The Patterns: Raglan Sleeve Tee from Built By Wendy: Sew U and Burdastyle’s Raglan Shirt #127
Difficulty: Relatively Easy
Would I Recommend These? Yes, but try it with heavier jersey or get some stabilizer.
Materials: Silky Sheen LIghtweight Jersey
Needle: #75 Ballpoint Jersey
I have discovered two things recently. I love jersey. (Well, any knits, really.) That, and jersey is very commonly found in a very light weight when you want to buy it online or in stores. While separate, these two things are not bad at all. When you put them together, though…TROUBLE! Read on to hear about my fight with jersey for survival in the sewing room.
I had thought at the end of baseball season last year how cool it would be to Make a jersey. I could use up some leftover blue fabric from my entry into Lucky Lucille’s Sew for Victory and some silky grey jersey I had lying around to create a supercute raglan sleeve jersey top. You know the kind- made famous by baseball players, where the sleeves are a different color than the body of the shirt. I wanted one, too, but highly feminized with soft, silky fabric in a slight sheen. Boyish, but not something likely to be mistaken for being one of my boyfriend’s shirts. So I got out my Built By Wendy Sew U book and cut some fabric out for the Raglan Sleeve Tee pattern. That was the last easy thing about this project.
It seemed like such a good idea. I mean, what’s not to love? Women are very good at translating masculine styles to suit themselves. We’ve been doing it for centuries after all, from military influenced riding habits in the eighteenth century to the padded shoulders and tailored power suits of the late twentieth century. The idea was certainly sound, but I didn’t reckon on the jersey being so hard to work with! (Background sound: whimpering under a pillow.)
The Illness: The thing about a lightweight knit fabric is that sometimes, the stretch factor works against you. When you’re humming along on your machine and stitching away, you have to pull your fabric away from you to keep the needle moving in the right direction. If you don’t, that sucker is going to overstitch that silky fabric in place until you get a big, horrible knot that you may not be able to remove without putting a hole where you don’t want one or making a big lump right on your seam. Quelle horreur! Nobody wants that. So I thought all was well, pulling my fabric through, making some nice long seams. This is where my knit inexperience shows, because now I can spot waves forming in just a few inches. When I tried my shirt on, there were wavy seams! Yes, dear reader, Wavy Knit Syndrome had struck,and my poor shirt was now much less pretty than I had intended. Hideous, deforming Wavy Knit Syndrome makes your seams shrink and your shirt will look too small for you.
As you can tell by my expression in the photo, I was not amused.
To cure your shirt of Wavy Knit Syndrome:
- Try to resew the seam using a walking foot.
- Use the lowest thread tension available on the machine.
- Lengthen the stitches.
- Sew slowly, trying not to pull on the fabric.
I tried all these things, and the stupid seams stayed wavy. I ripped out seams and sewed them again, then ripped out seams, and got mad and actually cut some seams off instead of ripping them. So I put it down and walked away, saying bad words and contemplating arson.
The Cure: Lightweight knits are particularly prone, but any knit fabric is vulnerable to this crippling condition, from sweater knits to semi-sheer jerseys. Fortunately, there IS a cure. Give your seams a dose of stabilizer, and go to bed. It will look better when you try again in the morning. The patient will recover with love and attention and stabilizer.
Stabilizer comes in many forms, and there exists a kind for knits. I didn’t have any on hand when I did this project, so I improvised with a fusible hem tape. This is good stuff, it is heat bonded to your fabric and you can sew seams with less trouble or no sewing at all, depending if your glue is on both sides or one. It isn’t intended for knits, but I was desperate. I ironed some on each side of the seam to make it denser. The added material makes your knit not stretch as much when you sew, and that is a very, very good thing. It does what it says: stabilizes a fabric to stop it doing whatever it was doing that you didn’t like. So I stitched the top again, and this time, the stabilizer came through for me and the seams are much, much flatter. While they’re not perfect, I am DONE messing with this shirt and that’s as good as it will get. However, I do really, really love the way the shirt came out, imperfections and frustrations and all. It is exactly what I envisioned and I love the luxurious feel of this jersey. I even went on to try again this winter with another raglan jersey in spite of the initial horrific experience.
Ah, Love: I went and fell in love again, this time with two yards of a lightweight jersey in a light orchid purple from Fabulace on Etsy. Oh, my treacherous heart, always leading me into danger! But I had experience on my side now, and I wasn’t going to be tortured by a rambunctious knit prone to waving again. Nope, something altogether different was going to happen. I just didn’t realize it wasn’t the fabric that was going to be the problem now.The knit was soft, silky and had a lovely sheen, much like the grey one I had so much trouble with. I made this top from a pattern I downloaded from the Burdastyle website, and I really love it. However, we had some bumps along the way…as usual, for I am, after all, a chaos goddess and it follows me around like a pet.
As I got going in earnest, things were moving fast and beautifully trouble-free, always a sign something is about to happen that I won’t like at all. So, I gathered my raglan sleeves and arranged my pieces in the cross form that you get when you lay out your seams for a raglan top. I stitched all together, and tried it on.
The top was tight. Whoops. Dang, my girls were really, um, out there. That look stopped for me after I was no longer an A-cup and it was less cute and more of a man-bait look on my suddenly larger chest. That just wasn’t going to work for me. I like to be able to breathe without fear of rupturing something important, like a seam.
I cut the fabric to the right size, but there’s a usually a bit more room in a knit pattern, since it stretches. I had forgotten to cut it a little larger. This was not a flaw in the pattern; it was entirely my fault for not paying attention. See, not all patterns include a seam allowance. I think we get spoiled by the Big Four pattern companies when that extra fabric for seam allowances gets included in their patterns. But not everyone includes that bit in their pieces, and if you forget to add at least 5/8″ you get something somewhat tighter than you expected, like I did. It wasn’t a total disaster; I could get it over my head and onto my body and still feel comfortable even if I wasn’t looking very subtle.
In addition to showing absolutely everything on my body, it was quite sheer. I decided to recut the front and back, and sew the new layer over the original, to create two layers of fabric to make it opaque. So the tight layer would then become a lining, and sewn only to the sleeves, so it hangs separately from the top layer. But, not enough fabric remained to do both pieces intact. I created a new front, and I cut the back as halves, and made a seam up the back. That’s not what the designer intended, but needs must when the devil sews….or something…The next attempt was better, giving me the coverage I needed. I hemmed both under- and over-layers of my shirt separately, and now I can wear it with confidence, knowing that the color of my bra is my secret to know and yours not to.
Then I created the neck binding. I want to mention I am not super great at neck bindings, and I’m feeling my way with those. However, I did have just enough sense to stabilize that neck binding before I did anything else. I do learn from my mistakes…it just sometimes looks like I don’t learn anything because I make so many of them! (Laughing) I fused the front of it to the neckline, stitched that down for reinforcement, and then stitched in the ditch to attach the back side, which was nerve-wracking and slowly done so as not to destroy my careful work. See? I learned SOMETHING! But the better way to make a neck binding is courtesy of The Coletterie. Go to https://www.coletterie.com/ and look up their tutorial on neck binding for knits. I’m going to do mine like this from now on. It is so much neater and less trouble than the way I did mine. Anyway, I have worn the light orchid jersey several times and I love it, but I think my seams need some extra stitching because the arms are so tight that they’re pulling apart a little from stress. Aside from some additional minor tinkering, it’s a great top.
Mission accomplished! In spite of some struggles, I have not just one, but two jersey tops made from two different raglan sleeve patterns, cute and comfy. Wavy Knit Syndrome has been eradicated in my sewing studio, and I’m so happy. This design may have begun life as a sports uniform, but now it’s feminine and so very pretty. Sorry boys, this one’s all mine now. We’re not stitching any numbers onto these jerseys. They’re (mostly) perfect the way they are.