Spring has just begun, but the Texas heat will be fast approaching (in fact it was 90 degrees yesterday), and a tank dress is the perfect wardrobe solution on a hot day. Martta and I have each made my daughter dresses from cotton quilters fabric, but for some reason, she just isn’t keen on wearing them. It could be her 3 year old stubbornness, but maybe they just aren’t as comfortable as her regular shirts made from knit cotton.
So, the tank dress trial was born from a little girl needing something comfortable, and easy to wear while playing.
There are tutorials all over the internet, so I am not reinventing the wheel here, but I will show some photos of my process.
For the main part of the skirt I started with a piece of fabric 42″x16″. I did not want to have a seam down the back of the skirt, so I cut it in half leaving me with 2 pieces 21″x16″. I also wanted to have a contrasting hem to add a little visual interest, and break up the busy pattern. I cut fabric strips 2.5 inches wide and 21″ long to match my main skirt width. I bought an inexpensive tank top for under $4.
I started by measuring my daughter to see where I wanted the skirt to start, and how long I wanted it to fall. I cut the tank top straight across measuring 3.5″ down from the bottom of the arm hole. 3-4 inches is good for a 3-4 yr old child.
Then I measured from my 3.5 inch drop down to where I wanted it to end on her leg… just about her knee. For me this was 14″, but this will depend on the height of your child. I added 2 inches to allow for seam allowances, which is why my cut fabric was 16″.
Sew the 2 pieces of your main fabric together so you have a long piece again, and repeat with the hem pieces. You will want to pin your hem piece to the skirt piece (right sides facing), and sew using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Use pinking shears to trim the excess from your seam allowance. If you have a serger, you can serge the edge to finish it, or even use a zig zag stitch. Then flip it down and press flat with your iron.
Unfortunately, I did not take photos of the hemming process, but it is simple. Using your iron, fold 1/4″ up toward the wrong side, and press, folding a few inches and pressing until you reach the end of your fabric. Then fold it up another 1/4″ and press again. I add pins at this point to hold the hem in place when I sew it down. Sew the hem down approx 1/4″ from the end of your fold.
To close the skirt, sew right sides together at the open ends, and again, use pinking shears to trim the excess.
Sew a gathering stitch 3/8″ to 1/2″ from the top of your skirt, where it will meet the tank top. Pull your bobbin thread to gather the skirt until it matches the circumference of your tank top. This part was a little tricky for me because the ribbed knit on the tank top is stretchy! Do your best and trust that the stretchy material will hide a lot!
Flip your cut tank top inside out and slip it over the skirt. You want right sides facing again! No inside out skirts! Although with some fabrics that might be cute. Pin the skirt to the tank, matching up the side seams.
Start sewing from one of the side seams, and follow all the way around the the end. Be sure to backstitch, you don’t want this unraveling! Also, if you have this stitch on your machine, use the stitch for knits. On my machine it’s called a super stretch stitch, and is for stretchy fabrics like knits. It looks like a zig-zag stitch on a slight angle.
Flip your tank out and you’re done! Then try to get your model to cooperate… P.S. She is wearing the fabric flower clip I made with the same fabric!
After looking at the dress for a couple of hours, I decided it needed something more. The top was a little plain for me, considering the busy fabric in the skirt.
I took a scrap piece of skirt material, cut all the edges with my pinking shears to reduce fraying, and sewed a gathering stitch 1/4″ from one edge. The I rolled it around and pinned part of it on the tank. I sewed it in place and then hand stitched a coordinating button in the center. I know this makes little sense, but I honestly flew by the seat of my pants on this part. I figured my good pal the seam ripper could rescue me if it was a complete mess.
Here is the finished dress! I am so happy about how it turned out, and my daughter is excited to wear it. I guess I’ll be looking for more ways to personalize a knit shirt!
What are your ideas for embellishing knit tops or bottoms? Please share with us! We’d love to hear about your ideas!
I’m linking this project here: