One in Every Color

Do you have a signature pair of sneakers? These are mine, in my favorite summer color of the moment, a cooling mint–like a mojito on my feet.

I tend to find a classic and stick with it. For years I loved Chucks, then classic Vans. Then I discovered Superga. They are Supercomfortable and seem to last longer than Vans. Unfortunately, all of my sneaks eventually get holes and turn into muddy-colored garden shoes. Derek and I once considered making a wall sculpture out of our dead but sentimental shoes from the past, but quickly realized it’d be a rather stinky sculpture…

So sneakers and tanks are the mode du jour. We are officially in the dog days of summer. The 100s have arrived, and just like last summer I have realized my wardrobe doesn’t have enough floaty, breezy tanks. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been refining a tank pattern I started in on last summer. I’m determined to have one in every color!

These are a few samples from leftover yardage. Each one is from a different knit (modal/lycra, rayon/lycra, and an organic cotton jersey). I was trying to learn a bit about fabric fit and behavior, particularly with bindings.

One of my favorite tank shapes is a loose sort of a-line fit with a deep u-neck and a slight racer back. My first version (not pictured) looked more or less like a sleeveless tee with a slightly tented hemline. On the next three I added a shirttail hem and kept scooping the neckline and armhole a little bit more each time. It’s super easy to draft a tank from your favorite tee pattern and it’s only taken a few experiments to get the right scoop shapes to my tank. If you need a book to guide you, I really like Built by Wendy’s Home Stretch, a good beginner’s guide to sewing with knits. It includes a few starting patterns, like a tee, and walks through modifying a basic tee pattern into other shapes. Although I’ve never used the book’s patterns, it gave me some starter drafting ideas when I first started playing with my tee shirt pattern (BurdaStyle’s Lydia) a couple years ago.

I think I’d like deeper armhole scoops for future versions. I was being a bit conservative at first, worried I might reveal too much. You can see that the white tank looks a little tighter around the bustline. When I first drafted this pattern off my tee, I narrowed the bustline to account for stretch. The stripey modal fabric stretched over 100% and fit just perfectly. Even though the white knit is about t-shirt weight, it’s quite stable and stretches only about 20%, so I’ll probably need a second pattern adjusted to fit stabler knits.

It’s good to know the stretch percent of knits particularly when it comes to bindings. The more elastic the fabric, the shorter the binding needs to be. I experimented on scraps before binding each tank to get the right reduction for a flat, clean look. So, for example, on the striped fabric, I narrowed the binding length by 30% and for the cotton knit by 10%. Too long bindings cause all that ugly rippling and the binding to stand away, while too short bindings gather too much and pull in and up.

My favorite edge finish is a sewn-on band using this method, which I’ve been doing for most of my tees the last couple of years. I start out by basting the folded binding to the seam (right sides together), then I serge over the basting, then I fold the binding out and topstitch the seam allowance down from the front to keep the seam flat. I see a lot of store-bought tees with this sort of binding, in which the seam isn’t actually “bound”.

For actual bindings that enclose the seam, I think it’s difficult to get a clean, consistent look unless a binder is involved. And I actually have a couple of binding attachments for my old Bernina, but still need to do some experimenting to get them right on knits. For some tanks I’d love to have a little baby binding with just a single stitch on top (rather than twin needle or coverstitch) for a more elegant look. For the white cotton version, I knew the fabric was a bit more stable and would take better to this kind of single fold binding so I tried a method Sherry described on her blog. It came out very clean and pretty!

Stay cool everyone! Now back to that glass of lemonade…


  1. Maddie says:

    What great tops! I really like how you’re trying to perfect one pattern and then make several garments from it.

    I want to chime in knits tops you have seen in stores that have “bound” seams. It’s very hard to control the sewing and it costs a ton more to clean finish the binding when it’s a knit. To make up for the exposed seam allowances, bias bindings are sewn at the back neck or other seam allowances that are visible on the exterior.

    Stay cool lady! I mean that figuratively and literally!

    • Amy says:

      Thanks for chiming in! I just read your blog entry about the bindings and it all makes sense. I’ve played a lot with binders, including a coverstitch binder, but it takes some practice and sometimes feels a bit too sporty and bulky for me. I’d be curious why it costs more… especially if an attachment is involved?

  2. Sallie says:

    Ugh! So hot!! Its like summer blossomed into a sweaty mess over the last few days! I’ve also realized (yet again) that I don’t own enough floaty summer wear. These tank top ideas are great – your seam finishes look so neat and clean. I’m so envious. I can NEVER get my knits to look that nice!

    • Amy says:

      I know, sewing knits goes so well until you get to the damn bindings! I’m really practicing though. Really stretchy/flimsy knits are beastly and just come out better with a banded finish. We’ve been getting slightly cooler weather up here! I don’t know what happened but I’m so digging it.

    • Amy says:

      So true… I really need more of these staples. I wonder why it’s so hard to find loose white tees? I seem to find the fitted ones everywhere…

    • Amy says:

      Hehe, I think I just want to cut a bunch and sew them all at the same time now. I wish I could find more drapey cotton knit.

  3. Lavender says:

    Your tees are so fab! Your stitching always astounds. I use the first method, as well. Some day I’ll get fancy feet (binding, edge stitching, oh my!) It’s not quite as hot here, though one day we made it over 100! And yet I’m realizing that I need much more of this floaty, breezy type garment in my arsenal.

    I’m a Chucks girl! Well, let’s see… I’ve had my share of Vans & Pumas over the years, too. But always fall back on the Cons. I saved a pair of US stamped Chucks for far, far too long. They were holy and brown, but a badge of some sort! As a teen, I’d get a new pair every year, the previous year’s becoming my river swimming shoes.

  4. Lavender says:

    ps- I can’t seem to comment on the next post, but I’m really looking forward to your shorts. Silk shorts sound divine to wear. Slowly working on getting a good pants blog here, as well, and hopefully it will happen before summer is over 🙂

    • Amy says:

      Thanks Lavender for pointing that out. I didn’t realize they’d been disabled on the post. How are those jeans coming?

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