Sewing on the neckband
You can call this step the fiddly bit because it is a little. But we’ll get through it! It might take a couple tries to get a nice looking neckband, but every time you try, it’ll get better.
One thing I want you to remember here–no, say it with me now with your hand over your heart:
I will not stretch out the shirt neck. I will only stretch the neckband. The neckband only will I stretch and not the shirt neck. Remember that shirt neck? My hot little hands will not in fact stretch it, they’re only stretching the neckband!–you before you sew a knit neckband
Take your neckband and put one short edge about 1/2″ past one back shoulder seam.
Stretch the neckband lightly
I repeat myself here, but stretch JUST the neckband. If you stretch the neck of the shirt, especially if you have a knit that doesn’t have a lot of recovery, it’s not coming back. We all do it a few times. Those are your unintentional pajama tops.
Hold the neckband so the edges line up with the shirt neck. Stretch the neckband just until you feel a little tug. Start stitching about 2″ from that back shoulder seam for that couple inches you’re stretching. Keep stretching the neckband and stitching all the way around the neck.
How do you know if you’re stretching the neckband the right amount?
If there’s gathers in the neck, you’re stretching the neckband too much.
On the opposite side of the horse, if the neck is loose and the band seems floppy, you need to stretch it more.
I learned from Sarah Veblen years ago to baste the neckband in first to check it. It’s a wise move, but now I do it this way.
Okay, now you’re nearly all the way around your neckline. Stop about 2″ from the shoulder seam from the opposite direction. It’ll look like this:
We haven’t sewn that little tiny seam in the neckband itself up to this point because you want to make sure that it’s the right length first.
Even though I made my pattern from a t-shirt itself, this blue fabric was a little stretchier than my ivory fabric. If you’re in that spot, lightly stretch the end of your neckband to about 1/4″ past that back shoulder seam. Trim off any extra.
For me, my neckband was about 1″ too long. That’s what scissors are for, friends!
Sew the neckband seam
Unfold the neckband and match the short ends right sides together. Sew the short seam.
Press it open and fold the neckband back in half wrong sides together.
Finish sewing the neckband to the shirt neck.
Stitch down the neckband
Press the neckband towards the body from the inside of the shirt. From the right side, stitch the neckband down all the way around the neck. Your line of stitching should be close to where the edge of the neckband falls off. This will make the neckband nice and flat.
Optional, but awesome
Last before the hems, we’re covering over the back neck seam with a tiny piece of binding. You see this on almost all ready-to-wear tees, especially on men’s tees. It stabilizes the back neck and makes it so that that seam doesn’t irritate your skin.
Cut a small length of either twill tape or of a scrap of your fabric. If you’re using fabric, cut a 1″ x several inches piece so that it’s in the less-stretchy direction.
Next, fold both raw edges towards the center the long way and press.
Now, cover over the back neck seam from shoulder seam to shoulder seam. Don’t stretch this–just let it be like it wants to be. Working from the inside of the shirt, stitch all around the binding. Pivot at the shoulder seams.
I added my label underneath. If you don’t have a label but want to add something, you can always use a piece of fabric or ribbon here.
Sewing the hems
Finally the last step! You’ve already pressed up the seams, so now you need to stitch them down.
For this one, use a stretch double needle like this one from Schmetz stretch twin needle (affiliate). Double needles are the easiest way to make a nice looking hem with your regular sewing machine.
A double needle has 1 shank that fits into the needle spot on your machine, but with 2 actual needles held together by a little piece of plastic. Somewhere on the top of your machine, you probably have a place for a second spool of thread. Mine sits vertically with a little spool pin to the left of my regular thread. It might be different on your machine.
Thread your left needle, then thread the right needle. So you’ll have 2 threads running through the sewing machine’s thread path. Now all you do is stitch with that same narrow zigzag you’ve been using this whole time.
Stitch all the way around your bottom hem and each of your sleeve hems.
And that’s all there you need to sew your own raglan t-shirt!
It’s a quick and simple project for any level sewist, and those sleeves are perfect for little off size pieces of leftover fabric. Enjoy wearing yours, but I gotta know:
Where will you wear your new raglan t-shirt?
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.