sailboat top

We always take customer feedback seriously, and one thing we’ve heard clearly in the last year is that people want more patterns for boys’ clothing.

Most boys’ tops are either T-shirts (no fun to make, in my opinion) or shirts with collars and plackets and cuffs and such. In other words, they have a lot of fiddly details that can be very tedious to sew.

Instead of doing something along these lines, I wanted to design an outfit that would be fun, a little different from the norm, appropriate for both boys and girls, and relatively easy to sew at the same time.

While I was contemplating all this, it occurred to me that I adore my old French navy shirt. It’s a little slouchy and very comfortable. I love the navy and white stripes, the soft knit French terry, and the buttons at the shoulder. “Hey!” I thought, “That would be such a great style to re-interpret for kids.” This is my version of that beloved shirt.

Not only can this pattern be sewn from a printed cotton, linen, or other woven fabric, but it’s also great for knits. I made this green-and-white striped sample with interlock, which is my favorite knit fabric because it’s a bit more substantial than jersey and doesn’t curl up the way that jersey tends to do. A couple of friends have been telling me about the many new knit fabrics that are available, which is great because it used to be so difficult to find them. The worst part of sewing with knits is finding matching rib trim. But that’s not a problem with this pattern, fortunately, as it doesn’t require any trim.

For this garment, I stitched the interlock pretty much the same way I sew any woven fabric. I don’t have a serger or use any special stitches on my machine, so obviously those of you who have more experience stitching with knits will be able to do many more interesting things than I did here. One thing I did do, though, is to put a heavier thread in my bobbin when I did the topstitching. And I love the result I got. The stitching really stands out and doesn’t get swallowed up in the stretchy fabric the way ordinary topstitching might.

This top can also be dressed up with luxurious fabrics. Linen or silk with carved mother-of-pearl buttons for a girl? Beautiful.

And what about adding appliques to a solid or a woven stripe (horizontal, if you please) for everyday play? (Never done an applique? I did a tutorial on disdressed a couple years ago that you might want to read.) I’m envisioning all sort of fun designs you could add. Ice cream cones. Lobster. Dinosaurs. Oooh, robots!

You could also use the freezer paper stencil and instructions from the Sandbox Pants pattern to paint fun shapes onto the shirt using fabric paint, which is fast and easy and actually fun to do with kids.

Anyway, the Sailboat top is is seriously the easiest shirt to sew. It comes together in no time, and the sleeve fits the armhole very easily. No messing around with easing in the extra fabric. I could sew these shirts all day and be a happy person. Could probably finish a mess of them in no time, too. I want to teach this pattern for a class sometime soon; it would be perfect for new students who have never followed a pattern before. It’s not difficult to sew, and it scores high on the accomplishment/satisfaction scale. Perfect.

Up next: the sailor-style skirt and pant that go with this top.




  1. so so so so cute. I really love it. You guys are geniuses!

  2. Wow, I love the shade of green on that knit. Divine. Did you use a walking foot or anything special?

  3. KNITS???!!!!! THAT. is a GORGEOUS green knit. I’m going to click back and see if you linked the supplier. I LOVE IT! And, yes, I noticed immediately how perfect those stripes lined up. 🙂

    Did you use a walking or even feed foot?

    It’s 11:10pm here and you’d think it was 8:00am rise-n-shine time – I was all sleepy and now my mind is racing with new ideas! I can’t wait!

  4. kate Dixon

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the top! Will be making up for my little girl and little man in my life!

  5. I did the shirt in a knit today! Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  6. Hey, everyone. With regard to your questions, I did use a walking foot when I sewed the knit shirt. Actually, I always use a walking foot, but that’s probably a different story. So yes, I think it would help to use it, since it helps to prevent unnecessary stretching or distorting of the knit while you’re stitching. Cheers!

  7. liz

    do you think you could use the short sleeve that is in the 2+2 blouse pattern to do a short sleeve here? or just cut the sleeve shorter? sorry – that’s probably a dumb question. . . i’m just thinking summer here in CA.

  8. I’m planning to use this exact pattern for a children’s clothing class. Thank you for timeless, sewable, wearable designs.

  9. Sue

    I’m just getting back to sewing after a long hiatus and this is the pattern I’m starting with. Can’t begin to tell you how much I love it. Am making it for my granddaughter and grandson and will do the pants and skirt too. Can’t wait to get to the fabric store. Love the classic styles presented by Oliver and S. Nothing tricky or overdone. Just beautiful designs you’d be proud to have your children or DGC wear. Thank you, Liesl!

  10. Crystal Ballif

    Liesel – make in a women’s size too please.

    1. The women’s version is our Maritime Top.

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