Portia’s no-pattern-required summer top tutorial

Today we’ve got a fabulous tutorial by Portia from Makery – a super-easy summer top tutorial that requires no pattern! This simple boxy shell top is made from a single rectangle and is perfect for this gorgeous weather we’re having. Read on for the steps to make your own, then share it with us on Instagram with the hashtag #tvhhaul!


The lovely Annie of The Village Haberdashery recently sent me this sweet  fabric from the Indian Summer range. It’s a lovely light to medium weight cotton, and I guess, usually reserved for quilting or crafting projects. But I wanted to show that it has garment making potential too. Not only that, but you can make this top, using a simple rectangle of fabric and a few measurements. Yep, that’s right….NO PATTERN REQUIRED!!

Essentially this top is made from a rectangle with a hole cut in the middle for your head, (No shoulder seams to sew) and then stitched along the sides, leaving an opening for the arms. Simple as that.

To start, work out the size of the rectangle you need. Do this by measuring your bust and your hips. Whichever is the largest of the two (in my case my hips) divide by 2 and add 4″ for ease and seam allowance. If you want it looser, just add, say 5-6″. This will give you the width of your rectangle. To establish the length of the rectangle measure from your shoulder line to just past where you want it to finish (in my case my hip) and double it. This will give you the length of your rectangle. So mine will be 24″  x 50″…

Go ahead and draw your rectangle onto your fabric being sure to square up and down using a set square so it’s not on the wonk! I used biro so it would show in the photos, but chalk would probably be better! Then cut around your rectangle outside of your marked lines…

Zig zag stitch over your lines then trim close to stitching (Or serge if you have a serger). You’ve just finished all your seam allowances in one go!

You’ll now have a rectangle of fabric with nicely finished edges…

Fold lengthwise and press along the fold…

Then fold widthwise and press along the fold…

These pressed folds will now represent the shoulder, centre back and centre front lines of your tee, and where the lines intersect is the centre point. We’ll use these points as a reference to mark the neckline and armholes…..

Now to mark the basic size of the neck hole using the red dot (centre point) as a starting point…

Back neckline – measure and mark with a pin 1 1/4″ from the centre point down the centre back line

Front neckline – measure and mark with a pin 3″ from the centre point down the centre front line

Shoulders – measure and mark with a pin 4 1/4″ from the centre point across the left and right shoulder line

Mark with chalk where the pins are, then remove the pins…

Draw in the neckline using the marks as a guide….

Fold in half lengthwise again and cut the neck hole out along the lines in one go. Retain the piece you’ve cut out, you’ll need it later…

The neckhole isn’t big enough on it’s own to fit comfortably over your head. So we’re going t creat a little opening in the back neckline. Centred obver the Centre back fold line, Mark a narrow V at the back neck, approx 1/2″ wide at the top and about 5″ long…

Now we’re going to face the back neck opening. Cut a rectangle of fabric about 6″  x  3″ and finish the raw edges. Pin in place on the right side of the back neckline, right sides together, again, centred over the centre back fold. Essentially it’s right over the top of where you marked the V on the other side…

Working on the wrong side again, stitch right ontop of your marked V, shortening the stitch round the bottom of the V. Then cut straight down the middle of the V, right up to the point but not through it…

Flip the facing rectangle through the cut opening onto the wrong side and press thoroughly; and you have a faced back neck opening…

Remember the neckhole piece you cut out? Because it’s the exact shape of your neckhole it makes the perfect template to create a neckline facing….

Pin and stitch the neckline facing right sides together….then clip curves, press, understitch, turn through, and press again…

Et voila! A faced neckline with a back opening. You can leave the back neck as it is or attach  hook and eye or button and loop closure…

TIP: You can make the neckline any shape you want of course. The little slit opening can look quite cute as a feature of the front neckline too.

So when folded in half it almost looks like a top now, huh? Mark a point 7-8″ down from each shoulder line. That’s the section we’re leaving open for the armholes. Then stitch the side seams all the way down from this point  (I left 2″ open at the bottom as well to create little hip slits). Then press the seam allowances open, hem the sleeve hems and the bottom hem, and you’re done!


Tip: As you press the side seam allowances open, the sleeve hems will naturally press over as well, because they are essentially an extension of the side seam allowance. This gives a nice crisp and even edge to your sleeve hems…

And there you have it. A totally patternless project from a simple rectangle of fabric….



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27 Responses to Portia’s no-pattern-required summer top tutorial

  1. mammafairy July 3, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    Very neat and simple. My mum made a top like this for me when I was ten, it went with a circular skirt, and they were made from a remnant of fabric, white with large navy polka dots! It was a lovely summer outfit for a skinny 10 year old!

    thank you for the instructions;-)

    • Portia July 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      Aw, that sounds lovely!

  2. rosa July 3, 2013 at 11:26 am #


    • Portia July 4, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      Glad you like it Rosa! Thankyou!

  3. Sarah Sew Love July 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    very nice, great to have minimal wastage 🙂 I have a question regarding the back. Would you attach the neck facing to the back split facing at all or tuck which under which? Or perhaps do an all in one the covers the split too?

    • Portia July 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Hi Sarah!

      I tucked the neckline facing behind the back split facing. But either way would work. I suppose there would be a way of doing an all in one facing, but we’re potentially getting into the realms of drafting a pattern piece there; and for this project I was aiming to keep it patternless. But yes; with a bit of head scratching I’m sure it would be doable:)


  4. Tasha July 3, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    So, so clever, Portia!! As this is one of my favorite shapes for a summery blouse, I am absolutely trying this at some point. Thanks for sharing this great tutorial!

    • Portia July 4, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      I think there’s probably a few vintage patterns out there that are essentially a variation on this; so should fit in perfectly with your vibe Tasha )

  5. [email protected] July 3, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    That’s fabulous, I think even I might be able to make one of those! :o) Thanks for the tutorial.

    • Portia July 4, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

      Hi Ange! You are absolutely welcome 🙂 Go for ot!

  6. Jenny July 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    I like the plain and simple tutorial. I would prefer the back (opening) in the front!
    How do I make the adjustment?

    • Portia July 4, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

      Hi Jenny, literally just mark the V on the front neckline instead of the back then follow all of the same steps 🙂

  7. sande cross July 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    I have never seen your circle and square ruler; where can I buy one, please? It looks like a must-have! I’m going to make this top today! I have some cat fabric that’s really not suitable for any serious garment, but will be perfect for this, to wear with jeans!!

  8. alice July 5, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    thanks so much for this tutorial
    I have never made a top, and I love shell tops
    I have small hips and large chest, I made it to fit perfectly in a morning
    posted on flikr

    • Portia July 6, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      Yay! That’s so cool Alice! How do we find you on Flickr to have a look?

      • alice July 6, 2013 at 9:54 am #

        I have posted it on village haberdahsry flikr and also mine..alice findlay

  9. Donna July 7, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    thank you for this great tutorial! I made 2 tops this weekend 🙂

  10. Donna July 15, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    thanks for the tutorial! here is a link to the top I made if you’d like to take a look:

  11. Laila August 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Just made this from vintage sheet, I love it. Going to make another that is longer and maybe change neckline a little, brilliant and simple! Thanks x


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