Tips: Sewing A Faux Fur Jacket

A looonnnng post, y’all. YETI-riffic I just finished YETI-riffic, which is one of my daughter’s Christmas presents – and, because it was so much fun, I thought I’d write up some of the process. 

First yes, I get on this Christmas stuff early (or: “on time”, if you’re like me and make most of your gifts). And second yes, I’m posting a surprise present here on my blog. Guess why I can? Because my daughter is one person I know who DGAF about my blog. I don’t think she’s ever read it except maybe over my shoulder. She’s way too busy with her own badass stuff.

YETI-riffic
I was so pleased with the project I documented along the way, and I have a bit of advice for any who’d like to tackle faux fur. If you have any questions, please put them in the comments or email me (kelly AT hogaboom DOT org) and I’ll answer them here. And before I start – thank you so much Josh Moll and Elizabeth Gish, two readers who donated funds for my daughter’s jacket, which was not inexpensive. Without the support of readers I might not have made the jump to try something new! I have another client who dropped off faux fur for another project, which I’ll be starting soon. So – let’s get going!

Fabrics & Supplies

Do you pick the pattern or the faux fur fabric first? Experienced stitchers probably won’t find this a troublesome question. Me, I think you should go with the fur that speaks to you. But take a few minutes to think about it, because your pattern and/or your fur are going to determine a lot about how you proceed. I used a high-quality, long-napped “llama” fur from Harts Fabric for this project. Faux fur: The fur should drape nicely & feel pretty good for a coat-weight. Most faux furs are on a poly-knit backing. You want to pick the right fur. Some furs are so poorly-made I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who’d sew or wear them. That said, this llama you see here? $40 a yard. So if you see a good deal on good fur, grab it up. Make sure you get enough yardage for the nap requirements (picking a pattern that is drafted for faux fur, or for a napped fabric, will help you). Pattern: Pick a simple pattern with simple lines. The faux fur will make it fabulous, promise! And besides, any fancy details may be swallowed up by the fur (depending on the fur). In this case, I opted for in-seam pockets (more later), a generous hood, and flat-set sleeves. I also omitted facings and just lined the coat in full, prick-stitching the entire lining to the shell for structure and formal fanciness (more later). Interfacing / Underlining: This will depend on the fur and the pattern; most faux fur ends up being so warm that no underlining is needed. In the coat mentioned above, I used a fusible interfacing but then secured it to the coat. A sew-in interfacing is probably best; you can work on practicing patience as you hand-stitch it in. Lining: A mid-weight lining fabric is best. Something too light will work, but might not hold up to the wear that the faux fur lends itself to. I used a slipper satin, fairly heavy for a lining. Thread: 100% polyester is fine. While you’re at it, pick up a heavy-duty needle for the fur, a sharp needle for the lining, and – if you’re lining the hood or cuffing with knit, like I did here – a stretch or ballpoint for that.

General Sewing Tips

Pre-washing / pre-treating: You shouldn’t have to do this with most polyester fabrics (the satin and the fur). However, I do recommend for any slippery fabric this neat little trick of firming it up with gelatin Yeah, you heard. I used two packets gelatin in the smallest load in my washer, for my two yards satin. It worked great. The satin handled better and didn’t shift during sewing and cutting. Note, you will need to wash this gelatin out after construction, so skip this step if you’re going to want to dry-clean only. Faux fur, and linings etc, can all be hand-washed as long as you don’t have a tailored structure in the coat – and in this case, I don’t. Cutting and handling: Cut only, only the backing of the faux fur. This can be done with the tips of your scissors or an X-acto knife. Cut each piece out separately (no folding and then cutting as for so many fabrics) and make sure not to cut any pieces upside-down, or cut two left-side hood pieces, et cetera. Heavy petting: Sewing with faux fur is easier – and less messy – than you might think. Cut only the backing, and continue to comb the fur before stitching each seam – and you’ll only need a brief pass with the lint roller at the end of the project. Sewing machine settings: I used three fabrics for this project, and all three need vastly different treatments. Use a zig zag stitch for the fur and for the knit (if you use a knit); use a short straight stitch for the satin. All three fabrics need three different needles (heavy-duty for the fur; stretch/ballpoint for the knit; sharp for the lining). If you have three sewing machines (DON’T LAUGH, ASSHOLES!), you can set them all up accordingly and whiz through the project. When sewing on the fur, you can use a fairly wide zig zag as it will not show in the finished seam. The looser the zig zag, the easier it is to tease the fur back out of the seam after sewing, and therefore get a seamless look. However the looser the zig zag, the more likely you could lose a seam. Test on a scrap to figure out what you’d like to do. Use a tight seam for the satin and don’t trim or pink the satin as it frays quite a bit. Steam press (on the correct setting, not too hot!) after every seam for a good-looking lining. If you hate making linings – many do – make the lining first. For my lining technique, I typically leave a stretch in one of the sleeves open so that I can attach the lining and the jacket in the “bagged” style of lining attachment (I’ll link to that a little further along, here). Trimming, Notching, Grading: You might do a bit less of these than typical garment-sewing. For one, the coat style is going to be a bit loose. so reducing bulk is less of an issue. Secondly, be careful on any notching and trimming of ravelly fabrics like linings (depending on the lining). If you simply must trim closely, make sure you’ve reinforced with a stitch 1/32″ from the seam line, or some other technique to ensure you won’t have a seam come undone. I haven’t had a lining seam come undone in many years and I have the best “testing lab” there is – very active, rambunctious children as clients.

ENOUGH, Now On To The Coat!

Here are a few photos as I worked up the coat. First: the lining. Applying interfacing; in this case, to the front placket. I fused and then sewed, attaching with a prick-stitch. Prick-stitch is a form of back-stitch, very strong and dare I say, pretty. Technique: YETI-riffic Backside: YETI-riffic Front – which remember, will be against the body: YETI-riffic Sewing the lining together. Sharp needle and small stitch. About 1/2″ seam allowance – and no trimming. Press after each seam: YETI-riffic Sleeves. These are sewn in flat (both the lining and the jacket), so – easy. I only pin at the shoulder seam juncture. I always put the sleeve down, against the machine, as its sewing line has a bit more ease. I put my fingers in between the sleeve and the body and ease the sleeve in. No pins, super-fast. For me, anyway. The fur, same process, but more fiddling to comb that fur into the body of the coat. If you look, it may be hard to see where the fabric is and where my needleplate tape is. Well TOO BAD, I can’t go back and take a better photo: YETI-riffic Here I’m sewing toward the hem of one sleeve, leaving a gap in a sleeve – basically, a bagged method of attaching a lining (which deserves its own tutorial). Note, I stitched from the sleeve hem to the gap’s edge, then turned around and stitched back. Sturdy, and no thread-tails at the gap. YETI-riffic Underarm of the jacket. Knowing how active my kids are, I did a few reinforcing stitches here. Running from upper left to lower right diagonally, the side seam. My fingers are on the sleeve seam which has been pressed open before stitching: YETI-riffic OK. Now time to talk about sewing with the fur. As I’ve said, if you cut the fur properly, and sew with it properly, there is hardly any mess at all. If you just start hacking away, SO MUCH FUR-DRAMA. Here is a seam before and after I’ve pinned and combed it to illustrate how manageable it really is. Before: YETI-riffic After: YETI-riffic You note that after pinning right-sides together, I gently push in the fur towards the right side of the garment. Sew according to the nap, towards the direction the fur falls. It is worth it to make sure to do this for every seam, sometimes stopping – say at the armpit – and switching things up. Here you see what I’m talking about: YETI-riffic Experienced stitchers will know what they’re looking at, and beginners might be confused. Here you are seeing the side seam of the coat, with the sleeves attached and the satin pocket on the left (I’ll talk about the pocket in a minute). I’ve pinned on the side I’ll be sewing on, given things go a lot better when the bulk of the garment is to the left of your needle. Since I’ve got to sew DOWN the coat while sewing the body (to stay with that nap), and DOWN the sleeve when sewing the sleeve, my pins switch sides. Anyway, taking this care will make a nicer garment – trust me. So how did that pocket get up in there? Here’s a bit about where things get tricky – sewing satin to the fur. In this case, in-seam pockets. I drafted this pattern myself, so I just made up a couple pockets. You can buy a book or look it up online but inseam pockets are fairly intuitive. First, I attached one satin pocket piece to one side seam, right-sides together, combing the fur as I’ve mentioned. I will be sewing with that smaller stitch – not the zig zag – for the sake of the satin, which needs a firm stitch so it won’t ravel. I sew just shy of the seam allowance, so about 3/8″ for this project: YETI-riffic Now I flip it (I always picture Jim Carrey in the Lemony Snicket movie when I say “flip it”, he says it twice in different settings and both incidents are hilarious) and look, an awesomely luxurious half-pocket, waiting for its life-partner: YETI-riffic Sewing the side seam and the pockets all-in-one. If you’ve measured carefully and pinned carefully, everything comes together wonderfully: YETI-riffic Pockets done. & admit it. The result is like a beautiful bit of ladybusiness: YETI-riffic My son, who modelled the coat for photos, LOVES that you can’t see the pockets, or any seams, from the outside of the garment! Attaching the lining and the jacket. Here I am sewing along the jacket hem which means I have some awkward fur business (Awkward Fur Business is the name of my emo music project). You can push up the fur toward the coat but you’re still going to catch some fur in the stitching line. Even though my coat looks good, I have since thought of a better treatment for this, and I’ll be putting up an auxiliary link on that option for my next faux fur garment. Which is coming right up, by the way! YETI-riffic Here’s the coat as I’m “bagging” that lining. I love lining garments this way because at this stage the whole thing looks like fuckery, but you are only seconds away from turning it right-side out and having a beautiful garment! You notice I’m sewing a straight stitch here – again, it’s something I’m doing for the sake of that ravelly-ass satin. YETI-riffic Like just look how pretty it all is together. Can you believe, I ordered everything online, but I just KNOW what kind of shit will look good together! YETI-riffic Fur hooks (no zipper, duh!), attached with dark orange cotton thread. You can also see that prick stitch I put in the lining edge. YETI-riffic So. Cozy. & radsauce. YETI-riffic YETI-riffic OOPS, Nels is too cute again! YETI-riffic YETI-riffic

Ears and Whiskers Oh My!

Contemplative

As any longtime reader knows, I’ve made many a fanciful, comfortable, and sturdy garment, mostly for child-aged humans. I keep coming back to animals and creatures (real or imaginary). In no small part this is due to the influence of my own children, who retain an interest in biology, zoology, cryptozoology and anything else involving creatures that flap, crawl, squirm, prowl, and/or fly.

This particular hat is a faux fur wolf-inspired self-drafted piece, lined in 100% wool for warmth and comfort. Since Halloween approaches – and I do run a side-sewing blog, here – I wanted to share a bit about how to make effective ears and easy-enough whiskers from inexpensive and rugged materials.

Now a few words about what is entailed in good ears. It might not be obvious to the initiate, but it isn’t enough to have wire or pipe cleaners, or whatever, stiffening the ear. The ears will be rigid, but they will not stand up from the head if this is all you do. The tail ends of the wire stiffening the ear will need to be anchored to a rigid form, which is in turn inserted into the hat body in a way secure and comfortable to wear. This means the rigid form has to mimic the shape of the pattern pieces of the hat itself. Get it?

So let’s get started. Materials needed (not shown, glue gun):

Supplies

Left-to-right: cardboard (buckram or light plastic, like a thoroughly-cleaned bleach or carpet-cleaner bottle, will also work), wire for ears, needle and waxed thread for handsewing, cable ties (and assembled “whiskers” on anchor tie, self-explanatory), pattern template, and both fabric AND paper scissors (ask any stitcher how much he/she likes having sewing scissors abused by paper!).

Different hat or hood shapes will have different templates – this hat was made by an earwarmer-style band and a four-gore crown. The traced piece you see here is one of the four gores. It is NOT an ear! I am assuming you have a rudimentary knowledge of sewing, or can follow a pattern, and already have your ear finished and waiting – with the bottom raw edge open (you’ll see below when I show you my finished ear).

I chose cardboard for my form, because I plan to simply spot-clean this hat, not immerse it in water. Dry-cleaning would probably even be an option but I don’t think we’ll be needing that. Using buckram or thin plastic might make the hat more washable – but you certainly want to wash a structural item like this with care, not throw it in the washing machine or anything.

So! Trace your cardboard (or whatever) form from your pattern piece(s):

Trace Pattern Piece To Form Material

If you’re thinking about ear placements/markings at this stage, don’t. There is no need to worry about ear placement yet as you will be able to use the lining to determine where to fix the ears.

Now it’s time to cut the cardboard (or whatever) form:

Cut Out Cardboard Form / Trim Seam Allowance

Make sure to trim off the seam allowances. This is because tape will serve as our “stitching” together the form pieces (if we do have more than one, as I do). If you didn’t cut off the seam allowances, the form would be too large. Go ahead and be confused, that’s okay. You’ll see what’s up when you stick the taped-together form in the lining and it doesn’t work – if that’s the case, you can go ahead and tear it apart and re-tape, or re-trace and re-cut.

Tape The Form, & Then...

The red piece on the left is the hat lining, an indespensible item for making sure things will fit nicely. At right we have the form, taped together. Next I need to slide the form into the lining to make sure it fits perfectly and does not extend awkwardly or look bulky. The goal is the intended recipient will not even feel the form. So let’s see how we did, eh? The cardboard form is inserted between the child (Hi, Phoenix!) and the lining:

... Double-Check The Form Fits Nicely

Everything looks good – that cardboard form is inside the hat and against the child, layered just beneath those two front gore pieces you see here. A few notes: the hat is a little large for my child, so would fit an adult with a smaller head. Secondly, that raw edge is going to be turned under and stitched, so the hat lining appears a little larger than the finished piece will be.

Slip the form out, and it’s a good idea at this stage to punch a few holes in the form. Even if you plan to use a glue gun exclusively, may find you are glad for a few holes to use in reinforcing by stitching:

That's Awl She Wrote!

Now for wiring the ear. Simple at first – just get a flexible but rigid bit of wire (23 cents a foot at the hardware store), bend it, and slide it into the ear with at least an inch and a half margin poking out the bottom from the open end of the ear. Wrap the wire-ends with tape so no one gets poked. Handstitch the raw edge of the ear together with a simple baste, and lash the wires to the ears. This is to preserve the general ear shape and make sure the ear form is closed, before proceeding.

Lashing Wires Into Ears

The wire may want to creep down a bit. That’s okay for now. When you’re finished you should have something like this:

Finished Ear; Wire Inserted

Pretty-cool ear, eh? I thought so.

Now sew the ears, again by hand, to the position on the shell hat pieces. You can use that lining (and hopefully a live model) to determine ear position.

Hand-Sew Ears First...

Basting or tacking the ears in place by hand will make sure they are symmetrical when sewn into the hat. I highly recommend this over pinning. Simply take firm stitches about 1/8″ shy of the seam lines.

Don’t worry about the wires much at this stage. They may be trying to slip around a bit. All you are doing is anchoring the fabric ear piece in position along the seam of the as-yet not-assembled hat.

Now, machine-sew the hat seams, which will anchor the ears firmly. Assembly will depend on the hat or hood pattern you use. Just don’t try to sew right over that wire, or you will bust your needle and scare the heck out of yourself, especially if you’re amped up on coffee (ask me how I know this!). When you get close to the wire, take your foot off the pedal and use the handcrank, guiding the seam along with your other hand.

... Then Machine-Sew The Ears - Carefully!

Your ears are almost finished! Now, insert the finished form into the finished hat/hood/crown, and glue or stitch first the form itself to the inside of the hat using the seam allowances, and then the wire “legs” of the ears to the form, to secure. As if that faux-fur wasn’t messy enough, we are adding a GLUE GUN!

Bending the wire “legs” of the ear and affixing them to the form may or may not be tricky, depending on your hat/hood style. Be patient, use more glue – the whole thing will be lined anyway. Press the wire into the hot glue using a spoon. Not your fingers. (Ask me how I know this!) Be cautious with the hot glue if you’re using it – don’t let it mar your fabric or your body.

Glue/Sew Template

Ears all done!

Finished Ears

Finally: when the glue is entirely cool, slip the lining into the hat and feel to make sure the hat will be comfortable to wear. No jabbing wires or glue bumps. You can add batting or a layer of fleece if you need to, but if you’ve cut your form templates properly and wrapped your wire, you shouldn’t need this layer. My daughter said she couldn’t feel the cardboard at all.

And now – this is easier, promise! – the whiskers.

The assembly for the whiskers and anchor cable ties is self-explanatory, and shown in my Materials photo up above. Now we only need push the whiskers through the shell material. If you are sewing a hat with a woven that has a loose weave (not likely, for a hat project, but still), you may want to interface or interface and make eyelets (by hand or machine), to make sure you don’t get a ravelling effect. However, these directions assume a knit or fleece, etc., easy, sturdy, and typical fabrics we work with.

So first, poke holes in the earflap to slide the “whisker” cable ties through (here you are looking at the wrong side of the shell fabric)…

Seam-Ripper To The Rescue

Then slip in the whisker assembly:

Inserting Whiskers

Now we need to lash the whisker anchor cable tie in for security. Due to the nature of cable ties, the “whisker” ties can only slide one direction along the anchor tie. So lash accordingly:

Lashing Whiskers In Place

If you’ve cut your hat out properly on the grain, the grain will assist you in making sure your whisker alignment is proper. You can see the knit grain here on the wrong side of the shell. Alternatively, just make sure you carefully mark your whisker-placement lines after cutting out the hat pieces.

One more note about lashing the whiskers in place: if you were to be creating a hat where you didn’t want stitches to show on the shell side (as you see, my choice of faux fir hides anything like that), you could carefully apply the anchorpiece to the lining and take orderly stitches from the anchor tie to the lining, then poke the “whisker” cables through the shell, when the lining and shell were joined.

Double-check the whiskers are symmetrical:

Whiskers, Right-Side

And kink them up, if you like it kinky. Heh.

Bent Or Straight?

If you went mad with power earlier with that glue gun, you could apply a bit of glue on the anchor points of the whiskers, although it’s not needed.

Now all that remains is inserting the lining into the shell. Normally I do this in such a way that only involves a teeny bit of handstitching, but in this case I turn under the entire lower edge of both the shell, and the lining, and securely whip-stitch all along this edge.

Voila! You now have a pretty ferocious little hat.

On The Prowl

Cutaway

sewing t-shirts, a tutorial

I promised a few people a little blog regarding sewing with knits; here goes. My daughter requested a shirt in “earthy” tones. I had just enough in my stash to make her one. The natural-colorway was from a piece of organic bamboo yardage given to me by a friend; the brown was from a 100% organic cotton t-shirt I thrifted (I used most of the shirt to make a headband for my mother). In both cases once I cut out the shirt pattern pieces I ended up with only a small portion scraps to compost. I love it that I use fabric so economically.

Squinky

The pattern I’m demonstrating here is the Tea for Two from Patterns by Figgy’s (and while I’m at it – seriously? You could not find a couple of better people to help the beginning sewist achieve rugged yet stylish, boutique, unique home-sewn awesomeness!). Regardless of whether you use this pattern or another, the techniques used here should benefit anyone attempting to home-sew a t-shirt.

Knits are tricky. So many sewists claim to “whip up a t-shirt on the serger” – but the truth is, for most of us it takes time to get proficient at knits, especially those with a high degree of stretch. Many home sewists don’t even own a serger (or they own one and don’t know how to use it). I hasten to add, a serger is not needed to make great knitwear. The following tutorial regards making a t-shirt on a sewing machine. It needs only a zig zag function to achieve good results (a width of 0.5 – 1.0 and a length of 3.0 was used for this shirt).

One of the best tricks I know to make t-shirt sewing go easier is to stabilize the seam allowances. This means “painting” a solution on the seam allowances and allowing them to dry. This solution ensures that the knit will not roll nor be sucked into the feed dogs of the machine. It’s not a necessary step to sewing with t-shirt knits, but one that makes things a lot easier. In addition to creating an easier sewing experience, I have found the stitch formed on stabilized knits “floats” on the fabric (instead of being pulled into it). Not all knits need this treatment (a sturdy or non-stretch knit may not), but for my slim-fit t-shirt with the very stretchy, soft bamboo it made the whole process easier.

To stabilize the seams you can either purchase a water soluble spray-on stabilizer or a stabilizer by the yard. If you choose the latter, you simply dissolve a small amount in water to create a solution then “paint” the edges of your pattern pieces (shown below in a moment). In this case, I am sewing with a 1/4″ seam allowance so I stabilized about 3/8″ on each seam.

Which seams do you have to stabilize? Those that will be travelling across the feed dogs of the machines. For this pattern, this means all edges except the sleeve and shirt hems (which remain unfinished). I stabilized the short ends of the neckband as well, given as a last step in this pattern the neckband edges have to be topstitched closed in a little rectangle and I figured, “Why not?”. The neckband in general does not need to be stabilized as it is rarely against the machine (when you attach the band it will be the shirt bodice that travels across the machine surface) and it needs to stretch quite a bit to perform its function (which is to “snap back” after sewing and bring the shirt edge in to hug the neck).

Here’s a little photo-explanation of stabilizing (click each photo for more information):
Stabilizing Solution, Part 1 Stabilizing Solution, Part 2 Stabilizing Solution, Part 3

After you’ve stabilized your seam allowances, you must let the pattern pieces dry. Give it overnight or, if you’re in a hurry, carefully put the pieces in front of a heat source (don’t burn your house down!). When the seams are dry, they will have a stiff edge to them. They may even be a bit waffle-y. Don’t worry about that, as on the machine they will sew up beautifully. Here is an example of the texture change resultant from the stabilizing process. It’s a bit difficult to see but it’s obvious to the touch (the green thread is the tailor’s tacks I use for pattern markings):
Stabilizing, Once Dry

Now we’re all ready to sew!

In the Tee for Two pattern, the first seams sewn are those of the sleeves to the front and back bodice. I chose to do Option B. of the pattern – that is, a raw-edge, topstitched seam. This means first sewing the sleeve seams wrong sides together. The sleeve seams are curved – one generally a “convex” curve (the shirt bodice) and one generally a “concave” curve (the sleeve piece). The way you pin and sew these seams will make a difference in the ease of sewing. When pinning curves that have opposite lines (concave vs. convex), pin such that you’ll be sewing with the convex curve against the machine. To look at it another way, the curves will often look like they won’t match (don’t worry, if you cut accurately they will). Whichever seam looks like it has more fabric to be taken up during stitching, pin and place this piece against the machine. The natural action of the feed dogs will help subtly gather it (in the below photo, the brown is the sleeve, the natural-colorway the bodice. You can see the concave and convex curves):
Pinning & Stitching Curves

When sewing – any time when sewing, but especially with a picky knit – hold the thread tails before you sew. This actually take a bit of practice. But if you don’t, your machine will often pull the thread tails into the machine’s throat plate. You’ll end up with a snarled-up bunch of thread and sometimes an ugly, bunchy seam. Observe the results when the thread tails were properly restrained:
The Importance Of Thread Tails, Part 1

After you sew each seam, you should steam press for best results. In general, it is always a good idea to “set the seam”, then press. “Setting the seam” is a technique I learned in a quilting class. It means pressing the seam just as sewn, before you turn it up and topstitch or whatever is next. Fabric is not two-dimensional but 3D – “setting the seam” helps integrate the seam into the structure of the garment (in this photo you can also see the nature of the zig zag that works well with stretchy knit sewing):

After you set the seam, go ahead and finger press it open and press with the iron again, this time in the formation you’ll want it in before proceeding. In this case, the seam allowances are pressed toward the bodice and then top-stitched down for a deconstructed-look finish. Since the seams are curved, it makes sense to use a tailor’s ham (although this is rather optional):
Press Curves On A Tailor's Ham

The final touch in the raglan bodice/sleeve seams is the topstitching with the raw edge finish. I chose to do this from the inside of the shirt. This is because the stabilized portion of the pattern pieces would be travelling across the feed dogs. When I tried this from the outside of the shirt (as you typically do with topstitching) the seam process distorted the fabric and made a wonky seam, so I flipped the shirt. As long as you go slowly and make sure to gently pull the seam open, sewing from the backside of the garment lends a good result:
Topstitching Sleeve Seams

Since I made the “puff sleeve” version of the garment, the next steps in the pattern were to gather the raw edges of the sleeve hem into the two strips that will form the finished sleeve. This is done by a long basting stitch on the sleeve’s raw edge to gather the sleeve, then applying the two edge strips simultaneously. Again, the importance of securing the thread tails before you sew will result in a clean finish:
The Importance Of Thread Tails, Part 2
After attaching the sleeve strips, you press them together (hiding the raw edges of the sleeve end) and topstitch. Easy-peasy!
Sleeve Band Topstitch
For a more subtle finish, you could use a matching thread instead of the contrast I have done here.

The side seam is one of the last remaining aspects to shirt construction. I elected to do a typical finish – that is stitch it right-sides together, then finish the inside seam allowances for sturdiness. One nice thing with a knit is you usually only have to pin at the top and bottom of a seam. Go slowly and stretch to fit and you’ll have lovely results. I sewed at a 1/2″ seam allowance (instead of the pattern’s 1/4″), because I knew my skinny-minnie daughter would fit just fine, and I wanted to trim the seam down to a clean edge before finishing the seams:
Side Seams

After trimming, and then stitching along the seam allowances:
Reinforcement

The neckline is probably the trickiest part of this particular pattern, but it is an ingenious little treatment that not only looks fabulous but is a lot less trouble than most self-finished necklines. Two strips are sewn, one at a time, first to the outside of the garment than the inside. Both strips are simply overlapped at each short end. The outside strip is sewn at a slightly wider seam allowance. Thus when you press up both strips the seamline will cover itself. The only thing that remains is to sew a tiny rectangle, anchoring the overlapped ends of the neckband at the back-left shoulder.

So first, pinning:
Pinning First Neckband
I always imagine your Beginner stitcher is alarmed at this point. The neckband of shirts is always so much smaller than the shirt opening! But, that’s the point. This strip, cut against the knit grain, will pull the shirt neckline in to lie flat on the body. Again, you sew with the strip facing up and the shirt neckline against the machine. Carefully pin at a few places and stretch and the whole thing comes together like a dream.

Neckline Sewing

Although the pattern doesn’t have this extra step, after attaching each neckline strip I prefer to trim the seam at 3/16″ from the innermost seam, then press up and topstitch:
Trimming

Here’s the best trick I know regarding topstitching: go slow! Very few of us make “perfect” topstitching but the slower you go, and the more you practice, the better things will look.

Finally, stitch the little rectangle at the back-left shoulder seam where the strips overlapped. The best thing about this little square is it will look different every time. It’s like a signature:
Neckline Finish
Finally, either wash by hand or throw in the washing machine and dryer to rid the fabric of the crunchy stabilizer. Then present your client with their new shirt! After the cutting and stabilizing aspects of construction (which I typically do the night before and take about a half hour), the shirt takes less time to sew than it took me to write out this tutorial. It’s a quick and lovely creation.
Raglan Sleeve Finish Neckline Quack
Soft Bamboo
At Her Best
You can see my Flickr tagset, including more details of construction, here.