Sew a racerback tank top with pleated front

Hi there, SewMcCool lovely reader!

Here’s MammaNene @ SergerPepper, writing from Italy :)

You previously had to listen to my rants about my serger, how to fix tensions, how to set it for each and every stitch… now that the hot months are coming, nobody wants to focus on boring things like those, we want something easier and faster, don’t we?

Well, that’s what I’m going to give you!

Sew a racerback tank top with a pleated front: Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank from on

Today I’m sharing with you a free pattern (available on Craftsy) with a “side” of tutorial here, so you can sew a racerback tank top for a child – it’s a Pleated Racerback Hi-Lo Tank!

I had a completely different piece of clothing in my mind, where you could use all those fancy stitches we’ve learned to set last time but, as often happens (to me, at least), I followed my inspiration and went to a totally different direction!

My Wholeport parcel arrived right in the middle of my creative process and I had one of those brainwaves that took  me here.

18 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank

Sew a racerback tank top: Pleated in Pink: The Sweetest Tank

It’s a fashionable racerback tank, featuring Hi-Lo hem and a contrasting decorative pleated detail.

It’s the perfect swim cover for those hot summer days spent lounging on the seaside (that I hope to see soon), but you can also layer it over leggings or shorts for last days of school or summer camp: practical but feminine!

Would you like to sew it with me? Let’s go!

What you’ll need:

– some nice interlock or medium weight jersey (I have used this one, in pink!): a scant yard is more than enough!

– contrasting or complementary woven fabric (I used this one) for the decorative pleats (strips are 100″ by 2 3/4″ in total, but you can cut them shorter and join them to reach desired length).

– your free pattern (grab it here on Craftsy – no account yet? Follow my instructions here – it’s free!). It’s a size 5 years (chest girth 23 1/4″)

2 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank

Let’s go creating!

Print out the pattern pieces and tape them together.

Cut front and back pieces on the fold (put stretchiest direction horizontally), following each pattern piece’s silhouette, using the knit fabric.

From the knit fabric cut also 4 strips (put the longer measurement in the sense of major stretch) with these measurements (determined using Deanna’s method, using the 85% formula):

neckline: 16 1/2″ by 1 1/2″

hem: 24 1/2″ by 1 1/2″

armholes (cut 2): 13 1/2″ by 1 1/2″


Now, for the woven pleated accent!

Cut two stripes on grain, using these measurements:

neckline: 31″ by 2 3/4″

hem: 67″ by 2 3/4″


Ready? Go!

Fist of all I’d suggest you to create the pleated strip around the neckline.

Be warned: the following method is far from being professional or perfect, but it saves you tons of headaches and math, often coming with pleats: I love using this empiric method every single time I have a busy-enough-fabric to be pleated… and I pleat it as I go, just eyeballing distances!

Here’s my how-to:

Press in half the neckline strip, wrong sides together. Mark the center of the long side of this strip, so you can match it to the center front of the tank (more or less!).


3 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


Stick around your iron board, so you can press in place your pleated decoration! Just align the raw edges of the neckline and the woven strip and start pleating this last one, starting from one shoulder.

4 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank

Steam press every single pleat and put a pin on each one, going after the rounded shape of the neckline.

Remember: you need to match the center front with the middle of the strip’s length: I’ve seen that pleating about 1/4″ is the perfect distance to create a not-too-rich (and stiff) decoration!


5 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


Once you reach the center front, create an inverted pleat and go on following the neckline but inverting the pleat’s direction (does it makes sense? Look at that picture carefully… you’ll see what I mean, I hope!)


6 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank
When you’re done, give a last nice press and baste by machine inside your 3/8″ seam allowance, just to keep in place.

Now, let’s sew back to front pieces on side seams and shoulders: just lay them one on top of the other, aligning shoulders (pin!) and side seams (pin again!), then sew using either a sewing machine or a serger.

Tip: use a ballpoint needle, to avoid holes in your fabric!


7 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank

When it’s all sewn together, I’d suggest you to press side seams toward the back (maybe using a sausage roll like mine, which is handmade by me!)

8 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank

Add the pleated detail to the hem

Let’s do that exactly as for the neckline, pressing it in half lengthwise, but start pinning it to the hem 1″ from one of the side seams (you’ll see why in a minute). Go on creating the pleats and steam pressing plus pinning them in place, following the Hi-Lo shaped hem.

When you reach the start point, you’ll need to join the strip to the other end. To do that, unfold the first crease you pressed, align short raw edges, right sides together, and pin.

9 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


Sew with a straight stitch, backstitching on each end, then press seam open, to reduce the bulk.


10 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


Now re-create the fold, matching raw edges wrong sides facing and create the last pleats, adjusting the fabric to have a good-looking smooth transition where the join is.


11 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank

Note: depending on your pleat’s width, it could be that you arrive at the start point with too much length left over: just cut it out! In the worst scenario you’ll end the fabric before you reach the start point: as you may guess this is not good and you can either add a new piece to the strip or undo the pleats, press the strip flat and re-do everything… I would choose the first one!

If you’re math-minded, you’ll be thinking that it would be easier to exactly calculate the length of the strip and make every single pleat perfectly matching to a set number but… I really love to eyeball, sometimes is part of the fun, for me! Just go freehand and you could also end with improved sewing skills!

Much more relaxing, I think, and I love the result, don’t you?

Now, for the fun part:

I was planning to finish armholes with tiny cuffs but I felt in love with Deanna’s method for binding knits in round and I HAD to merge it into this project, with a little twist (you’ll see – her method is so versatile, you can finish any edge style want with it! And it works perfectly using only your sewing machine and a single needle – no serger or twin needle required!)

Take the four knit strips we’ve cut in the beginning.

Sew together the short sides of each strip, right sides together, using 3/8″ seam allowances, to end up with 4 ring.

Note: As you will notice from my photos, I love to work in batches: sew all the bindings, then press and pin them all to be ready for topstitching; then topstitch them all at once. This is my time-saver method but you can always complete each binding separately!


Exactly as Deanna explains, switch to a decorative (yet elastic) honeycomb stitch (a simple zig-zag will do the trick, just like a double needle or, if you’re so lucky to have one, use a coverstitch!).

I would suggest you match the binding seam to the side seam (at the armpit); mark the opposite middle point of the armhole that, being a racerback tank, won’t fall at the shoulder seam but somewhere in the back!


12 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank
When you’re done with the honeycomb topstitch, trim the leftover binding in the inside of the tank (knit won’t fray!).

13 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


Sandwich your pleated accent between the tank and the binding, adding on top of the decorative strip your binding ring, right sides together;sew together those 3 layers.


14 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank
Reduce seam allowances, then press them toward the back of the garment: this will leave the pleated hem hanging from the garment.


15 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


Here too you have to sandwich your pleated decorative accent, sewing the knit strip sewn in round with the right side of the knit together with the right side of the pleated detail!

Now reduce theseam allowances and press them flat (not to the back of the garment) then fold the binding to the back, leaving a nice knit border exposed, wrapped around the seam allowances: this will give you a different (but complimentary) look from the hem.


16 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


Pin and sew, using the same stitch you used for finishing armholes and hem.

That’s it, you only need to take your princess out in the barnyard and take some shoots… I’ll show you only some of mine, since every single time I try to take “some” shoots from my LilPotato, I end up with 500… at least!


17 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


19 Serger Pepper - Pleated in Pink - The Sweetest Tank


That’s all for today! I hope you enjoyed learning to sew a racerback tank top with my pleated detail in front!

Let me know if you like this one and if you decide to sew it, please share some pics on Serger Pepper’s shared board on Flickr.
See you next time here on SewMcCool, let me know if there’s something you’d like me to write about :)

Irene Valle, aka MammaNene of, contributed this tutorial to To make sure you don’t miss a fun tutorial, please follow SewMcCool by e-mail (the link is at the top of the right-hand column) or join me on BlogLovin’ – the button is just below the e-mail feed box! :)



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  1. says

    What a great project! I love that you took a simple tank but it is not simple, with the high-lo hem and the ruffle. Great job Irene!


  1. […] Mama Nene from Serger Pepper shares a free pattern at Sew McCool for making this girl’s racer back tank with a hi-low hem and pretty pleated detail around the neck.  Her free pattern makes a US size 5 years (chest girl 23 1/4″).  If you need another size, you could make your own by adapting a t-shirt pattern that fits your child, using her free pattern as a guide.  Go to Sew McCool for the pattern and tutorial. […]

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