May make No. 2: the Raglan Tunic

May make No. 2: the Raglan Tunic

I really debated whether to post this photo or not, but you guys tell me all the time you value my sharing my misses as well as my hits. And I do think it’s important, having learned so much from others that way, so even though this is making me a little queasy, let’s talk about this top — the second of my pledged makes for Me Made May, and another near-miss. In the sketches, you can see what I’m wanting (thank you, Fashionary) — a floaty, loose-fitting top for summer that can be layered over in fall. I don’t know of a pattern for the exact thing I’ve sketched, so as with pretty much all of my knitting and sewing, I’m picking a pattern that’s close and adapting it to my liking. In this case, I decided the first thing I would try was Purl Soho’s Sewn Raglan Tunic. The Purl top is cut a little more straight up and down than me or my sketches, but it’s pretty close, right? To make it a bit floatier, I cut the third size but graded it outward at the side seams to the fourth size. I also cut the front tunic length for back and front, rather than a dropped hem, and I drafted sleeves that were wider/poufier and elbow-length, rather than choosing between super-short sleeves or 3/4 length.

Apart from that, I made one significant modification: The pattern calls for an elasticized neck binding (and same with optional sleeve treatment). An elastic neckline is not what I had in mind, but it also seemed unnecessary to me, since there’s a slit at the back already for your head to go through. Instead, I gathered the fabric at the neckline and sewed the bias facing on flat, so the fabric is gathered but the binding is not. And same for the sleeves.

I’m super proud of the craftsmanship on this one — it’s a big step forward for me — and I also enjoyed every minute of making it, which is not typical of me and sewing. The pattern is very well written and I had fun tampering with it. So I have a lot of good feelings about this garment — I do! Here’s why it’s a near-miss for me instead of a win:

1) The fabric is all wrong. I knew I needed to make a muslin of this, given how much I would be changing, but didn’t have any actual muslin handy. What I did have was this Brussels Washer (same fabric as that skirt) in olive, which Rebekka had given me. There were a lot of flaws in this cut of it, but I worked around them as much as possible on the off-chance the shirt turned out to be a winner. Unfortunately, in this color and fabric, the finished top looked super drab on me (as you can see). It needed to be with someone who would accessorize it, so it’s gone to live with Meg, and it looks perfectly darling on her.

2) The critical difference between this shirt and the sketches is the neck. I want a smaller, higher neckline, and could have had it here — again, because of the slit at the back. But because I had gone with a larger size, it was a lot of fabric being gathered at the neck. Even having left the neck a bit wider than I wanted, it’s just too much fabric gathered up around my big shoulders; had I kept going, it would have been ridiculous. So if there’s a second attempt with this pattern, I’ll cut a smaller top but still grade it outward toward the hem, for the same basic silhouette as I achieved here, but with less fabric at the neckline.

3) Not sure about the sleeves. In my mind and the sketches, the sleeves are a little bit poufy, which means they are at least minimally gathered, not just hemmed. But maybe a hem would be better, or again, just less gathering. That’s one to play with once I sort out the fabric (next attempt will be heavy 100% linen) and neckline issues.

But I’m not sure if the next attempt will be with this same pattern as the starting point. The other key difference between it and my drawings is the gathered sleeve tops. I’m only envisioning the little gathers or pleats at the front of the shirt, not all the way around the neck. I think that’s just never going to work with my shoulders, nor look like the top in my head. So it might need to be a modified woven Linden instead, or some kind of hybrid of the two.

Regardless of the fact that I don’t have a finished top in my closet after the seven or eight hours I spent on this (did I mention I’m slow?), sewing this one was a great experience from start to finish. Technically and design-wise, I know it put me one step closer to being able to make the top I’m dreaming of. So it’s all good!


p.s. I got in some more of the red vintage fiber mill spindles on Friday and managed to get a photo this time! And if you were here Friday morning before Knit Wit Issue 2 arrived, there are now photos in the shop of that as well. It’s a truly stunning issue — multiple fantastic studio visits, among other things — and I can’t wait to have a good sit-down with it. Go have a look!


PREVIOUSLY in Me Made May: May make No. 1: the Gathered Skirt


22 thoughts on “May make No. 2: the Raglan Tunic

  1. I think the shirt is wonderful and can’t believe you gave it away! I am a newish frustrated sewist and unlike knitting, you can rarely take something apart and re do it like in knitting…I have frogged entire sweaters…that said, I continue to sew and improve, knowing how long it took to build my knitting skills. I applaud you for taking risks and reworking patterns to suit your vision. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I think it looks fantastic! Consider it a ‘win’ and wear it all summer/fall long. :)

  3. It makes you feel like a grown-up, doesn’t it, to be able to say “this isn’t quite right,” instead of blindly refusing to see a problem? I do think it looks quite nice, but I think you’re right about a little too much fabric at the neck.

  4. It doesn’t look as bad as you make it sound. I think the major problem is the fabric. I think you are wanting something much thinner and less stiff, maybe lawn. I also think your drawings don’t reflect a gathered sleeve at the bottom. Also, if your shoulders are your concern, you may not want a raglan. I think you should try a Scout tee with elbow length sleeves in lawn. I haven’t made this pattern successfully yet, but I’m not giving up.

  5. Hi Karen! I love how thoughtful you are about your work, whether it’s knitting or sewing – you’ve really inspired me to do the same! I’m making a somewhat similar top (Very Easy Vogue, 8977) and using a voile fabric to ensure a nice drape and not too much bulk at the shoulders. Rather than gathers at the neckline there are pleats and it has the most wonderful back with buttons and a tab. I’m sure the pattern could easily be adapted. Even though you decided to give your finished top to a friend, it looks like it was impeccably made, so that’s a win for you! (And for your friend!)

  6. We have opposite issues, my shoulders are narrow – which means I have unraveled many hand-knit sweaters – before I realized it was always the neckline that was wrong. Have you tried any Built by Wendy patterns? I haven’t looked at them closely in several years, but maybe she has one that would be helpful in creating your perfect neckline… Thanks for posting attempts as well as 100% successes, your thought process is always full of nuggets of wisdom that help me think through my own garment adventures.

  7. your post makes me wonder if a modified sailor top (from the fancy tiger ladies) might work?

    • That’s on my list, but it’s a different look from the goal of this one. Although now I think that one might not look good on me either, since it also has the sleeve tops gathered. I’ll try it sometime.

  8. I think you have nailed the reasons why this doesn’t work for you, which is why you will get SO much satisfaction out of making it again and getting it just right. Sewing is similar to knitting in that envisioning how the fabric will work with the cut/shape/design, is the key to a beautiful garment. Easier said than done, but definitely improves with experience. It is really cool that you posted that lesson here, Karen. I can’t wait to see your next go at it. ;-)

  9. Thanks for sharing, even if it was a miss for you. It took me a long time to realize that, while I love sewing quilts and patchwork, I don’t have the patience or finesse to make clothes, and that’s okay. Now I just appreciate from afar everyone else’s Me Made May!

  10. At the risk of repeating other people’s comments, I would just like to say that I love your blog and enjoy your take on clothes and making them. I think the only thing you should have done differently was to choose a soft, thin woven material for this project. It drapes better and creates the kind of flowy top you envisioned.
    I’ve been knitting and sewing my own and my children’s clothes since I was about 12 and to my mind there’s nothing as satisfying than when you can say “and I made it myself”, but just as with knitting, it takes a while to learn to choose the right material(s)!

    • It’s funny how many people have commented on this and the skirt (here and in IG) about using a drapier fabric. This must photograph heavier or stiffer than it is. It is VERY drapey — in fact, part of the problem with it for this top is that it’s actually too drapey for it, in my opinion. Of course, it’s also not at all what I had in mind — just something handy to use for a muslin that I hoped might happen to work out ok.

      Finding good fabric, much less the perfect one for any given pattern, is definitely hard.

  11. It’s probably the crisp fabric that is causing you these issues: any gathers look very full and it seems stiff. A fabric with some drape (not too much), and more lightweight will probably be more to your liking.

    I have relatively narrow shoulders and wide hips, so when I saw the shirt I immediately thought that it was a great style for my body shape. And I do think it looks good on you as well!

  12. I agree with Karen re the crisp fabric and do not like the puffy sleeves. They didn’t look that full in th pattern I saw. I’d like a hem, thank you for showing. It helps us who are about to embark with fabric, scissors and thread!

  13. These patterns (or just looking at their schematic) might be helpful:

    You might like to try a straightforward raglan or set in sleeves, with gathers at the front. It’s probably best to omit gathers at the side of the neckine, so as not to “enlarge” the shoulders. For the neckline, you can check the width and depth of a blouse whose neckline seems to be right, and compare the pattern’s neckline.

  14. I’d suggest a set-in sleeve – No raglan. If you want to keep the raglan I’d switch to cotton instead of linen. And I’d change the sleeve either shorter or longer or without the gathers.

  15. Hi Karen,

    Check out There is a shirt pattern you may like, sleeves are gathered but could be left straight.

  16. P.S. Karen, I wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying my Fashionary. It came in really handy for a trip that required outfits outside of my normal day/travel wear. I took a couple of hours (a few days before departure) and played dress-up, and then quickly sketched out what worked. When I packed a few days later, there was no guesswork, which in turn, made for a lighter, more organized suitcase that had everything I needed!

  17. Hey, I am wearing a Belcarra from Sewaholic and maybe that’s what you want. She designs for pear shapes so you may want to remove some of the curve from the waist/hips? Not sure. But it’s a great pattern. It wears like a t shirt, but designed for wovens. Again I think the stiffer ones don’t look great – I think the way the raglan sleeve drapes over a shoulder calls for cutting on the bias or a drapey fabric – but mine in silk is fab. Anyway,there are no gathers in the neck or shoulders so it hugs your shoulder in the nice way a raglan can. It would look great in a knit too, that’s my next plan. good luck!

  18. Pingback: May makes No. 3/4: Plus, what I learned from Me Made May | Fringe Association

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