How to Make a Tank Top Pattern, Part 2

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Why, hello there!

It’s been a whirlwind past few weeks. I was in Chicago for an interview, visited my family for a few days and the headed to Cleveland, Ohio, to film two segments for It’s Sew Easy. I believe the segments will air sometime in December or January.


Speaking of segments, if you’re interested in catching my Sew It All episode on sewing and matching plaid garments, it’s airing in September! Check your local PBS listings to see when it airs in your area.


Now where were we before I left on my trip… ahh yes, the tank top pattern! I’ll tell you what, I still can’t stop making these. I’ve added another 3 to my collection, although one of them found a new home in my mom’s wardrobe when I visited her.


If you didn’t already make the front tank top pattern, you can read about that here. You should already have your pattern front drawn up before you start on your pattern back. It will be much easier to compare the shoulder and side seams this way.

FrontBodiceExtension5Looking at your back pattern piece, you may notice that it has a dart on the shoulder seam. Some fitting shell patterns and sloper pieces do not have a dart at the shoulder, and that’s okay. If your shoulders aren’t very rounded, you can still have a nicely draped top without this dart. It is up to you as to whether you decide to keep this dart on your garment or remove it.

BodiceBacksIf you follow the front tank pattern instructions, the neckline and armhole of your back tank pattern should already be adjusted for a more scooped neck and the shoulder seam of the back pattern piece should match up with the width of the front shoulder seam.

BodiceStrapAdjustmentsBodiceStrapAdjustmentsBTo adjust the length of the pattern back, begin by lengthening the center back seam from the current waistline down to the hip line.

BackBodExt1From the bottom of this line, just as you did with the front pattern piece, you will draw a line that is perpendicular to the center back along the hip line. Measure out on this line one HALF of your BACK hip measurement, and make a mark. We only use half of the back hip because we’re only making half of the back pattern, as the pattern piece is cut on fold.

BackBodExt2Now, your waist width does not match the width of half of your hip. If it does… well… you may not have a butt. In that case I’m sorry about your lack of a rear end, because they are fun, but at least you’ll get to skip this next step and just draw a line straight down your side seam from the waist to the hip.

For those of you with rear curves, draw a line on your back pattern piece from the waist to your armhole that is about 1.5” in from the side seam. Cut along this line, keeping the pattern attached at the armhole.

BackBodExt3Pivot this piece out until the side seam could create a straight line to match up with your hip measurement. Draw the line to finish your side seam length, and smooth out your adjusted armhole curve.

BackBodExt4Compare the side seam length of your front and back pattern pieces, and also double-check that the shoulder seam widths match. The necklines, shoulder seam, armhole, side seam and hemlines should all meet at 90º angles, even if they only hold the 90º for a very short distance.

BackBodExt5I would recommend that you add a generous amount of ease to this pattern. Remember that after you decide how much ease you’d like to add, you divide that number by 4, since it will be distributed on both sides of the front pattern, and both sides of the back pattern. I added a total of 1” of ease to my pattern at the bustline (so 1/4” at the side seams), and 4.5” of ease at the hips (1.125” at the hipline).

TankEase1If you would like to alter the hem to have a scoop like I did, measure along your side seam from your waist down to where you would like the highest point of your hemline to be. Try to make your hem have a very gentle slope to it, or it will be a bit more difficult to hem the shirt. The curved hemline is really nice because since the hemline is higher than your hipline, it allows you to have more ease thru the hip, since the garment doesn’t have to fit over your hip width. My hemline is raised up 4” from my hipline on my side seam. Check your side seam lengths as you shorten the hem, to make sure they are still the same length on each pattern piece.


TankEase4You’re almost done! The next step is to shorten your dart length. Right now, the dart on the front dart points all the way to the apex. Based on the flatness of your bust point, you will want to shorten your dart point anywhere from 3/4” to 2” away from the apex point. The pointier your bust is, the closer your dart point will need to be to your apex. The more rounded your bust is, the farther away your dart point should be. You may want to play around with how long your dart should be when you make your tank top muslin. The style of bra that you wear can definitely change the shape of your breast and affect the dart length.

TankEase5And lastly, your pattern needs seam allowance! Since I sew my tank top seams on my serger, I gave my pattern 1/4” seam allowance. You can give your pattern whatever seam allowance width you prefer. Many pattern companies use 5/8”, but that’s a bit much. I’d recommend you use no more than 1/2” of seam allowance.

When drawing the seam allowance around your dart ends, you may find that it’s easier to complete this once you’re cutting out your pattern. Draw your seam allowance lines all around the pattern, and then fold the darts closed in the direction they will be pressed and cut along the seam allowance line. This gives you the correct seam allowance shaping for your dart.

TankSeamAllowOnce you’re finished, draw your fold lines on the center front and center back pattern lines. Write any information you’ll need on the pattern, such as what you decide to name it (Really Handmade Tank Pattern is fine by me!), and perhaps your bust, waist and hip measurements, along with the date that you made the pattern, and list the amount of ease and seam allowance the pattern has.

TankSeamAllow2Next up in this tank top series I’ll show you how quick and easy it is to sew one of these up!

  • angie

    Hi Amy, thank you for all of that… some RUTs in there for me (Really Useful Tips…) especially the bit about butts being fun… Also the 90 degree angles and the folding of the dart when adding the seam allowance on the outside of the pattern. I went off and bought the 60’s sewing book you mentioned and another 70’s one (by Peggy Hayden called the Complete Dressmaker) and it’s really helpful with the detail on making a block as well as being so detailed on other stuff.
    I still haven’t done anything with all this information though, I’m trying to get lots of cycling done before the weather changes and the lovely long evenings disappear ( which it does soon where I am-lots of sewing time then during the dark evenings…)
    Your attention to detail and thorough explanations are second to none….. for someone like me who doesn’t have a teacher/Nearby-Clothes-Sewing-Mentor! (or those TV channels for that matter) it’s Excellent.Thanks again! (PS now you have us curious about your interview….?!)

    • Hi Angie! You’re very welcome. I’m glad I finally got the back tank tutorial done. Drawing those images is what takes me forever! Nice comments like yours is what makes the time it takes worth it though. I’m so glad to know that you’re learning from it all!

      Good! I’m glad you found a copy of that sewing book. I say the older the book, the better the information. It might be good to wait until the weather changes before you get started. It’ll be hard to stop making patterns once you get going.

      I can’t tell you much about the interview, I’m afraid. Some things are secret! 😉

  • Oh darn…you got this done before I finished my sloper! (Mostly because I got distracted by other sewing things and going out of town and the weeks it seems to take to recover from one week being gone-how does that happen?!) I think my new goal is to get one of these shirts and the carry on bag done before I go to Disney. That’s like 2.5 weeks. Totally do-able…. right? (It should be, but…) 🙂 I did do a knit dress and skirt from the fabric I bought last spring on my serger. Took all of 3 seams a piece and I didn’t hem either of them!

    • It’ll be posted up here forever, Branalyn, so there’s no worry! I think it’s totally do-able for you to have one of these tank tops done by the time you go on your trip. You’ll be very happy to have it, because they’re so easy and nice to wear. I’ve been meaning to make a knit dress like the one you described, but finding the just the right knit is hard for me. I’m too picky! 🙂

  • Pingback: How to Sew a Tank Top Pattern, Part 3 / Amy Alan / Really Handmade()

  • This is incredible – I had been wondering about how to make the perfect dart tank for absolutely ages and today stumbled across this post – I cant believe how perfect, well written and well presented it is! Looking forward to giving this a try!! 🙂

    • Thank you very much! I hope your tanks turn out perfectly. I still love these and make new ones every summer.