Make: Sewing a Tiny Racerback Tank

It's sunny in San Francisco and I'm in dire need of new tank tops.  I live in my workout clothes because they are comfortable and are racerback.  I've been on the hunt for woven racerback tank tops, but most don't fit my short torso, so I decided to make my own!  I found Pinterest to be full of ideas for making the Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank and Wiksten Tank.  Larissa from mmmcrafts even provides a great post where she compares both tanks.  However, these two patterns don't provide racerback options.

After searching high and low for a pattern suitable for woven fabrics, I decided to create my own pattern.  There isn't a shortage of "create your own tank or tshirt pattern" videos on YouTube, but Coolirpa's Summer Dress Tutorial is very clear and her results are so cute!  I added a dart to the pattern with the help of a few sewing books and Sure-Fit Design's video: How To Add A Dart.  I sewed multiple muslin samples and kept adjusting my pattern.  I'm pretty happy with the end result except that the woven fabric I chose is a bit too stiff.  I'd like to try this with lightweight shirting fabric next.

Prepping Fabric

  1. Pre-wash, dry and iron your fabric according to your fabric's care instructions.

    • I steam pressed this fabric using a spray bottle and a simple iron.  I don't like to use the steam bursts from my iron since it has a tendency to leak all over my fabric.  If you know a way to stop this please leave a comment below!

  2. Pin your pattern to the fabric.  Using a magnetic pin cushion makes for easy cleanup.

  3. Use a tracing wheel and wax free tracing paper to transfer any sewing guides/marks to your fabric.

    • I only had red transfer paper on hand so it was difficult to see the markings.  I have highlighted the markings in red for you to see.

Sewing Darts

  1. Fold your dart down the middle line.  Pinch the edges together and smooth with your fingers.  Then use an iron to get a crisp fold.
  2. Sew along the outside lines of the dart.  Start at the raw edge of the tank top and sew towards the dart point.  Once you get close to the end, slow down and use your hand wheel to get a thread away from the point.  Use a locking stitch at the dart point.  Leave about 2 inches of thread and tie a knot close to the point to avoid a dimple.  Threads Magazine also provides a few alternate methods: Three Techniques to Reach Dart Points.
  3. Crease your dart flat so that the dart points towards the bottom of your tank top.
  4. Stay stitch the dart down within the side seam allowance.

Stitching Together and Stay Stitches

  1. Pin the front and back together at the sides.
  2. Stitch using a sewing machine.
    • I like to face the ends of my pins to my right so that I can easily take the pins out using my dominant hand before stitching.  Some people like to keep the pins in and sew, but this scares me too much!
  3. Optional: Use a serger to finish off the raw seam edges.
  4. Hem the bottom.
  5. Stitch together the shoulder seams.
    • Tip: Use tape to keep your shoulder seams together before stitching.  This is useful if you have a thin strap like my tank top pattern.  Just be sure to test the tape on scrap fabric to avoid any sticky residue on your finished product.
  6. Stay stitch the neck and armhole openings within the seam allowance.

Bias Facing

You can choose to use store bought bias tape or make your own.  For this project I decided to try making my own bias tape (the hard way). The steps below outline how I made my own bias tape.  For easier alternative, take a look at Craftsy's Continuous Bias Quilt Binding tutorial.

  1. Cut out a square piece of fabric.
  2. Use the ruler or cutting mat as a guide to get a straight edge diagonal line.  Taping down the ruler to the fabric will help keep the ruler from moving.
  3. Tape your first piece of masking tape next to the ruler.  The second piece should be placed next to the first piece without overlap or a large gap.  You can choose to keep a very small gap between the pieces as a cutting ditch.
  4. Use sharp scissors or a rotary cutter to cut each strip.
  5. Remove tape from each strip.  Be careful not to stretch the bias binding too much.
  6. Attach two pieces together.  Iron down the seam and snip off excess fabric.
  7. Pin and sew your bias facing using this technique described by Grainline Studios.  


So I stretched my bias tape too much while either pinning or sewing and since this tank top has a very wide neckline the bias facing tilted outwards.  This was not flattering since it showed my bra and it was a very big DIY tell.  I needed to pull in the neckline a bit so I cut the front vertically down the center (AHHHH)!  I sewed the shirt back together using a 5/8 seam allowance for 2 inches starting from the neckline.  After 2 inches, I tapered the seam allowance to 3/8 inches and continued for the remainder of the fabric.  And that's why there is a pattern mismatch down the front of my shirt...