Monday, September 24, 2012

Pirate "Corset" Top Tutorial

Shameless self-promotion... If you like this, can you vote for it at Instructables??  There's a little "Is this a winner?" button at the top!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!  I finally got the costumes sewn and the tutorials ready!  Here's part one of the pirate costume "series"!  Behold, the pirate "corset" top!
red cotton fabric
black cotton fabric
trims-- including either small rope or tiny rick-rack
1/8-inch elastic

**My measurements are for a size 4T top, but with a very little work, you can adjust it to your size of choice!**

Cut out your pattern pieces.  They're all rectangles-- woohoo!

2-- black side panels, 9" x 11"
2-- red front and back panels, 6" x 11"
2-- red straps, 3" x 16"
(not shown) 1-- red ruffle, 4" by width of fabric (roughly 48")

Take one red front panel mark (I did it from the bottom), 1 inch up, then 4 more inches, then 4 more.  Do the same on the other side of that same panel.

 Cut 6 pieces of tiny rick-rack, about 3 inches each.  Loop them and pin them at the marks you just made.  You'll see that I like to leave a little tail, but make sure you take your seam allowance into account when judging the size of your loops.

Tack the loops in place, to make your life easier. :)

Place black panel, right sides together, to that panel and sew up the side.  Finish with a zig-zag.  Do the same with the other black panel on the other side.

Then sew your other red panel to the black panels so you have a loop.

Now cut a piece of fabric that is 3 inches tall and as wide as your loop, plus 1 inch for seam allowance.  This is the facing for your top.  Sew the short sides together and hem the bottom.

Fold the loop of your main piece in half.  Do the same with your facing piece.  Then cut out little arm grooves like this.  It doesn't have to be exact, but they'll be about 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall.  The TOP of your front panel piece should have the rick-rack that is only 1 inch away from the top.

Here's what your main piece will look like when opened up.  Scroll down a few pictures to see the facing piece as well.

Take your strap pieces and fold them in half.  Then stitch up the long sides and flip them right side out  (on the left is with the sides stitch.  on the right, I'm using my handy turner tool-- looks kind of like a chopstick).

Press your straps flat then pin your trim down the middle.  Sew the trim on.  With this particular trim, I used black thread, and you couldn't see it at all when I had finished.  You'll also notice that it frays.  Don't worry about this.  We cut the straps a little longer than we need, so we don't have to worry about it.

Okay, so let's check in... Here's what you have-- your main piece, your facing piece, your two straps.

At this point, for a cleaner look, I pressed my seams toward the sides then topstitched.  This also helps the rick-rack on the front panel to lie flat.  BE CAREFUL when you press close to your trim.  It may be made of polyester and will melt!  Try to avoid it!

Now-- straps.  Pin them so that there's enough room for a 3/8-1/2" seam allowance next to the arm grooves.  I actually just lined the edge of my trim up with the edge of my front panel to make my life easier.  

Baste them to the front of the top (it's not really necessary, but I like not having to mess with pins when I'm sewing the facing on).

Mark 7 inches down from the top of your strap.  You'll line this mark up with the edge of the back.

Turn your top right side out and line up that 7 inch mark with the back.  Pin (and baste, if you want to).

Place your facing over the straps, sandwiching them.  Pin all around.  See how you have excess straps on the back?  We'll trim it off later.  Sew together.

Turn right side out and press, again being careful around your trim.   Top stitch around the whole thing.

Grab your ruffle piece and sew the short sides together.  Hem the bottom and run a gathering stitch along the top.

Gather it so it's the same width as your top.

Pin, right sides together, and sew.

Flip it and voila!  We're so close to done!!

To give it a better fit, now we'll cinch in the back slightly.  Cut  7 pieces of 1/8" elastic, each measuring 3 inches.  (Apparently, I only took a picture of 6.  Whaddayaknow?!  I also guess I took this picture before adding the ruffle to my top.  Interesting...)

Starting at your topstitching line, on the back panel of your top, make marks 1.5 inches apart.  Do this on both sides of the back panel.

 Tack one side of the 1/8" elastic pieces to one side of the panels.  I did it all in one fell swoop-- didn't even bother to trim the threads in between.
  Once you have those all in place, place the other side of the elastic on the other mark.  Do a couple stitches and backstitch.  You'll see that your fabric will fold.  Pull it flat, so the elastic stretches.  Then sew a straight line down the elastic onto your flat fabric.  Do this will all 7 pieces.

It will gather the fabric up a little like so.  Don't worry if your stitches are a little wonky.  It won't be noticable from the front.

Flip it and it will look like this, which-- for some reason-- looks really pirate-y to me.  Why is that?!

Grab your rick rack or other trim and weave it through the loops you made in the front.

Leave enough for a little bow...

And there you have it!

Or, if you live somewhere warm, wear it on its own!

Tomorrow, stay tuned for the pirate queen layered skirt that Riley is wearing!


  1. This is such a great idea, thanks for sharing!

  2. This is the first top and skirt I have made from scratch, you made it really easy and my daughter absolutely loves her Halloween outfit. Thanks so much :)


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