Ok, I have a beef with tee shirts lately. Why are they all made out of thin, clingy fabric? What’s the deal? Don’t the manufacturers know I’m trying to hide my muffin top, not put it on display? Sigh. So I’m sprucing up my spring wardrobe with handmade tops (and a few fun dresses), which means I have a new pattern for all of you lucky enough to be my size: the raglan sleeve tee.
This free pdf pattern is size large (to fit 38 in bust) and I love it because I think it’s pretty flattering. Long time readers (hi mom!) might remember that I posted a raglan tee pattern three or four years ago. This one’s better. It has 4 sleeve lengths: short, elbow, 3/4, and long, and a pretty curved hem. I’m planning to show you lots of variations in the next few months as I sew up more new shirts for myself.
To make this shirt, you’ll need about a yard and a half of knit (stretchy) fabric. If you do different fabrics for the bodice and sleeves, like the shirt I made, you’ll need about 3/4 a yard of each. Make sure you wash and dry your fabric before you begin.
You can download the pattern by clicking here. Print it out at 100% or full size, and make sure the grey squares measure exactly 1 inch. Butt the pages together with no trimming, and tape them together. It takes 12 sheets of 8.5×11 paper and looks like this:
You’re going to cut 2 bodice pieces on the fold, one with the front neckline and one with the back neckline. Then you’ll cut 2 sleeve pieces (not on the fold, but make sure they are mirror images of each other). Finally, you also need a neckband piece, which should be 1.75 inches tall and about 25 inches long (and the stretch needs to go along the length).
Start by laying the back bodice right side up. Match up one of the sleeve pieces with the bodice piece as shown below. Note that the sleeve pattern shows which side of each sleeve should match up to the back bodice (it’s taller than the side that matches up to the front bodice). Pin and sew, using 1/2 an inch seam allowance.
Repeat with the other sleeve, then press the seams open. You will have something that looks like this:
At this point you’ll match up the other sides of each sleeve with the same spot on the front bodice. Pin and sew.
Now your sleeves will be attached to the front and back of the shirt, and when you lay the shirt down it will look like this:
Sew both side seams, starting at the bottom of the sleeve and sewing up, under the arm, and back down the side of the shirt. I like to give the material just a little stretch as I sew the under arm curve to make sure that seam won’t pop later on.
Turned right side out, your shirt now looks like this:
Now it’s time to add the neckbinding. Take your long strip of fabric and fold it in half lengthwise, with wrong sides touching. Press it.
There are a few different methods for attaching a knit neck binding. You can cut the neckbinding to size first, if you’d like. You can click here to see an example of how that works.
I generally prefer to just start pinning the binding to the shirt, stretching it as I go. This is because some knit fabrics are much stretchier than others, and if they are, you’ll want to stretch the binding more as you pin it to the neckline. On the other hand, if your knit fabric is not very stretchy (or has very strong recovery), you won’t want to stretch it quite so much. Honestly, this is one step where you just kind of have to get the feel for it as you sew on different fabrics.
Anyway, I begin by pinning the center of the binding strip to the front center of the neckline, as shown:
Then I hold the binding piece a few inches down from center and stretch it out a bit, then pin it to the neckline. I continue stretching and pinning until the binding pieces meet in the back, where I unfold them and sew them together.
This means that the binding piece is now pinned all around your neckine, but that it’s shorter than the neckline so the neckline fabric will be bunched up underneath it. You can see that in the photo below:
As you sew the binding to the neckline, stretch the binding so it lays flat against the neckline, as you see above. Sew the binding to the neckline with a stitch that will stretch, like a zigzag, stretch stitch, or serger stitch.
(If this is confusing, I found this post which has a pretty thorough explanation of adding a neckbinding to a t-shirt.)
Once the neckline is finished, make sure you give it a good press with a lot of steam so it will lay down flat.
Then you can hem the sleeves and the bottom of the shirt. I like to turn up the sleeves about 1/2 an inch, and the bottom of the shirt closer to 1 full inch, and hem both using a double needle.
Since the bottom hemline has a curve in it, you’ll want to turn it up and press it will lots of steam before you sew the hem to get it to lay flat.
Check back for more variations, and happy sewing!