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Making the Frankie Tankie as a beginner

by Louise

My experience with sewing

I’ve never made any clothing using a pattern by myself. I have helped my Mum to make things for me, which invariably turned out with Mum taking over. Consequently I’ve never followed a pattern or had an online pattern that needed printing and taping together. I do have a sewing machine (My wonderful 1967 Bernina).

Over the past 18 months I’ve been making things with the machine. It started with face masks for me, then family and friends and I’ve also made some fabric bags. So when Vanessa was asking for testers for her Frankie Tankie pattern I looked at the picture of the top and thought I’d be able to manage it. I offered to be one of the pattern testers and was delighted when Vanessa chose me as one of the testers.

Using a PDF pattern

The first hurdle was the PDF pattern, but Vanessa has given really clear instructions for printing the design, so that was straightforward.

It was great having the pattern made in layers so that I could just print the size I needed (saving both confusion when it comes to cutting the pattern, and printer ink!). I used double sided tape first of all to tape the sheets of paper together, it was easy to do, the pages were numbered and used the cutting lines and birds to line up the edges correctly.


Firstly I made a toile with an old polycotton nightdress. As I was re-purposing an old item of clothing there wasn’t much fabric, so I just did the facings (and the back is made in 2 pieces). I finished it (a little roughly) but was pleased that I had the general idea and that it fitted well.

I made the final version with 100% linen which has quite a loose weave and looked slightly sheer so this time I did the full lining. I am a little long in the body so I also lengthened the top by 2 cm to make up for what I would lose in hemming. I just followed the pattern line with a ruler and measured 2 cm down from the end of the pattern marking with the pen that dissolves.


I cut it as accurately as possible (I pinned and used scissors) and followed the pattern and instructions which I found very clear, the stay stitching meant that the armholes and neckline didn’t distort, which is something I’d never done before, but I was really glad that I followed this step (I’m an avid follower of the sewing bee and have seen them talk about this) I also zig-zagged the raw edges, which has been a life saver with quite a loose weave linen that frays quite easily. I had a little trouble with the under stitching part, but got there in the end, I’m so glad I persevered with this technique as I think it gives such a good finish to the top, I’ll definitely use this technique in future.


I found all of the instructions really helpful, especially the ‘how to’ section at the top of the

pattern, it was as though Vanessa was working through the pattern with me. I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to test the pattern. Especially one that has such fantastic instructions which have led me to create a garment I love and of a really good quality that I’m happy and proud to wear.

I’ve got some more fabric (just need to get some suitable lining) so there will be another incarnation of this design joining my wardrobe soon, although with the wonderful hacks of turning it into a dress I’ve not yet decided what the next version will be! (watch this space….)

This isn’t the only one of Vanessa’s designs I’ll have in my wardrobe either, I’ve got another of her patterns to make and I’m looking forward to making many more garments and creating a really special and unique wardrobe with beautiful fabrics for myself.

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