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. And off we go!

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Table of Contents

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 your own raglan 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

Cut your raglan 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.

Press first!

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

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.

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

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.

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:

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.

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…

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.

You’re done!!!

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.

The author may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.

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