Kate Sharaf from Needle and Spatula shows you how to create an easy pattern for today’s Offset Raglan Top for Kids, a knit cardigan featuring soft and happy prints just right for the little ones in your life. Learn more about Kate in her introduction, and have fun sewing up knit fabrics into comfortable, bright shirts for kids on the move. Kate will show you how!
I’m so excited to share this raglan cardigan sewing tutorial with you. I have sewn my daughter a number of long sleeve, button-up shirts that have become staples of her wardrobe, and I’ve had fun designing different variations.
The offset raglan style for this shirt was inspired by a sweater pattern that I recently knit for my daughter. This one is comfortable and functional but also super cute with the contrasting fabrics and offset front opening. The front area would also be a great space to try out some applique or freezer paper stenciled designs. I think that this shirt would be equally great for a boy or a girl!
I loved the selection of cute knit fabrics available from Funny Fabrics and had fun picking out two coordinating prints. The fabrics are a great mid-weight jersey knit and were lovely to sew with, making a beautiful finished shirt. I hope you enjoy the tutorial!
- 2 (or 3) colors contrasting knit fabrics: mid-weight to heavy jersey, interlock or rib knit fabric is best for body and sleeves, and lightweight to mid-weight jersey, interlock or rib knit fabric is best for the binding. I used two different mid-weight jersey fabrics and they worked great for both the body/sleeves and the binding. To make a 12-18 month size I needed ½ yard of each fabric. (This was just barely enough height of fabric, but plenty of width; I could probably make a whole second shirt with the fabrics reversed). I recommend pre-washing your fabric.
- Size 12 universal sewing needles (or jersey/stretch needles if you prefer)
- Thread to match fabrics
- 6 buttons or 6 sets of snaps and a snap applicator tool
- Large paper for drafting pattern and a long-sleeve t-shirt to trace
- Rotary cutter and/or fabric scissors; paper scissors; and (optional but very helpful) small, sharp, pointed scissors
- ¼” wide Stitch Witchery fusible bonding web (Optional but helpful if you are using jersey that is rolling up a lot at the edges.)
Drafting the Pattern:
Start by folding the shirt in half and laying it on the folded edge of a large piece of paper to trace. (Note: The paper shown is not folded but you should use folded paper.) Trace all around the shirt and mark both the front and the back neckline.
Using your traced outline, draw a straight line from the armpit to the neckline near the shoulder as shown.
For this shirt, I find that it works best to have a wider and shallower neckline, more of a boatneck, so depending on the shape of the shirt you traced you may want to slightly redraw your neckline with that in mind (not shown here).
To make a better fitting arm, you can draw a curved line to either side of this shoulder seam as shown with the dotted lines in the photo, a tip courtesy of the easy tee raglan sleeve tutorial on it’s always autumn.
Mark the sleeve and front/back pieces and cut out; you will have a cut out sleeve and a folded front/back piece.
Take the cut out sleeve pattern and trace it again on another piece of paper. Add 3/8” seam allowance to the raglan shoulder edge and sleeve seam edge, and ¾” to the hem. Mark the top of the sleeve with “cut 2 on fold” and mark the piece as the sleeve and with the size. On the right side of the sleeve, at the top of the raglan shoulder edge, you may wish to mark the front neckline as a notch on the pattern (shown here as a small dotted line). No seam allowance is added to the neckline since it is finished with binding.
Take the cut out front/back pattern (still folded) and trace it again on another piece of paper. Add 3/8” seam allowance to the raglan shoulder edge and the side seam edge, and ¾” to the hem. Mark the middle edge with “cut 1 on fold” and mark the piece as the back and with the size. Again, no seam allowance is needed for the neck.
Take the cut out front/back pattern and cut out the front neckline, then open the piece. Using a ruler to mark the line, cut the pattern piece parallel to the side edge and about ½” from the neckline/raglan edge. This creates a right front and a left front piece.
Trace both front pieces and add 3/8” seam allowance to both raglan shoulder edges and both side seam edges, and ¾” to the hem. Add ¼” to the each side of the line you just cut, which will be the button/snap placket, to allow for ½” of overlap in the finished cardigan. Mark each piece as “cut 1” and mark each as the left/right front, respectively, and with the size.
Cut a 2” wide strip of the binding fabric long enough to bind the neckline and both placket edges. I cut the entire width of fabric which was more than long enough, but for a longer size you might need to cut two pieces and sew them together to get sufficient length.
Cut pattern pieces as marked, cutting the sleeves out of one fabric and the front/back pieces out of contrasting fabric if desired. For the sleeve pieces, transfer the notch marking that you made indicating the front neckline. I find it easiest to cut knits with a rotary cutter on a cutting mat, cutting slowly and carefully (and sometimes using a ruler as a guide), but you can also cut with scissors if you prefer, either carefully cutting around the pattern pieces after pinning them in place or using pattern weights, or tracing the piece using a fabric pen or chalk and then cutting.
For the sleeves, when you open up the cut fabric pieces, you will see that there are two points at the top of each sleeve. On each sleeve, cut from the center in between these two points to the notch you marked on the edge, thereby cutting off one point. Make sure that you cut the right notch off on one sleeve and the left notch off on the other so that the two sleeves are mirror images. Each sleeve now has a longer raglan shoulder seam (the back seam) and a shorter raglan shoulder seam (the front seam).
Tips for Sewing with Knits:
- I prefer to sew all my seams and hems on knits using the stretch stitch (which looks like a lightning bolt as depicted on most sewing machines, #6 on my machine as shown above). I find that I get the best results and fewest broken seams/hems when using this stitch but you can also use a narrow zigzag for your seams or an alternate stitch that you prefer. If you have a serger, you can use it to sew the seams in this pattern (though not the hems/topstitching), but it really isn’t necessary since knits don’t fray.
- This may be frowned upon but since the stretch stitch is very durable (try picking it out if you make an error and you’ll see what I mean) I don’t worry too much about backstitching at the beginning and end of a seam. It really doesn’t unravel, and I often just take the two thread ends, tie a knot and clip it really close. Or I add a dot of fray check, or even don’t do anything, and it really doesn’t come undone.
- Sewing knits is really not that hard, but different fabrics behave differently so I always do a few practice seams on fabric scraps before I start sewing my actual project.
- Try to keep your fabric flat under your sewing machine foot as you sew (both the top and bottom layers). When you’re sewing curved pieces together such as around the neckline, the fabric will tend to pucker and fold, which is fine, just go slow and keep the area that you are just about to sew flat and you won’t get tucks in your seam.
- Make sure that you are not pulling or stretching your fabric as you sew, or you will get wavy/stretched out seams and hems.
- If your fabric does get a bit stretched out from sewing it will often recover if you iron and/or steam it a bit (particularly helpful for hems).
- To make sure that your machine doesn’t “eat” your fabric by pulling it down into the needle hole at the beginning of a seam, you may find it helpful to start sewing on a small fabric scrap (or “leader”); sew off the edge of the leader and then directly start sewing at the edge of your actual seam, as shown above.
- If you do find that your fabric is getting pulled down into the faceplate/needle hole, just sew slowly and carefully and stop right away if you notice that there may be a problem, cutting off and/or unpicking any big buildup of stitches and restarting sewing a bit earlier. I mostly have had this issue with very thin, stretchy knits so if you are using a mid-weight or heavier fabric for the body/sleeves as recommended you should have less of an issue.
Take the back fabric piece and one sleeve and match the raglan shoulder seams with right sides together (making sure that you are using the longer, back seam on the sleeve).
Pin the edge and sew with a 3/8” seam allowance. Trim away half the seam allowance (leaving 3/16”/scant ¼”). Pin, sew and trim the other sleeve to the other side of the back.
Pin the two front pieces to the front raglan shoulder edges of the two sleeves, with right sides together. Sew and trim both seams. You will have now sewn all four raglan shoulder seams.
Next, you will hem the bottoms of the sleeves. Fold up each hem ¾” and press in place. I used Stitch Witchery here to hold the hem in place, which was helpful since the fabric I was using was tending to curl and it made it easy to keep the hem straight. I was pleased to find that the fabric wasn’t stiff and still had good stretch after using it. Alternately, you can just pin the hem in place.
Sew the sleeve hem in place. I prefer to sew this using a stretch stitch but you could also use a simple zig zag, a double needle or any other stitch that you prefer for hemming knits. To sew using a stretch stitch, sew from the wrong side very close to the raw edge of the fabric (1/8” or less if possible).
Pin sleeve and side edges on both sides together with right sides together. Make sure to match the hemmed edges of the sleeves, the raglan seams at the armpits and the raw edge at the bottom edge of the body. Sew the sleeve and side edges with a 3/8” seam allowance, pivoting with the foot down at the armpit, then trim away half of the seam allowance.
Hem the bottom edge of the body of the shirt the same way that you hemmed the sleeves.
I recommend that you practice applying binding and making a mitered corner following the directions below using scrap fabric before starting on your project. This will help you to be sure you are comfortable with the technique (and with the particular fabric you are using) and will give you a test placket to use to practice/test out buttonholes or snaps before you put them on your actual shirt.
If your fabrics have been curling at the edge at all, you may find it helpful to use Stitch Witchery again here. If not, you can simply pin the edges together. Starting on one side of the placket/front opening, secure the binding (with stitch witchery or pins) to the edge of the opening, with right sides together and edges aligned. Leave about an inch of binding overhanging the hemmed edge.
Sew this first edge with a ½” seam allowance, stopping ½” from the corner and either just stopping or turning and sewing at a diagonal straight through the corner.
To miter the corner, I used a technique borrowed from quilt binding. There are many tutorials (such as this one from Jaybird Quilts) and YouTube videos about this technique, so if you aren’t familiar with this and think it be helpful to see it explained again you should have no problem finding lots of examples. In the photos above, you start out with the binding side of your project up, with the excess binding at the bottom and the direction you are going to continue applying the binding to the left. Fold the binding back to the right (away from the direction you will be applying it) at a 45 degree angle. Then fold it forward at a 45 degree angle again, so that the edge is now lined up with the neckline where you will continue to apply the binding.
Secure the binding all around the neck opening with either Stitch Witchery or pins, then sew with a 1/2” seam allowance starting all the way at the edge of the mitered corner (sewing over the fabric you folded). Repeat the steps to miter the second corner at the edge of the neckline/front opening. Then secure the binding to the other front opening/placket edge with either Stitch Witchery or pins, and sew with a ½” seam allowance.
Fold the binding back, wrapping it around the raw edge and pinning in place. Try to keep the width as consistent as possible, keeping it wrapped just around the raw edge. At the mitered corners, you may wish to trim away some of the fabric next to the second seam you sewed at the corner, to reduce the bulk that results from the folds of fabric in the miter. When you fold the fabric back, it should automatically make a nice folded miter on the front; you should then fold the fabric on the back with a miter as well, as shown, and secure with pins.
To finish the bottom edges of the binding at each of the front openings/plackets, trim the binding so that there is only about ½” sticking out past the hem. You may also want to trim the seam allowance near the hem to reduce the bulk in the bottom corner. Fold the bottom raw edge of the binding up, and then fold the binding over and secure in place with pins, making sure that the raw edge is tucked under all the way.
Starting at the bottom edge of one side of the front opening/placket, topstitch just along the edge of the binding (1/8” in or less if possible), securing the binding underneath as you go. Make sure you are keeping the raw edge of the binding underneath flat as you sew, and not letting it roll up and get sewn over. Pivot with your needle down at each miter and continue topstitching. I recommend using stretch stitch for this stitching as well.
Trim away the excess binding fabric on the back, as close to the sewn edge as possible.
Lay out your buttons or snaps on the placket, using a ruler to get even spacing if you want (to be honest, I usually just eyeball it). Mark placement on the front placket. Again, I recommend practicing applying snaps or sewing buttonholes on the scrap which you used to practice applying binding before sewing on your shirt. I used a regular buttonhole stitch, not a knit buttonhole stitch, on my shirt. You may wish to space your top buttonhole/snap somewhat below the mitered corner as the extra bulk could be tricky to sew/snap through.
If you are not familiar with how to sew a buttonhole, check out this tutorial, and if you need to learn how to install snaps here are a few resources. Snaps can sometimes be problematic on knits if the fabric isn’t strong enough to support the snap, but since your placket has four layers of fabric, it should be strong enough. But again, make sure to do a test to be sure you are happy with how it will turn out before you try it on your shirt!
When you sew your buttonholes and buttons, or apply your snaps, I recommend putting them slightly off-center in the placket, away from the opening. If you place your buttonholes/buttons or snaps squarely in the center of the placket, it may tend to gape as the garment pulls; by placing them off-center, you will find that it looks correctly aligned when buttoned/snapped up.
That’s it! You’re done. Enjoy your new cheery raglan top!…
This post is sponsored by Funny Fabrics. Funny Fabrics are all high quality, GOTS certified organic fabrics in fun, original Scandinavian designs. Their ultra-soft and comfortable organic knit jersey fabrics are the perfect choice for all of your sewing and crafting needs, especially for your child’s clothing and bedding. You will find their fabrics are fun, healthy and worthy of your creativity!