Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Variations on a Tee #7: Raglan T-Shirt Dress

Raglan Dress Thumbnail

BCBG Max Azria Pre-Fall 2013

Clio pinned the Max Azria on the left sometime last year and I immediately loved it.  She has shown her awesome raglan tee so I figured I should get around to showing mine (which I made several months ago--hence the three different sets of photos!).

Michael Kors, $1695

I dig the bare front cutout in the Max Azria, but for my real life sheer sleeves like the Michael Kors on the right are more doable.  I would not wear this dress to work, but it is the perfect LBD for winter parties.

The body fabric is a heavy poly/lycra knit I got on eBay several years ago from a seller that has, unfortunately, stopped selling (Uptown Fabrics High End Fabrics).  I bought it for yoga pants, and it is a really nice heavy weight for skimming over lumps and bumps.  I made a pair of yoga pants and a pair of hiking capris with it, and with mixed emotions used up the last of it for this dress.  I got the sleeve fabric, a rayon burnout in a sort of zebra print, at a DC area meetup fabric swap

Since I already have a perfect t-shirt pattern, I decided it would be easier to draft it into a raglan than the start with a raglan pattern and alter it.

House of Jo posted some great instructions for how to draft a raglan sleeve from a bodice block.  Visit the link for full details; here is a cursory overview of the process.

Mark Bodice and Pin to Sleeve

Start by marking the raglan line on your bodice.  Can you spot my stupid mistake here?  Yep, I only drew my line into the shoulder, rather than the actual neckline.  I got pretty far into the drafting process before I realized it.  I went back and did it right, but didn't take new pictures so these will have to suffice.  I used Kadiddlehopper's trick of using Frixion pens to make the markings on my pattern and just ironed them away when I was done.  Brilliant!  I've been using Frixion pens to mark my fabrics for a while, but it never occurred to me to use them on patterns.

Then you pin the bodice onto the sleeve, matching the notches, and matching the seamlines as well as you can.

Trace MarkingsTrace your bodice markings, including the dart at the top.  The dart is what gives the sleeve shape, and is the reason I wanted to use my TNT pattern.  I have narrow shoulders, and on commercial raglan patterns the "shoulder" extends far from my actual shoulder and creates an ugly bump.  The dart placement on my drafted pattern is absolutely perfect; it required no tweaking whatsoever.

From that point you remove the bodice pieces and trace the underarm curve of the sleeve and you've got yourself a pattern.  It's surprisingly easy once you untangle the instructions (my lack of spatial relations is painful for drafting purposes).

Clip Corners at FOE Join
There was no magic to the construction here, it's just a simple t-shirt dress, but I did want to show how I do foldover elastic ("FOE") when I'm being fastidious.  First you cut the FOE to about 75%-90% of your neckline opening, on the lower end of the scale for loose weave fabrics with little recovery and the higher end for firmer knits with a lot of lycra.  I did about 90% for this fabric.

Stitch the ends of the FOE together, right sides together.  The key here is to clip the corners of the FOE in the seam allowance, as shown.  Otherwise, those ugly ends poke down below your stitch line.  I use fray-check on the cut ends, but I am paranoid.

Stitch First Pass of FOE

Next it's a two-step process.  Zigzag the wrong side of the FOE to the wrong side of your neckline.  The white marking here is my center front; for my V-neck dress this was necessary for a later step.

Use Blind Hem Foot on Foldover Elastic

For the next pass, I use my blind hem foot to stitch as close as possible to the edge of the elastic.  Stretch slightly as you sew, to make sure you have enough thread in the straight stitch.  I have not popped any stitching on FOE I've applied with a straight stitch on the second pass like this--but I generally go for deeper necklines, not higher crew necks.  Your results may vary if your neckline has to stretch a lot to go over your held.

Stitch Second Pass of FOE

Here is the second pass sewn on this dress.  You can see that it is rippling a bit at the V neck.  We're about to take care of that.

Stitch FOE into a Point

To make the V point, fold the FOE at the marked center front, and then stitch diagonally across it as shown by the white dots.  Press to one side and you have yourself a little V.

With Obi

The impetus for this dress was a request from the boyfriend.  We were out to dinner one night and a girl walked by in an open back top like this one.  He had strong feelings about how much he didn't like it, which was kind of hilarious because he is *not* a fashionisto.

At any rate, the conversation somehow became him asking, "So, do you have one of dress thingies?"  And I was like, "You mean a Little Black Dress?"  He wasn't familiar with the term as such, but it appeared that's what he was talking about.  I do have a couple (literally two) identical fitted knit dresses that I wear on our dates in the winter, but since I *never* wear black he had never gotten the full LBD effect. This was on my project list anyway so I bumped it to the top.  He was pleased with the results.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Jacqui said...

I love this dress! I really think you nailed it. Sexy and classy, the length is just right and the sleeves are perfect. Well-done!

Samina said...

I really like this dress too! It's simple & elegant, & it'll work for so many outings. Love the belt options, too!

Beth (SunnyGal Studio) said...

very pretty and I just noticed how long your hair is getting, it looks great. slight hair envy here!

Little Hunting Creek said...

Great Dress! It's funny how guys kw what they don't like so vehemently. My husband hates those open backs as well. He was relieved when my daughter and I told him we didn't like them either.But we both pointed out that if we had liked that look, we would wear it no matter what he said. So he doesn't get any ideas :)

knitmachinequeen (KMQ) said...


Anonymous said...

The boyfriend has good taste, I see. ;-) Love the dress, and thanks for the tutorial on making raglan sleeves (my personal fave sleeve style), I suspect that I will get lots of use from that as soon as I start sewing for me again! :-)

I'm personally torn on the open back thing. The link to the shirt you had I will agree is not my cup of tea, but I love interesting back cutouts. You know; deep V's/scoops, circles/keyholes, and hearts are a personal fave. The one you posted looks like it just got shredded or something, so kind of trashy IMO.

Virginia at A Sewing Life said...

So interesting to see you exploring themes that have been on my mind lately too: black, lace, raglan sleeves. Kudos for drafting your own raglan; that is seriously impressive. Some time ago you talked about your FOE application method. That gave me permission to do two passes of stitching for FOE, with enormously better results than I had previously had. Thank you!!! Great dress, especially for this season.

thistle said...

Very cute & versatile- the lace sleeves are perfect, not too exposed, I think you'll be wearing this dress quite often.

Kelly said...

Very nice. It fits you well.

sewingelle said...

Great dress, simple, elegant, flattering. Thanks for your (as usual) wonderfully detailed information about raglan sleeves and FOE.

Clio said...

Great dress on you! The sleeves really take the dress to a new level - perfect for a date!

I've got the BCBG knock off cut and ready to be sewn. Fingers crossed that it will work!

Sz said...

High End Fabrics is still in business, I believe. At least someone doing business under that name through an Ebay store is.

You may want to check them out at:

T. Sedai said...

Nice! Love it with the sleeves.

Cherie said...

Oh my goodness, the dress is lovely and sophisticated, the hat is TDF, and that jacket is a wonder. Love it with jeans. You have such great style that is your own, and you sew it to boot! I sure need to get on the stick, been procrastinating because do fitting issues, but that doesn't stop you!

Cherie in Phoenix

Faye Lewis said...

I really like your new dress Trina. I don't usually lean toward v-necklines but I really like your version.

KID, MD said...

This looks so cool with the burnout sleeves. I can see why the boyfriend was pleased. Looks great!
I don't even know how I sewed before I started using those pens. They are so useful! Have you tried the highlighter version yet? I prefer those for tracing Burdas. Even makes the more recent crazy time sheets relatively painless to trace.

twotoast said...

Oh, that is such a cute dress! I agree with the others - sexy but classy! I bet you feel great wearing it!

Kristy Chan said...

I've never seen a top with a back cut out like that - it's so wrong on so many levels! I love your dress, raglan dresses are great and the contrasting sleeve fabric makes it even more flash

Noile said...

What a smashing dress on you! It looks as if it fits like a dream, and the styling is so perfect for your (adorable!) shape.

Love the obi, too, as an alternate look and the way the garment dresses up and down.

Uta said...

I like black with your hair color (and the black-rimmed glasses!). The lace sleeves are a nice touch, and you can't beat a knit dress for holiday parties (and food)!

SEWN said...

Love LOVE your LBD. Super cute.

liza jane said...

You look absolutely fantastic in this dress! Good on the boyfriend for putting in a request :) And thanks for all the wonderful info you put in to your posts. I think this dress may be one of my favorites.

Kelly said...

I love this! It's so simple and elegant, but looks comfy too. I really like the lace sleeves - the softer black warms up the color. Sometimes just black looks kind of harsh on me, I'll have to keep the lace in mind for a black dress!

Elizabeth Made This said...

Well done with the raglan drafting! I agree that the lace really softens up the black. What a great dress for any occasion.

Ruth Ann said...

Beautiful! Never thought black was something I could wear because of my pale skin coloring and red hair. The few times I do wear black next to my face I use a colorful scarf. It probably all goes back to my teen years when a boy told me I should get more of a suntan. All I got was sunburn and freckles. You inspired me to try a LBD for myself.

Lisette M said...

Love it! Dressy and comfy. I have been loving raglan lately.