Braided Side Tank Hack

Hi friends! I’m so very excited to share this sewing pattern hack with you today! I will start off by saying that if I did this hack again, there are a few things I would change about my process. So… I recommend reading it through, and from there you can decide how you’d like to proceed if you want to copy this look! I will try and keep things as quick and concise as possible, but feel free to reach out if you have questions!

The T on fabric: The gorgeous white and black fabric I’m using is from The Fabric Fairy, who is my go-to supplier for athletic fabrics because she carries such a hugely diverse range of bases, and they are all incredible quality! This fabric is from her Reaction line, and it is a poly/lycra blend with fantastic stretch and nice stability. I liked it for this hack because it has nice structure, so it wasn’t too drapey and holds the shape of the side braid well. When choosing fabric for this type of hack, I recommend a stiffer/more structured fabric for that reason, to hold the shape of those gorgeous criss-crosses!

The T on the pattern: I used the Rocky Tank from Sinclair which is technically a “mens” pattern but I love it for the deep drop arm hole and straight fit. **Change number one!! You know how you usually look at what height a pattern is drafted for and adjust accordingly? I forgot to do that! The “regular” height on men’s patterns (Sinclair has “petite, regular, and tall options in their patterns, so nice!) is 5’8 – 5’11, so my tank is a bit longer than I would’ve otherwise made it, but I was able to shave a bit off the bottom by adding a nice wide hem and making the hem curve more shallow. But more on that later!

In hindsight, the hack is a bit hard to see with this pretty patterend fabric, and may lend itself more to a solid where the braid is a bit more obvious. So to give you an idea of what we’re going for, here’s the pinspiration photo I was going off of!

Ok here we go. I always trace my patterns using medical tracing paper so I’m not messing up the original, so do that first πŸ™‚ To start the alterations, I used a clear ruler to cut 1.75″ from the sides, to create the gap for my braid. Then cut out your pattern and we are off!

I used a french curve to drop/straighten out the armhole. You can do this by hand, but since I had a french curve (courtesy of Ebay for $1!) I used that to make sure the line was nice and smooth.

athletic top sewing hack

I used the french curve to bring up the side hem a bit as well, though I did end up cutting off that deep center part (thereby straightening it out a little bit more in the front) at the end during hemming, so take this step with a grain of salt.

athletic top sewing hack

Next, I marked four even spaces for lining up my braided bands. Here’s where my math went wrong though… I did the work to calculate out how wide the bands needed to be based on the number of spaces (which gave me 2.5″ bands if you’re wondering), and forgot to take into account that when the bands are slanted, they take up more of the side than 2.5″… Ugh. Soooooo again, this is more like a guideline than strict rule. But having these marks did help a lot when pinning the bands down and making sure they were even on both sides.

athletic top sewing hack

Next I made the bands. I cut my long strips at 5.5″ high for an end goal of 2.5″. I got this by taking my desired height of 2.5″, multiplied by 2 for the fold, then added .5″ (which is .25″ for seam allowance on both sides). I just cut mine as long as I could, knowing I’d chop them up later. Just like any other strap, sew the long edge with right sides together, turn, and iron. I ironed the seam into the middle so it definitely wouldn’t be seen from the front, and top stitched the edges to give it a nice pro finish like the inspiration.

Next, sew the front to the back at the shoulders, and hem the arm holes, which (since we are adding the braid later) means its detached down each side.

Next, I pinned the front and back (the two sides that would typically be sewn together down the side seam) to my ironing board, so I made SURE to have an equal distance all the way down my braid.

Here is where it starts to get a bit tricky: we add the bands. This part really just takes a bit of finagling, and a lot of pinning. Work each subsequent band under and over to create the braid, checking that you have the same order of under/over for every single band. Use a LOT of pins. I mean a LOT!

I really wanted to make sure my bands were not going to move (and shifting is highly likely with that many layers) so I did go through and hand-baste mine as a next step. This is optional but really helps, and it only takes a minute!

Once everything is where you want it, sew (with right sides up) on top of one of your lines of topstitching. To be clear, I used a coverstitch to hem my arm holes, so I then used a straight stitch to attach these bands, stitching on top of the stitches closest to the braids to avoid the fabric flaring out when stretched. I used a straight stitch to keep it unnoticeable, and no a straight stitch doesn’t stretch, but the rest of the garment has enough stretch that it was fine. After attaching, trim the excess band tails. Be super careful not to cut or knick the shirt body! Repeat on the other side.

In the photos below, you can see the pre-hemmed version (with purple leggings) and the hemmed version (mint) for comparison. I decided that given the length, I needed to lessen the front curve a bit, so I trimmed some from the center of the curve to the edge, on both front and back. From where my bands ended, I wrapped up the whole rest of the fabric as a hem (about 1″). Again, its maybe a tad long still but I will remember to adjust my pattern for height next time! Alas… live and learn…

The other step I added between these two photos is to add a small bust dart. You can see in the purple outfit that the front bags a little, so I added small darts on each side to take in some of the extra fabric.

Last step is to add the neckband (instructions for this included in the pattern if you’re unfamiliar with the technique) and all done! I absolutely adore how the tank turned out, and while white is hard to photograph, I love how it looks in person!

Thanks for sewing along with me today, and I hope you give this fun (albeit somewhat time-consuming) hack a try πŸ˜€ If you do, please tag me on instagram, at @mamascraftroom because I would LOVE to see!

Deets on the rest of the outfit for those interested: gloriously smooth Fern Green Olympus fabric from the Fabric Fairy, used to make a Greenstyle Power Sports Bra and Apostrophe My Fit Leggings (I have a detailed review on those leggings here, but TL;DR, they take all your measurements and spit out a completely customized leggings pattern!! Its amazing!)

Happy crafting, my friends!