Constructing the Cara Dune crop top

This is part of a series of Cara Dune cosplay tutorials where I give step by step instructions on constructing her crop top. See Getting Started if you’ve just joined us. All the tutorials assume you have a basic knowledge of sewing.

Because my pattern making tools are metric, I typically work with metric measurements. See a quick rundown of my tools. For your convenience, I will be listing both imperial and metric measurements in these tutorials.

Supplies:

Seam allowance: 3/8″ (1cm; unless otherwise noted)


Drafting the sewing pattern

Cara Dune’s top is a sleeveless crop top with princess seams, trim at the waist, and a separating zipper on the wearer’s right side.

basic front and back bodice illusration

Mood’s crop top pattern free printable is a good base pattern. The size chart is in centimeters in case you were scratching your head like I was! A seam allowance is already included in the pattern.

I first made a test garment of the Mood pattern to see where it needed to be altered. I won’t go into details about how to make these alterations or this post would be days long!

I transferred my alterations to the Mood pattern pieces to make a custom fit top. You can see my alterations in red versus the original pattern which is light gray.

pattern alterations illustration for cara dune costume

If you need to alter the pattern some, make sure the pieces that are sewn together still correctly fit together. For example, if you take a 1/2″ from the front neckline, you must make sure the back neckline meets evenly and smoothly at the shoulders. This is part of the truing process.

Moving on…

I created a test garment from my altered pattern. Don’t let me sugar coat it, this wasn’t a one and done process. I went through 4 test garments of muslin fabric before I was happy.

Once I was happy with the fit, I drew in the side panels, cut them apart, and added a seam allowance to the sides that were just cut. The illustration below shows you where I drew in the side panels and where the seam allowance was added.

sewing pattern with drawn in panels illustration

Okay friends, the sewing order is important. So, here is how I constructed the top and its numerous pieces. Read it closely and try not to get lost in all the Star Wars glory…


Preparing the Scuba Knit Side Panels

Before beginning to sew there was some pre-work involved with the fabric. I needed to add the dash texture on the scuba knit side panels.

While you’re cutting the black scuba knit side panels, you might as well cut the rest of the pattern because we’ll be sewing the top together next.

For the raised texture, I used a black puff heat transfer vinyl (HTV). It’s the first time I’ve used a puffy heat transfer vinyl and I think I’m in love.

Rather than applying the HTV to a block of fabric and then cutting the side panels, I decided it would be easier and faster for me to cut the scuba knit side panels and THEN apply the puffy HTV. I did this so I could keep the dash pattern straight across both side panels. Also, the transition of the pattern from one panel to the other would be seamless. You’ll see what I mean soon.

Step 1
I cut the HTV with a dash pattern using my Silhouette Cameo 3 in a 10×10″ square. By the way, the cameo machine is a life-saver. I have made so many different things with it. If you are serious into crafting and cosplaying, its definitely a worthy investment.

Step 2
I made a horizontal line across both side panels so I would have a guide to applying the HTV straight and not crooked.

To do this, I laid out 2 panels as if they were sewn together right side up, lined up the middle seam with a vertical line on my cutting mat, and then drew a perpendicular line across the middle of the side panels.

I used a basic tailors pencil or chalk to do this. You’ll want something with disappearing ink or water-soluble because we’re marking on the right side of the fabric.

Step 3
Then I pressed the puff HTV onto the scuba knit fabric. I used a heat press to achieve this.

Below is a picture of the side panels ready to be pressed. I laid some used paper under the panels to catch the extra puff HTV. I laid the HTV over the panels and made sure the dash pattern ran parallel to the reference line made in Step 2.

I pressed the HTV 15 seconds with medium to heavy pressure at 330 degrees and the carrier material peeled warm. This might also be achieved with an iron, but I have not tested that process yet. If you do try using your iron, make sure it can get hot enough according to your HTV’s instructions. When pressing, you’ll want to make sure your iron is covering a whole piece of a dash in the pattern so as not to break up the “puff” in a dash. This means you’ll be pressing with your iron in sections.

Please, please, please, TEST YOUR PROCESS BEFORE TRYING IT ON YOUR COSTUME FABRIC.

Here is the HTV directly after it has been pressed onto the side panels. The clear carrier sheet has been removed.

Remove the paper below, cut off the excess HTV, and continue with adding the glossy texture.

If you’re happy with the puff HTV and don’t care to add texture, go ahead and skip steps 4 and 5 below. For those who prefer to have a glossy texture, proceed with the next two steps.

Step 4 (optional)
With a blunt serrated tracing wheel, I added texture to the puff HTV. You’ll want the texture to be random. To achieve this, I went over it in different directions using light and heavy pressure and small strokes. I also randomly pressed the wheel into the HTV (instead of strokes) to create big indents.

Step 5 (optional)
Top it with a clear nail polish topcoat. I had a gel top coat that cures with an LED nail lamp and also a regular air-dry top coat. I found the gel top coat gives a better finish because it fills in the tiniest details while keeping the larger texture. I also used the air dry topcoat with success. Either option works so use what you have on hand. No need to buy even more stuff just to make this tiny detail.

You’ll want to apply a very thin layer of the topcoat — which means don’t load your brush up with the polish. Keep as little product on the brush as you can. After brushing on the topcoat, use quick dabs, as if you were sponge painting, to fill in minute areas. Don’t let the polish pool on the HTV. When you’re happy with the results, let it dry.

Repeat this on all your scuba knit side panels and then voila! Your side panels are ready to go.


Faux Leather Piping (optional: buy it premade)

Next, it’s time to make our faux leather piping that goes into some of the seams. Technically, you could buy this pre-made if you can find it and skip this part. I wanted the piping to match the faux leather waist trim so I opted to make this myself.

Step 1
Measure the seams where there is piping: neckline, armholes, front and back panel seams (4 seams). The picture below shows where the piping is located in red.  Make sure to add an extra couple inches in length for each seam.

In this tutorial, I did not add piping to the neck or armholes because it was late at night when I was constructing the top. Frankly, I was exhausted from sewing!

illustration of where the piping goes on Cara Dune top

Step 2: Cut strips of the black faux leather to create enough piping. The strips should be cut on the bias, 1.5″ (3.2 cm) wide, and folded in half to make 3/8″ (1.6cm) trim.

Step 3: In the fold of the faux leather strips, sew in 1/4″ (6mm) cording (string) to create the piped effect. I used jute twine I already had in my stash. Most fabric stores will sell cotton piping cording. Once the cording is added, your piping should have a 3/8″ (1cm) seam allowance. See this blog post about how to make piping.

Ok, continuing on…


Sewing the front and back pieces

Now, we’ll construct the front and back pieces of the top.

First, cut your pattern pieces if you haven’t done so yet! As a reminder, when you’re sewing one piece to another, you’ll put the right sides together and sew on the wrong side. Topstitching is the exception.

Step 1: Sew the 3 front panels together you cut from the hexagon fabric. This includes the center front piece and the two pieces to the left and right. Clip the seams where they curve and press open. Topstitch 1/4″ (6mm) away from both sides of the center front seams catching the seam allowance underneath.

Step 2: Cut 3 pieces of 1/2″ (1.3 cm) webbing that runs the width of the 3 panels. Align the top of the first piece just below the bust point. Secure the webbing 3/4″ (2 cm) apart with some type of fabric adhesive. I used EZ-Steam tape which is a fusible adhesive. If the webbing needs to be secured more, topstitch ON the webbing as close as you can get to the top and bottom edge.

Step 3: Sew the side panels on each side with the faux leather piping in the seam. Trim the piping seam allowance if it is too bulky. Press the seam to the outer side of the bodice. Topstitch 1/4″ (6mm) away from the seam on the scuba knit side ONLY.

Now, let’s sew the backside together.

Step 4: Sew the center back pieces together (cut from hexagon fabric) and then add the left and right side panels. Topstitch 1/4″ (6mm) away down each side of all 3 seams.

Step 5: Sew the textured scuba knit side panels to both sides of the bodice with the faux leather piping in the seam. Trim away the piping seam allowance if it’s too bulky. Topstitch 1/4″ (6mm) away down the scuba knit side of the seam ONLY.

You should now have a front and back piece that looks similar to the illustration and picture below.

front and back top illustration of Cara dune cosplay

Step 6: Attach the front and back pieces at the shoulder (right sides together) and sew. Press open the seams

sew at the shoulders, right sides together

If you are not adding a lining to your crop top, then follow Step 7 below and skip the “Sewing in the Lining” section.

If your top will have a lining, skip Step 7 and continue with “Sewing in the Lining” below.

Step 7: Without a lining, you will need to finish the raw edges of the neck hole and armholes with a basic hem. To do this, press the raw edges under 3/8″ and sew along both armholes and neck hole.

Now, meet me at “Adding the faux leather waist trim” to continue constructing the top.


Sewing in the Lining (optional)

Adding a lining is 100% personal preference. Since this top is not directly against the skin, you are not required to sew in a lining. I’m a glutton for punishment so I usually add a lining for comfort. It also gives my costume a professional, finished look. Yes, I know. ::major eye roll::

Let’s begin the lining…

Step 1: Cut out the same pattern pieces in your black lining fabric and sew in the same order as the hexagon fabric. You don’t have to do any topstitching or add piping to the seams. Webbing is not required either! After sewing, press all your seams open.

Next, we are attaching the lining to the hexagon fabric with the burrito method. This process is more involved so please take your time and sew with care.

Step 2: To start the burrito method, lay your lining and hexagon fabric right sides together. Make sure the shoulder seams are lined up and sew around the neck hole. If you are inserting piping in the neck seam, make sure to sandwich it between the hexagon and lining fabric. Clip the seam allowance in areas where there is puckering.

sew around the neck hole, right sides together

Step 3: Turn the bodice right side out by pulling the lining down through the neck hole. Press the seam flat so the lining is not puffing up and rolling out over the hexagon fabric. This is also where I take the time for understitching along the seam to permanently keep the lining from rolling out.

Understitching is simple. Separate the hexagon fabric from the lining fabric. On the wrong side of the lining, stitch the seam allowance to the lining. Make sure you are not also catching the hexagon fabric. It will need to be out of the way. The video and image below illustrate how to understitch.

understitching on seam allowance

The image below is what understitching will look like on the right side of the lining. You should not be able to see the understitching on the hexagon fabric once the garment is turned right side out.

Continuing on with the burrito method…

Step 4: We are going to sew the armholes of the hexagon fabric to the lining. Lay your bodice out flat with the hexagon fabric facing up. Roll one side of the bodice (like a burrito) towards the other side and stop when you get to the shoulder.

Flip the lining fabric under the roll to meet the hexagon fabric. Align the lining and hexagon fabric at the armholes. The right sides should be together at this point. See the video below for a quick demonstration.

Step 5: If you’re inserting piping in the armhole, sandwich it between the hexagon and lining fabrics. Sew along the armhole. Clip the seam allowance where it’s puckering. Press the seam so the lining and hexagon fabric lay flat.

Step 6 (optional): Undersitch the armhole as far as you can go. It will be tougher the closer you get to the shoulder seam. It’s okay if you don’t go all the way to the shoulder. Just make sure you’ve pressed the seam well so the lining lays flat.

Repeat Steps 4, 5, and 6 for the other armhole to finish the burrito method. Turn the bodice right side out. Press any seams that need to be smoothed.

The left side seam will be completely closed so let’s do that!

Step 7: On the left side (this would be your left), separate the lining from the side panel fabric at the armhole. Flip it open so the wrong side of both the side panels and the lining are showing.

Line up the raw edges of the lining, right sides together. Do the same for the side panels. Sew along the edge of the lining and onto the side panels to completely close the left side.

sew along the raw edge to close left side

There is a zipper in the right side seam so we will be leaving the right side open for now.


Attaching the faux leather waist trim

Cutting the fabric on the bias is ideal for the trim. It gives you some extra stretch, but it’s not required. Especially if you are running low on faux leather fabric or have a limited budget.

For those making this without a lining, follow Steps 1-4 below and then move on toInstalling the side zipper“.

waist trim on cara dune top

Step 1: Measure the circumference of the bottom edge of your bodice. Cut a piece of faux leather that is 2.75″ (7 cm) wide by the circumference of your bodice waist + 3/4″ (2 cm) for the seam allowance.

Step 2: Take the time to press this strip in half with the wrong sides together. Sometimes faux leather does not like to crease and stay folded. Trust me, I had this issue. After pressing when the fabric is still warm, place an object with some weight on top to help preserve the crease. Leave the object on top of the trim until it cools. If that doesn’t work, leave the object sitting on top for several hours or overnight. I used several heavy books to keep the crease pressed while it cooled.

Step 3: To attach the trim at the waist, sew it to the bottom edge of the hexagon fabric, right sides together. Press the seam upwards toward the neck so it sits between the hexagon fabric and the lining.

If you chose not to insert a lining, you will still attach the trim as indicated above EXCEPT the strip should be folded in half when you’re sewing instead of open.

Step 4: On the right side where the bodice is still open, press a 3/8″ (1 cm) seam allowance on the hexagon fabric, the lining, and waist trim. I used EZ Steam fusible tape to keep the seam allowance pressed because my fabrics did not want to crease.

With no lining, simply press the hexagon fabric and waist trim with a 3/8″ seam allowance.

press 3/8" seam allowance on open right side

Step 5: Press a 3/8″ (1cm) seam allowance on the lining along the waist. Align the pressed edge of the lining with the raw edge of the trim. Be mindful of the 3/8″ seam allowance on the trim.

Now, sew the lining to the raw edge of the trim. There are a couple of ways to go about this:

Step 5A: Sew the lining to the trim by hand with a whip stitch or blind stitch.

OR

Step 5B: Attach the lining to the trim with my favorite notion ever…EZ Steam fusible tape.

I went with the fusible tape just to speed things up a bit and the lining fabric is not the easiest to sew with. If you are planning to get a lot of wear from your costume, hand stitching is the safest bet in the long run. It’s much sturdier than fusible tape.

The right side should now have these “pockets” where you will insert the separating zipper between the lining and hexagon fabric.


Installing the side zipper

Unless you found a separating zipper that magically fits in the side of your bodice, you’ll have to shorten the length.

Separating zippers must be shortened from the top!

Step 1: Measure the length of the open right side of your bodice (from armhole to bottom of the trim). Mark that length on your zipper.

Step 2: Pull the zipper tab BELOW the marks you just made. Cut the excess zipper off approximately 1″ (1.3 cm) above the marks.

Step 3: Since we cut off the zipper stops when removing the excess zipper length, we’ll need to add those back to stop the zipper tab from flying off the teeth when the zipper is closed. To do this, zig-zag stitch in place over each side of the zipper teeth where you made the marks.

You could also buy zipper stops and apply those on the marks. I like to use the zig-zag stitch because it’s one less thing to buy and it’s a super-fast process.

Step 4: Now we are going to stabilize the zipper in the “pockets” I showed you earlier. This makes it quick and easy to sew the zipper in. To do this, apply a piece of fusible tape along the inside of the pocket on the lining fabric.

If you do not have a lining, you’ll be applying the fusible tape to hexagon fabric.

Step 5: Place the zipper face up on the tape making sure the hexagon fabric lines up nicely alongside the zipper teeth. Press the fusible tape as per their directions! Do the same process for the hexagon fabric. If your zipper has plastic teeth, take caution not to melt it under the iron.

Step 6: Repeat Steps 4 and 5 to the other open pocket (or seam if you don’t have a lining).

You should now have a stabilized zipper that looks like this. My zipper tab was folding in at the top because I didn’t have it fused that carefully. But it will be ok when it gets sewn in!

Step 7: Topstitch down both sides of the zipper from the armhole to the bottom of the trim. You should be catching the lining underneath as you stitch.

If you don’t have lining, you’ll be catching just the zipper as you stitch.

Your Cara Dune top is complete!

cara dune top finished

Making the collar

Collar tutorial is on its way…