and was piecing it together at the end. If you choose not to use the bias tape around the hem, one package should be plenty for you. If you want it around your hem, I’d highly recommend buying 2 to be on the safe side.
-Coordinating thread.
-3 buttons.

I bought this shirt back in April and LOVED it. But then, the last time I washed it, the elastic thread came out of the waist band and it’s just not wearable anymore.


I analyzed how the shirt was constructed and broke it down into to sections for construction: the bib and the back/front of the main part of the shirt.


Cut your pieces

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I cut one bib that would run from the bust line up to the shoulders (then cut it down the center to create two pieces), a front panel that would meet the bottom of the bib at the bust line, start mid way under the arms and down to the hem. The back panel was cut to go from the shoulders down to the hemline. If I were to do it again, I would add a little more width in the hips—the fabric has no stretch so it’s a little tighter around the hips than I’d like.

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Cut your strips for the ruffles—for the ruffle running around the bust line I cut it 2” wide and [should have been] twice the length of the bib when I measured from one shoulder to the other, going around the curve. (I wasn’t thinking and cut it just the length without doubling and had to do it again). Also cut two strips, 1” wide, twice the length of the center of the bib where you cut it. These ruffles will be along the trim where your buttons/holes will go.

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Cut one strip 2.5” wide and the length of your entire neckline (from the center of the bib, around the back, back to the center of the bib. Cut two strips 2.5” wide, each the length of the center of your bib, plus 1.5” to allow for excess at the top and bottom.

Sewing the Top

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Were I to do this again, I would do a rolled hem along the side of strips you’re going to ruffle before sewing the bias tape on. Because this fabric frays and falls apart so easily, a good tug at the bias tape will pull it off. Doing a rolled hem would stop the fabric from fraying later on if the bias tape got tugged on. Another option I guess would be to just zig zag the edge. I did think about serging it, but the bias tape wouldn’t be any wider than the serging stitches and I didn’t want them to show.

Sew the bias tape to one side of the ruffle strips. I didn’t bother with pinning because bias tape is hard to pin anyways, and since it’s such a small width, it would be even harder. I just lined the tape up as I went and sewed slowly. Repeat on all the strips you’re planning on ruffling.

I then serged the other side of the ruffle strips so I wouldn’t’ have to worry about them fraying as I ruffled them.

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Here are my three ruffle pieces all ready to be ruffled.

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I ran the strips through my ruffler foot with setting 8 for depth and at every 6 stitches. You could just do a gathering stitch, though, and pull it to the amount of ruffling you want. Repeat with your other 2 ruffle strips.

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For the 3 trim pieces (2 for the middle of the bib, one for the collar), I pressed them in half with the wrong sides together.

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Then I folded the long strip for the collar back in half, right sides together, and sewed the ends closed, then turned them back wrong sides together and pressed so I had nice, cleanly sewn ends. Don’t worry about doing that on the center trim pieces.

Side note 1: I used my serger to sew this top together. If you don’t have a serger, just sew it like normal but finish off all your raw edges with a zig zag stitch, otherwise you’re going to have huge fraying problems and your top will fall apart.

Side note 2: I didn’t choose to add buttons until after I’d assembled the whole top. Were I to make it again, I would add the button holes to one of the center trim pieces before putting the shirt together. Do that now if that’s what you want to do.

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With right side up on the bib, pin your ruffle and folded trim piece to the center of the bib. Pin your ruffle with the trim out and raw edge in, and the trim piece with the folded edge out and raw edge in on top of the ruffle.

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See how the ruffle is between the bib and the trim? Sew them together.

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Press it so the ruffle stays in as you sewed it, but the trim folds over to hid the sewn edge. Then top stitch along the trim piece so it sews over your raw edge, forcing it to “point” inward.

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Repeat with the other side and admire how polished the top stitching makes it look. Do a little happy dance even.

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Lay out your back panel right side up and your front panel right side down and sew them together at the side seams.

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If you’re wanting to add the trim to the hemline, do a rolled hem around the raw edge, then sew the bias tape on. If you just want to do a standard hem, double fold and press it under, then sew.

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Do a rolled hem along your open arm hold and sew the bias tape on there. You don’t have to add the bias tape around the whole arm because the ruffle and bib will cover that part, and be finished off, eliminating your need for a fully trimmed arm hole. This makes it really nice that you’re not needing to worry about working with a circle.

At this point, I got so focused that I forgot to take pictures of the rest. You’re now getting to the most complicated part of assembling the top. Lay your top out, front up, right side out. Put your ruffle piece between the shirt front and the bib, right side up. Place the bib pieces over it, with one side (the button hole side) right side directly on the front of the shirt with the bottom of the curve pointing up toward the neck. Then place the other piece so the center trim is over the button hole trim (this allows you to button your top). So what you should see is like this diagram:

diagram 2

Start by pinning at the center, then work your way out. It will be awkward pinning because you’re piecing two curves together in the opposite directions. Remember that the top ends of the bib and shirt piece will not line up with one another. If you were to start at one end looking at it, what you’ll see is just bib and ruffle pinned together, then go a few inches before the shirt piece starts being pinned to it. I hope that makes sense! Sew them together, making sure as you go that the ruffle continues to be between the two pieces.

Then fold up your top and do a little dance to celebrate that it came together correctly!

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Press your seams down and top stitch from one shoulder to the center, then from the other side’s center to the other shoulder.

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Oh, doesn’t that look so pretty!!!?!!

Turn the top inside out and sew the shoulders together.

Pin the collar trim to the neckline, starting at the center points so it lines up with the edge of the trim pieces. You’ll be pinning with the raw edges together, with the collar piece against the right sides of the shirt. This way when you fold it up, the seam will be on the inside of the top. See THIS tutorial on finishing touches for a better explanation. The only difference is you aren’t working with round band.

Press your seams down and top stitch around like you did on the center trim to keep the seam pointing inward.

Since I didn’t add buttons initially, this is what it looked like for me:

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It really needed the buttons to hold the center together. I added 3 buttons—two I actually button with the top just for looks.

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Ah. I love the way it turned out. I hope you love yours just as much too!

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Because I made mine somewhat tight at the hips on accident, I like the way it looks tucked in better.

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Here you can see how the collar sits, as well as how nice the black trim looks around the arm holes.

If you make one, I would LOVE to see it! Leave a comment with a link to your post, or email me pictures at nolanandjill {at} gmail {dot"} com. Feel free to contact me with questions as you go, or leave a comment on my Facebook page HERE.

Parties I might linking up with:


  1. Great job, I love how this shirt turned out!

  2. wow. you must be pleased how this turned out. it is so lovely.

  3. such a cute shirt!
    You can fix the other shirt if you haven't thrown it out. That bottom is called "shirring". you buy elastic thread, hand wind the bobbin so it's not tight, use regular thread on top of your machine, and sew at about a 5, how ever many rows you need. you sew on the right side of your fabric, so the elastic is on the wrong side of your shirt. It's so easy!

  4. It looks so pretty!
    Thank you for sharing this tutorial! It is already bookmarked to be my first summer project (still winter here).

  5. Very, very, very sassy and fun! I love this look with slacks, too! Great job! I want to try it soon!

  6. I like yours better than the original!!

  7. hi... love this top..and already tri to sew it..but still in progress... look so simple but hard to make it..

  8. I just want to let you know that your creations are amazing.

  9. Replies
    1. No, it doesn't have any stretch to it. So be sure it can fit over your head a shoulders. This is why the button opening is so important


I appreciate comments so much! I'll do my best to reply to you here in the comments section, especially if there is a question so future readers can see the answer.