Charlie Tunic in KNIT! with WHALES!

Yesterday when both kids took naps at the same (!) time for a couple hours (!?!?!) I decided it was time to conduct a little knit experiment with the Charlie Tunic Sewing pattern. The whale pajamas I made for Elliot last winter were an early knit version of what would later become the Charlie Tunic, but as I had redrawn the pattern for woven fabrics like quilting cotton and linens I wasn’t sure the NEW pattern would work with knits, you know what I mean? Would it be way too big? Would the knit fabric pucker like crazy when sewn to the quilters cotton?

As you can see, it worked. I had a tiny pucker at the neckline, but I am really happy with the result. It’s worth noting that I did this without my serger or walking foot or any other fancy magical knit equipment, so you can too!


Now I just have to brag a little. This fabric is also a Rae Hoekstra Design Original. I drew those whales myself and ordered this print from Spoonflower. I know it’s nothing special, but I’m really proud of how it turned out. Bet you didn’t know that I’m a closet amateur fabric designer. I’ve been putting together prints for fabric for a few years now actually and occasionally get them printed up at Spoonflower. I had a really cute baby boy collection designed that I wanted to enter in the Spoonflower Project Selvage contest but we were moving so I had to skip it (not that I would have won, the winner’s collection was fantastic). I ordered a full yard but really for just this top I used less than a fat quarter, so I’ve got plenty left for a pair of shorts or something else.



  • Use a knit that is at LEAST as heavy as a t-shirt. Using drapey thin jersey is just not going to work here.  I used a plain white jersey.
  • I trimmed the side of the tunic front and back so that it was straight instead of A-line shaped. You don’t have to do this, but since knit stretches you don’t need really need that extra room on the side.
  • Use a quilter’s cotton or something with less stretch for the facings (I used the whale fabric). Using two knits would be a little loosey goosey, and unless you have a walking foot for your machine I think that might end badly, with lots of swears.
  • Sew the neck facing pieces (the ones with the whales here) together at the shoulders with a smaller seam allowance to account for the fact that the knit will stretch. I used a 3/8″ and that worked just fine.
  • Always sew with the WOVEN fabric on top of the knit fabric, and stretch the woven fabric out a little as you go.
  • Use a longer stitch length (something between the regular 2.5 on most machines and basting length: for me that is a 3.5)
  • Pin the bajonkers out of the facing when you flip it over to sew to the top. If you have double sided stick tape this is the place to use it, but I also found that copious amounts of pinning worked fine too.
  • You will get a better result with the sleeve facings if you sew them to the sleeve before you sew the side seams as shown below. Unfortunately this can only be done if you want the facings INSIDE the sleeve, but you can always fold them to face out and tack them down like I did with this top.
  • And one other thing I changed this time in case you’re interested: I cut the angle lower at the bottom of the front neck facing. I think it looks better this way.

Elliot is very happy with this top, as he is Whale Crazy right now and has been demanding that I sew him whale garments left right and center. All the books we have out from the library are about whales. When we swim at Grandma’s pool he pretends to be a humpback whale, “with barnacles.” Yesterday when we were outside riding bikes he looked into the sky and exclaimed “That cloud is shaped like a SPERM WHALE! See the DORSAL FIN!?” The kid loves whales.

It is raining and he wanted to wear his Super Grover shirt today so I do not have any pictures of it on him yet, but it does fit very nicely. Just to show you that the size came out right, above is a picture of it hiding underneath another t-shirt. A little long perhaps but as I don’t plan to hem it, I should probably cut off the 1″ hem allowance.

30 thoughts on “Charlie Tunic in KNIT! with WHALES!

  1. Don't be so modest, the fabric is fantastic! I LOVE the whales!! I would so buy it, in all kinds of colors. I'd love to see (and buy!) your other fabric designs, too!! Don't hold out on us!

    (sorry for all the exclamation points, I just got so excited about the whales, and spoonflower, I couldn't hold it all in)

  2. Dude. Rae. That fabric is awesome. Did you put it up for sale in the spoonflower market? You totally should!

  3. The whales are awesome! I do some very-amateur designing on spoonflower too. I tried to find your designs but couldn't. Are they public or could you share a link or username?

  4. It's perfectly adorable — I *L*O*V*E* your whale print! We have a whale lover around here, too! :o)

  5. That is so stinkin' cute!!! Great job on the whale print too!! I have yet to use spoonflower but am ready to order some labels (i think). Happy Friday!

  6. I love love the whale print! And I love the simplicity of it. Knowing when enough is enough is a big problem of mine so I love that you kept it simple and knew it was complete. 🙂

  7. Love the tunic and series! Thanks for the inspiration (and additions to my never ending sewing list 😉

  8. Super cute! And your fabric is wonderful! You make me want to sew with knits and design my own fabric (but that would end badly, on both counts!)

  9. ridiculously cute. just plain ridiculous!! Keep designing fabric- I would buy up some of those whales in a heartbeat!

  10. I love the whale print, it reminds me of some 1070s t-shirts my brother and I had as wee kids! So cool the pattern works for knits too. Thanks for showing us how!

  11. What I thought of the fabric?
    Seriously: the moment I saw the pictures in this post, I went like "Wow. What lovely fabric! Where would Ray have bought that one? I've never seen this print before…"

    I think it is a very strong print, deceptively "simple" in its repetition and color use – but that's what makes it so strong, IMO. And the whale image itself is *very* strong.

    Well done!


  12. oh rae, you are so completely fabulous. I'm always amazed at what you make, just amazing! and the fabric, don't even get me started, I want some now!!! 🙂

  13. 1. I would for sure buy that fabric. sell it baby!

    2. I hope I'm not being lazy and missing a step but I LOVE how on the sleeves it looks like it was serged because you have two lines of stitching. Is that in your original pattern? Or did you do a top stitch of sorts on the seam? I'm just getting into knits sans serger and I'd love to know the trick! thanks and beauitful shirt!

  14. Love the fabric! My nearly-5 yr old is also on a whale kick. And giant squid kick. Go figure. His fave shirt has a picture of a giant squid attacking a sperm whale. Lands End.

    Keep up the blog – I'm a Holland girl-moved South. Living winters vicariously thru you! 🙂

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