Tank tops - nerd edition

A few weeks back, I downloaded and printed off a free pattern for a tank top.  Then, when I went to tape it all together, I couldn't bear the thought of doing all that cutting and taping, only to end up with yet another pattern that didn't fit (perhaps I've done too much taping lately).  I've been sewing for years and years, and I still don't have any top patterns that I am happy with.  I have made several different slopers and bought all brands of patterns and tried many methods of fitting myself and still never found the pot of gold.  I decided it was time for something different.

So I took the jacket pattern that I got professional help fitting last year.  The jacket has princess seams.  I used this pattern to draft back to a tank top....probably the opposite direction most people take in drafting.  I changed the princess seams to a bust and waist dart.  Then I took in the sides, raised the armholes and drew on some design lines for the neckline and armhole.  Then, rather than theoretically work out contouring effects for cut-out armholes and necklines, I decided to just make up a bunch of tops and see where things needed changing.

This was my first tank top.

I was aiming for straps in the middle of the shoulders.  Not bad, but some gaping in the armhole.  I had bought the fabric for shorts and decided it wasn't suitable, so thought I wouldn't miss it if I used it for a muslin.  Turns out, I love the colour, so have found myself wearing this regularly in spite of the gaping.

I modified the pattern to remove the armhole gaping.  Tank top 2.

There was a little cutting error, so the straps are a tad narrower than they should be.  I am happy with the fit...it feels like I am wearing nothing.

Next up, I decided that I wanted a pattern for a tank top with wide placed straps.  My first muslin is Tank Top 3.

The drapiness of the fabric exacerbated the problems of a gaping neckline.  This problem was rectified with Tank Top 4, by slashing across the straps and pinching out the excess.

I thought that this one was perfect, until I started wearing it around.  Then I found that the top sometimes formed a ridge at the centre front because there wasn't enough room for cross body movement.  I scooped out the armholes some, which led to Tank Top 5.

It is more comfortable to wear than Tank Top 4, though I wish I had kept a copy of the the pattern for Tank Top 4, as I prefer the look of it, and it may have been okay in softer fabrics.  Tank Top 5 fits well though, so then I decided to try a style with more of a racer back, higher neckline and cut-away armholes.  Tank Top 6.

I only needed one muslin for this style (thankfully!).  Some of the tops have been sewn with back darts and some not; however, they are marked on all the patterns should I want to use them.

Next, I wanted a more exaggerated racer cut, with a lower neck and lower armholes.  Tank Top 7 is not available for photographs, as it has already been cut up (when I was momentarily distracted by the idea of a racer back cami).  My second muslin is Tank Top 8.

There was more gaping in this style, due to the extra cut-out spaces, so I have had to take a second dart going to the armhole, which hardly shows in this print.  I have adjusted the pattern to combine this with the main bust dart, and I am fairly confident that it will work, so I haven't made a Tank Top 9.

At the end of that exercise, I have 4 tank patterns that I am happy with; a basic tank, a wide-necked tank, a high necked tank with cut-away armholes and a racer-back.  An ideal plan would then be to make these up in fabrics I love, possibly adding details and embellishments.  In practice, though, I feel like I have a drawer full of tanks now, even if they were made out of scrap fabric, so have no burning desire to make "real" versions just yet.

Another bonus of this exercise is that I have refined and practised my method of binding the armholes and necklines after all these and am quite comfortable with that process now.

The next phase of my plan is a set of basic sleeveless top patterns.


  1. This is really, really inspiring. I have been half-heartedly struggling my way through countless updates to the Wiksten tank pattern, and think it would be much better if I just started from a pattern that already fits. Excited to see your sleeveless tops!

  2. Very interesting progression of your pattern. They look great and it would be interesting to use one of the non racer back tanks and adapt it for a self drafted cap sleeve. Then you'd have a woven tee ready to go. Of course I don't mean to heap projects upon you ;-) Thanks for the comprehensive update.

  3. I really like all of them but I could imagine the last one made into a dress, perhaps quite short or a maxi!

  4. Well, I must be a tank top nerd because I was in to this post :) I like the version with the higher neck and cut away armholes. Tank top 6, I believe. It's a very modern looking cut.

  5. That is quite a collection of tank tops. I'm with Liza Jane on tank top 6. Its great.

  6. Wow, you have been busy! I really love the racer back ones. Very stylish and of course cool and comfy for the far north. I like tank top 2 and the yellow and aqua ones... I'm not looking at fit there but the colours look really fantastic on you.

  7. It was really interesting to see the difference that small changes made to the look and fit of your tank tops. I enjoyed seeing your fabric selection and was happy to see you used some wovens too, I can't pick a favorite top, but the ones width the strap mid shoulder or near the neck really show off your great shoulders.

  8. Wow, what a great lot of tanks tops. I admire you dedication to perfecting the fit and different styles.

  9. Ooh, I love your tank top experiments, and in such pretty colors! I wish I had a closet of these--I wear this kind of top year round. I made 5 muslins last summer, four of which never made it to the binding stage. I was aiming for straps in the middle and a slight racer back. Gosh it took me a couple of tries to get rid of the armhole gaping, but I was trying to do this without a bust dart. I still have some work to do. Anyway I might come back to this post for some inspiration!

  10. That's a lot of tank top sewing with really good results. How great to now have several patterns drafted in differing styles, all of which fit well.

  11. Wow, I know you're calling them muslins, but so many of these are in really cute fabric! I love the last few, the racer backs are really flattering and modern.

  12. Fantastic! I have been on a similar crusade to make stretch tank tops. I think I am happy with the pattern now and have been experimenting getting it into Illustrator to offer free on my blog. It's a great learning process. I'd love a pattern for a woven tank like yours!

  13. These "nerd" types of blog posts are my favourites! What a difference a small bit of alteration to a pattern can make, and what a difference a change of fabric can make too. Looking forward to seeing your next nerd posts!