6 Easy Pattern Hack Ideas for Any Basic Knit Top

Todays’ feature Friday pattern from Love Notions is the La Bella Donna Dolman. It’s a top and tunic pattern meant for knit fabrics, and it features grown on sleeves in three lengths: short, ¾ and long. There are two different hem options: curved hem or straight hem band and you also have hood, cowl, and pocket options. So there are a ton of variations in this simple dolman top which if offered in sizes XS-5X with a maximum bust of 57.5”, waist 49.5” and hip 59.5”. It only takes an hour to cut and sew and doesn’t take much yardage. The La Bella Donna Dolman is on sale for $5 today only.

I’ve made three versions since I first discovered the La Bella Donna pattern and I realized all of them have some little hack. Now you guys always seem to love my hack ideas and I have so many in my head! I decided I would share some with you since I can’t do them all. And I hope you feel inspired to try one. These hacks would be perfect for the La Bella Donna dolman but can be used on any basic knit top or t-shirt.

Lengthening into a dress

This one if probably the simplest hack and I always see questions in the Love Notions Facebook Group about turning a top into a dress. I personally believe that you can turn any top into a dress and of course depending on the pattern, you can do it in different ways. For a basic like the LBD pattern, it’s as simple as adding extra inches to the hem. For my orange and pink mesh version, I added 5” to the tunic length at the hem. This was a tester version and the tunic has since been lengthened in the pattern. This is a perfect beach dress and I wore it over my swimsuit in these photos. I also have a Youtube video all about this make!

My newest version is also a lengthened tunic version, but since the tunic was lengthened in the final pattern, I only added 3.5” this time. My fabric for this one is ITY and it’s a blend of purple, red and pink tones. Of course this is also a beach dress. I’m an island girl… I need all the beach dresses! Fun fact – as I write this post, Hurricane Elsa is currently passing our island. We have no power and no water, and I am hoping to steal data from my husband’s phone to upload this post. These photos were taken yesterday. When I heard the storm was coming, my priority was to get my new LBD photographed. As you can see, it was an absolutely beautiful day out! Literally the calm before the storm!

This next suggestion is my favourite for lengthening a top into a dress. I like having a waist seam to cinch the waist so I like to cut a top just below the natural waist and add on a skirt from another pattern, adding elastic in the seam. Here is my mashed La Bella Donna and Sybil Skirt make – I have a Blog Post all about this pattern hack.


Ruching is a fun detail you can add to any pattern, knit or woven. For the La Bella Donna that has dolman sleeves with a long shoulder seam, I would press the seam open and edge stitch both sides creating casings. I would make 2 thin tubes and thread them through the casing, anchoring at the neck so I can pull the strings to create the ruching. It would look something like this:

You can also use this method on the side seam of a regular t-shirt with set in sleeves so your anchor will be the top of the side seam right at the armscye join. If you want to do this on the LBD pattern, I suggest just stitching across on the side seam where ever you want your anchor point to be. You can determine how long you would like your casings and your strings. It would look something like this:

You can also sew a strip of fabric down the center front on the wrong side of your top, edge stitching each side of the strip to form casings and using the neck as the anchor point. You’ll thread your strings through the same way and pull to ruch the front of the top. It would look something like this:

Adding a Placket

You can create a Henley using any basic knit top or t-shirt pattern. Just steal the neckline and placket pieces from another pattern. I love the neck detail of the Breckenridge Henley! You’d simply transfer the neckline to your LBD pattern, back and front, and borrow the neckband pieces. I think this would make the cutest mashup! It would look something like this:

If you prefer to keep the regular neckline and just add a simple short placket, here’s a fun idea – steal the placket pieces from the Men’s Dockside Henley. I love this idea too because of the awesome placket video instructions in that pattern; so good! It would look something like this:

Another great idea is to add 2 plackets to the center front for grommets and a lace up detail. Again, if you own a pattern with this feature, it should be easy to borrow the pieces. Otherwise, I’m sure something exists on YouTube or a quick google search. I’ve also seen grommets laced up on dolman sleeves, obviously not with plackets. The sleeve seam allowances are probably just interfaced, turned under and topstitched before applying the grommets. Here’s what these two styles would look like:

Adding a Lace Panel

Lace is a fun fabric that can really dress up your basic knit top. I’ve seen lace strips added to shoulders and sleeves, or lace panels added to the back. I think it looks so elegant especially when the lace is the same color as the fabric. You can either chop apart your pattern to add the lace like you would for color blocking, or just topstitch some lace wherever you’d like. This is another super simple hack that completely changes up the look of the top. It would look something like this:

Making a Baby doll Top

Cut the pattern at the waist point, adding seam allowance. Measure the circumference of that cut edge and multiple by 1.5 or 2 depending on how much gathers you want to have at the waist. You are going to cut a rectangle using this measurement as the width x your desired length plus seam allowance. Do your usual basting stitch for gathering and gather to fit the waist of the top. Stitch and voila, you have a baby doll top! It really doesn’t get any simpler than this hack, and it’s one of my favourite styles to wear. It would look something like this:

Adding Graphics or Embellishment

A basic top like the La Bella Donna is a great base for personalization. You can use a fun panel for the front, add embroidery, sew on pearls or beads, add a vinyl design, or even paint something cute! I tried a stencil for the first time on my very first La Bella Donna Top. It didn’t turn out perfect but it was surely fun to do and it definitely makes a statement and represents me. Here’s a photo of my customized LBD and make sure you checkout my YouTube video with all the details on this make:

These are just a few pattern hack ideas for any basic knit top or t-shirt. Be sure to tag me on Instagram if you try any! There’s also a lot more where that came from, so let me know in the comments below if you would like more content like this. Make sure to grab your copy of La Bella Donna on sale today for $5. And I would love to know which of my LBDs is your favourite!




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