Today is the big day! We start our Patterns for Pirates Slim Fit Raglan sew-along! If you are getting here late, no worries. I posted a bit about the pattern and supplies a month ago. And if you have any questions, you can post them here, email me, or message me through Facebook (either my personal page, or my sewing page – The Vegan Tailor). I want to make sure to help everyone who is participating, to have great results.
A reminder: my sew-along partner, Rachelle Weiler, is also hosting several wonderful hacks for this pattern. She is making a wonderful lace sleeve with grommet-placket hack, a men’s hoodie, and a FST mashup dress with flared sleeves! Between the two of us, we are sure to cover a wonderful top that’s just your style!
Shown below, my oldest – modeling a bamboo jersey version with elbow patches, long sleeve cuffs, and waistband:
Before we start, a reminder my itinerary is as follows:
March 15th (today!): cutting and marking
March 17th: triangle patch & elbow patches
March 19th: seams and neckline
March 21st: cuffs, waistband, and curved hem
So first, we get to pre-treat our fabric. What this means for a t-shirt like this, is we wash and dry according to the fabric’s directions and the way we’re going to treat the garment. I hang-dry all my day clothes, but because we’re a busy family and I know anything can happen, I wash and dry my fabrics at least once.
So before washing I serge-finish my fabric ends, so they don’t curl too much after laundering:
(My little serge scraps!)
After washing and drying, I find the grain of my main fabric, and lay it out on the table folded in half along the grainline. For knits, I like to let them “rest” a few moments before I cut them.
For this pattern there are only five paper pieces, but you will also need to cut out the neckband piece, and perhaps cuffs and waistband (as according to the chart on page 4 of the pattern). Below, here are the paper pieces for a size large. They are photographed perpendicular to the fabric, so I could fit them on the table and in the frame:
I recommend setting aside your small pieces – the triangle patch and elbow patch, then cutting the large pieces first. I cut using a rotary cutter, and I usually don’t even use pattern weights, because I’m a bad-ass (if you are cutting with scissors, you will need to pin firmly). To cut these pieces, place the paper patterns so the grainline parallels the folded, on-grain edge, pin (or weight), and cut. You will end up with two sleeves (mirror images of one another), a front of your shirt, and a back. And remember – if you are making contrast sleeves (like I am) – don’t cut the sleeves from your main fabric! Lay out your contrast fabric along the grain, pin, and cut.
Now, I want to talk a bit about marking before we proceed. I like to mark my shirt pieces, before I set them in a neatly folded pile next to my machine.
I am using 1/8″ notches to mark the sleeve notches (at the raglan shoulder), and the center front and center back at both the neckline edges, and the hem edges, of the front and back pieces. I mark these center-front and center-back positions on almost every shirt I ever sew – it’s a good habit. I am also using a 1/8″ notch to mark the center of the sleeve at the raw edge of the sleeve hem – this will help me install the cuff smoothly. For my neckline band, waistband, and cuffs, I will cut a 1/8″ notch halfway down the long edge of the cuff/band. Finally, I will be using a tracing medium and spoked wheel to mark my elbow patch location.
Remember our smaller pieces – the triangle patch and elbow patch? I first fold these paper pieces in half, and line this fold up along the grainline of a smaller scrap of fabric (we only cut one triangle patch piece):
Then, I make a little snip in the top center, corresponding to that paper fold:
To make sure the elbow patch is on grain, I fold this paper piece, again, down the center of the piece (a line bisecting the the two ellipses, if y’all remember the geometry of ovals!) and make sure this folded line corresponds to the grain of the patch fabric:
After cutting my patches, I carefully place these patches right-sides together with the patch lining – in this case, I used the same fabric as my sleeves – black. You can also use the same fabric as your patch fabric. After I cut these, I set aside without separating the patch from the patch lining. I’ll be making up the patches next installment.
Now, it’s time for my neckband and cuffs!
So, people new (or new-ish) to sewing knits often have a lot of trouble with necklines – and occasionally cuffs and waistbands too. Usually, this is because they have selected a fabric for their neckline, cuff, and/or waistband that does not have the degree of stretch that the pattern recommends. Reminder: this pattern requires you find a fabric with 70% stretch, and good recovery (the latter term means the fabric springs back into shape, instead of staying stretched once released from tension).
But this is no big deal, if your fabric has a little less stretch. You simply need longer bands for your neckline, waistband, and cuffs.
If, like me, you are using self-fabric for the neckline and it does not have an easy 70% stretch, then simply cut a longer strip for neckline, cuffs, and waistband. Below, here are the recommended sizes of neckband, long sleeve cuffs, and waistband pieces recommended for my size (large) – illustrated on page 4 of the pattern:
You can see below I am cutting a long neckband here (the fabric is folded in half so – 24″). Again, it is easier to make the bands shorter – you can’t make them longer. I like to be really fussy with these bands and cuffs, and cut right on the grain. Reminder: for each band (or cuff) make a small 1/8″ notch halfway down the long side of the band (at the fold you see to the bottom right of the photo below); this notch will help us line up the neckline (or waistband or cuff) later on.
Now let’s talk about marking those elbow patches!
So, I am going to use a tracing medium and spoked wheel. This way I can mark the elbow patches perfectly, at the same time. Since I also plan on using this pattern more than once, I take the opportunity to tape – with clear tape – over any pattern lines I will be transferring with the spoked wheel. This helps the pattern hold up over many usages:
Here’s my wheel, and tracing medium – a lovely bright yellow! I have moved my pattern piece to the right. Underneath the paper pattern piece, you see the cut sleeve pieces. They have been cut right-sides together and I have not disturbed them since cutting them. I am going to trace the elbow patch on the wrong sides of the sleeve. You can trace the markings on the right side or the wrong side of the sleeve, as their are advantages either way. It doesn’t matter much, though, since the marking will either be covered by the patch, or will wash away upon first laundering.
So to do this, I have a little “sandwich” method I will share. I take two pieces of my tracing medium, and place the wax side against the side I want to trace, for both sleeves. The sleeve pieces can stay together – making the middle of the “sandwich” (see below). From top down, the layers of this sandwich are: pattern (face up), tracing medium (face down), sleeve (wrong side up), sleeve (wrong side down), tracing medium (face up). This all takes more time to explain it, than to do it! You can then secure your paper pattern piece to the sleeve pieces with pins or weights, and firmly trace the oval with your spoked wheel:
Below – after I’ve removed the paper pattern piece and the tracing, here you see the wrong-side of the fabric, with the traced patch location! This “sandwich” method ensures the patches will be marked identically on both sleeves.
We are just about done!
Finally, I have a little trick I employ with all the shirts I make. I put a safety pin on the right-side front of both my sleeve, and (if there is no closure or placket on the shirt) my front shirt body as well. This safety pin needs to be well away from the seamline, but close enough to the front part of the pattern that it will be obvious which side of the sleeve is the front. I’ve sewn too many sleeves in backwards or inside out in my day! But since starting this quick safety pin trick, I haven’t done it once! I do this for standard sleeves, and raglan sleeves alike. It is especially handy when your fabric looks identical on both the wrong and right side.
So – we are finished for the day! To recap, we should have all our pieces cut out. This includes our shirt front, our shirt back, and our sleeves. We should also have a neckband, cut according to the chart on page 4 of the pattern. And, depending on what version you are making, you may have cuffs (either for the long sleeve or 3/4 sleeve), a waistband, a triangle patch, and elbow patches (and patch linings). The sleeve notches should be marked by a little clip. In addition, I recommend little clips at the center front and back shirt bodies (both at the neckline and hem), the center of the sleeve hems, and the center of the long edges of all bands.
Now – set your shirt aside, make a cup of tea, and give yourself major props for being well under way!
I’ll see you on the 17th – when we get to start stitching! In the meantime, if you have questions you can email me, comment here, or find me on Facebook (on my personal page or at The Vegan Tailor)!