tie top tutorial and sewing with knit fabric tips

Hey guys! I am so excited about this knit tie top tutorial I created for Girl Charlee! (and a $40 gift certificate giveaway! woohoo! enter waay at the bottom…you might as well check out the tutorial while you’re at it….just sayin’ πŸ˜‰

Also make sure to check out their blog! Today they’re showing off all the projects I’ve made with Girl Charlee fabric-hint…it’s quite a few. πŸ™‚

So this tee… It’s figure flattering with some elastic around the waist, and has an adorable tie neckline-I just love shirts that have ties for some reason. It adds some fun interest to a basic tee.



Β First, some tips for sewing with knits!

*Use a ballpoint needle to sew knits. Regular needles can punch holes through your knit fabric, instead, the ballpoint needles slide in between the tiny loops that make up the fabric.

*Don’t forget to press! Your iron is a great tool to use with knits, often times a good steam can “set” a slightly wonky seam and make it lay nicely.

*You can use spray starch to help sew with jersey knits with edges that roll. Just spray and press with your iron to get it to lay flat!

*I like to use a walking foot for my machine when I sew with knits-it moves both the bottom and top layers of the fabric through at the same time, eliminating a lot of the “slippery” problems that knits can have.

*I generally use three stitches when sewing with knits-a straight stitch (for side seams mostly, and even then I don’t use it much), the lightning bolt stitch (looks like a wonky zig zag), and a regular zig zag. It’s important that the garment be able to move and stretch with you, and the lightning and zig zag stitches work best for that. You can also use a serger, which creates stretchy seams, but I’m going to make this top with the sewing machine only. I would recommend using some scraps to play around with the stitches and see which one you like best!

*Use a double needle for hems (See how I use it for the cap sleeves in this tutorial) for a professional look. Most machines can work with double needles, mine actually has a double needle setting, but read your machine’s manual to find out how to set it up. The good thing about double needles is that they create a stretchy seam, with two rows on stitching on the top, and a zig zag on the underneath. It’s awesome. I’ll show you how I set up to thread below!

I jerry rigged a chopstick to hold an extra bobbin of matching thread off to the side of the thread spool. You can use another spool of thread if you have the same color, but it’s much cheaper to fill an extra bobbin instead. I have an extra bobbin underneath to help it spin better, it was getting a little stuck. MacGyver would be proud, right?

Anyways, I thread the machine with both threads at the same time…then separate the threads and put them through each needle so they don’t get tangled.

Β Now onto the tutorial!

First, let’s make your pattern-so go grab a tee from your closet that fits you well. I did a cap sleeve with this tutorial, so find one like that or trace a normal tee and extend the shoulder piece over to create the cap sleeve. Fold the tee in half and trace around it, adding seam allowance to the sides, shoulder seam, and armhole, but not the fold.

That’ll get you a pattern! Make sure to trace the back and front neckline onto your pattern. My tee I traced was loose fitting, but I planned to cinch it in a bit with some elastic…also make sure to add length on the bottom for the hem. Dont’ forget like I did, but see how I added a band further down if you do! πŸ˜‰

If you’re not into making your own patterns, Kristin has a free one that you could use (size small/medium) and the Casual Lady from GoTo Patterns is also similar!Β  You can use those as a jumping off point and then add the tie, elastic, and bottom band.

Next with your pattern cut out on the fold of the fabric, a front and back of the top, taking care to line up stripes if you are using them. I also cut some 1.5″ strips for the tie. These don’t need to be on the bias, but can be…I cut them to be contrasting, and to save fabric.

1. Cut a small piece of knit fabric 1.5″x4″. Fold it in half lengthwise and iron to crease. Do the same for the front of the shirt (only iron four inches down)
2. PlaceΒ  the fabric on the shirt front, creases and right sides together, pin. With a fabric pen, trace the ironed crease, stopping an inch above the bottom. Sew 1/8″ down, across, and up, using the line as your guide.
3. Carefully cut in between the stitches.
4. Flip the fabric pieces around so that the wrongs sides are together like so. Press with iron.
5. Top stitch 1/4″ around the notch.
6. Carefully trim excess fabric.

Next pin and sew the shoulder seams right sides together. I used the lightning stitch, but a zig zag would work as well.

Next sew a few of your 1/5″ strips together on the short ends to make a tie long enough to go around the neckline, and make a tie in the front. This will depend on your preference and size, so use your discretion! Then I pressed one long side to the middle of the tape. I didn’t create standard “bias tape” because I found that some knits can be too bulky with 5 layers to sew through, (not this one, though!) so I omitted one just to show you another option. Knit doesn’t fray so it wasn’t an issue. Feel free to use “traditional” bias tape, ie where the edges are pressed to the middle of the long piece, then in half….if your knit is thin enough!

Next line up the middle of the tie with the middle of the back neckline and pin around the raw edge of the shirt. Make sure the raw edge of the tie is on the inside of the shirt. Pin like crazy!

Next starting at one end of the tie, sew along the edge, around the neckline, and back down the other side of the tie.

ca-ute! Press.

I thought I’d show you another way to finish a raw edge, this time on the arms. I cut some strips of off white fabric on the bias this time, and ironed them like I did the tie pieces. Then open up the bias tape and pin one side to the edge of the curved cap sleeve edge. Sew along the ironed crease.

Next fold under the bias tape, pin, and sew with a double needle for a nice professional look.

Then pin the sides together like so and sew down the sides, back stitching at beginning and end.

My tee turned out a little short like I said, (oops!) so I decided to add a band on the bottom. I love how this turned out, it keeps the shirt weighted down, if you know what I mean….doesn’t ride up at all…which is nice for a busy momma bending over all the time to pick up cereal and barbie shoes.

So…measure the bottom of your tee, then add seam allowance to that measurement, and cut out two strips of fabric.

Mine were 7″ wide x the width of the shirt bottom. (they are folded in half in the pic above)

Sew the short sides right sides together. (zig zag here)

Then fold so the wrong sides are facing and press with an iron.

Pin the band and shirt right sides together around the bottom, then sew with a zig zag stitch.

Next I added some elastic around the waist to cinch in the loose fitting shirt. Wrap a piece of 1/4″ elastic around your waist to see how long to cut it, and add 2″ or so. (so you have something to hold on to at the end.) Mark on your shirt where you want the elastic to go (mine was easy because of the stripes!), then start sewing on at one of the seams with a zig zag stitch. Sew a few stitches to get it in place.

Then sew carefully down the elastic, stretching from the back and front slightly like so. You can see I pinned the middle of the elastic to the other side seam to keep it as even as possible.

At the end of the elastic, back stitch to keep it in place, then trim off the extra elastic you added. Tada! Try on your new top and pose awkwardly! πŸ˜€ Thanks, hope you enjoyed the tutorial and tips!

Enter to win a $40 gift certificate to Girl Charlee below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thank you so much for all the tips how to work with jerseys. I’ve never tried it but I hope I’ll be able to with all the instructions you wrote πŸ™‚

  2. This is so awesome! I am pinning this for after the baby. πŸ™‚ The tips on knit are just what I needed now, too. Thanks so much!!

  3. Thank you for posting! I’ve always been terrified of knits and this post is super packed with great info. πŸ™‚

  4. I just have to say – that chopstick thing is amazing!! Absolutely ingenious! And I’m stealing the idea πŸ™‚

  5. The top is super cute! You are a machine! Very impressive how many beautiful things you can make in a week! Wow!

  6. Oooh, I really want to try working with knits. This would be a perfect way to try it out!

  7. Love the top Jess, I was just eyeing that fabric yesterday on Girl Charlee. I have a question for you about the twin needle. I love to use it, but it seems that my stitching pulls apart after several washes. Do you adjust your bobbin tension when you use them, or do you use wooly nylon? Just a question.

  8. I have that exact same machine…..and a chop stick. YES! I think I’m set. lol Such good info. Thanks!

  9. You’re looking great! I love that top, it’s adorable!


  10. Hello Jess, this is Victoria from Valencia (Spain). Lovely tutorial but you look great!!!! and you had baby Ava just some months ago. Lucky girl. Love!

  11. I love the tie neck… and I really love how pretty your walking foot is! =)

  12. Thanks for inspiring me to sew for myself and not just my kids;)

  13. I recently ordered fabric from them and should be getting it soon. This came at a great time! Thank you. Cant wait to try out your tips and make a shirt to go with the new skirts i made my self (oh yeah! Selfish sewing… Well, it was to match something i made the kids for pictures)

  14. I love this top! Can’t wait to try it–I’ve got some fabric in my girl charlee cart right now. Does it take more than a yard to make it?

  15. I LOVE this top!! SO CUTE!! Thanks for sharing how to make it!

  16. Very cute top, Jess! And thanks for the scoop top link love! πŸ˜€

  17. Thanks for the great tutorial ! And I was wondering…Will you be back to do those awesome outfit posts you did before Ava’s birth ?
    Blessings from France

  18. Kristina says

    Thank you for the tutorial! I tried it out and the outcome looks great. I newer sew for me, just for kids and this was a great starting point! You are a true inspiration.

  19. I love your top. it is perfect for summer. thanks for the simple and great tutorial

  20. So cute! You make me think I can do it!

  21. Thank you for the great tutorial Jess! You are a true inspiration πŸ™‚

  22. Can you tell me where you got your walking foot? I’m considering getting one for my Bernina, but Bernina brand walking foots cost $200. I’m thinking of getting one for my machine not made by Bernina. How did you choose your walking foot?

  23. Your comments make me laugh πŸ™‚ And your blog is so inspiring – I am a quilter of 8 years going to start sewing for my three girls (and maybe my son too…). Best wishes as you continue to create!

  24. I recently found your blog and am in a crazy sewing mode. I am getting so many ideas for patterns, fabrics, sewing tips…I can’t tell you how thankful I am for the time you put into your blog, as it makes me so excited about my next sewing project!!! Keep it coming!

  25. Never thought of using bias binding on a knit tee for the armholes- I love how nice that finish is! Thanks for the tip. πŸ™‚

  26. Thanks for the double-needle tips. I have just started using knits but was a little intimidated by the double!

  27. Awesome tutorial!! Entered giveaway!!

  28. I like the style of this shirt, Jess, and it is very flattering on you. I need to take some time to make myself something like this. Thanks for the inspiration!


  1. […] Tie Top Tutorial by Craftiness Is Not Optional […]

  2. […] Jess from Craftiness Is Not Optional shows how to make a t-shirt with small tie at the neck.Β  You’ll make the pattern using a t-shirt that fits you as a guide.Β  A line of elastic stitched under the bust shapes it to your figure.Β  Go to her tutorial. […]

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