“I have this one term for the kind of woman my mother raised me to not be, and I call it a do nothing b*tch.  A DNB.” — Ronda Rousey

Every once in a while I see a t-shirt with the coolest print, but lacking in comfortable and flattering style.  I prefer loose tank tops with lots of freedom of movement, but clever styling details.  For the last few projects, I’ve adapted Burda Style 5/2016 #116 for this purpose (if you don’t have the magazine subscription, you can purchase and download the pattern here).  This article steps through the construction of the pattern, using a purchased tee for the project.

The tee I’m using is a limited print run of a tee featuring Ronda Rousey, declaring “Don’t be a DNB” (these shirts sparked an entertaining debate).  Last weekend I found it in my stash of “to do” projects and decided to make it into something fun.   I usually use a men’s XXL for these projects, but a women’s XL was the largest size I could purchase this tee in and I thought it would make a great example of how to improvise.  I started this project knowing that I would likely need to make some tweaks to get the print centered on the tank.

I’ve made a few versions of this tank top with various printed tees, but I neglected to document the steps in my review of this pattern.  I did find that the tank top is a lot longer than I would like, so I shortened it by about 4″ during my first project.  I already had my pattern pieces prepared, so I just reused these pieces for the project.

When working with a printed tee, I have a standard method of dismantling and cutting.  I start out by removing the collar (unpicking the seam and preserving the collar for another future project).  After I’ve removed the collar, I cut from the base of the side of the shirt up through the armpit and to the edge of the sleeve (both sides of the shirt).

Upcycled tee into tank, step two: cut the sides open
Upcycled tee into tank, step three: fold in half to center print
Upcycled tee into tank, step one: remove collar of tee
Ronda Rousey,
Limited Edition Ronda Rousey

Now that I’ve got my tee in a flat workable piece, I fold it down the center front and overlay my pattern piece, centering the print to the best of my ability.  Often you won’t be able to get the entire pattern piece on the front – and this project was no exception to this problem.  I was about 1″ shy of both the width in the sides and in the length of the straps.  No problem!  This is where it gets fun! You get to be creative with how to make up the difference.  In my case, this pattern is a no-brainer for adding length to the straps, but the sides would require an insert.  I located a black power mesh scrap from another project and cut a 2″ strip for each side.  For the strap, I simply cut the joining piece 1″ longer on each end.

Another deviation I’ve made from the original pattern is on the neckline finishing.  The original pattern called for a folded over edge hem, but I’ve substituted for a contrast edge band.  For both the edge bands and the joining straps, I used a scrap left over from another project as contrast.  The edge bands I cut were 1″ wide each (keeping in mind that I work with 1/4″ seam allowances).

Upcycled tee into tank, red marker points to another seam in shirt
Upcycled tee into tank, red lines indicate new pattern lines to fit onto t-shirt panel
Upcycled tee into tank, placing back pattern for cutting
Upcycled tee into tank, measuring sides for mesh panel inserts
Upcycled tee into tank, marking cutting line for pattern to fit onto t-shirt back
Upcycled tee into tank, front panel cut
Upcycled tee into tank, cutting mesh inserts
Upcycled tee into tank, cutting contrast strips
Upcycled tee into tank, cutting back strap
Upcycled tee into tank, cutting accent strips
Upcycled tee into tank, checking tee for pattern fitment. marker indicates location of shirt seam
Upcycled tee into tank, checking mesh panels
all pieces for

With all of the pieces now cut, it is time to assemble the top.  This top was 98% assembled on my combo overlock/coverstitch.  My assembly focused on reducing the number of conversions (cover -> overlock, or vice versa) and thread changes.  For this project, I used two thread colors: white for contrast topstitching and black for seams and hem.

  1. sew the mesh panels (I used a 4 thread overlock) and press seams towards t-shirt knit
  2. topstitch the mesh panels (I used a 3 needle coverstitch with contrast thread)
  3. sew the center back keyhole seam, press
  4. press a the contrast trim band in half lengthwise, measure keyhole, minus 1″, and cut
  5. open out the pressed band and sew a narrow seam, joining each end of the contrast band to form a loop
  6. fold in half again and pin the band in even increments to the keyhole, right sides together
  7. stretch to fit and sew evenly around keyhole, press seams towards shirt
  8. similarly, press remaining bands lengthwise, piecing where necessary
  9. sew the remaining neckline edges, stretching the contrast bands gently, press towards shirt
  10. topstitch keyhole and neckline contrast in place, approximately 1-2 mm from seam edge (i used a single chain stitch in a contrast thread)
  11. prepare the shoulder strap band by folding in half and stitching lengthwise, turn out and press (I placed the seam at the center, not edge
  12. pin the strap in place, attaching each of the front shoulders and passing through the keyhole once
  13. unpick a 2″ section at the center of the strap and pull one shoulder through
  14. stitch shoulder edge and then pull back in place
  15. repeat for the other should edge
  16. hem lower edge of shirt (I used a double needle cover stitch in matching thread)
  17. close up opening in strap by hand or machine
  18. All done, now go work up a sweat!
Upcycled tee into tank, topstitching mesh panels
Upcycled tee into tank, side mesh panels with topstitching
Upcycled tee into tank, mesh panels joined
Upcycled tee into tank, cutting edge accent piece for keyhole
Upcycled tee into tank, cutting contrast edge accent pieces pressed
Ronda Rousey
Burda 5/2016 #116, Ronda Rousey Tank, front view
Burda 5/2016 #116, Ronda Rousey Tank, back view