Okay, friends – let the sweatshirt fun commence! Last week we covered knit fabrics & tools, this week we’re talking cutting and construction, starting with the sweatshirt body.
First things, first! If you’re new to raglan patterns, the body and sleeve pattern pieces may look a little funky. However, you will get used to that and then you’ll probably fall in love with the idea of never having to set-in a sleeve again – I know I did! You’ll also notice that the front bodice appears to be a little shorter than the back – this is because the front sits lower on the body than the back. Also note that the front of the sleeve is the shorter edge – I’ve totally sewn my sleeves on backwards before so using a pin to mark the front edge is a good idea. And if the neckband looks short, good: it should be! More on that later.
If you’re planning any kind of pattern hack, you’ve got some decisions to make before you get started! You can alter your paper pattern and/or use other patterns from your library and simply borrow the design lines. This works particularly well if you have a top with a curved hem you like – simply borrow the lower hem from it as you cut out your bodice back and front! Here are some other simple hacks to consider when customizing your sweatshirt to suit your needs:
- cropped, curved or shirttail hem without band
- hi-low hem with or without band
- peplum ruffle
- 3/4 sleeves with or without sleeve bands
For more involved hacks, consider inserting ruffles, installing a front zipper, a tulip hem and more, all of which will need to be sorted out before you cut your fabric. If you’re planning to make a t-shirt, you’ve got even more design variations to consider with regard to sleeve length and fabric options. That’s kind of the beauty of a basic pattern!
Cutting Out the Sweatshirt
Lay your body fabric flat on your work surface and cut one body front and one body back using a rotary cutter and pattern weights. If you’re new to knits, this may feel weird but you’ll likely never want to go back to pinning paper pattern pieces in place! Repeat for the sleeves, neckband, sleeveband and hemband (if using!). If you’re working with a stable knit, wait to cut the neckband until after you’ve assembled the body.
Main Body Construction Steps
Here are my notes on sewing knits! I tend to be on the relaxed and efficient end of the sewing spectrum.
- Use pins or don’t; they’re optional for knits. I tend to prefer them!
- Use a ballpoint needle in your sewing machine.
- Finish the raw edges or don’t – let the fabric be your guide!
- If using a sewing machine, experiment with stitches to find one that you like best. I like a triple stitch or a serger-type stitch, anything that provides a good combination of stretch and strength.
Once you’ve got a few knit sewing basics down, the construction steps for raglan sleeves are gloriously simple – and you have options!
Option one is to sew the sleeve front and back edges to the bodice front and back, and then sew up the side seam/underarm seam, as the instructions suggest. All of this happens before you install the neckband, and either on a serger or a sewing machine, which is what I use.
As an alternative, consider attaching three sleeve edges and leave one open. After this point (which we’ll cover next week!), you’re set to install your neckband, then sew the remaining seam, which joins and finishes the neckband. I think this option is easier, especially if you’re new to neckbands, but you’ll still need to stretch the neckband slightly as you go in order to get a good fit at the neckline. Don’t make the mistake of seeing that the neckband is shorter than the neckline and cutting a new one to fit (okay – I confess!). More on all of this next week, when we cover all the bands!
Neckband Tip: If you’re working with a fabric that is low on the stretch percentage, wait until after you’ve sewn the body and sleeves together to determine the neckband length. As created, the neckband is designed to be short to pull the fabric in at the neckline. However, I tend to like a looser neckband that requires less stretching to install. If the fabric you’re using is particularly stretchy or stable, you might need to adjust. Use this trick if you want to draft your own neckband length: Measure the neckline. Multiply by 85% or 90% and add 2 x the seam allowance. I’ll be using this technique for my sweatshirt, since the french terry I’m using is a bit on the stable side.
If you can believe it, we’re almost done sewing this sweatshirt! Neckbands, hembands and sleeve bands left to go before you’ve got your perfect fall layering piece!
There’s still time to join us, friends! Next week, we’ll cover installing neckbands and sleevebands. Grab the pattern in shopsewitall.com and join us, or access these sew alongs anytime as a reference!