Friday, 5 October 2018

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Tank


Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes a women's one. I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those of you who plan to get their sew on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.


I'm really excited to be highlighting this free pattern today because, if you've got kids between 18m and 6 years old, it could become your new favourite pattern, no matter what season you're currently heading towards. I can attest to this tank pattern being a fabulous addition to a kid's summer wardrobe, but I'm also expecting these tanks to do a turn as a useful under-layer during winter. The pattern is by Life Sew Savoury (AKA Nap Time Creations), a big thanks to Emily for sharing this for free. It's labelled 'Girls Free Tank Pattern', but I totally think it's a very unisex style, and I've made a couple for Frankie to prove it.


Pattern type:

I've always known this type of garment to be referred to as a 'vest', so I'm struggling to type 'tank' in this post, but whatever you call this simple, sleeveless, close-fitting garment made from knit fabric, you probably already know them as a wardrobe essential. With this pattern, you can start making them yourself, hoovering up a lot of your knit scraps in the process. Seam and hem allowances are included, and the neck and arm hole bindings are indicated as measurements.


Sizing info:

This pattern is graded for approximately 18 months to 6 years, but the blog post/instructions and the pieces themselves handily include chest measurements, so I'd recommend going by those rather than on age alone. Of course, the stretchiness of your fabric will always effect the fit of the final garment, and you may be aiming for a closer or looser fit anyhow. For reference, The green hearts and green floral tanks you see in this post are a size 4 (with the size 5 length), and Dolores was 4.5yo and average-to-slim build when these pics were taken. Based on the outcome of those garments, I decided to make the size 3 for Frankie for next summer when he'll be 2yo, as he's a slightly sturdier build.


Fabric info:

A 'thin t-shirt fabric' is recommended for the front and back pieces of this pattern, and I like that the designer also encourages us to upcycle unwanted t-shirts for this project. She doesn't specify a percentage of stretch, or if the t-shirt knit should contain elastane, so you may need to bare in mind the properties of your chosen fabric going in and consider your sizing choice accordingly, but otherwise I'd recommend experimenting with all those small bits of jersey you been holding on to. I've been using up all sorts of small pieces of knit I've had knocking around, from 100% cotton (the green hearts and pale grey flecked), to mysterious slinky stuff that probably includes elastane (the green floral), to cotton that DEFINITELY includes elastane (the pirate print) and even 100% cotton baby-rib knit (the caravan print, maroon and yellow). 

The neck and arm hole bindings/bands are designed to be made in rib, but if you use a different type of knit fabric for them, it is suggested that you add extra length if it's less stretchy than rib. Personally, I found that when I used a cotton jersey with sizeable elastane content for the bindings, I didn't need to add any extra length. 





Findings:

With the binding/band pieces given as measurements rather than actual pattern pieces, this pattern requires a pleasingly small amount of printer paper and ink. I also enjoyed how the binding/band measurements AND the sizing/chest measurements are written on the actual pattern pieces as well as being included in the blog post/instructions, which is handy if, like me, you usually do the cutting and the actual making of sewing projects on different days. 

As I've mentioned, the instructions take the form of a blog post, which I really like for quick little projects with relatively few steps like this because I find it easier to refer to my phone than getting the laptop out.


Generally, I love this little pattern, which you might have guessed at by the number of versions I've made. But I've have found a few little niggles with it that I think are worth mentioning. Firstly, the front and back shoulder seams (at least on the sizes I've made) are of slightly different lengths and, therefore, don't quite match up. Secondly, the neck line on the back piece isn't at a right angle with the fold line at the centre back, so if you cut it exactly as the pattern piece suggests, the result will be a slight 'V' rather than a smooth curve. Thirdly, and this is a personal preference thing, I found the neck and arm hole binding measurements result in bands that are a bit narrow for my liking, especially on the smaller sizes. And lastly, because the hem kind of curves up at the side seams, I would suggest hemming the front and back pieces BEFORE stitching the side seams, rather than leaving that step to the end.


Customisation ideas:
  • Use contrast solid or patterned fabric for the bindings/bands
  • Use a solid knit for the front and bold, patterned knit for the back, or vice versa
  • Add a cute little breast pocket
  • Applique or fabric-paint a design on the front
  • Apply a layer of stretch lace over a solid knit on the front piece, or all over
  • Straighten and shorten the hem, then add a gathered rectangle of fabric to turn this tank into a summer dress
  • Skip the topstitching around the neck and arm holes for a cleaner look


Would I make it again?

What? Aside from the seven times I've already made it?! Yes. I would definitely make it again, and I intend to each year until both my children grow out of the size range. 

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