Friday, December 2, 2011

Raglans for Emily

Long ago when I made myself those raglan-sleeved baseball tees, Emily would, from time to time, give me strange looks. Eventually, I figured out what was going on in her head and asked her if maybe she wanted some shirts like those, and she said "yes!" So I promised her that after the mad rush of Halloween sewing, I'd make her some for school. 

The advent season is probably one of my favorites for sewing, because there is absolutely no pressure at all to do handmade gifts. I'm recovering from the lunacy of Halloween costume-making-cum-birthday-partying, so this is my time to do whatever I want by way of projects. It doesn't mean I'm immune to the joys of gift making - it's just that, having worked myself into a handmade stupor some Christmases back, I've decided that I'm better off buying everybody stuff. Every now and then, though, I relapse - just last week, for instance, I had to talk myself out of sewing lunch buckets for all the kids' teachers. Went out and bought myself a four-pack of Baileys instead. Did you know they came in four-packs of minis for $10? I didn't. Hurrah! This advent I'm making Irish Creme truffles. And drinking slightly-spiked hot chocolate, like in the old days before motherhood.

How I do go off-point!

Anyway, so instead of sewing gifts for people, I'm doing seasonally-inappropriate things this advent season, like writing about alterations and tailors, and making school clothes for the kids (Jenna has asked for knit winter dresses next). 

Last Saturday, I sat on the floor and drafted Emily's raglan block. Very hit-and-miss, raglan sleeves are, so I knew from previous experience with my own raglan shirts, that I'd be doing a few muslins to get them right. Here's one of the muslins:

And when I say "a few muslins", I really mean "the same practice garment, with wide seam allowances, that I sew-and-unpick-and-resew and mark-and-remark-with-my-black-Papermate-Flair-pen until I get the shape right."

Emily's shoulders have changed so much in the last two years -they used to be slopey and narrow, and now they are wide and bony. Most of the adjustment for this shirt was made at the neckline, to get it to properly hug the throat area but without threat of strangulation. Those shoulders of hers! After the first muslin, I figured I should have just shaped the raglan line into an obvious curve, as is popular in boys' and mens' raglan shirts, to accommodate for them. I didn't, though, because this was her first raglan block/sloper and I've always liked to keep first blocks of anything precise and basic and not tinker too much with them, design-wise. So I left the boring diagonal raglan line as is and made her six shirts.

Can you see that I was still shaping the neckline as I made the shirts? The blue shirt (the last one I made) has a narrower, lower-scooped neckline than the purple (the first one I made). Notice also that the neckline on the pink shirt is a bit wobbly - that's the only shirt I didn't have ribbing in the appropriate color for, so I used the shirt fabric itself. However, I forgot that I meant to bind the neckline (like the sleeve) instead of making a collar. Too late now. Silly me.

"Make the sleeves long, Mum." was Emily's only request. "I like them to cover part of my hands".

She was very excited about the blue shirt, because it is exactly like mine. How I shall miss these days when she still thinks it's cool to dress like her mother. Years from now, when she's a teenager, I shall wonder if this seven-year-old Emily was just a dream.

Isn't it funny how girls this age are? They ask you to make their clothes plain, plain, plain and when you suggest a fashionable stripe, or polka dot, they say "eeeew, no - that's too detailed." But when you disobey them and make the stripes and the dots anyway, they squeal with joy when they see them and say, "I love it! My favorite!" and hug you. I restrained myself from rolling my eyes and saying "I told you so" because I remembered that I was exactly like that as a child. Are your girls like this? If so, take heart - you'll have your revenge when they become mothers.


  1. What a lucky girl to get so many pretty shirts! Glad you're having some fun pre-Christmas sewing! I just moments ago finished the bag I was working on. I love it... need to make more from that pattern!

  2. I love raglan tees. And I wish I could find more cute knits like you have here. :)

    Question for you, with the topstitching around the neckline, does Emily not pop the seam when she pulls it over her head? Is it just a standard straight stitch?

  3. @Jessie
    Good question, Jessie! No, the seam never pops. And yes, it is a standard straight stitch. Not a stretch stitch, not a zig zag stitch. I never use a zig zag stitch on knits in place of a straight stitch - if you need a seam to be really stretchy, use clear elastic within the seam allowance instead. The only time I use a zig zag stitch is when I am sewing the elastic itself onto the knit.

    To get the neckline to stretch when it goes over the head, STRETCH the neckline with the ribbing pinned onto it, when sewing the neckline. Use smallish stitches. The ribbing will contract after you release it, and the neckline will go back to its original size. But when it is stretched to go over the head, those stitches (which were sewn when it WAS in its stretched configuration) will not pop.

    I stretched the neckline-and-ribbing three times: once to attach the ribbing to the raw neckline, a second time to serge that edge, and a third time to do the top-stitching.

  4. My seven-year-old daughter does prefer plain solid colors -- much to the dismay of this prints-and-graphics-loving mama. I don't dare buy anything that's not absolutely plain for her (clothing or fabric) without her seeing it, because while she occasionally does love a print or detail that I pick out, more often she does not. I can never predict which will be which. (Stripes are right out -- she never likes stripes. And I can't stand polka dots. But once in a while she'll go for some butterflies.)

  5. What darling raglans! Your posts are delightful and I can easily idtentify with your feelings during the processes! (I had girls! lol)

    I've really enjoyed all of the posts on alterations, too. Thank you sew much!!! I'm facing several now. Boo! lol

  6. Those shirts are perfect for a 7yo! I love raglan shirts, so I need to learn how to make them!

    And reading your comment to Jessie, do you NEVER you zigzag on knits, then, or just not at the collar, etc? I always understood that you had to zigzag knit seams...

  7. @MaryAnne
    MaryAnne: yes, that is correct. I never zig-zag on knits where straight stitches should be. I mean, commercial knit garments never have zig-zag stitches in their seams. If one considers how the different seams of a garment undergo stress when worn, it is only the horizontal seams that need "give". The vertical side seams don't need to stretch, for instance, and neither does the hem of a knit garment. A seam in a yoke of a dress, will almost always have clear elastic serged into its seam allowance. A collar/neckline will always have either elastic in it, or ribbing. The shoulder seams almost always have clear elastic. I do agree with the common opinion that zig-zag stitches have more give than straight stitches, but I have never seen them on commercial garments except for decoration, and affiliated with elastic anyway (like the leg openings and waist openings of underwear and swimsuits and leotards). Just on their own, I don't know how adequate they'd be.


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