The Bonny Knit Sailor Top: Pedigree Post

click to view listing for paper pattern.  pdf is a separate listing and will be released when the paper pattern is shipped in late May.

click to view listing for paper pattern. pdf is a separate listing and will be released electronically when the paper pattern is shipped in late May.

Next up in our RiFF-troductions, we have the Bonny Knit Sailor Top.  She’s based on a “hack” I made last year- the Sailor Sweetheart on Sew Weekly:

Picture 3

I loved this top and wore her constantly until she died.  I had rather thought it would feel like “stunt-dressing” to wear such a heavily embellished top, but I loved the extra interest the styling brought to otherwise plain outfits.

I learned a thing or two while wearing this top- while elastic might be a stretch trim, it can make the top ride up one’s waist.  For the other, I really wanted a collar, and a slightly longer length than the original.

Staring at the point where the sky disappears into the sea...

Staring at the point where the sky disappears into the sea…

The Bonny Sailor top uses grosgrain ribbon as the trim, rather than elastic.  I like the effect even though it doesn’t stretch.  Unusually, I interfaced the entire collar exterior.  Ok- I suppose that’s normal for most, but I tend not to interface if I can avoid it.  In this case, however, I thought the collar needed a lightweight fusible fabric interfacing with good drape.  I chose Armoweft because it ticks all those boxes and I know it washes well without bubbling.

Bonny Knit Tee

If you’re planning to make this collar, do not use a stiff interfacing or your top will be unwearable.  Find an interfacing that is as much like actual fabric as possible, and slightly lighter weight than your shirt fabric.  Do not use non-woven fusibles made of poly or paper fibers pressed together and glued to the fabric, because after the first few washes your collar will look terrible.

Armoweft is easy to find and a really good choice for this application.

Bonny Knit Top

I’m really proud of the seam finish on the inner collar for Bonny, and I’m sure you will too.  It’s neat, light, strong, and simple.  Some time ago, I quit paying much attention to sewing manuals that demonstrate heavy/outdated sewing techniques.  I turned instead to RTW (ready-to-wear), constantly ripping apart old/thrifted garments and “sneaky shopping” in high-end retail clothing stores.  This is a finish I picked up studying the necklines on polo shirts.  In the Bonny pattern, it’s very simply spelled out for you- complete with a neck binding length guide.

I used a contrasting bias tape, but twill tape or ribbon or a matching bias tape would also work quite well.

Bonny Tee RiFF

The princess seaming on the front provides support for the buttons- take care about the placement!  Remember, the pattern is only a guide, it’s better to use your eyes and common sense than to walk around with button-nipples!


I’m especially fond of the Bonny Sailor with my yellow organic cotton twill Hummingbird Skirt!  You can see more photos of this style at the Bonny Galleries on

What kind of interfacing do you most often use?  Do you ever take apart RTW to learn from it? What did you discover? Ever heard of Anne Bonny, the 18th century female pirate?


    • There’s also “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” It’s contemporary to Anne Bonny, I always wondered… :) Hehe, button nipples…! I had to be really careful though and wanted to forewarn would be Bonny-makers.

  1. The careful button placement comment also made me giggle! Do you need a more stable knit due to the princess seams? I really like the shaping and neckline on this top.

    • I used a relatively lightweight organic cotton with a touch of lycra. The lighter the fabric, the less kind it is to the figure. That said, I think these are fine.

      The princess seams do allow more customization of fit..

  2. Gussied up t-shirts are one my my very favorite garment categories…. I so can’t wait for these patterns! Really excited to see your take on that neckline binding, and yes, looking at construction deets is pretty much the only thing I do at retail clothing stores these days. :D

    • They see such a lot of wear, don’t they?

      I try to be sneaky about my spying… :) So far no one has thrown me out but I always worry they will..

    • No? I went through a pirate phase when I was a kid, and Anne Bonny and Mary Read were very interesting to me. She’s not a hero really or a role model, but dear me very exciting… And a mysterious end…. :)

  3. Very cute and summery top. It’s a more flattering design than the usual v-front sailor collars, IMO. My favorite interfacing is 2-way stretch tricot fusible. Not sure of the brand–I buy it in NYC’s garment district. My second choice (or alternative) is some non-fusible woven stuff that is voile/batiste weight. The later would not be right for a knit, though.

    • I like the square neckline, too. And it’s a very neat and secure finish, I played around with it for a while before settling on what’s there… :)

      That tricot sounds like it would be just right.

  4. Splendid top Steph! I’ve loved a sailor style garments ever since the 70’s — perhaps because I often shopped for school clothes in the navy surplus store :D! Hopping on over to Etsy to purchase right now!

  5. I haven’t taken apart RTW yet. As a fairly new sewer, I’m still often looking up basic techniques in my sewing books. I’ve always wondered about that kind of collar finish. I’ve seen it on some of my husband’s and my shirts. Glad I’ll get to learn how to do it once my copy of the pattern arrives. :)

    The other day I bought some weft-insertion interfacing from fashion sewing supply: Pro-Weft Supreme LIGHT-weight Fusible Interfacing. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it has good reviews. I like that the interfacing comes in 60″ widths. Here’s the website:

    Never heard about pirate Anne Bonny. She must have been one extraordinary woman!

    • Oooh it’s fun and often quite instructive to take apart RTW… :) There’s two ways to do that kind of collar finish (that I’ve played with… there’s probably hundreds of ways), I opted for a bias tape finish because it’s a little simpler to master, but it’s adaptable to twill tape, too…

      Make sure to preshrink interfacing! Dunk it in hot water for 15 minutes and let it line dry…

      Anne Bonny was a bit firey and bloodthirsty. It seems like she left life as a comfortable New World merchant family to be a pirate. Kind of like Keira Knightley’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean, come to think of it. Hmm…

      • You don’t have to pre-shrink the Pro-Weft stuff- I use the medium weight version of the same stuff all the time and the seller has a big bold warning saying that it’s pre-shrunk.

          • I always err on the side of caution and pre-shrink. I’ve had the experience of interfacing and fabric twisting and buckling away from each other because the interfacing shrinks. :) And there’s so much variation between brands, etc, I’d just as soon dunk & dry… I get long lengths of interfacing as a “stock” and shrink it all when I first get it. Easy.

          • Back when I did the Gertie coat sewalong, it was the recommended interfacing for the project. I became quite enamored with it and it’s become my go-to for most garments now. It makes lovely waistbands and shirt plackets, which is what I use interfacing for the most often. I usually will order two yards of it and that will last me quite a while because of how wide it is, and I recently ordered a bunch of it for a trench coat that I’m making. I would imagine that the light version would be fine for this sailor top, as the interfacing is technically a knit and has a wonderful hand and drape (if it’s like the medium, anyway), though I think the tricot that the website also sells would be a better fit. I’ve used it before as well and it is divine.

  6. Oh, pirates! They’re still looking for Blackbeard’s treasure on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (merely hundreds of miles from my house). Remember Mary Read, Anne’s good friend, too — who disguised herself as a man to embark upon a life of piracy. Legends say that Mary died giving birth in prison, and that Anne was there to comfort her. Of course, other legends say other things … arrrrh.

    • Yes, pirates! :) I remember Mary Read, poor woman. Before her husband was executed Anne said something to him like “If you’d fought like a man, you wouldn’t die like a dog.” Apparently he wasn’t much help in the raid that captured them. It gets the imagination going…

      I like the legend about Anne escaping and disappearing to Virginia (?) and marrying and raising ten children, dying at age 80..

  7. The RiFFs look so lovely!!! I daydreamed about the Bonny pattern all day and at one point I had the vision of piping along the princess seams and maybe a back yoke set apart wiht piping, too, instead of the collar. But: can you do piping with jersey???
    Happy Sewing and Designing

  8. Pingback: Grocery Store Bonny & Invisibility Cloaks « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

Is it kind, useful or interesting? Great!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s