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Hello. It’s the dead of winter. So — of course — I’m making more sleeveless tops.
This is my life. I’m warm all year round (except for my fingers and toes) and I am an avid layerer. Tank + sweater/cardigan = me in the winter. Just tank = me in the summer. The other seasons are a mix of both. Rarely do I choose a t-shirt. I don’t like things too close up against my underarms. I don’t know why. Maybe because I sweat like a monkey.
Do monkeys sweat? We won’t get into that here.
Enter: The Hepburn Top & Dress PDF pattern from Patterns for Pirates (affiliate link).
I first sewed up this pattern last spring in a short-sleeved style, which is actually quite feminine and pretty but — for reasons mentioned above — it doesn’t get much wear.
I’m trying to ease myself into the world of tees, but for now, I wanted a new tank.
And I had the perfect fabric to make it with: Bamboo rib knit in Spring Leaf from Sitka Fabrics, a fabric company out of British Columbia that I had been wanting to order from forever. (Thanks, Mom, for the gift card this Christmas.) I knew just from the feel and the soft drape of this stuff when it arrived that it was the perfect material to use for a Hepburn tank.
… Okay, to be honest, I went back and forth a bunch on what I wanted to make with it because it felt so nice and I didn’t want to screw it up, but when I decided, I knew this would be the perfect fabric + pattern combo.
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Let’s get to it then.
As stated earlier, I knew from experience that a tank would get much more wear than a tee or a dress (though a tank dress would have looked really nice in this bamboo knit — and I may do that next time I sew up this pattern). I had to make the decision between a cropped tank and a full length.
Despite the fact that I have absolutely no problem with other women of any generation wearing anything they want, it’s been hard for me to wear crops or even just shorter tees in general. I have a long torso and I also grew up in a time of low-rise flared jeans where butt cracks were excited to peek out with any slight amount of bending, so getting used to shorter tops despite wearing higher rise pants now has been a ‘thing’ I can’t yet overcome. I have made a different style crop workout top which looks fantastic but have so far not managed to wear it to the gym. (I’ll actually be blogging about that one soon.)
Anyway! Enough of my psychological issues! I chose the full length tank — this time.
Making the Grade
I graded between 3 sizes for this pattern. Grading was easily done using my projector. I selected only the size layers I needed in the PDF, wrote down the sizes I needed to cut to for each body measurement (overbust, bust, waist, hip), projected the pattern onto my cutting mat and glided smoothly from one line to the next with my rotary cutter.
You can also make lines or dots to connect with a heat-erasable markers on the fabric to do this. I like Frixion pens but there are others available. Sometimes I find that marking it moves my fabric around too much. I usually just eyeball it and it lines up fine.
I mention projectors in nearly every post because mine has saved me so much time and effort, but I am by no means an expert on them. The Projectors for Sewing group on Facebook is perhaps the most helpful, quick to help troubleshoot, no-drama group you will ever encounter and I can’t say kind enough words about them. I have affiliate-linked two projectors below that are often found to be compatible with sewing according to that group — not all projectors are.
The Clear Elastic Curse
The neckline and armscyes in this pattern require 3/8″ clear elastic, as well as optional clear elastic in the shoulder seams to stabilize them. You may have noticed this in the shoulders of some of your RTW (storebought) tees, tanks and dresses. It keeps the garment from stretching out in those areas and gives a cleaner look — ideally. I say ideally because this is the first time it’s ever worked out that way for me. Hah. Clear elastic can be annoying to work with, and this seems to be the consensus with a lot of sewists but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Exercise that elastic well before you measure and cut it. I like to cut it a little longer than the place you’ll be sewing it, and trim the extra afterward. I just find this makes it easier.
Hot tip: When sewing with clear elastic, if using your serger, you want to sew it in, edges aligned, so the edge of your elastic right along the raw edge of your neckline with your BLADE UP. I put that in caps because if you don’t put your BLADE UP!!! (exclamation point! bold!) you will end up cutting through the elastic which makes it uneven which will weaken it, and it’ll probably break and then you’ll probably be very sad. I know I would be.
Welp. I ran out of clear elastic after I did the neckline.
Oh no! What to do?
With a quick search in the P4P Patterns Facebook group, I found a suggestion to just finish the armscyes with bands.
Band width: 1.5″ x armscye length(*0.85)
In this case the armscye was 23.25″, so I multiplied that by 0.85 (or 85 percent) and got about 19.75″ length. So, final band cut for this project was 2 long rectangles at 1.5″ x 19.75″, with the longer part having the greatest stretch. You can adjust the percentage but I find it usually 80-85% works well for knits.
Band Camp 101:
Sew together the short ends of the rectangle you cut for your band
Fold wrong sides together (WST) lengthwise (hot dog style)
Mark 4 quarters of bands and armholes
Match those quarters up, right sides together (one right side of the band against the right side of your garment, raw edges aligned), keeping the band seam where you sewed your short ends together at the back of the armhole
Stretch only the bands as you sew
These are probably among the cleanest bands I’ve ever made in my sewing lifetime (yay!), but I can totally see why the elastic is written into the pattern instead.
There is some gaping between the front of the armholes and my body. It’s not unbearable and I will probably either sew elastic into the seam allowance of the bands when I get some more, or I will make a small dart to tighten up each armhole. In a pinch, the bands worked well and I’m not too bothered.
This pattern’s top length option features a split seamed hemline. This can be intimidating, and it was for me the first time I ever did it, but it is much easier when you focus and follow directions, as I learned this time around. (Hehe) I love the way the split hem looks because it’s not grabbing onto my hips and allows the fabric to drape as it should.
I’m in love with the green, and the beautiful clean lines of this tank. Heck, if I knew how to accessorize, this would make a really nice top for a night out, paired with some cute woven shorts or maybe a cropped pant. I’m not big on skirts, but I bet that could work too.
The only thing I would do differently next time is make sure I have enough clear elastic on hand or cut the bands maybe to 80% of the armscye length.
So, what do you think?
Have you tried this pattern yet? If you’d like to try it and this post has been valuable, please consider using my P4P affiliate link! I’d love to hear what you think of my P4P Hepburn tank — and my short sleeved one — in the comments section below!
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