How to Make the Perfect Summer Tank Top

with video tutorial

MAR 22, 2017 updated May 17, 2021

Today we’re going to show you how to sew a custom tank top using a yard of Spoonflower’s Modern Jersey (or something else stretchy) and the easiest pattern around… tracing your favorite tank top! Making your own tank tops is so fun and easy that once you know how you’ll never buy them from a store again. So go rummage through your drawers and find a well-loved tank top…we’re about to make something awesome! And don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube channel for more DIY sewing and design tutorials!

Materials List

  • 1 yard of fabric
  • A tank top that fits you perfectly
  • Fabric pen
  • Rotary blade or fabric scissors
  • Sewing machine or serger
  • If you don’t have a serger, you can use a zig-zag stitch on a regular sewing machine
Skill Level

Beginner

Spoonflower Suggests....

Spoonflower’s Modern Jersey is a great option for this tutorial! The design used in this tutorial is Roses are Blue by hugandkiss.

Optional: Walking Foot

We don’t go over this in the video, but a walking foot is optional because while it’s not necessary, it helps with buckling/tension issues that knits can have. Paula uses one every time she sews with a knit. If you don’t have one, don’t worry, nothing about the tutorial will change.

A note about sewing ‘in the round’

Before we get started, I want to make a note about necklines and arms–I do my necklines and arms differently than most patterns call for: I sew everything flat while most patterns do things in the round (which refers to sewing things with circular hems like sleeves, pant cuffs, necklines, etc.). Sewing necklines and arms ‘In the round’ gives you a more professional finish, but is harder for beginners. My method saves you from headaches that tend to discourage beginners BUT it might make things seem out of order. However–I promise it’s fine. Just trust in your old friend Paula.

Process

– Start out by pre-washing and drying your fabric according to the Spoonflower care instructions. Then trim off the white selvage edges.

Fold each edge of your fabric in to meet in the middle

– Lay fabric face up. Fold each edge in a quarter- so you have two useable folded edges.

Tracing around a well-loved tank top

– Fold your tank top in half and lay it along one of the folded edges. Trace around your tank top with your fabric marker and be sure to leave enough room for a ½” seam allowance!

Tracing the back of your tank top

– Do the same step for the back of your tank with the other foldable edge of your modern jersey. 

Cutting out pattern pieces and display

– Cut out the front and back pieces in your Modern Jersey, They should look like this.

Serging neckline of tank top

– Sew ONE shoulder seam together, then serge over the same shoulder seam.  Serge the raw edge of the neckline and the completed arm hole

topstitching neckline

– Now we’re going to top stitch over the raw edges we just serged. Fold the serged edge of the neckline towards the unprinted side of the fabric, and then top stitch along the edge. Do the same with the arm hole.

topstitching display - one side completed!

– Your tank top should now look like this, with one side of the neck and armhole completed. Sew and serge the seam of the second shoulder, then repeat the process of sewing, serging, and topstitching to finish the second armhole.

Serging the side seam of the table

-Next up, the side seams. Pin in place, Sew ONE side seam, and then serge to finish.

– Now we’re going to get a little crazy and finish the bottom edge BEFORE we finish the second side seam. Just trust me, it’s going to look awesome 🙂 Serge the bottom edge of your tank top.

Hemming the bottom of the tank top. Almost finished!

Fold the serged edge towards the wrong side of the fabric about ½”. Pin every few inches to keep in place.

Top stitching the bottom hem

Then top stitch with a 1/2″  seam allowance to hem the bottom edge.

To finish up, were going to stitch and serge the second side seam

-Finally, we’re going to sew and serge the second side seam.

And that’s it. Put on and admire your awesome new tank top! You now know the infinitely useful skill of custom tank top making. All of your friends will be very jealous now, so be nice and put your new skill to good use by making them presents. Leave your questions and comments below. Happy making!

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  • I see you are using a walking foot. Why? I never thought of using one with knit fabric.

    Thanks

  • I used to make my own tanks, tees, and even scrub shirts all the time. Thanks for reminding me, and for the new “order” outlook!

  • Is the top-stitching done with a regular straight stitch or a stretch stitch? It appears you are doing a regular straight stitch, but it is not clear how the top stitching affects the stretchability of the fabric.

  • Mary Fitzpatrick

    Excellent video. It’s always nice when someone has a bubbly personality and provides easy to follow instructions. Thanks!

  • I love your attitude!!! Yes -sew in the flat whenever you can -so much easier. I teach AG doll sewing and produce for fairs and I use sewing flat all the time. You can imagine sewing tiny arm cuffs etc in the round-NOT
    Sewing in the flat saves a ton of time and tears. Thanks for the nice tute. Peggy in Madison.

  • First of all I love the hair and the 40’s/50’s look ! I’m amazed at how little time it took. I want to try this, but I’d like more info on the zigzag stitch. I have my Nana’s Free-Westinghouse, and I’m not sure if it zigzags. Besides, servers scare the daylight savings out of me… 😄😄😄. Thanks in advance, Donna S.

    • Hi Donna! When sewing with stretch fabrics you will definitely need either a zig zag stitch (some machines have a setting for what they simply call a “stretch stitch”) or a serger (which is not scary, promise!). If you no longer have the manual to the machine since it’s older, I’d suggest taking a scrap of knit fabric and doing some test stitches to start. Just go through every single one of the stitches on your machine and see which ones allow for the fabric to stretch. I’m sure you must have some kind of stretch stitch, even the very old machines from the 80s usually have something, even if it’s super basic. Let us know how it works out for you, and thanks for your comment!