Today I'm going to show you a really easy method of how to make a tube top. All you need is some stretch fabric and a little elastic, and you're ready to go. This top can be made plain or with a little ruching in the front for some fun. Tube tops are a must-have for the Summer months and are great for layering under dresses and cardigans.
How to Make a Tube Top - Supplies
- FABRIC - This tube top pattern uses stretch fabric. it is important that the fabric has at least a 25- 50% stretch factor since there is no zipper or opening. It has elastic in the top and goes on over your head, so needs to stretch. Choose a light to medium-weight fabric. If you are on a budget, why not consider recycling. You can make a tube top from an old T-shirt. Read about the types of knit fabric.
- ELASTIC - ¼ inch(6mm) elastic across the top. You want your tube top to stay up! Hold the elastic under your armpits so it is comfortable, and cut it ½ inch longer to allow for the overlap. The elastic is going to hold your tube top pattern in place, so it should be slightly stretched, but not too tight. Knitted elastic is best as it is firm and won't stretch out when you sew over it. Don't use braided elastic. Read about the types of elastic.
- NEEDLES - Stretch fabric must be sewn with stretch sewing machine needles to prevent skipped stitches. Choose a stretch needle in a matching weight to your fabric.
- GENERAL SEWING SUPPLIES - Sewing machine, thread, pins
How to Make a Tube Top Pattern
1. Taking Measurements
You will need several sewing measurements in order to make your tube top pattern.
- Top of Bust - Measure about an inch down from your armpit. This is where you will wear the tube top pattern.
- Waist - Measure your waist at the smallest part.
- Hips - You don't need a hip measurement if you are making a crop top.
- Length - Measure the overall length you would like. This may be ending at your waist or hips. When measuring, start just under your armpit (about an inch lower) and measure down. As an average, this length will be 8 inches for a crop top pattern and 16 inches for a top that ends at the hips.
2. Making the Tube Top Sewing Pattern
Now you have all your measurements, it is time to make a pattern. Get a piece of paper roughly half the size of your torso. Tape several printer pages together or use a roll of brown paper or newspaper. You don't need fancy patternmaking paper to make patterns.
- BUST - Start you drawing a straight line which is ¼ of your bust. (If your bust is 40 inches, this line will be 10 inches.)
- WAIST - Measure 8 inches (20cm) down and draw another straight line ¼ of your bust. (If your waist is 32 inches, this line will be 8 inches.)
- HIP - Measure 8 inches (20cm) down and draw a third straight line which is ¼ of your hip. (If your hip is 44 inches, then this line will be 11 inches.)
- LENGTH - Adjust the length to your preference. The pattern below shows a top that ends at the hip. Depending on your overall length preference, you may want it to be shorter or longer than the hip line you have drawn in. For a crop top, you may end the pattern at the waistline. For a top that ends between the waist and hip, you may want to add just 4 inches to the waist length.
- CONNECT - Connect the lines with a gentle curve to form your side seam.
- SEAM ALLOWANCES - Add seam allowances. Add ⅜ inch (1cm) to the sides and top and ¾ inch (2cm) to the bottom hem.
- MIRROR - Trace out the other side of your pattern as a mirror image.
- MARK - Draw the straight grain and mark it with its name, and cut 2.
IMPORTANT - Don't forget to mirror the design in step 7 to get the full pattern.
3. Cutting the Fabric
It is now time to cut out your pattern from your stretch fabric. Cut 2 pieces - one for the front and one for the back.
Tips for Cutting Stretch
- Ensure the fabric is flat on the table and not wrinkled.
- Use sharp scissors so as not to burr the edges.
- Before you start cutting, check to see if pins leave holes in your fabric. If they do, then use pattern weights instead. Cans from your pantry make cheap and effective pattern weights.
How to Make a Tube Top from a T-Shirt
Making a tube top from a t-shirt is easy. Choose a t-shirt that is slightly loose on you and place your pattern as shown below. The pattern will fit roughly starting under the arms. Cut through both layers, and you will have your front and back fabric piece. The sewing instructions as exactly the same as if you had cut the pattern from a flat piece of fabric. Recycling is great! It is cheap and reduces landfill.
How to Make a Tube Top - Sewing Instructions
Step 1 - Sew the Side Seams
Put the front and back with right sides together and stitch the side seams with a ⅜ inch (1cm) seam allowance. If you do not have a serger, use a narrow zig-zag stitch on your regular machine with a stretch needle. Try a width of 1.0 and a length of 3.0.
The reason why a straight stitch will not work is that the seams need to have a slight stretch so they do not break when you move around. Zig-zag will stretch with your body and be much more durable.
Because stretch fabric doesn't fray, you don't need to finish the seams. Read more about how to sew stretch fabric if you are new to this.
IMPORTANT - Turn the tube top to the right side and try it on. Stretch fabrics vary in their stretch, so you may find it is a little looser than you wish. Take in the side seams if necessary. Don't forget we will be adding elastic to the top.
Step 2 - Sew the Elastic at the Top
Overlap the ends of the elastic by ½ inch and stitch to form a circle.
Mark the elastic circle in quarters. Fold the tube top in half and mark the front and back center. The sides are the other quarter marks.
Match the quarter marks of the elastic to the quarter marks of the tube top on the wrong side. The elastic seam is best put at the side or back. Stitch the elastic to the edge of the top using a wide zig-zag stitch. Try a stitch of width 5.0 and length 2.0
Fold over the elastic to the inside and zig-zag again.
Step 3 - Hem the Tube Top
To create a hem, turn the raw edge up by ¾ inch (4cm) and zig-zag over the edge. For really stretchy fabrics, hemming tape will prevent puckering. Read how to hem knit fabric.
Step 4 - Finishing
Your tube top is now finished and ready to wear. Consider adding applique or ruching to decorate.
How to Make a Top Pattern - In Conclusion
So now you know how to make a tube top, you can make one in every color. It really is a quick and easy clothing project for all levels of sewers and a great way to upcycle a t-shirt.
More Free Clothing Patterns
- How to Make an Infinity Scarf
- How to Make a Hood
- How to Make a Fleece Scarf
- Simple Skirt Tutorial
- Gathered Skirt Pattern
How to Make a Tube Top
- Sewing Basics
- Stretch Fabric
- Follow the instructions in the article to make a custom fit pattern. Cut a front and back.
- Put the front and back with right sides together and stitch the side seams with a ⅜ inch (1cm) seam allowance.
- Overlap the ends of the elastic by ½ inch and stitch to form a circle. Mark the elastic circle and tube top in quarters. Match the quarter marks on the wrong side. Stitch the elastic to the edge of the top using a wide zig-zag stitch. Try a stitch of width 5.0 and length 2.0. Fold over the elastic to the inside and zig-zag again.
- To create a hem, turn the raw edge up by ¾ inch (4cm) and zig-zag over the edge.
You cut the 2 pieces folded in half. Sorry I'll make that clearer.
This seems to be half the size that it needs to be? If each piece of fabric is only 1/4 the length of the bust/waist/hip, and there are two pieces of fabric, doesn't the final product come out to be 1/2 the size of all those measurements? You say that you need a stretchy fabric to fit over your head/shoulders, but don't specify that it needs to be stretchy enough to double in width when you are wearing it? I'm confused! thank you for your help!