Tutorial: Napoli Upcycle



Blogger: Deanna Mackin

Napoli Upcycle

Upcycling is a sewing trend that is here to stay!  Upcycling clothing items is cost effective, earth friendly, and can even save time by utilizing the existing hems, buttonholes, and buttons. It also provides an opportunity to create unique looks by incorporating existing clothing features including sleeve cuffs, button tabs, pockets, and other embellishments.  Follow the steps below to create a Napoli dress or top using an adult size button down shirt.

Step One – Modifying Pattern Pieces

To create an upcycled Napoli, the existing hems and button placket will be used.  This will result in an unlined dress/top that is finished with 1/2” (1.3cm) single fold bias tape.  To achieve this, start by modifying the pattern pieces as follows: 

  • Reduce the skirt length along the hem by 2” (5cm)
  • Reduce the skirt width down the center by 1 ¼” (3.2cm)
  • Reduce sleeve length by ½” (1.3cm)
  • Reduce the front bodice width down the center by ½” (1.3cm)
  • Reduce the front and back bodice necklines by ¼” (.6cm) around neckline curve

Step Two – Disassembling the Garment

Start by selecting a shirt to be upcycled - the larger the size the better!  The shirt featured in this blog is a Men’s size XXL and was used to make a size 6 Napoli dress.  It is best to choose a shirt without front pockets.  Alternatively, pockets can be removed before disassembling the shirt and can be added onto the skirt once the dress is finished.

To begin, cut the shirt into pieces.  Start by cutting right along the seam line around each armscye, then up along the length of each sleeve.  Next, cut both side seams of the shirt.  Finally, cut along the shoulder seam and through the collar.  There will now be two sleeve pieces, two shirt front pieces, and one shirt back piece that will be used to cut out the Napoli pattern. 

Step Three – Cutting the Pattern Pieces

Fold each sleeve piece in half.  Align the bottom edge of the pattern to the end of the sleeve cuff.  Cut two sleeves on the fold. 

Fold the shirt back in half.  Align the skirt piece along the fold and the bottom of the shirt.  Most button-down shirts will have a curved hemline.  The curve can be used on the front and back skirt pieces by simply starting the cut line of the skirt piece approximately 1-2” (2.5-5cm) up from the bottom of the skirt pattern piece.  Cut one skirt back on the fold. 

With the rest of the shirt back fabric, cut one back bodice piece on the fold.

Locate the skirt and front bodice pattern pieces.  Line them up along the button placket to visualize the button placement. 

Make sure that there is at least 1” (2.5cm) above the top buttonhole on the skirt piece.  If a button/buttonhole falls too close to the top of the skirt, the skirt can easily be shortened or lengthened to accommodate proper button placing.  Line up the pattern piece with the edge of the button placket and the bottom of the shirt. Cut 2 mirror image skirt front pieces. 

Next, check buttonhole placement of the front bodice pieces before cutting.  When finished, top stitching will fall 5/8” (1.6cm) down from the top of the bodice front neckline, and the skirt will be attached with a ½” (1.3cm) seam allowance (both indicated by the red lines.)   

The buttonhole should be placed between these two lines, approximately ¼”-1/2” (0.6 - 1.3cm) down from the topstitch line.  Cut 2 mirror image front bodice pieces, making sure both the button and buttonhole align.

Step Four – Sewing the Top/Dress

Place the bodice front and back pieces right sides together.  Align at the shoulder.  Sew to attach using a 1/2” (1.3cm) seam allowance. 

Locate the 1/2” (1.3cm) single fold bias tape.  With right sides together, align one raw edge of the bias tape to the raw edge of the neckline, allowing ½” of the bias tape to extend past the bodice front center on both sides.  Pin in place along the entire neckline. 

Sew to attach with a ¼” (0.6cm) seam allowance.

 Press the seam allowance up toward the remaining bias tape.  Fold the bias tape that is overhanging over the end of the bodice, wrong sides together, so that the fold is in line with the center of each bodice piece. 

Fold the bias tape down to the wrong side of the bodice.  Sew to attach using a 1/8” (.3cm) seam allowance.  The bias tape should only be visible from the inside of the bodice. 

Gather and attach the skirt back piece as directed on page 19 of the Napoli pattern tutorial.  Because there are no lining pieces, the skirt seam can be finished and topstitched to the bodice at this time using a 1/8” (0.3cm) seam allowance.  Repeat with the skirt front pieces, leaving the button placket ungathered.  Sew the side seams as directed on page 23.  Follow all steps for attaching the sleeve on pages 26-27.  Button up the Napoli dress or top.  There may be several inches of length below the last buttonhole.  A sew-on hidden snap can be added to the button placket to keep this area secure. 

Don’t forget to use extra scraps to sew up one of Little Lizard King’s sweet bow patterns to create an upcycled look from head to toe!





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