pattern hacking


Summer still lingers here so I’m catching up on writing up the last of my summer projects before I move on into my fall makes.  Earlier in the summer, I picked up a few t-shirts at the thrift store for refashions.  One of them, you already saw me re-make in my Split Flutter Sleeve hack video.  The other 3 I decided to remake with some cutout features.  I often use t-shirt refashions as a way to test out ideas and think creatively about knits.  So here are 3 Cutout t-shirt refashions for you.


cutout t-shirt refashions

Blue print before

Before I show you each one, I have to show where they started.  The blue shirt is a cotton Calvin Klein tee that has a low v in the front that’s trimmed with twill tape.  There’s also some smocking on the front shoulders.  The blue is one of my blues in my color palette, and I really liked the print.  It’s not often that I find prints that are perfectly in my palette, so when I find them, I grab them.

cutout t-shirt refashions

Peach stripe before

The varying stripes on this white/peach cotton tee were really intriguing to me.  I’m a big fan of Pauline and her amazing stripe creations, so I thought I’d try my hand at doing something to utilize the stripes in a way that she might.

cutout t-shirt refashions

J Crew green tee of doom before

Spoiler alert on this green J Crew tee.  It did not turn out as I wanted.  It’s one of those evil cotton knits that expand when you blink at them.  As such it did not do what I wanted it to do.  I should have passed by it, but the green was so pretty, and it was J Crew so I figured (erroneously) that it was quality.  Dear J Crew, you really should do better.

Chop, chop, chippity chop

Inspiration at the baseball game

cutout t-shirt refashions

My older two boys play baseball, and there was one night we were leaving practice and I saw another Mom with the cutest tee.  It had a back low v-neck with an X made from strips of the fabric across the upper back.  I liked it so much, I scrawled a rough sketch on a scrap of paper in the car.  Do you do this when you see a cool detail on someone on the street?

The blue tee was easy to turn into a version of this.  I cut the back from the front since it already had the v-neck detail.  I also scooped out a little bit more of the neck.  The bottom of the twill tape was too low for a back (and really for a front too), so I stitched it up the now center back to a better height.

I cut a couple of 3″ strips to make into turned tubes for the X back.  Because the corners of the twill tape were a little floppy on the back, I attached one end of each of the X strips to the corners.  The other ends I attached under the new neckline after it was bound.  I pinned each of the other ends under the neckline after it was bound to the point where the X and the corners of the v-neck sat taut across the back.

The front is a simple neckline somewhere between a scoop and a crew, and I gave this one cap sleeves which have been perfect for summer.

Peach in a blender

My inspiration for this tee came from this Anthropologie tee I pinned on my t-shirt hacking board.

Tie-Back Tunic - anthropologie.com. $58. This color only :-(

I didn’t really like the gathered portion of the back, and the ties seemed overly fussy.  Instead, I opted for a plain yoke with the peekaboo center back beneath it.  My kids really got a kick out of the peekaboo when I was in the process of making it.

cutout t-shirt refashions

Stripe play

I was really lucky that I had not only a lot of extra width to deal with in this tee but a lot of extra length too.  I was able to cut the lower back with offset stripes.  They match the front on one side and are offset on the other side seam.

cutout t-shirt refashions

The upper back I cut from one of the sleeves, though I had to cut in in 2 pieces which I overlapped and stitched down with my coverstitch.  From the rest of that sleeve, I cut a bias tiny pocket for the front.

cutout t-shirt refashions

Can you believe that I could cut both of the cap sleeves from the other sleeve?  It’s not too often that I can do exactly what I have in my head in a refashion, but this was one of those times.

Cutout tank (*Not all your ideas are golden, Ponyboy.*)

So for the green tee, I wanted to do a cutout on the shoulder a bit like this Express tee.

Express Tops - Express Cut Out Shoulder Tank*NEW* size L

I knew that I wanted to make a bit of lattice work under the cutout, and that’s where things went south.  This green knit could not handle the extra manipulation.  It did not have the extra recovery it needed to stretch across the gap and hold well without overstretching.  You can see that the back neck is bagging out too.  This fabric had humble aspirations of being a plain basic tee and that’s it.

At first, my lattice ended up all stretched out and horrible.

cutout t-shirt refashions

I was able to unpick it and redo the intersections so that everything sat flat.  If only I had made the left front with the cutout from the beginning too instead of binding the armhole THEN cutting it out.  I think that would have been a cleaner look.  Still, given the recovery issues with the knit, I’m not sure I would have gotten a better result.

cutout t-shirt refashions

Ultimately, the tee is wearable, but it’s just not my best work.  I’d really like to try this idea out again this time from yardage in a more appropriate knit.

What the worst knit that you’ve ever sewn?  Could you salvage your project?  What did you learn in the process?


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Have you ever found yourself inspired by childrens’ clothing?

I’ve been on a bit a spree lately sewing these sleeveless shoulder frill tops for my daughter.  This particular one is Ottobre 3-2017-2.  Ottobre must love the little shoulder frills too because there’s a variant of the same style in every size range in this issue.

After the 3rd one, I could stand the cuteness no longer.  I had to make my own version!

Ottobre 3-2017-2

Pattern details

In addition to the frill on the shoulder, there’s a back yoke with pleats/gathers.  To be honest, I didn’t look at the specific directions.  On the rayon challis version I used gathers. The turquoise blue floral rayon has pleats, and I used a mix of pleats and gathers in the beach print.

Everything about this top is built for efficient sewing.  There’s no double layer on the yoke to finish the inside and the lack of a collar make for an ultra fast sew.  The directions want you to do a narrow hem on the frills, but I chose the even easier serger rolled hem.  Don’t say I didn’t tell you you’ll want to make a million of these.

Self bias vs. packaged binding

The front placket has 4 buttons and the armholes and neck are finished with bias strips.  This is one thing I love about Ottobre patterns.  Bias cut straight from the fabric you’re working with is so much nicer than packaged bias binding.  It always matches and there’s no hand change between the binding and the fashion fabric.  For sensitive baby skin this is a plus, and visually it’s a clean finish.

Rayon challis

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I did do a double layer yoke on the rayon challis.  It really needs the extra support because of it’s light weight and slippery hand.  Also, even though I love the fabric, rayon challis just might not be the best choice for an active toddler.  The heavy duty laundry treatment that kids’ clothes require are not coinciding with the more delicate cool water and ironing needs of the rayon.  I have some stains to attend to on this top at the moment!

Turquoise blue rayon?

This fabric is from my San Francisco fabric haul (from Fabric Outlet), and I will be ordering more.  I’m crossing my fingers that there’s still more at the store.  I’ve already used mine for a dress that I pattern tested for Designer Stitch this last week.

This fabric is a dream for kids and adults.  It doesn’t wrinkle (perhaps it’s a rayon/poly blend?), it has a beautiful drape, and it has enough weight to not require a lining.  The pleats were a little slippery, but I could easily finish the insides with my serger.  The bias was fiddly to deal with on the arms as it wanted to roll all over the place.   Hand basting kept things neat and it made for faster sewing.  Also, the edges of the frills look wonderfully crisp with the serger rolled hem.

Beachy print rayon

This beachy print is one of the remnants I found at Fabrix.  They had tons of fabric meant for board shorts, and I’m pretty sure that’s what this is.  It has that kind of stiff finish that board shorts have.  The base is definitely cotton.  By far, this fabric was the easiest to sew of the lot.  It pressed well and I didn’t have to pin or baste the bias at the armholes.

I love the combination of the bright orange and pink leaves with the blue stripes.  After this one, I dropped everything to make my own version.

Shoulder frill pattern hack

This is hardly a hack it’s so simple.  I started with DG Patterns’ Olvie Top as my base because it’s what I had on my table.  Any woven sleeveless tank would work for this.

  1. Measure 3″ from the shoulder seam along the armscye on the front and the back and make a mark.
  2. Cut two 3″x9″ rectangles on the bias for the shoulder frills.  It’s important that they are on the bias because they will make for a frill that drapes better.
  3. Mark the center of each frill.  Finish the short edges and one of the long edges with a serger rolled hem or a narrow hem.
  4. Run a basting stitch along the edges of the frills and pull the bobbin threads to gather.
  5. Match the frill center to the shoulder seam.  Distribute the gathers so that the ends stop at the marks you made in step one.
  6. Put right sides together and stitch the edge of the frill to the armhole.
  7. Finish each armhole with bias tape.  The frill will be sandwiched between the bias tape and the right side of the top.

There you go.  Super easy.  I will say that I closed up the back darts and made a back yoke as well as adding some fulness in back pleats.  It’s not necessary, but it makes it a little bit more like my daughter’s top.

I made mine from leftover fabric I salvaged from a really nice 100% cotton shower curtain.  I bought it a few years ago to make an apron.  It caught my eye because it’s one of my purples and it had a beautiful hand that’s way nicer than any shower curtain has the business of being.

DG Patterns’ Olvie Top

I have the sleeved version of this top on my table right now, and really, it needs to have the sleeve.  100% of sleeveless armholes need to be adjusted for me for proper side coverage.  In my petite state, I’m extra short between my shoulder and base of my armscye.  I usually don’t have a problem once a sleeve is popped into the armscye, but sleeveless styles are chief among my fitting nemeses.

To fix this one, I’m going to have to open up the side seams and make a vertical dart basically that takes the bulk out at the armhole and tapers to nothing where the bust dart is.  This will narrow the overall circumference, but there’s more than enough since this is a loose fitting style.

Back neck closure

There’s a center back seam on the pattern, but there’s no directions for a zipper.  The neck is very close fitting, so you really need to have some sort of back closure.  I ripped my muslin in the neck at CF in the process of getting it over my big noggin.  An invisible zipper would work well, or you could fold back the seam allowances to finish them at the top 4″ or so and add a loop and button.  I chose to add an exposed zipper with one of the zippers I found in San Francisco.

Here’s for some more subtle versions of Mommy and Me,


Winter Street geometric dress

Of course I was going to make something for The Monthly Stitch’s Pattern Hack week for Indie Pattern Month.  Pattern hacking is quickly becoming a favorite sport. The particular dress that I had in mind for this challenge I’ve had on my must make now docket for 2 years.  It’s inspired by Boden’s Alice dress that came out around that time.  Here’s the original:

Image result for boden alice ponte dressImage result for boden alice ponte dressImage result for boden alice ponte dress

I instantly was drawn to the colorblocking in the large scale geometric shapes and the easy-wearing silhouette.  Fabric magicked its way into my stash after I found this dress, but some of these initial fabrics were not the right colors I was looking for.  I bought the same green ponte twice from two different places.  “Coral” turned out to be neon orange and “soft yellow” turned out to be more like a school bus that got hosed down with a mustard cannon (Buy swatches people.  Ugly fabric is forever).  So this project got shelved until a pretty piece of salmon ponte came into my stash via Fabric Mart.  Can salmon save a colorblocking disaster?  It sure did for this Winter Street Geometric Dress!
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Winter Street geometric dress

Winter Street Geometric Dress Mash up!


The colors that I chose for this dress really remind me of a taffy shop.

picture from Taffy Town via Mental Floss

I always enjoyed seeing salt water taffy being made when I was a kid (more so than eating it), and the bright springy colors are just the sort that make me happy.  All of the fabrics are ponte, and the colors are salmon, white, spring green, and a light spring blue.  The primary yellow I got by dyeing pieces of the white fabric with Rit DyeMore in daffodil.


Winter Street geometric dress

For this particular hack, I used 3 1/2 ish different patterns.  All of the colorblocking was my own drawing of lines all over said patterns.  Here’s the rundown:

  1. Patternreview’s Winter Street Dress:  I love the bodice on this pattern.  It’s a nice easy scoopneck, and the waist seam hits me at a good spot.  I used this pattern before as my day dress for the Day and Night Dress Challenge.  A shortened version of the patterns’ sleeve was used.  I would’ve used the skirt, but I didn’t want the pleats in the skirt that are in this particular pattern. There was concern that the colorblocked sections would be interrupted too much by the pleats.
  2. Blank Slate Patterns’ Denver Tunic:  I like the princess seams on this particular pattern.  With my Day and Night Dress Challenge Winter Street, I used the Denver as a template for some embroidery work.  On this project, I used the front side panels as actual pattern pieces.
  3. Jalie’s Bella Dress/Tilly and the Buttons Coco:  Well, I started out using the skirt from the side panels fused on top of Tilly and the Button’s Coco dress.  The Bella flares out dramatically on this pattern.  Ultimately the ponte did not have enough drape to handle the flare, so I draped out the side seams to make a more A-line skirt.  The final skirt is closer to the original Coco dress skirt in shape, though it’s not quite as wide.

Creating the colorblocking (aka pattern freestyling)

Winter Street geometric dress

In addition to the above pattern pieces, I added back side panels.  Using a French curve, I drew a line where a back side panel would approximately lie.

Winter Street geometric dress

To make the colorblocking, first I drew lines all over my skirt to emulate the shapes in the inspiration dress using a regular ruler and also a French curve.

To save a little time, I cut right on these lines and added seam allowances to the appropriate places on my actual fabric.  Then, to keep myself honest, I labeled the pieces with “up” on the top edges and with a “+” on every edge that needed a seam allowance added.  Next, I numbered all of the seam intersections so that I would put the puzzle together in the right way.

Winter Street geometric dress

The skirt back is a mirror of the front which makes for some cool side seam intersections.  All of the many intersections took some careful sewing to get the points right, and overall, I’m pretty pleased with how things came together.

Winter Street geometric dress

Hiking dress?

My backdrops for this dress are in Zion National Park.  I thought it’d be a little awkward wearing a ponte dress in the middle of the woods, yet it turned out to be quite the comfortable getup in the early morning.  No doubt if my family and I had gone out late in the day when we first got to the park the previous day, it would’ve been awful.  In fact, by afternoon it was well over 100 degrees!  In the morning, it was closer to 70 in the woods which was lovely.  I’m looking forward to wearing this one in the cool of fall with some leggings and boots!

Overall, I’m really pleased that I finally tackled this project that was on my must do list!

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Displaying Greenwood side by side label 1.jpg

zipper ruffle tank

Recently, Melissa challenged me to a round of Who Made It Best.  For this challenge, I’m making this zippered ruffle hack of Straight Stitch Design‘s Greenwood Tank.

Who Made It Best is a friendly challenge hosted by Melissa of mahlicadesigns where she pairs up with a fellow blogger and they sew the same pattern to see Who Made It Best. The challenge rules are simple: 1. We agree on a pattern to use 2. Sew it up to suit our personal styles 3. Share it and ask you to vote for your favorite.

You can check out Melissa’s version of her Greenwood here.

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For this tank, I used this pistachio/white tie-dye rayon lycra from Fabric Mart.  This stuff was amazing to work with.  It’s opaque, it has incredible recovery, and it gathered beautifully for the ruffles.

zipper ruffle tank

Zipper Ruffle Tank

Do you stalk RTW sites like I do looking for sewing inspiration?  It seems I’m always on the hunt for cool design details that can be incorporated into my next project.  When I saw Philip Lim’s Zipper Detail Ruffle Top, I knew I wanted to hack it.  Net a Porter describes it thus: “3.1 Phillip Lim’s off-white top has zip-embellished white ruffles that can be unfastened to create a cool cutout effect. ”  So zipped up, it’s a frilly girly tank.  Unzipped, it turns into an edgy cold shoulder look.  Pretty cool, eh?

Main Image - 3.1 Phillip Lim Zipper Detail Ruffle Top

zipper ruffle tank
*fashion is hard, am I right?*

Adapting Greenwood

I’m working on editing a 3 part video to show the construction process of the zipper cutout, but I’ll break down in this post the changes to the pattern that needed to happen first.

zipper ruffle tank

Widen the shoulder

For the zipper ruffle to work, it needs to be on a wider shoulder than what’s available on the Greenwood Tank.  I could’ve saved time by starting with a tank pattern that already had a wider shoulder (on my video, I’ll share several options), but I’m playing by the rules here and using Greenwood!  To widen it, I overlaid my TNT t-shirt pattern’s shoulder.  I determined that I wanted the shoulder to be about 2″.  I slid the edge of the t-shirt pattern out to meet that 2″ mark and traced the armscye.  It helped that I had previously altered the Greenwood to have the same armscye as my TNT t-shirt for fit reasons.  You want to do this on the front and the back.

Measuring for the zipper

After you widen the shoulder, draw a line 1″ away from the raw edge of the armhole.  This is where the zipper is going to sit.  Measure that line minus the side seam allowances.  This length is the length of zipper you need.  You can use zipper by the yard or a closed end zipper.  The Philip Lim top uses a 2 way zipper which also works.  Whatever you choose, use a metal zipper.  This is an exposed treatment, and you won’t like the look of a nylon or plastic zip, plus you need steam and heat to set the zip in place.  Metal can take the heat!


zipper ruffle tank

The sewing preparation for the zipper is a bit like a welt pocket.  You sew a long window into place that’ll sit behind the zipper so that when it’s open it’ll still have a clean inside finish.  I used fusible interfacing sewn wrong side up so that when it’s pressed to the inside it fuses in place to make a clean edge.  You could just sew the zipper unit into place and slash behind the zipper, but it’ll be pretty messy under the zipper and the fabric could become unstable.  I’m really happy with how the inside finish worked out, and I’m hoping the video shows it well.

I did not sew the window the entire length of the zipper because I found in my practice that the cold shoulder had a spot where it draped well.  Past that point, it just looked like a big old zipper was hanging off me.  That magic point for me was 3.5″ down the back from the shoulder.  The window doesn’t go all the way to the bottom of the front armscye either for the same reason.  The window stops 6.5″ down from the shoulder along the placement line.  You could put a zipper stop at the end of the back part of the opening, but I’ve found in wearing the top that it’s not necessary.  The zipper does not want to go past the end of the opening.


Zipper unit

I cut four 2″ strips 2x the length of the zipper.  Next, I sewed a gathering stitch along one edge.  Then I gathered the strips so that they matched the length of the zipper.  I applied Steam-A-Seam to the front side and back sides of the zipper on all sides of the teeth (so 4 strips of Steam-A-Seam per zipper).  After the SAS was taken off on the topside of the zipper, I applied the ruffles to either side and steamed them down to activate SAS’s glue.  Then you stitch down the ruffles.  You can remove the gathering stitches at this point, but it’s not necessary.

Getting the zips into place

When the neckline and arm bindings were sewn on, I could add the zipper.  Once the window is sewn and pressed back, I matched the back of the zipper teeth to the window and fused it in place.  The zipper should open towards the back, and I started the pull at the front side seam allowance.  The you sew down the tape to the tank.  I chose to sew in the zipper flat which required me to sew the ends of the zipper before I sewed the side seams.  Alternatively, you can finish the tank, then you can sew the ends together first and then sew it it in in the round.  In the round it’ll be a little harder to get the zipper teeth into place.  Either way works and both have their advantages!

I love this hack for the drama you get with the zippers.  You can go soft and romantic zipped up or more trendy zipped down.  It’s also always nice to have a garment that can be worn multiple ways.  Zipped up could take you to work, and zipped down would be a great top for a nice dinner out.  Or wear it halfsies because you can.

zipper ruffle tank


So what do you think?  Please visit mahlicadesigns for more pictures and details on her version, then place your vote for Who Made It Best. The poll will be on both sites, so you can see both versions before you choose your favorite. Voting will be open for one week.

Displaying Greenwood side by side 2 label 2.jpg



I went and done it.  I took my first plunge down the deep rabbit hole of Elizabeth Made This’ YouTube channel.  Producing took way longer than I expected it to, but my first official video is now up!  I hope you enjoy this split flutter sleeve tee pattern hack tutorial.

For the sharp ears, you can enjoy my kids’ laughter in the background!


I’d love to see your own versions of this top!  If you follow this tutorial through, please show it off!  Drop me a line here or you can tag me on Instagram @elizabethmadethis or on my Elizabeth Made This Facebook page.


Happy hacking!

linen split flutter sleeve tee

All of my t-shirts have been slowly wearing out, so at the moment, I have t-shirts on the brain.  You know what that means, right?  It’s time to dust off my Pinterest boards and get to hacking.  This linen split flutter sleeve tee started as a search for something to do with linen knit, and it’s become one of my favorite hacks I’ve ever done.  It’s a simple hack, but I think it’s really effective, plus it has a Romantic sort of style that’s airy and perfect for summer.

I’m so excited about this, that I decided to dive headlong into the notion of video tutorials.  I’m working on editing a video featuring a tutorial for this top.  Look for it here on Thursday!

Linen Split Flutter Sleeve Tee


I went searching for linen tees, and this J Crew one was one of the first that popped up.  I love the idea of a flutter sleeve.

The J Crew sleeve is constructed much differently than what I settled on, but I like the overall effect.  I chose to change up my sleeve like this Whistles’ top but with an added split in the sleeve.

My pattern of choice

I chose to start with Straight Stitch Design’s Greenwood Tank.  I like the shoulder width on this tank, and after I altered it to have the same armhole as my favorite Jalie 2921 tee, it’s become a favorite tank pattern.  Because it has the same armhole as the Jalie tee, I can freely pop in Jalie sleeves.  For this tee, I started with the cap sleeve from the Jalie 2921.  A few quick changes, and the cap became a flutter sleeve with a split.

linen split flutter sleeve tee

Linen knit

I have a couple of linen knits in my stash that I’ve been saving.  Linen is my #1 favorite summer fiber to work with, and when I started seeing linen knits pop up in RTW stores like Madewell and J Crew a few years back, I decided to try and find some of my own linen knits.  I’ve picked up mine from Fabric Mart and Cali Fabrics‘ San Francisco store, but I know I’ve seen them at Harts’ Fabric and Mood.

What’s lovely about linen knit is the breathability.  It’s so light, and I daresay that it’d still remain cool in the sweatiest of summer climes.

linen split flutter sleeve tee

There are a couple of drawbacks to linen knit.

  1. They’re sheer.  You’re either lining this, wearing a cami, or showing more than is advisable.
  2. They don’t recover well.  This fabric does not bounce back well.  It’ll require special handling and good pattern choice so that it doesn’t stretch out into a pile of falling off your shoulders.

The lining that I added helped with both of these problems.  I can wear the tee without worry of showing too much, and the lining fabric (a very bouncy poly spandex with superhero recovery) helps support the linen.

linen split flutter sleeve tee

A growing binding

I opted for a simpler neckline finish than the Greenwood.  In the original pattern, the folded bindings are stitched on, then flipped over the stitch line and stitched down.  It makes for a really clean finish, but again, I wanted to avoid overworking the linen.

As it was, I had to baste the binding on 3 times because it was too long and kept stretching out more every time I touched it.

Once I got the correct length, I stitched the folded binding just once, serged the raw edge and then stitched it down below the neck seam.

Watch this space for the video tutorial on this top!

linen split flutter sleeve tee

Have you sewn with linen knits before?  How did it go?

colorblocked workout top
Yay, Essentrics!

It always takes me a while to get back into my sewing/writing/doing life routine after having a baby, and this time I’ve been trying to not be hard on myself about it.  I went through so much sickness after my youngest son, I’ve been careful not to go overboard.  After 3.5 months, I think I’m finally gaining enough energy back to do something beyond the absolutely necessary, so you can consider me back from maternity leave as it were.  And what a way to get back in the swing of it all than with a colorblocked workout top?