Tutorial: Summer Breezes Top

I thought I’d bring some guest posts back to the blog, in case you didn’t catch them earlier.  This one was for Project Run & Play’s Flickr Friends series and it’s a great addition to any summer wardrobe.  I recently was sent a photo via my FB page by Tina who made one for herself!


Summer weather is upon us and my daughter needs lots of warm weather tops for outdoor play this season.  I’m going to share a tutorial for my latest top, the Summer Breezes Top.

I saw a tank top in a store about a year ago that used this type of “wavy pleats” (as I like to call them).  I knew I wanted to copy the style, but wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it.  Recently, this technique started popping up around blogland and I decided it was time to share my take on it as well.  The waves created by the changing directions of the pleats reminded me of a summer’s breeze, hence the name of the top.

The top is made of white linen, which at the time seemed like the perfect simple breezy summer top.  But now I’m kicking myself wondering what I was thinking!  A white top for a messy, dirt-loving toddler made of linen, the most wrinkly fabric ever?  Awesome job, Cherie.  Nice.  So I’ll let you choose whatever is appropriate for your kiddo.

This top is finished off with bias tape, so feel free to make your own or use store-bought in either a matching or contrasting color/pattern.  Feel free to brighten it up with some colors!

Ok, let’s make one together!  Here’s what you’ll need:
– 3/4-1 yard of lightweight fabric
– A few yards of bias tape (store bought or homemade)
– Sewing essentials

First you have to make your pattern.  I have to admit, I don’t have an exact science for this, so I hope you can experiment with drafting your own.  To keep it simple, I made one pattern to use for both the front and back of the top.

I started with a straight vertical line which is the center fold of the pattern piece.  Then I used a top that fit my daughter and traced the neckline.  Mark the bottom of the arm hole and draw a curved line up to meet the neckline.  From the bottom of the armhole, draw a line (I flared mine out slightly for an A-line shape) that is the desired length of the top.  From there, draw a slight curve back to the vertical center line.  You will not need to add seam allowance to the neckline, armhole or bottom since we’ll be finishing these off with bias tape.  You will want to add seam allowance along the side seam.  And there’s your pattern!

Now we’ll make the pleated placket (I’m not really sure what else to call it).  Cut a rectangle out of your main fabric that is at least 8 inches wide and a couple inches longer than the length of your pattern.

Find the center of your rectangle by folding it in half lengthwise and marking it.  I wanted my pleats to be 1 cm each, so I made 7 marks on either side of the center, each 1 cm apart.  Do the same on the bottom of the rectangle.

Starting from the left, make your pleats.  Folding your fabric with wrong sides together, the first and third marking should match up and the 2nd mark is where the fold is.

Press your fold and sew along the length of the fabric 1 cm from the folded edge.

Press your pleat and fold it down toward the right.  Make your next pleat using the next three markings and continue until you have five pleats.

When they are all pressed down toward the right, they should look like this.

Sew a line across the top of the pleats about 1 inch down from the top.   Change the direction of your pleats by folding them towards the left.  Mark a line 2 inches down from your first line with chalk and sew.

Continue changing the direction and sewing down the pleats every 2 inches until you get to the bottom.

Cut out two pieces of fabric that are each larger than your pattern piece.  We’re going to attach the pleated placket before cutting out the pattern piece (less math).

Trim the edges of your placket piece to about 1/2 an inch on either side.  With right sides together, sew the placket to the edge of one piece of fabric, and then repeat with the other side.

On the wrong side, trim the seam allowance to 1/4 inch and finish by serging or zig zag stitching.  Press away from the placket, then on the right side, top stitch along the edge of the placket.

Fold your fabric in half, making sure to fold right down the center of your pleated placket and trace your pattern piece.  Cut it out.  Cut out the back piece from a piece of fabric as well.

Pin the sides of the top, right sides together, sew, press and finish edge.  Repeat on other side.

Baste the pleats along the neckline of the top to keep them folded in the correct direction.

Open up your bias tape and pin it along the edge of the neckline, right sides together.  Sew along the fold closest to the edge.

Fold the bias tape over the edge of the neckline, press and pin.  Make sure the edge of the bias tape is covering the stitching on the wrong side.

Top stitch just above the edge of the bias tape making sure to catch the edge on the wrong side.  Trim off the extra bias tape and repeat for the back.

For the armholes and straps, we’ll do the same thing.  Leave about 12 inches of bias tape for the strap then start pinning the open tape to the edge of the armhole.  Measure another 12 inches of bias tape when you get to the other end of the armhole and cut.  Sew the bias tape along the armhole, fold the bias tape back up and when you get to end of the straps, fold it in about a 1/4 inch before folding it up.

Sew the ends of the straps closed, then top stitch along the edge of the bias tape closing up the straps and finishing the armhole.

For the bottom of the shirt, normally I’d just hem it by folding it up twice, but with all the extra pleated fabric, I thought it’d get too thick, so I finished it with bias tape as well.


I hope you enjoy some nice summer weather!


45 thoughts on “Tutorial: Summer Breezes Top

  1. They’re actually called “Mexican pleats” because they’re traditionally found on Mexican wedding dresses. 😉 They’re also technically “heirloom” sewing!

  2. woooo it’s beautiful! and the little girl adorable :*
    I will make this one for myself for next summer, thank you so much for the tutorial !

  3. Oh Cherie! This is absolutely my style. Once again I am envying your little girl for having so many beautiful outfits! She is so cute! The outfits are always so simple-looking but so super stylish! Thank you for bringing this out. It looks easy enough…would it look as cute on me? I love it! 😉

  4. Thanks for the tutorial! I made this shirt in yellow for my 7 month old and it is adorable! It was a very easy tutorial to follow. (I found you on pinterest)

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  7. merci beaucoup pour ce tutos .je l ai vu sur un (sorbetto)de burdaa et j ai trouvee super cette realisation d autant plus que j ai le tissu qui s y prete

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  9. thanks for the tutorial!! i just made the top for my little girl and its just stunning. i am going to make a few more in different colors.
    thanks for sharing.

  10. This is great and thanks for sharing… I’ll probably use your tutorial in a few months ! Whit linen is as you said not the best for a toddler but it is also so pretty on your girl, it’s a good choice.

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  15. Beautiful!! I am going to try to make one for my daughter, her American girl doll, and me!!! You make this seem so easy that I want to run to my sewing room and get going!! Thank you for taking your time and sharing this with us. I really do appreciate this!

  16. So cute!!! I was wondering if there is a reason not to pleat the fabric, and then cut out the front of the top, so it would be already pleated, and not have to do it as an insert.
    (Did that make any sense?)

    • You certainly could do it that way. I think the reasons I did it as a separate panel were 1) so I didn’t pleat an unnecessary amount of fabric (if you cut out a large rectangle and pleated the center, you’d end up cutting away from the neckline a bit of the pleating, I think) and 2) so that when I sewed the lines across the pleats, the beginnings and ends of those lines would be tucked into the seams, rather than having the backstitching of the ends shown on the front of the top. Does that make sense? It’s definitely an extra couple of steps, but I thought it would make for a cleaner finish. It’s all up to you personal preference!

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