TUTORIAL: Boatneck Tunic

by Dana on October 9, 2012

Every Fall season it’s 90 degrees here in Texas and then one weekend it drops to 60 and I totally freak out.  “The kids have NO warm clothes!”

Typically I run to Target and grab 5 pairs of their $4 pants and long sleeve Tees (cause who can beat that price).  But I’ve been gathering quite a collection of knits from my trips to Michael Levine in LA.  So in honor of the Kids Clothes Week Challenge at Elsie Marley, I whipped up a little tunic top for Clara.  And hey, why not make a tutorial to go with it? (now that I have a camera and all….)

Let’s get started!

First create your pattern.  This might sound scary but making patterns is easier than you think. You don’t have to know fancy terms or have fancy tools (I don’t).  I use paper and a pen.  Check out my detailed tutorial here or follow along with these basic steps….

• If your a sketching kind of person, draw out a picture of what you’re going to make.  Sometimes I do; often I don’t (because I suck at drawing.  There.  Said it).  But this shirt is simple so I sketched.  Then created a pattern…..

• Tape a few sheets of standard paper together.  This is my favorite method (rather than using drafting or butcher paper) because I can fold-up the pattern at the paper seams when I’m done and stick them in a drawer.
• Use an existing item of clothing from your child’s wardrobe to gauge the sizing.   If you don’t have a child at home, buy something from a thrift shop or retail shop so you know what fits a 2 year old, etc.  I used this long sleeve tee to measure the armhole and shirt width.  Trace around the area as best as you can, adding an extra 1/4 or 1/2 inch for your seam allowance.
SLEEVE: I wanted a puff sleeve, so when tracing the existing sleeve, I added extra width on the curve and placed a mark where the gathering should end (right photo below)

SHIRT FRONT and BACK:  A boatneck is one of those classic looks that I absolutely love.  It’s so feminine and well, cute (I made a similar shirt for myself here).  For this tunic, the front and back of the shirt are going to be the same pattern piece.  The neck is cut very high but also very wide so you’ll have enough room to get the head through.  After using the shirt above to trace my armhole and shirt width (across the chest), I gave the shirt more of an A-frame side, extended the length of the shirt, and created a higher/wider boatneck.   And there you have it:
You can really make this from any type of fabric….cotton, knits, linen.
I wanted something really cozy for the fall so I used a jersey knit (more on sewing with knit fabrics HERE)
• Fold your fabric and cut two of each pattern piece, on the fold.
• Mark the gathering area on the top of the sleeve with a fabric marker or pins.   Sew a loose stitch between the marked area (read more on gathering fabric HERE).  Gather the top sleeve area and set aside for a later step.

• Bind the neck of the shirt.  This is just like making bias tape (detailed tutorial HERE)….only I cheated and didn’t cut the fabric on the bias cause with knit fabrics, I’m typically working with scraps.  So I cut it where I can.

Now I’ll be honest, knit bias tape is not as easy to work with as woven
cotton.  But give it a shot and have a little patience.  You’ll love the finished look.
• Cut/create 1/2 inch double-fold bias tape.  It needs to be long enough to bind the front and back necks of the shirt.

• Sew it to the shirt neck using the “Proper” method (excplained in detail HERE).Basically…unfold the binding, place the RIGHT side of the binding on
the WRONG side of the shirt neck and sew a 1/2 inch seam (sew right along that first ironed fold). Then flip the shirt over and fold the binding over to the right side of the fabric, sandwiching it around the
neck.  Pin it in place and sew it with a 1/8 inch seam allowance (use matching thread color)

• Create the Boatneck.  This is similar to creating the 90 Minute shirt envelope shoulder, but you only need to overlap it slightly.  Bring the back of the shirt neck over the front, pin the two together, and sew a baste stitch (just a normal stitch to hold it in place) about 1/4 inch from the fabric edge.

• Sew the sleeves in place.   Here’s a bird’s eye view of where the sleeves will go (more detailed info in this tutorial HERE)
• With right sides of the sleeve and armhole together, pin the sleeves in place, sew them to the armhole, and iron/hem the ends of each sleeve.  (Sleeve hemming can be done later, for a more polished look, but on kids clothes this is the easiest time to do)

• Fold the entire shirt with right sides of the fabric together and pin down the inner sleeve and sides of the shirt.  If you have a little side tag, insert it about 2 inches from the bottom of the shirt (detailed info on my labels HERE)

• Starting at the end of the sleeve cuff, sew down the entire length of the sleeve to the armpit, pause and lift your presser foot, swivel the shirt, and continue sewing down the side of the shirt (sew on the dotted line below).

Almost done!

Now at this point, I recommend trying the shirt on your little one to see how the neck fits, then…
• Sew the neckline together slightly at the shoulders to make it a bit more fitted.  If you don’t have a child to try the shirt on, sew down the shirt binding about 1or 2 inches.

• Iron and sew a hem at the bottom of the shirt.  This can be as long or as short as you like.  A tunic top is typically in-between a shirt and dress length (and looks super cute with leggings).   Sew a 2nd parallel line next to the hem line for a double-stitched look.

• Add one final touch….a pop of color at the shoulders!

• Hand-sew tiny buttons to each shoulder, onto the binding.   These aren’t for function but just for look.  HOWEVER, for a more fitted look, you could create actual button hole closures for the neck area.  This would allow you to close the neckline further while still being able to take the shirt on and off.

And….you’re done!

Try the tunic on your little tot and see if she likes it.
….or drools on it.
Or goes through every emotion in the book.
I think it’s a keeper.
Now I need to make more!

(Adding my tunic top to the KCWC flickr group.)

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lynette October 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

That turned out darling. Love the colors. Thanks for the tutorial!


2 Collette October 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Ooh, she looks adorable! When did she get to be so big?????? And I think she looks just like Owen.


3 Twins Squared October 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Oh my so cute! Great job on the shirt and thanks for the tutorial. I love the jeggings too! All of her faces are great! Do I see a little tooth peeking through?


4 Ginger October 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I may have to try this. I too love cheapie clothes from Target, but I have some great knit fabric I’ve been meaning to do something with. And gosh darn it, I’ve said it before but that is one seriously cute baby.


5 Marytha October 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Love the fabric pattern!!! So stylish and you baby is just adorable!!



6 Brooke October 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Love the boat neck idea! And she is just too cute!


7 Janette October 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm

You make it look so darn easy!! I am sure it will not be that simple for me. Thanks.


8 Maria October 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm

would it be possible to make this in an adult size?


9 Lacey October 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Cute top! And we love that Playscape! :)


10 Sam M. | Atkinson Drive October 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm

LOVE it! {and you can’t beat the ‘busted’ look}!


11 nath October 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm

what???? already standing up??? where does time go?


12 Kelly October 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Very cute top, and she looks so cute standing up!


13 Stephanie Creswell October 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm

This is so stinking cute I think I will try and do it so top buttons up! Thanks for the Tutorial they always so helpful.


14 Jenny October 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Adorable top. Clara’s little chunk of hair cracks me up. My first son had the exact same thing, but it was right in the middle of his head, so we always called it his toupee.


15 Kat October 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Clara has the coolest hairstyle ever!
Thank you for this great tutorial.


16 Spark*Amy October 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Adorable! Love the fabric, and I can’t believe she is cruising along already! May have to try this in big girl sizes for mine!


17 Martha October 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Love this top!!! Thanks for the tutorial:)


18 anna October 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm

wah! she is so adorable. great little cozy tunic. I do the same thing every change of seasons! :)


19 bjahlstrom October 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Is she WALKING?!


20 Ana October 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Fantastic!! I love that! And so simple.


21 Anneliese October 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm

So, so, so adorable! The boatneck shirt is a staple at our house. I love the striped French variety for Audrey. I actually have a pile of knits I was going to use for this purpose this week too…but not sure I’ll get to it. I love the knit binding and buttons!


22 Jessica October 9, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Love the shirt and the little model wearing it. I just might need to make one of these for my four year old. Thanks for the inspiration!


23 Leigh Anne October 9, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Great job Dana! Love the stripes and adorable photos, as always! The blog world rejoiced the day you got your camera back :) heehee!


24 Leigh Anne October 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I meant dots…..duh! I am thinking of making one with stripes :)


25 Max October 9, 2012 at 6:59 pm

This is adorable! I think I might make one for Eddie today!


26 Stephanie October 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Boatnecks are one of my favorites for me, turns out I love them on little people too. This is adorable!


27 Alvina castro October 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm

This is so pretty! :) I love it


28 Jessica at Me Sew Crazy October 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm

I love love love that you used knit for the neckline – perfect for baby soft skin. Adorable, as always Dana! Love it so much – and so happy to see you ended up adding the button :)


29 Amy@Serving Pink Lemonade October 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm

This shirt is so cute! Some day I’ll have to try making my own pattern. You make it look so easy.


30 Nikki October 9, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Way cute Dana!


31 Charity October 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm

This is really sweet! I love the addition of the orange buttons. =)


32 Carla October 10, 2012 at 8:21 am

SUPER cute shirt! & I totally agree about the crazy Texas weather – you must be talking about this past weekend. We live in the Southeast part. Your baby girl is TOO precious. Thanks for the tutorial. I amy try making it some day.


33 Kim October 10, 2012 at 9:04 am

Thanks Dana! Now I know what to do this afternoon – make boat neck tunics. It’s cold where I live so we can always use more long sleeved shirts :)


34 kathleen October 10, 2012 at 9:22 am

Love the buttons;)


35 Amy K October 10, 2012 at 9:52 am

She’s standing!! Can’t wait to see more pics of her modeling your creations!! Soooo cute!


36 Kelley October 10, 2012 at 11:07 am

Oh man she is too cute!
I was just thinking about when I started reading your blog and Owen was a toddler!
Anyway, thank you for this tut, I am making some gifts for little girls for KCWC and was at a loss for tops… This fits the bill!


37 Kristin October 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Your work is really amazing, and you make me feel like I can actually do this! I’m definitely giving it a try.. thank you so much!!


38 Chelsea October 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I was this on pinterest and I should have known it was yours. I thought it was the cutest thing ever.


39 Heather D. October 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm

LOVE THIS!!!! Will be making this for my daughter! Thanks for another awesome tutorial!


40 Felicity @ Our Little Beehive October 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm



41 Carolyn Thornley October 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Your beautiful children will grow up to be very experienced at modeling. Love it!


42 Sonia October 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

gracias por el tutorial, genial!!!
Mil besos


43 Shannon October 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm

What a great project! I will have to make this for my big-headed baby :-)


44 Cathy Kelemen October 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Super ADORABLE top (and baby)! You are so talented!


45 Steph at Modern Parents Messy Kids October 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Super cute top – how and when did Clara get so big?! I was shocked to click over to see her toddling around upright :)


46 themissymom October 11, 2012 at 7:56 am

I can’t believe how big she is!


47 Lynet Witty October 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm

OH My goodness, she is SO stylish in that polka dot and skinny jeans!!! she’s a total doll :)


48 Mary October 11, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Love this tutorial! I’ve made three tops already, and they turned out perfectly! Thanks!


49 luvinthemommyhood October 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm

ADORABLE!!! Love the boatneck and how darling is she in that little outfit! she’s getting so big….what a sweetie! Thx for the tute!


50 Mikea October 14, 2012 at 12:17 am

Extra cute! Added it to my list!!


51 Aline October 18, 2012 at 9:03 pm

This looks so incredible. Love the fabric. Where can I get it and who makes it?


52 JAN April 18, 2014 at 12:10 am

Dana, you have such a sense of humor…you make me laugh. Imagine, reading a sewing blog and laughing…gotta love it!


53 marjolein June 18, 2014 at 7:08 am

love everything about this post, thanks for the laughs, tips and cuteness


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