Adventures in Knits: The Prettiest Circus Tent I’ve Ever Worn

Published Categorized as Sewing 19 Comments on Adventures in Knits: The Prettiest Circus Tent I’ve Ever Worn

I’ve only sewn knits a few times before, spoiler alert: it didn’t go well.

About once a year I get the bug to try sewing apparel. I’m not particularly talented at it, I find the curved lines and pattern tracing to be annoying. I love the simplicity and elegance in straight lines matching up when I’m piecing a quilt and how forgiving it can be. When I’m done piecing a quilt top and it’s 1 to 2 inches bigger or smaller than I intended the world doesn’t stop spinning; but with clothing being off by just a little is a game changer.

Fabric for flutter knit top

When I was at Jo-Ann’s they had a 5 for $5 sale on patterns and these two gorgeous knits on an end cap, so armed with my $5 of $35 coupon I decided, why not give it a go? I really shouldn’t be left unattended there.

I measured myself accurately, used the Simplicity size help webpage, checked twice etc. and decided I was a large. That seemed legit; in ready to wear I vary between medium and large most of the time and I figured I could trust the size chart. I wasn’t even “on the edge” I was clearly in the large sizes.

Terri Ann in the flutter knit tank

Well guess what, I’m a medium! Awesome…I love spending hours tracing patterns, cutting materials, reviewing endless blog posts about knits then sewing up a top that doesn’t fit.

Flutter knit tank is huge on me! I don't think I'm a large after all!

Worst part is it’s not just over-sized in the torso – the neck/shoulders are too big so there’s no easy way for me to modify it or tack in the sides to make it work for my body. I’m not even streatching it out in these pictures

Flutter knit tank is huge on me! I don't think I'm a large after all!

I do love how the back is a flutter opening so I think I will make this top again, but I will make a muslin of at least the under layer to make sure the medium fits properly next time. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

I love the way it layers and opens in the back!

I got feedback that indie patterns tend to size better than the major brands you can find in the store but I don’t have much experience in this area.

Terri Ann in her home made flutter knit top

Have you sewn adult apparel – do you have this problem with the big pattern manufacturers?


  1. It really is quite pretty – the detail of the edging around the top looks great and I love the closure in the back. I pretty much avoid sewing anything but quilts – a one hit wonder over here.

    1. Thanks Yvonne! The pattern used the outer layer to finish/bind the arm and neck holes but with that light lace it was going to be a nightmare and the inner layer peeking through in those spots came out really cute! My heart is still in quilts but I think dabbling in new areas helps give different perspective on projects.

  2. The shape and design of the top are really very nice. I like the overlapping back. In your correct size I think that this top will look awesome. I have never sewn with knits because they scare me.

    1. I agree Cheryl, this top is a super cute style – I may go buy more of these prints to make this in the correct size cause it would be so cute if it fit properly. Not sure if I may switch to a go with a white solid underneath instead; the print is a heavier knit and there’s a lot of layers. I’ve always been afraid of knits too and it’s been exciting to break that barrier for myself. There’s 3 more knit projects coming up that I’m excited to make and share 🙂

  3. It looks well made, just too big. So at least there’s that! You should definitely try it again, because it’s such a cute top.

    Indie patterns are almost always a better bet for me. They tend to have less pattern pieces, clearer instructions, and a much better fit. I’ve pattern tested for Rae (of Made by Rae) and they really work their patterns before sending them out into the world.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Mary! I think I’m convinced there’s a medium of this top in my future now. I hear you on the instructions, I feel like I’m navigating (and getting lost on) a road trip when reading that giant folded piece of paper in envelope patterns.

  4. I made clothes for years before I ever started quilting, and still do sometimes. I’ve even made a wedding dress (mine!) Sewing with knits is fabulous once you get the hang of it. Pattern sizes are all over the place, though. They have nothing to do with ready-to-wear sizing. This could help: on the back of the pattern, there will sometimes be a line for “finished garment measurements.” You can compare those to the measurements of a garment you already own that fits well to find the right size. If the finished measurements arent’t given, you can measure the pattern at the appropriate spot, subtract the seam allowances, and find the size that matches best. Hope that’s helpful! Good luck on the second try!

    1. Great tip on the finished garment sizes Mari! I’ve never noticed that chart before but I’ll have to check the envelope. I just so annoyed that I measured myself (twice!) and used their matrix to determine my size and it was still wrong. I ought to have pin basted the under layer after I cut it to see if the fit was “right enough.”

  5. Oh my! I do love the top and especially the back. Over the years I tried making clothing, but it doesn’t seem to be my thing! I have thought about giving it another chance…quilting has given me more confidence! Knits, I will stay away from. Are you going to try this pattern again? Jo-ann’s will always have another coupon for that!!

    1. This is the most agreeable of a relationship I’ve ever had with knits; I did my research and took my time. I think my recent experience quilting, finally understanding my *actual* (as opposed to my perceived) skill level and getting to know my machine better has really paid off for garments. I’ll definitely be hitting up the Jo-Ann’s app for another coupon for a lighter weight knit for the under-layer soonish. There’s two other knit patterns I want to try too and the fabric I picked out for those won’t translate well in this pattern.

  6. The Wiksten Tank is the only recent clothing I have made and it’s super easy. I’ve been thinking of trying knits myself. It’s really too bad that it didn’t fit because it looks great.

    1. How have I never seen the Wiksten tank before? It’s so simple and lovely. I bet it sews up fast too! Thanks for that suggestion Lisa. I think I may need to add that to my list of clothing to try and sew up.

    1. Diana, worry not – with all this encouragement from my crafty friends I’m certain I’ll be attempting this again in a medium 🙂 I like the idea of a swim suit cover-up with this design too. You could easily extend the length of the pattern and maybe use a french terrycloth for optimal drape + absorbency!

  7. I know it’s too big, but it still looks really cute!

    I tell people I only sew flat things, not 3D. I want to make a top! I really do! But when I read the instructions, I get all dazed and confused.

    1. Haha Amy, I never thought about it in a 2D or 3D separation. It’s easy to get lost in those instructions and it can be frustrating when things can’t be pressed flat into submission (not that I do that when quilting…no, not me!)

  8. Your new top does look sweet… And better to big than too small. You could alter it, but it looks fabulous on you as it is! I only sewed one garment – my Charlie Harper quilted jacket (well two if you count that I made one for my mom) and I found out the same thing. What a lot of work to go through only to discover it fits so much larger than you hoped!

  9. I made a bunch of Wiksten tanks last summer and neglected to pre-wash my fabrics and when they were washed they all shrunk up! I don’t do belly shirts and now they’re too tight on my bust! 🙁 This is a great finish though. I’ve never tried knits but need to!

  10. I Was going to say the same as Mari; you have to look at how much ease the pattern allows. By measuring clothes you own already, you may find that you prefer garments that are close fitting. And as a busty girl, I have learned to use my high bust measurement and then do a full bust adjustment, or cut a larger size in the front than the back.

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