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How to Make a Raglan Sleeve T-Shirt

A raglan sleeve t-shirt is such a classic look and, in our opinion, a must have for summer!  While this project might not be the best for a newbie sewist, it is easy enough for a beginner with a few projects under their belt.  Let’s get started!

You will need:

  • Fabric – see your pattern for yardage. We used the same colour for both the sleeves and the body of the shirt, but contrasting or coordinating fabrics would also work well. You could also use a different fabric for the neckband. You will need knit (stretchy) fabric – patterns usually have some suggestions for types of fabric or at least the stretch percentage required.
  • Tailor’s chalk (or your favourite fabric marking method)
  • Thread to match your fabric
  • Ballpoint or jersey sewing machine needles
  • Optional: Twin needle for hemming and topstitching
  • Optional: Wonder Tape to make hemming your shirt easier.  Wonder Tape is a double-sided transparent tape which can be stitch and disappears in the first washing.

Pick your pattern – we’re using the Slim Fit Raglan pattern from Patterns for Pirates. If using a PDF pattern like ours, print it out and stick it together, following the instructions given.

Take your measurements. Usually shirt patterns need you to measure your bust (across the fullest part), your waist (where you go inwards if you bend over to the side) and your hips (usually the fullest part of your bum). Make sure your measuring tape is parallel to the ground all the way round – it should be taut but not uncomfortably tight. Asking someone to help can be easier than doing it yourself!

Figure out which size to make. If all three of your measurements fit neatly into one size, then pick that size. If not, you’ll need to grade (blend) between sizes. For example, our model’s measurements were XS for bust and hips, but S for waist (which only really means that the pattern is drafted for a slightly more hourglass-shaped figure than our model). So we drew a smooth line between the XS size at the bust and the S size at the waist, curving back towards the XS line at hip height. Make sure your grading lines don’t have sudden angles – this will help the shirt to hang properly. Don’t forget to adjust both the front and the back pattern piece. For the sleeves, use the size your bust measurement fits into.

 

 

Trace or cut out your pattern (we traced so that the master pattern can still be used to make other sizes) and decide on which options you are going to use. We made a short-sleeved shirt-length raglan with hemmed sleeves and body. If you’re tracing the pattern, be sure to transfer any markings and notches to your tracing.

 

 

Copy your pattern onto your fabric. First fold your fabric in half, selvedge to selvedge – make sure both layers of your fabric are lying flat (you can also fold both selvedges into the middle to save on fabric). Now place your pattern pieces onto the fabric – for a raglan shirt you will need two sleeves, one neckband, one front and one back. Place the front, the back and the neckband up against the fold, and the sleeve piece away from the fold – when you cut through both layers you will have both a left and a right sleeve piece. You can either pin through your pattern pieces onto the fabric or weigh them down with pattern weights (or whatever you have around!) to stop them shifting as you work.   **Correction (April 27: the word paper has been changed to fabric**

 

 

Use tailor’s chalk to draw around all the pattern pieces, not forgetting to transfer notches and markings. Remove the pattern pieces but DON’T unfold the fabric yet. Most modern patterns include seam allowances in their pattern pieces, but if yours doesn’t you will need to add it before cutting.

 

 

Cut out your pieces. Pin inside the drawn pieces to keep both layers of your fabric together while you’re cutting, then use either fabric scissors or a rotary cutter and mat to cut out the pieces. When you get to a notch, you can either cut it outwards or just snip a little way into the seam allowance to mark the spot – you will need the notches during the construction process. Cutting a triangular notch inwards will weaken the seam allowance at that point, so it’s best to avoid this method. Once your pieces are cut, remove the pins.

 

 

Pin or clip one sleeve to the front of your raglan, right sides together. Match the top and bottom of the seam, as well as the notches.

 

 

Sew along the seam using the seam allowance specified by your pattern and a stretch stitch on your sewing machine (we used a “lightning” stitch, but you can also use a narrow zigzag stitch, or an overlocker/serger). Don’t forget to use your ballpoint sewing machine needles – they slip through the gaps between fibres to avoid holes in your finished product. Since you’re using knit fabric, it won’t fray so you don’t need to finish the seams, though of course you can if you want – we used a mock overlock stitch to finish ours.

 

 

 

Repeat the process for the other sleeve.

Now attach the back – one at a time, pin or clip the sleeves to the back of the raglan, matching start and end points and notches as before. You should have a sort of circle when you’re finished.

 

 

Next, sew the side and underarm seam. Rearrange the shirt (with right sides together) to make it look like a shirt, with the sides of the sleeves and the front and back of the body together. Match the bottom hems, the underarm seams and the sleeve hems. Pin or clip the seams together. Use the same stretch stitch as before to sew both side seams.

 

 

Sew the short ends of the neckband together with your stretch stitch, right sides together.

 

 

Fold the neckband lengthwise with wrong sides together and press. Mark the front centre of your neckband by folding it in half and snipping into the seam allowance opposite the seam (where the seam ripper is pointing).

 

 

Mark the quarter points too by aligning the seam with your centre front marking and snipping into the seam allowance at both end points (see picture). This will help you in the next step.

 

 

If using a label, baste it onto the centre back of your shirt.

 

 

Attach the neckband, aligning the raw edges of the neckband and the shirt, with the neckband on the outside of the shirt. Pin or clip at the front and back centre, as well as at your quarter points. The neckband seam should be at the back of your shirt. You will need to stretch the neckband to fit the shirt – don’t stretch the shirt itself! If you’re uncertain, you can baste the neckband on using a straight stitch with a long stitch length (you’ll need to remove the basting afterwards so that the seam can still stretch).

 

 

Otherwise, use a stretch stitch and a ½in (0.75cm) seam allowance to sew the neckband on. It helps to use a walking foot if your machine has one, and to sew with the band closer to your feed dogs.

 

 

Topstitch to finish the seam – if your machine can use twin needles, this is a good place to use them (after testing on some scrap fabric). If not, use a narrow zigzag so that the neckband can still stretch. You can decide where the stitching should go – either straddle the seam line or stitch close to the seam line on the shirt side.

 

 

Now hem the sleeves and body – fold the bottom of the shirt up by 1in (2.5cm) and the sleeves up by ½in (1.25cm) all the way round and press. You can hem right away or temporarily fix the hems with Wonder Tape (which washes away once your shirt is finished). You can either use a twin needle or a narrow zigzag for hemming.

 

Your shirt is finished!  Enjoy!

 

 

Seamstress: Emma Lorenz

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