Learn To Sew A Simple Cotton Top

Cotton Top 1Cotton Top 2Cotton is a great fabric to start sewing with! It's one of the easiest fabrics to sew and care for. It's also easy to find in beautiful colors and patterns! I picked up this plaid fabric last summer at a garage sale. You'll need a yard to 1.5 yards of fabric to start with. 

Cotton Top 3Cotton Top 4How to measure and cut: Width- Take half of your hip measurement (measure around the fullest part of your hips and then divide by two) then add 5-8 inches. Length- Measure from the top of the shoulder to the desired hem length (choose if you want it to be a cropped top, a long top or a dress) and add 1.5 inches. Use these measurements to cut two pieces. 

Straps- Cut 2 rectangles 45×2.5in. Fold right sides together (lengthwise) and stitch a tube closed on one end only. Then, flip the tube, press flat and tuck the open end in. Press and stitch tube closed.

To make: 1. With right sides together, stitch both side seams starting 7-11 inches down from the top. This creates the side seam and the armhole opening at the same time. Once finished, press the seam open and topstitch the seam allowance of the armhole (see photo below). To do this, start from the top of the left panel, stitch down to where the closed seam begins, lift the foot and turn the corner to make a right angle. Stitch across to the right panel and once you have reached an equal distance from the center of the seam, lift the foot and turn the corner again to stitch up the front panel. Repeat on other side.

Cotton Top 52. Choose and stitch which hemline you prefer. We chose a double folded 3/8" seam.

3. To create the casing at the neckline, stitch or press 1/4" seam down so the raw edges are finished once turned again. Once this fold is made, fold over again leaving enough room for your straps to be pulled through (we did a 1/2" seam). Stitch down on both front and back panels creating two casings.

Feed your straps through the neckline casing and tie on sides! ♥

Cotton Top 6This is a great practice piece! This pattern can easily become a dress too. Try this pattern with different fabrics, you might even want to add pockets and hand stitched details! 

-Choose a light weight to medium weight cotton, don't start too heavy because heavy fabric is harder for the machine to handle.
-Start with solid colors, patterns can be tricky to match and seam together. 
-Learn to straighten the grain of your fabric. (resource)
-Always pre-wash cotton because it will shrink. 
-Start with patterns like tent dresses, tote bags and skirts! 
-Work up to patterns with sleeves and collars. 
-Cotton is great for beginner sewers, so have fun! 
Cotton Top 8Have fun sewing your first top or dress! xo. Elsie 

This sewing basics series was created in collaboration with Missy Creed of Momentum Fashion. Missy is a talented seamstress who sews for Red Velvet!

  • Hi
    Thanks for this great idea. I hope it’s ok to use it in our sewing group we have just started in the UK to get people doing creative things in these difficult isolation times. I am giving you full credit of course. Thank you and keep well!

  • I made this for my daughter out of some Disney quilting cotton I bought on clearance. She loves it and the style is perfect for the spring/summer. Thanks

  • Hi, is this top made from stretchy or non stretchy fabric? Bc i only have non stretchy cotton.

    Thanks x

  • I love it but it is not really my stile. I would do one shorter that shows your belly but…………CUTE!!!

  • This looks great, I have nothing to wear tonight to go out so i’ll be making one of these!

  • This is so awesome. Thank you. I am fairly new to sewing. I have a few basic items I can make. I pulled out all my fabric tonight and let my girls “place their orders” for some new clothes. They want shirts and dresses, but I really only have one basic shirt pattern.

    Now — I have TWO! This is such an easy pattern to follow that I will surely be able to do this!

    Thank you.

  • Choose a light weight to medium weight cotton, don’t start too heavy because heavy fabric is harder for the machine to handle.

  • I got a sewing machine for mothers day and this was the first project I made ( a little longer I wanted a little dress) and it came out perfect!!! I live in Puerto Rico so this is a 365 garmet. Thanks, this is great!

  • Very cute top! Thanks for the instructions. I think I’m going to make matching tops for my 3 y.o. daughter and I 🙂

  • Thanks for the tutorial. I will make a dress like that but using batik! 😀

  • I made a black and white paisley version of this today with a ripped sheet. Being my first piece of clothing to make, I wanted to make sure it was big enough. So as it is, I will need to shorten it, but OMG this was so easy. Thank you so much for a wonderful, easy tutorial.

  • http://www.guccibagsjapan.com/ 同署によると、遊漁船は同日午前5時ごろ、登別港を出航。同日午前10時過ぎ、海がしけてきたため、帰港しようとしていたという。5人ともライフジャケットは着用していた。

  • Hi Elsie,

    I am trying to make this top (well, mine will be a dress) right now. I’m having a little trouble with the straps. Is there a trick to flipping that little tube right side out? It’s so long and I’m getting frustrated. Help!


  • Hi! I completed this tutorial last week. It was so helpful, thank you! I feel like I definitely understand more about sewing now 🙂 I took some pictures, too:


  • Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I found your pattern via One Pretty Thing and was just thinking today that I need something like this to accomodate my pregnant belly! I’ll have to take a belly measurement rather than a hip one though! And it’s even more perfect for the weather in Australia at the moment!

  • This is super cute!

    I’d love for you to share: http://tutusandteaparties.blogspot.com/2012/01/pinteresting-party-week-24.html

  • This looks like a fun, simple project that might help me get into sewing this year. It’s also a top I had wanted to try to make for some time, so this is brilliant!
    I’m loving these sewing how-to’s. 🙂

  • I love all of the recent sewing posts! Sewing is one thing in the craft realm that I’ve never given a fair try, but I’m always inspired to learn when I read your blog. I’ve been saving for a decent sewing machine!

  • I made this today for my 8 yr old niece, with my mum, and niece, as a dress. She is learning to sew, I was about the same age when I learnt. We didn’t use any kind of pattern, I just went off memory of what I’d seen here, and just kind of measured it up against her. It was so easy, she sewed all the straight lines and loved it. It took about an hour and a half from brainstorming to finish. So thank you for the idea. I love to see the tradition of sewing passed on, from my grandma, to my mum, to me, and now to my niece.

  • I’m going to take my measurements now and get started tomorrow. So excited. Thank you for sharing!

  • I have been loving your sewing posts! I just got a sewing machine for Christmas and while I know the basics these are helping refresh everything! Keep them coming 🙂


  • I love this so much; this fabric is very, very pretty. Reminds me so much of a jumper I wore when I was little 🙂

  • I’m really excited to give this project a try – you make it seem totally do-able!

  • Emma has such a beautiful ombré! I’ll have to try this for the summer!:)

  • AMAZING!!!! <3

    GREETINGS FROM POLAND, PLEASE CHECK OUT MY FIRST BLOG : http://oneloveonedna.blogspot.com

  • I made it yesterday, I used a floral cotton fabric for the top and a satin ribbon for the straps. Love it!Thank you very much for this tutorial, I’m gonna looking for an old sweater to try the hat too!

  • this is so cute! actually it reminds me of a dress my mom made for me in high school it was just like this, only in a floral print. maybe it’s time for a new top:)

  • AMAZING!!!
    I love your blog! you want to follow each other?


  • so cute! I love the way you can break down steps and make it easy for anyone! I love this style because you can make it into a dress or a crop top and just by changing the fabric or pattern you have a completely different look! Add some tights and boots this would be a fun summer dress!

  • This is lovely. I made my first dress over the holidays and now all I dream about is sewing.

  • What a awesome tutorial! And I love the choice of fabric and pattern. Perfect. Lovely. But what about the armhole? Even something this basics needs somewhat of an armhole shape to fit well. That would be a great tutorial as a follow-up of this tutorial (I’m up for the challenge!).

  • Cute for an adult or even a little girl! How simple!


  • =D so cute! I’ve been wanting to try something like this for soo long, this would be a perfect beginner project – thankyou so much for sharing =) xx

  • How nice
    and simple,
    i must try!


  • I love this top! The colors are great :)Thanks for the idea!


  • Thank you so much for sharing this! It looks like a great beginner project for me! I’d love to make a dress along this idea that I could wear with a belt. I’m looking forward to going fabric shopping!

  • I really am loving this!! Maybe I’ll have to take a sewing 101 class!!

  • this is seriously cute! i think i will give it a try. i cant say i love sewing, but this seems easy enough. we’ll see ;D

    i just made a calico bird baby bag for my friend, come check it out on my blog if you get a chance. it was my first attempt at applique.


  • I just have to say…I LOVE your blog! (just recently found it) Sooo much inspiration and funny things!!!

    Keep up the good work:)


  • Gorgeous top! 🙂 And I am so amazed on how easy this project is. 🙂 Hopefully when I work on it, I won’t have a difficult time. haha. 🙂 Thanks for sharing




  • I am so happy you are doing this! Sewing is something i want to tackle… but it just seems too intimidating. You are really great at breaking things down in an nice and simple way. Thank you so much! What a great series 🙂

  • It’s 19 degrees right now, so I’d definitely need a sweater! 🙂 This is adorable–I definitely need to try making one.

  • Love your work! I’ve made tops like these too. I’ve also refurbished vintage t-shirts that are to big that have great images on them into these kinds of tops. Keep the good stuff comming!

  • what a brilliant DIY, I’ve been wanting to make a dress or top like this for a while but I’m no good with inventing something without help, so this will be very useful! 🙂

  • I love your colourful blog and all the unique creations that just keep pouring out of your brain…


  • I love these sewing tutorials! My 9 year old daughter got a sewing machine for Christmas and we are learning together. This is the perfect first project. Thank you do much!!!!!

  • You have *NO* idea how excited this makes me!!! I’ve never sewed a garment before (tried once but stopped mid-work after I did something wrong and didn’t have the energy required to fix it. Ha! :)) and I haven’t really planned to try sewing clothes again any time soon. But now I’m SO excited!! I can’t wait to try this out! Thank you SO much! Eeeeek!

  • Love the tutorial!! I’m trying it as soon as the weather changes! 🙂

    Laura 🙂

  • I have made such a top once, but unfortunately have hardly worn it since it kept sliding downwards on the straps – how could you prevent the fabric from doing that??? Please let me know!

    xoxo, Femke http://labutton.blogspot.com/

  • i love it, it’s simple yet very classy: this fabric is absolutely great! thanks for the tute 🙂

  • very nice ! thank you for the tip to straighten the grain of the fabric !

  • I am love love loving the sewing tutorials! They are definitely inspiring me to start sewing again! Thanks for the motivation!

  • simple and colour full =)

    following your blog :), hope u will follow back!


  • I cannot wait to try this! Very sweet x


  • This is amazing! One of my goals for this year is to start sewing again. Thank you do much for sharing! <3

  • what a great idea!its going to be the first thing i make on my new sewing machine!

  • Thanks for this idea, this is going to be one of my first projects for spring! 🙂

  • That is so pretty. Love the fabric you choose.


  • Love it love it soooo much! 🙂

    Stephanie May*


  • Love the colours in this fabric and the top is looks so perfect for the warmer weather to come!! Can’t wait to see what else is part of this sewing series.

  • so cute! what a great idea for starting out!
    tops seem so hard to sew!!
    you could easily make a dress out of that too!


  • This is perfect for summer!

    I can’t wait to try this idea, thanks for the inspiration!

    Much love, Vivi

  • Super cute! Would be great for a hot summer day, for sure! I think I may have to make a couple before summer is here! I really love the fabric you used too.

  • This stuff is REALLY hard for me. Since becoming slightly obsessed with your blog {lol}, I’ve decided to make learning how to sew a line item in my bucket list. When I actually get around to doing this {it intimidates the shhhh out of me lol}, I will absolutely refer back to this post.

    Thanks for the tutorial!

    ashley nicole.

  • Very cute! I have a ton of fabric from the remnant bin and this would be a great way to use up some of it. This would also be a great pattern to use to make a summer dress for my daughter.

  • Genius (complete with capital G!). This is a must-try once it warms up 🙂 Who am I kidding, I live in Texas, its ALWAYS warm!

  • I especially love the sketch. If I start trying to figure this out now I just might figure out how to make it by summer… which will be the perfect time for a fun loose top. Thanks.

  • What a cute, versatile top/dress.. I’m already itching to make one of my own! Thank you 🙂

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