Free pattern: zero waste ruffle tank

Free pattern zero waste Ruffle tank

It’s been nearly a year since this blog offered a free pattern, so ladies and gentlemen, I give you the zero waste ruffle tank.

The ruffle tank is a summer top in 15 sizes, and very simple to make. UPDATE: I’ve since made this top as a dress here.

It suits lightweight fabrics such as cotton lawn, voile, quilting cotton, lightweight linen or any fabric that’s light with a crisp handle and a bit of body. It’s very suitable for stripes and one-way fabrics.

I started this pattern during the summer holidays after my girls thought they’d like to do some sewing with friends…but the end of the holidays came up quickly (as usual – they always start slow and end quick) and we never did it. However, there’s still some warm days left in March to make & wear, and our Northern Hemisphere friends are approaching summer.

Ruffle tank with pockets
There’s an option for pockets.
Ruffle front closeup
Ruffle tank side view
The back is the same as the front (apart from the pockets).

I tried this pattern out in some black lace and found that it made quite a good evening top. I used grosgrain ribbon for the shoulder ties.

Ruffle tank evening top
Ruffle tank evening top
The lace is underlined with some black poly/cotton. It works although I wouldn’t want it any heavier – it might suffer from “ruffle droop”!

I apologize for the non-variety of models to show you this top. It’s just me and my favourite-almost-10-year-old. I fit-tested the top on some larger ladies and the general consensus was that no-one was keen on going braless, and all politely declined to be photographed, understandably. (But they thought it would be good top to wear at home when it’s hot, or as a nightie.)

Therefore, since this top is so easy to sew, I added an extra 3 sizes onto the beginning of the size chart for younger sewists.

Ruffle tank junior size
Ruffle tank junior size
Size 4 (30″ chest)

The instructions are condensed to fit on just two pages, cartoon-style, + an armhole template. There’s photos showing extra detail further down on this page. If you’d like to download the pages as a pdf here they are:

Ruffle tank Page 2 Instructions

Pick a size according to your bust measurement. For pattern-writing clarity, the measurements have been assigned a size.

What if you want to make a bigger size? Just follow the numerical sequence to create more sizes eg- the width of the rectangle for sizes 32-34-36 would be 45″/114cm – 46″/117cm – 47″/119.5cm. Draw in a new line on the armhole template, following the sequence of the previous ones.

Cut the rectangles for the body. The cutting layouts at the top of Page 1 are merely a suggestion – use any width fabric that fits your pattern pieces. If you have offcuts, they’ll be conveniently rectangular.
Exactly how long should the ties be? Anywhere between 125cm and 170cm. All the tops in this blog post have 125cm long ties (they’re sizes 10 and 4) and you can see they tie ample bows. The larger sizes I made had ties each made from 1.5 x 112cm long strips with a join (ie I cut 3 strips across the fabric and used one and a half for each tie) and there was plenty to tie bows with.
If you’re stuck for fabric, you can make the ties shorter and the bows could be knots with short ends.
If you’re using ribbon for the ties, grosgrain is preferable to satin ribbon, so the bows grip and don’t slip.
Ruffle tank sewing 1 pieces cut
These are the two rectangles and ties.
Note that the rectangles are all wider than they are long (although for the small sizes they’re only just wider).
Ruffle tank sewing 2 marking ruffle
Marking in the ruffle depth – the depth varies according to the size. Use removable chalk, an erasable pen or something similar.
Ruffle tank sewing 3 using template
Here’s the template in position to mark the armhole. Make sure you orient it around the correct way.
Ruffle tank sewing 4 pieces all cut out
All the pieces cut out. You can see I used the selvedge for one of the edges.
Ruffle tank sewing 5 overlocking curves
Overlocking. If you don’t have an overlocker, use a zig zag or facsimile stitch on your regular machine.
Around the curved armholes, stretch the edge as you overlock – I know, we don’t normally do that! But it will help you when you hem the curve.
Ruffle tank sewing 6 press hems
Pressing the hems. The larger the size, the easier it will be to press the armhole curve.
Ruffle tank sewing 7 mitred corners on ruffle
At the corners of the ruffles, fold the corner in to form a triangle as shown. This makes a sort of mitre at the corner so you can hem the three sides of the ruffle in one go, turning at the corners.
Ruffle tank sewing 8 making ties
Making the ties. These are sewn to make a tube. Make the ends neat by folding up each short end before you start.
Ruffle tank sewing 9 ties topstitched
Finished ties. I topstitched these because the fabric doesn’t press sharply (it turned out to be 100% polyester, but it didn’t feel like it).
Ruffle tank sewing 11 inside of armhole
Channel sewn. You don’t have to overlock the channel seam since it’s enclosed, but I did for this fabric because it frays like mad. After sewing the seam in Step 3 (sewing, Page 2), press it flat before flipping it over to sew Step 4, to get the seam right on the edge of the fold.
Side seams sewn and pressed open – you can see I saved myself overlocking one edge because I used the selvedge.
Ruffle tank sewing 11 thread ties through
The top with the ties threaded through.
Hem to suit – a 4cm/1.5″ hem is allowed in this pattern, but do whatever looks best on you.

Ruffle tank drawstring bag pieces
Pockets. The remaining pieces are sewn together to make patch pockets.
The larger the size, the larger the pockets. Sew these to give you the dimensions you want. To give you an idea: for the purple top (size 10) I sewed a 6mm central seam, folded the top down 5cm then another 5cm, then pressed under the curved edge 6mm. For the largest size (30), I sewed a 2cm central seam, folded the top down 7cm then another 7cm, then pressed under the curved edge 1.5cm.
The pocket pieces are quite small in the size 4, so my girl decided to have a pencil bag instead.
Ruffle tank drawstring bag
Patch pockets didn’t work on the lace, so I sewed it into a bag, and used some of the leftover ribbon as a drawstring.



  1. Wendy on March 9, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    Still sniggering at ‘ruffle droop’ – it sounds worse than it is!
    Great looking top with adaptable style though it is far too chilly to contemplate wearing here at the moment. Thanks for the free pattern Liz. Your cartoon instructions are discernibly different but still definitely ‘yours’; they look like they were fun to draw.

    • lizhaywood on March 10, 2021 at 9:49 am

      Thanks Wendy. I like this style of pattern writing; it’s heavily influenced by Len Deighton’s Action Cook Book which Mum had. Great for simple patterns but unfortunately not enough room for the detail needed on my other zw patterns.

      • Wendy Hendy on March 11, 2021 at 4:56 am

        Thanks for the link! We had plenty of Len Deighton’s books but they were all of his other genre. (And Michael Caine lives very near me – he has a big house on the hill over-looking the Mole Valley)

  2. Terri Gardner on March 10, 2021 at 1:54 am

    Lovely pattern-thank you for making it available. I’ve never been able to wear tops like these solo-but under a jacket would be a different story. Can’t wait for other’s makes to start showing up in Instagram.

    • lizhaywood on March 10, 2021 at 9:56 am

      Great idea Terri – would work well under a jacket to fill in the front. You would rock that look!

  3. Adele on March 10, 2021 at 10:32 am

    If a bra is desired and the bra straps will unhook at one end, you can sew a little tube to slip over each strap in the fabric of your choice. You end up with four straps instead of two, but playing around with strap widths, colours etc could produce a pleasing look. (In the olden days my crazy mother insisted on doing this even though I had no real reason to be wearing a bra in the first place!)

    • lizhaywood on March 10, 2021 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks Adele – some good ideas to play with here 🙂

  4. DSG on March 11, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    Love it! I can see this becoming a stash-busting summer staple. I’m thinking for an even dressier option one long strap, two buttonholes in the front to thread it through for a single front tie?

    • lizhaywood on March 11, 2021 at 9:18 pm

      Ah yes! – we thought of that but didn’t get around to incorporating it in a sample. Definitely dressier.
      My junior model suggested some sort of frill around the upper arm, sort of a cold-shoulder thing, attached to the casing.

      • DSG on March 11, 2021 at 10:16 pm

        Yes, please!
        I’m supposed to be sewing masks, but this is spread out on my cutting table now. Something to look forward to when the weather warms up here in Deutschland 🙂

  5. Barkat on March 30, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    Beautiful free pattern for zero waste.I like so much.

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 4:09 pm


  6. Susan on March 31, 2021 at 4:47 am

    Thanks so much for making this pattern available. I’m looking forward to sewing some tops for my young nieces.

    • lizhaywood on March 31, 2021 at 10:39 am

      That’s great Susan – think this is a good pattern for young people.

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