I’m so excited to be releasing my new pattern today! This one is a bit more special to me because it’s my first time grading a pattern. I decided to use a simple yet versatile tank top pattern that I had made earlier this summer and I graded it in 4 toddler sizes ranging from 2T to 5T. It’s a simple little pattern so it’s great for a quick nap time project or if you’re a beginner in sewing with knit fabrics then this will be a fantastic practice. I’ve always believed that sometimes you just need one good basic pattern and from that you can explore many different creations. A few designs that I’ve made based from this tank top are a flared top, flared dress, shift dress, dress with a gathered skirt and also a circle skirt, and a drop waist skirt. Really, the design possibilities are endless!
I will show you later how to manipulate the pattern to create different designs but for now let’s start making the basic tank top…
Quick tips on sewing knits…
Sewing knit fabrics using a serger is great because it will maintain the stretchiness of the fabric so no stitch popping when you are putting on your garment. If you don’t have a serger, no worries! A lot of regular sewing machines have an overcast stitch that mimics the sergers’s overcast stitches. Another option is the simple zig zag stitch on the sewing machine which is what I usually use. Every sewing machine is different so test out on a piece of scrap of the same knit fabric you are using, which length and width of the zig zag stitch works for you. I have a Janome HD1000 – I can adjust the length of the stitch because they are numbered but the width is a bit tricky because there are no numbers to easily tell how wide the stitch will be. But aside from that, it’s a work horse!
Another thing you want to test on your scrap piece of knit is the needle. Normally, you’d want to use a ball point needle for sewing knit fabrics but I noticed that the fabric I was working with would not have it. The needle kept skipping stitches but when I switched to my universal needle, it worked perfectly fine. Another thing is the twin needle – I love Schmetz twin stretch needles which I always use for hemming my knit garments but it just so happened that my regular and the spare both broke! They are about $6 a pop and break easily so I cry a little inside every time I hear a snap. The Joann’s near me carries only the Singer twin stretch needles but they kept skipping stitches even though they’re new so finally I just ended up using a straight stretch stitch with my regular needle. Hemming with twin needles make the garment look really neat and professional but oh well. So definitely take some time to see how the fabric will respond to your needle, that way you won’t be stressing over the amount of time spent seam ripping.
Things You Will Need:
Knit fabric of choice
Knit binding – 1 yard (width of choice)
Polyester thread (recommended)
Twin Stretch Needles (recommended)
Print pattern *here*
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Watch the tutorial on Youtube *here*
Preparing the pattern…
Knits don’t behave well like cottons do so I always cut my knits in one whole front and one whole back pieces. You can print out two copies of the pattern to make a whole front and back pieces but if you’re like me and have a printer that gorges on the most expensive ink they have in the store, print one copy of the pattern and then tape a newspaper, packing paper, or whatever you have at hand to make the other half of the pattern. I used some old newsprint sketching paper I had left from college.
Here’s how I make the other half of the pattern:
Tape or glue the paper to the center front and center back of the pattern.
Fold along the center front and center back.
Cut along the desired size of the pattern.
Cutting the fabric…
Place the patterns on the fabric, pin them and then start cutting. If your fabric has stripes or patterns – adjust the placement of the patterns if you are trying to match the stripes or incorporate a specific part of the pattern.
Cutting the binding…
Unlike cotton bias binding which is cut, as the same implies, on the bias, the knit binding is cut cross grain because it will stretch and conform to the curve. I usually make my markings directly on the fabric and cut on the binding which is 1 1/2”. Make sure to cut out any jagged or uneven edges first.
Put the front and back right sides together. For now, let’s sew the shoulder seam on the right with a 3/8” seam allowance. Leave the other should seam open.
Finishing the neck…
Start pinning the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the neckline and sew with a 1/4” seam.
Fold the binding twice to wrap the raw edge of the neckline. There are several options to sew the fold down. The first is to use narrow twin stretch needles. Secondly, a small zig zag stitch will also maintain the fabric’s stretch. Or use the longest straight stitch like I did here.
Now, we can close the other shoulder with a 3/8” seam.
Push the seam towards the back and tack it down by sewing back and forth a few times.
Let’s start attaching binding to the armholes using the same method as we did for the neckline.
Once the armhole bindings are all finished, it’s time to sew the side seams with a 3/8” seam allowance.
The last step is the hemming. Fold up 1/2” and you can either use a small zig zag stitch or twin stretch needles. I personally love using the twin stretch needles because not only do they help keep the fabric’s stretch so definitely no stitches popping later, they can give the garment a really nice finished look. For this garment, I ended up using the straight stretch.
And that’s it! This is one of my favorite patterns because I can make it quickly which Madeline is napping. If you make this tank top, let me know what you think and what other variations you can come up with. Bye for now!