Monday, June 4, 2012

Tank-dress tutorial

                                                                                              Wanna make a tank-dress dress yourself?  Well, I tried to lay down some instructions for you!  I hope this helps - please leave a comment below as I will be giving away the dress from this tutorial!!!!  Just leave your name and email to be entered!  Share the post - the more comments = the faster I give it away!!  PLEASE leave your emal or register so that I can contact you!

Ok – grab your tank and your skirting material.  My tank is an Old Navy ribbed tank and the skirt fabric is 100% cotton woven material.  I laid out my tank so that I could see the size (this is 3T) – then I decided where to cut (leave yourself an extra 1 inch if you’re just using a sewing machine.  Assume ½ inch seam allowance for serger)  This is totally a design option up to you!!  For a baby doll style dress, cut closer to the armholes (but leave at least an inch or two) – otherwise – measure your kiddo and just decide where you want it to hit!  I was lame and didn’t want to chase down my little boogers to measure… so I just looked at the tank and thought “now, where would this tank hit her if she was wearing it right now” and guessed on my skirting from there!  Sorry – that’s just how I roll.  I mean, it’s your design, so do as you wish!  Just remember, you’ll lose at least an inch in seam allowances!

Now cut your fabric!  I almost always so selvege to selvege (that’s end to end… see the little white tab with the fabric maker info on it?  That’s a selvege!).  You could cut this shorter if you want fewer ruffles and add more if you want more ruffles.  To add more – cut two rectangles instead of 1 and serge them together (right sides together!) to make a bigger piece of fabric.  Anyway – I think this is sufficient ruffle for this kind of dress.  So I fold mine selvage to selvage.  Then I folded once more so it’s just one easy cut!  I cut straight across – just where I wanted J
Now iron your piece of fabric.  Don’t get lazy… ironing helps!

Serge the end.  If you don’t have a serger, you need to finish your end in some fashion.  You can Google and find more info on this… but I’ll tell you what to do in a minute.

Fold RIGHT sides together (that means the printed sides are facing) and serge down the selvege end (that’s the little white tabs in this photo!)  If you don’t have a serger and used a selvege like I did, just sew a straight stitch using ½ inch seam allowance.  Then open the seam on the inside and iron.  If you didn’t use a selvege and have a cut edge (which will unravel!) – you must finish this seam.  Using pinking shears (the little saw tooth scissors) on both edges.  Then sew as I did above, open the seam and press with an iron.  OR use an overcast stitch on your machine (a zig zag stitch over the edges of your fabric – Google this for more tips).   Now you have a round tube of fabric.

Now – back to your iron.  Fold up the bottom piece (remember, I serged… if you didn’t, just wait and I’ll get to that) I folded mine up ½ inch but you can choose!  Use your serge as a guide and you can fold up as little as ¼ inch.  IF YOU DIDN’T SERGE, you will simply double fold.  So fold it up ½ or ¼ inch and press.  Then fold it one more time to lock the open edge inside of the fold!  It’s easier to do this with ½ inch – just make sure that won’t make your skirting too short! )

Now topstitch that hem!  I usually use a nice straight stitch at a 3.5 for a topstitch.  Use a fancy sewing foot for a nice straight line OR line up to your foot the way I do (above) – move your needle over to where you want it but make sure you’re catching your fold on the other side! (see how I have the piece folded back?  You can see that I’m catching that fold on the back side… my bobbin thread is a very light pink)

Now – time to gather!  You can see in this photo, I do have a serged edge on the top!  That’s not necessary – but I find it’s easier to keep my woven from unraveling and such.  If you don’t have a serger – you need to finish the edge BEFORE you gather.  Overcast stitch (remember that?  Zig zag off of the edge… again, Google/you-tube it) would be best.  Now – you need to gather it!  In the photo above, you can see how I have my fabric lined up on my sewing foot.  I gather on tension. You can simply hand gather – but here’s how I gather on tension.  I picked a baste stitch and set the length to 10.  I move my tension up (you can see in the photo, I’m at about 5.6)  And I sew one big long stitch all the way around.

When I get to the end, I pull my tails nice and long so I have extra thread to work with and then cut.   Now I line up again – foot in the same spot.  Move the needle as far to the right as I can.  Now I do it all again – I always sew 2 ruffle stitches… it’s just easier for me to gather things and hold them in place as well as if a stitch breaks, I have a back-up.

See how I place my hand this time?  The fabric is already gathered from the first stitch (with my increased tension) – so this time I just hold the fabric so that it pulls the gather straight just as it sews over it.  Don’t worry – it re-gathers on the other side.  Sew all the way around again and pull your tails long before you cut.

I mentioned above – I use clear elastic if I’m using a really stretchy fabric… such as ribbed knit.  If it’s a nice sturdy knit (not all of them stretch 4 ways!) – it’s probably not necessary.  If you don’t have clear elastic – it’s not a must have… many people make these without the elastic.  I just find that holds the tank to shape and keeps it from getting all stretch out at the bottom!  Cut your elastic the size of your tank plus about 2 inches (just in case).  Work it a bit.  What do I mean?  I mean stretch it in and out a few times.  It will stretch out a little bit and you wanna work that out before you sew it on!

Now – serge it to the bottom.  I simply lay it on and serge it, without stretching.  I placed mine on the right side of the fabric - but honestly, it could go either way! This elastic will be serged/sewn into the seam with the skirtting.  Placing it on the back of the fabric will keep it from peeping through if you aren't careful with your seam allowances.  Turn on your diff. feed on your serger if you need to in order to keep from stretching the tank.  Don’t stretch the elastic.

If you’re just using a sewing machine… try this (and I can’t promise this will work because I have not tried it)

Lay down your tank and pick a spot a little extra up to put your elastic on (you will cut that extra off… but I find that feed dogs and rib knit do not get along.  Having more fabric there to the right of your sewing foot will help.  A walking foot would be really great at this point if you have one).  Use a stretch stitch (read your manual… mine looks like an italicized zig zag) and sew this all the way around without stretching your elastic.  Your tank might stretch – but try and not allow it to. IF your tank is stretching out – EVERY so slightly stretch your elastic as you sew to help it come back to shape when you’re done.  This will take some practice with a sewing machine… so try with an old tank top first.

Now you have a tank with the elastic attached to the bottom (cut the extra tank off if you used a sewing machine without cutting any of the stitch or elastic!  Now hand gather (by pulling on the BOBBIN threads) to size it up correctly.

After the size of the skirt matches the bottom of the tank, adjust your ruffles so that they are even and IRON.  Startch and iron if you have it!  Helps hold things put.

Center the seam in the back (if you have 2 seams from using more fabric, center them on each side).  Fold in half and press.  Now place a pin on each edge (you’re marking your skirting so you attach it evenly.)  Same with the tank – I just folded my tank in half and pressed so that I could see the crease.
RIGHT sides together – remember that.  Turned my tank around (it’s turned right side in… as in tag in) so that the back is facing me.  I then turned my skirting up (inside out).  So the print on the fabric is facing the print on the tank.  Line up the back seam with the center crease on the back of your tank.  Place a pin.

Now line it up the other pins to the seams/creases.  See – this is the side pin on my skirt and I am lining it up to that side seam of my tank (if you can see)

Now over to my serger.  YES there are pins there.  NO you cannot serge with pins.  YES I go slow and pull them out as I go.  CAREFUL not to sew over a pin.  I serged all long the pinned area.  IF you’re just sewing… you’ll need to go back to that stretch stitch.  At least, I would.  Stitch all around with that stretch stitch.

Now – I could have been more careful with my stripes and pinning… ignore that.  See those stitches hanging out at the bottom?  Those were your gathering stitches.  Now grab your seam ripper and pull those back out!  It’s a tedious job… but you’ve gotta do it…   If you serged –after that?  You’re done!  If you sewed… after you pull the ruffle stitch out – turn it back over the way you had it when you attached the skirt to the tank. Now – just to the left of that stretch stitch (juuust barely) – pick a straight stitch (with a ballpoint needle in your machine) – put it nice and long… around a 4.  Stitch all the way around, nice and even, while stretching the fabric a wee little bit.  What are you doing… you’re evening it up with a straight stitch – but by stretching, you allow the tank/elastic to stretch a little bit after you’re done.  You couldn’t do this with the ruffle stitches still in… hence the elastic stitch the first time.


  1. Love this! I am going to make one for my gd just the second I get home. THANKS!

  2. So cute Kristi!!!! I just love this! And thank you - I have not made a tank dress yet and had been wondering how to do it. Now I have no excuse!!! :)

  3. Thanks for the tutorial! Can't wait to make one of these!

  4. Saw your post on HDH - Nice Tutorial thanks for sharing!

  5. great tutorial! AND that dress is SO SO CUTE

  6. Great tutorial - can't wait to try it.

  7. Looks great and was easy to read and follow. Thanks for sharing it. I might get brave enough to try one this summer.

  8. Love the tut and the dress !! cant wait to try to make one myself.... thanks for being so generous !


  9. Great tute! Thanks. Super cute. I bought a ton of these tanks last week too

  10. Jemima CastlebergJune 5, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Yay, I can comment now :-)! Thanks for this tutorial and giveaway! I just got a few ON tank tops. I can't wait to try this!

  11. Awesome job, Kristi!! If only I could sew!!! Maybe you will motivate me as I continue reading your blog!

  12. Now I have to go and grab a couple of tanks and try and shrink my fabric stash a bit :)

  13. this is the most comprehensively detailed tutorial i've read on sewing and gathering--i've done it a bit as experiments and now know why my attempts didn't work--thank you SO much for taking the time to write it in such detail and show us in pictures how to do it correctly. I thought I knew what I was doing but am so excited to try again by doing it the right way! you rock!

  14. Thanks everyone!! Now share away... I'm going to give this away as soon as I reach 35 comments!! :)

  15. You know how much I ��your sewing!!! :-) Michelle

  16. Great tutorial Kristi! :) I need to buy some of those clear elastics and practice! Maybe one day I'll be as good as you... :)

  17. Thanks for sharing!