Peasant Top (Instructions with Photos)

I’ve been doing a lot of “little” sewing lately. Five friends are having babies and then of course I’m having a little one. I enjoy it and it’s helping to get rid of some smaller fabric pieces I have around. I hope to share with you some of the things I have been doing in tutorials.


You will need:

A shirt to help guide you (or a little kid I guess).

The fabric for the outside as well as lining for the whole thing. (I just used all of the same fabric)


Ribbon for the waist and arm gathers



1) The bodice

Find a shirt of the right size to help guide you. This shirt snaps under the bottom so I just folded that part up and pretty much ignored it.

-Measure the chest and length.

Measuring the width.
Measuring the length.

You will cut out four rectangles (two of lining two of exterior fabric, I did four of the same fabric). The dimensions of these will be the WIDTH * 1.5 + 0.5″ by DESIRED LENGTH plus 1″.

Ex. This shirt was 9 inches wide so I multiplied 9 by 1.5 getting 13.5 I then added 1/2″ for seam allowance (1/4″ * two seams) that got me a total of 14″. The length of the shirt was 9.5 inches I wanted it slightly longer so I added 1/2″ getting me a length of 10″ I then added 1″ seam allowance (1/4″ around the neck plus 3/4″ at base)

So for a size 0-3 month shirt I cut four rectangles that were 14″ by 11″.

You then will need to cut out a scoop out of the tops of the rectangles for the neck. Measure the differences between the front and back of the neck.

Figuring out the “scoop” of the neck by measuring the difference of the back and front of the neck.

Fold your rectangles in half by width. (So the longer side is halved.) Measure from the top of the fold down the difference you just figured out and mark it. (Ex. the difference of the front and back of the neck on my guide shirt was 1″ I marked on the fold 1″ from the top edge) Draw a gradual curve from the mark to the edge of the edge, cut that off.

See that faint white line? That is the scoop of the neck drawn on the bodice which is folded in half.

You should have four wide rectangles with a slightly curved top.

2) The Sleeve

Now, we need to cut out the sleeve.

Measure from where the sleeve and shoulder meets to where the sleeve and side seam meet. You don’t have to measure the curve just strait across.

Now, multiple that number by 1.5 and and 1/4″ for seam allowances. (Ex. this was 3.5 so I multiplied 3.5 * 1.5 to get 5.25″ then I added 0.25 for a total of 5.5)

Decide on how long of a sleeve you want. My base shirt had cap sleeves, I wanted about 3/4 length sleeves. Or half sleeves then the “ruffle”. After figuring out the length add about 3/4 inch. You will need 1/4 inch for seam allowance and about 1/2 inch for the hem. I did 6″

On the fold cut out four rectangles for the sleeve using the dimensions you just computed. Cut so that the width of the sleeve is doubled when you unfold the rectangle. This way there will not be any funky seam on the top of your sleeve.

While still folded cut away a corner to get a shape similar to this. (The fold is in at the bottom left corner in this photo.)

The sleeve will fit onto the bodice somewhat like this…
It doesn’t have to be exact.

You can put the sleeve “rectangles” up against the bodice at the angle pictured here to figure out how to cut the corner off.
You should have 8 pieces total.
1) button holes 
Now, lets get on to the sewing! Woo hoo! You will need button holes for your ribbons and elastic to thread through.

For the sleeve: Mark two holes on what will be the top of the sleeves (the center width wise). They should be about 1/2 inch apart and be high enough on the sleeve to allow for some ruffle and the seam allowance. (About 1.5″ for this) The length will depend on the ribbon you are using but they must be long enough for you to get a safety pin through to thread the casing later on.

You might want to have a short ruffle like I do or want a longer ruffle, this is up to you.

Do this on your two exterior sleeve pieces.

Button holes! Not very symmetrical, but they worked just fine.
For the body: Decide how high you want the gather on the body of your shirt to be. I did it so that the gather would be at the waist with a short ruffle underneath. (For a bigger shirt you could probably do empire waist if desired).
Decide where you want your bow to go. I decided to do it off to the side.
Remember to take side seam allowance (1/4″) and the hem allowance (3/4″) into consideration. My ribbon for this was a little wider so I did the holes a little longer.
Do this on one of your exterior bodice pieces. This will now be the front.
See the two little white things in the bottom and right 1/3 of the photo? Those are the button holes.
2) Sewing the inside seam of the sleeves.
Using a 1/4″ seam allowance sew all the sleeves on their inside seam (no outside seam). Press the seam, then turn right-sides out.
Inside seam of the sleeve sewn.

3) attaching the sleeves and bodices.

Note: The sleeves are attached to the bodices before the bodices are sewn together.

With right sides together pin the sleeve so that from the shoulder to the “pit” of the sleeve (the fold to the seam) is pinned to the bodice. Sew using 1/4 inch seam allowance. Attach the second bodice to the sleeve in the same way. Then sew the bodice pieces together using the same 1/4 seam allowance.

The sleeve pinned to the first bodice.

Do this for both the lining and the bodice. You will have two pieces that look like this.

4) Attaching the lining. 

With right sides facing together sew the lining “bodice” to the exterior “bodice” along the neck (ONLY THE NECK) using a 1/4 ” seam allowance. Snip, turn, and press.

5) Gathering the neck.

Sew a 1/2 inch casing around the neck, make sure to leave a spot for the elastic to go through.

The gap for the elastic to go through. This is the inside, the outside was sewn with thread that matched better.

Thread elastic through the casing, gather using the shirt as a guide for what you want the neck hole to be. Sew the ends of the elastic together and finish the casing.

The neck of the peasant top about the width of the guide shirt.

6) Heming the shirt.

Smoothing as you go pin the bodice so that the exterior and lining both lay flat (don’t pin according to the hem). This is so you won’t have the inside or the outside longer then the other.

Pinned to make sure the lengths of the lining and bodice are the same.

Trim the hem getting rid of inconsistencies in length as way as any bit of fraying. (You will probably lose some length in this process thus the generous hem allowance). Edge the pieces together.


Turn, pin, and sew the hem 1/2″ under.

7) Gathering the waist. 

Sew a casing for the elastic and ribbon. You will want it not much wider then your button holes. I used a quilting guide to help me keep the casing straight. You might need to use a straight edge and fabric pencil before sewing if you don’t have such a device. 

This photo is upside down. The top line is the hem then you have the two seams making the casing.

Figure out the final width you want your shirt to be. I used my guide shirt to help me decide on the length of the elastic I then cut a bit off because I needed to attach the ribbon to either side and wanted to make sure the ribbon was inside the casing. I accidentally made it too long, making it difficult to get the ribbon in the casing. You only need enough elastic to make getting the shirt on easy, the rest can be ribbon. I’d do about the width of the shirt (not doubled).

I was way too generous with the elastic!

Attach your ribbon to either side of the elastic. Leave PLENTY of room on the ribbon, they can be trimmed but not lengthened later.

I sewed them together first and then folded over the sides of the ribbon and sewed those down.

Thread the ribbon and elastic through the casing.

Remember how I told you I cut too much elastic, well the ribbon didn’t go in the casing on either side. I needed to shorten the length of the elastic. If you need to do this make sure to use a zig zag stitch to not lose any stretch.

The elastic shorted and sewed back together.

You will still probably need to stuff the ribbon in on each side. I found a knitting needle worked great for this.

Secure the ribbon on each side so that it can’t be pulled out exposing the elastic. Make sure you there is room to pull the ribbon before tying it so that there will not be an ingathered spot of the waist near the ribbon.

The brown line going down the flower is the stitches that secured the ribbon in place.

8) Gathering the sleeve.

Hem using the same procedure as the waist, but only stitch about 1/4 inch under.

The elastic should be about the length of the finished width you want the sleeve to be (not doubled). Measure from the fold to the inside seam of the sleeve on your guide shirt, this is the length of elastic you want. (This will give enough stretch for ease while still making sure the ribbon is securely in the casing.)

Gather and secure like you did for the waist.

Melt the edges of the ribbons.


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