How to sew your own raglan tee

Today I’m going to show you how to sew your own raglan tee. Up to this point in my raglan t-shirt series I’ve showed you how to make your own DIY raglan sleeve tee pattern.

In case you’d rather use someone else’s pattern, I wrote about several different raglan tee patterns for everyone.

Whatever pattern path you’ve chosen, we’re going to break down raglan t-shirt construction step by step. Let’s sew a raglan top pronto.

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What do you need to sew your own raglan tee?

  • 2 coordinating jersey knits–enough for your size according to your pattern
  • Stretch needle for your sewing machine
  • Stretch twin needle
  • Your DIY raglan tee pattern
  • Thread, scissors

A note on mixing knits when you go to sew your own raglan tee…

Before I show you how to sew a raglan sleeve tee, let’s talk a sec about mixing knits. So, with the classic raglan tee–you know, the iconic baseball tee, it’s pretty standard to make the sleeves and the body a different color.

The trick is, how do you pick knits that go well together? I’m not talking about colors, although you should think about that. I mean unless you’re into lime green plus mauve.

Fabric weight + stretch =happy raglans

No, what I’m talking about has to do with the weight and stretch of knits. The knits that go best together have similar weight and stretch.

Why is that? Well, let’s say you have an ITY knit and you tried to combine it with a ponte knit. ITY has crazy stretch and drape, while ponte is so stable it practically behaves like a woven fabric. You’ll have a bear of a time trying to pair the two of them. The ITY will probably get all kinds of sketchy gathers or you’ll end up stretching out the ponte to try to get it to play nice with the ITY. A great recipe for a bad sewing day.

What’s a better combo? Two knits with a similar or same fabric content. Two knits with a similar weight. Examples?: 2 rayon spandex solids. Or maybe 2 cotton spandex jersey prints. Also–2 stretch laces.

How to test 2 knits for compatibility

But Elizabeth, I buy lots of mystery fabric.

I do too! I love me some mystery fabric! So to test to see if your knits are going to play nice together, first cut a little rectangle of each.

  • Look at your two fabrics. Do they have a similar thickness? If so, keep on going…
  • Figure out which way the knit stretches (knits will stretch more in one direction than the other unless it’s a 4-way stretch).
  • Hold the swatch so the stretch direction of the fabric is between your hands.
  • Fold the fabric from top to bottom so you’re holding 2 layers in that stretch direction.
  • Stretch it! Notice how much it stretches. You can measure it on a ruler if you’re so inclined.
  • Repeat the stretch for your second swatch.
  • If the fabrics are pretty close in how they stretch, they are probably a good match.

On the tutorial video, you can see this test in action around minute 2:30.

And now let’s get sewing!

How to sew your own raglan tee

How to cut a raglan sleeve tee

So you’ve chosen your two contrasting knits. Grab your pattern pieces and cut out a front and back from your body fabric and 2 sleeves and a neckband from your contrast fabric.

cut pattern pieces of a diy raglan sleeve

Press first!

neckband piece of a diy raglan sleeve pressed in half

Fold your neckband in half the long ways and press it down the middle.

front piece of a diy raglan tee: pink arrow shows a pressed up hem

Also press up your hems on the front and back and the sleeves. You’ll thank yourself later for the added time you’ll save pressing the hems now.

sleeve piece of a diy raglan tee: pink arrow shows a pressed up hem

For my hem, I’m using a 1 1/4″ hem on the front/back and 3/4″ on the sleeves. If you have different hem preferences, go with them!

Front sleeve seam

front and sleeve pieces of a diy raglan tee: pink line showing where to sew a front sleeve seam on a diy raglan tee

Next, match the front piece right sides together with the front side of the sleeve at the sleeve seam. Pin if you like to, though maybe think about not pinning and do this instead.

You need to use a needle for stretch fabrics. So either a ballpoint needle or my favorite, a stretch needle like a Schmetz 75/11 H-S stretch* or the also good Klasse 75/11 Stretch*. (*affiliate links). Here’s more advice on how to pick the best needles for knits.

Stitch the seam on your sewing machine with a narrow zigzag. For a narrow zigzag, set your zigzag stitch to .5 width and 2.5-3.0 length. This will make it almost a straight stitch, but it’ll still have enough built in stretch that your stitches won’t pop as the fabric stretches while you wear it.

If you have a serger and want to use it here, by all means, serge that seam, but know that you can indeed sew knits without a serger! I’m using 3/8″ seam allowance on my pattern, which I can serge pretty easily. If your pattern uses a wider seam allowance, do that!

Repeat for the second front sleeve seam.

Back sleeve seams

Next match the back side of the sleeve right sides together to the back piece right on the back sleeve seam.

 aback and sleeve pieces of a diy raglan tee: pink line showing where to sew a back sleeve seam on a diy raglan tee

Sew the back sleeve seam (or serge).

Repeat for sleeve #2. Press all the seams towards the body.

Now your t-shirt looks like this:

diy raglan tee set out flat: how the sleeve seams look on a diy raglan tee before the side seams and underarm seams are sewn

Side seam + underarm seam

Fold your tee right sides together at the side seams and the underarm seams.

Stitch the side seam and the underarm seam in one long seam.

How to sew your own raglan tee: showing where to sew the side seam and underarm seam

I like to sew 1/2″ on either side of that little intersection where the sleeve meets the side seam. This helps make sure that that point is right on point literally. If it’s not, you can rip it out without a seam ripper because it’s just a couple stitches. It’s an optional step, but it makes for a nice clean intersection.

We’re almost done! Read on for the neckband and hems…

next page graphic with spool of thread

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