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Tutorial: How to change a t-shirt to a tank

Next up — how to take that basic t-shirt pattern and hack it into a tank top!

Creative Counselor: Tee to tank hack

Now if you are using the Only Tee (affiliate link) or a similar pattern, you may notice that it already has tank cut lines.  You certainly can go ahead and use those and call it a day.  But I’m picky when it comes to my tank tops, and I have never encountered a t-shirt pattern with tank cut lines that has straps thin enough for my liking.  I don’t want spaghetti straps, but I do like my tank tops to be distinctly tanks rather than sleeveless tees, which means that I tend to narrow that shoulder area quite a bit more than the tank cut lines included in the pattern.

How to Turn a Tee into a Tank:

Luckily, it’s a very simple modification to take any basic tee pattern and turn it into a tank top.  For this mod, all you are doing is narrowing the shoulder area of the pattern to your desired width.  And in doing so, you remove the excess fabric under the arm that a good t-shirt pattern will have built in for ease of movement with a sleeve.

Creative Counselor: Tee to tank hack

The first thing to know when you’re making this modification is to know how wide you want your final strap to be.  I wanted mine to be about 2″ wide after the bands were attached.

Since the Only Tee has 1/2″ seam allowances, and my bands would be 2″ wide (1″ when they are folded in half lengthwise), that means that the finished bands will add about 1/2″ of width on both sides of the main strap piece.  And since I need to add 1/2″ seam allowances to my strap piece, that means that I need to narrow the shoulders on my pattern piece so that they are 2″ wide.  As in 1/2″ armhole band + 1″ main strap + 1/2″ neckband = 2″ strap.  Make sense?

In practice, it looks like this:

Creative Counselor: Tee to tank hack

You will also see that I scooped out and lowered the armscye a little.  There’s no magic formula to this, but most of us like the armholes on our tank tops to be a little deeper than on a t-shirt.

And don’t forget the back piece:

Creative Counselor: Tee to tank hack

Once this is done, construction will pretty much follow the pattern instructions, except that you will finish the armholes with bands just like the neckline.

If you need a formula for calculating your arm bands (you can just be lazy like me and use my “stretch and feel” method if you’d like 🙂 ), measure the circumference of your arm opening and then cut a band that is 2″ wide by 85% of the opening.  So if your opening is 15″ in circumference, you would cut two band pieces that were 2″ x 12.75″.

It really is that easy!  And if you want thinner straps, you can either cut your main piece narrower, or use a binding to finish the openings rather than bands.  So there is no need to buy a separate tank pattern if you already have a great tee pattern in your stash!

Don’t forget that you can pick up the Only Tee for 35% off with the code “B2B” and be sure to link up your basic makes here.

All fabrics in this post are sponsored by Simply by Ti Fabrics.


5 thoughts on “Tutorial: How to change a t-shirt to a tank

      1. Thanks for answering Katie, Do you use freezer paper to trace around cut out patterns, or to trace from original pattern pieces? (I didn’t think you could see through freezer paper.) I need a see through. (I’m using a too heavy – but free- velum paper now, and looking for something lighter, and cheap, errr inexpensive, errr cost effective!) Thanks!

        1. I don’t have a problem seeing through the freezer paper. It’s not as easy to see through as something like tracing paper, but it’s a lot sturdier than that and cheaper. It only costs about $3.50 for a roll, so if it doesn’t work for you, at least you’re not out a lot of money:) I love swedish tracing paper when I have it, but it’s just too expensive for me to use on a regular basis. And if I ever have non-woven interfacing sitting around, I’ll use that too.

          1. Thanks Katie. I really appreciate your advice and TIME. I invested (ha ha!) in some freezer paper and will give it a shot. (I sorta cry every time I cut into my husband’s expensive vellum.) Long gone are the days that carefree me just hacked into the original pattern!

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