Raglan progression

Like many, I’ve been taken with the raglan-sleeved sweatshirt trend. I had a vintage 1980s pattern in my stash, which turned out to be disastrously large through the armpits, chest and sleeves. (Every time I’m facing extensive pattern changes, there seems to be a McCall’s/Butterick/Vogue sale and a pattern that promises to save me from my fit issues.)

I bought McCall’s 6992 and tried it out using a thrifted jersey sheet. I used my hip size all around, but the bust came out huge. And my sister, bless her heart, tried to hide the wrinkles by pulling the shirt down before taking a picture. I felt like a cat with a coat on.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

Here I am, trying to get that blouson feeling back.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

And here’s the usual swayback scene.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 | thrifted sheet sewing

For Version 2, I traced a smaller size up top graded to the larger one through the hips. I used some organic cotton French terry and honest-to-goodness RIBBING! And please enjoy a liberal dose of wrinkles, because I’ve been living and sleeping in this sweatshirt.

One element that wasn’t clear to me from my research or the pattern art is that the one-piece sleeve has a shoulder dart. At first I was irritated to sew a dart into knit fabric, but it really improves the shape.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992

Satisfied with the fit, I began working on what was my ultimate goal: a raglan-sleeved sweater-knit dress. The only initial change I made was extending the hem. I also underlined the front and back (with cotton-hemp jersey from a failed dye experiment) because the fabric was scratchy. It was supposedly a wool/acetate blend and felt a good deal cheaper / a lot less wooly than its price tag led me to believe.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 dress

After basting together the pieces, I trimmed down the arm/side seam multiple times. I also added a hem band at the bottom and finished the neck and sleeve hems using – surprise! – this tutorial – which adapted quite nicely to my sweater knit.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 dress

I hated every minute of sewing this fabric, but I like the dress quite a bit; it’s warm and easy to wear. There might be some room for improvement in the fit of the back raglan seams, but it’s comfortable.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6992 dress

And speaking of raglans, my coat progress continues. I figured out the main problem with the back fit and added a whopping 3/4″ to the back shoulder seam. Everything fell into place!

crabandbee.com | Named Patterns Yona muslin

I still have some work to do on my lining pattern pieces, but I was starting to feel scattered and kind of hopeless I’d never get to start sewing with my real fabric. So, I’ve begun constructing the shell! I began with the back, just to get my bearings with the fabric and underlining on a simpler piece.

So the verdict after all this raglan-ing? I’m not sure the raglan is the best design for me, as my shoulders are supremely broad and square, but I appear to be riding this silhouette until the wheels fall off.

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60 thoughts on “Raglan progression

    1. I’m glad it turned out and I persevered, because I would have been loathe to waste the fabric! I think I may have just enough to make another sweatshirt with contrast sleeves.

  1. I have read that you need a shoulder dart or seam in a raglan to shape it to your shoulders. Pattern that don’t (like colette dahlia) seem to have horrible shoulder and neck fitting issues.

    I love your dress. Shame the fabric doesn’t feel as nice as it looks!

    Can you share how you alter a raglan to fit broad/ square shoulders? I have this issue too!

    1. Ah, interesting. Now that you say that, it makes sense that extra shaping would help – especially for broad shoulders! I guess it’s kind of like a very pointy bust. I didn’t alter the sweatshirt pattern, but for my coat (which is two pieces), I gave myself 1″ SAs and let the back sleeve out at the top of the seam on my muslin until I liked the fit. On the pattern piece, I slashed and spread the top of the back sleeve by the amount I moved the back sleeve seam. I think you could also play with the dart intake (or equivalent on a two-piece sleeve), but I didn’t try that. The caveat is that I’m a total amateur and may be leading you astray!

  2. So many thoughts. Number one, when my cat wears a coat she falls over….I think it’s a Ghandiesque non violent protest against removing her dignity. Number two, I really don’t think that you have a sway back issue in the grey version. The weight of the sweater fabric I think stops it clinging to your back like a jersey might. Number three, I know a lot of woven Raglans have a shoulder dart and it definitely improves the fit and I made a 60’s style sweater this winter that had one – I thought it was quite a nice detail…. And finally number four – I think your dress turned out beautifully! Cosy and chic – not an easy combination. That is all!

    1. So hard to fight gravity when you’re a at with a coat on! I should know! I’m not totally sold I don’t have a swayback situation going on but I’m totally happy wearing these pieces. And I’m all about that shoulder dart now!

  3. I love the dress and the cream sweatshirt. Lovely cable placement on the dress. I’m joining the raglan train using Capital Chic’s pattern (with a few mods), hoping since I have the reverse shoulder issue to you (they’re comparatively titchy) I might have an easy time with fitting.

  4. Gorgeous dress!! That sweater knit is fabulous, even if it was a bugger to sew. In my experience, raglan sleeves always end up with some wrinkling. But I also have pretty broad, square shoulders… maybe I should be investigating fit more! Anyway, I love your raglan adventures, and the fit looks good to me!

    1. Thanks, Sallie! I thought raglan sleeves would be the easy way out on my coat… not so! I think it’s easy to make them look ok, but harder to make them look amazing. I’m having fun trying, though!

  5. M6992, you say? I have that one coming to me in the mail as we speak. It’s criminal that they used that lace-front abomination for the pattern sample.

    Those look really great on you. I find raglan sleeves tricky too and for similar reasons, but I’m determined to figure it out. No idea why, really. You did a great job, though–the back seams look fine to me.

    1. Haha, I know – the sample and cover art threw me off but I think the pattern has decent bones. Good luck! You deserve a break after your complicated projects.

  6. Looks great – I love it extended to a dress!
    I also made this pattern and found the shoulder dart didn’t sit properly on my shoulder, since they angle forward from poor posture. Making the front shoulder tight and the back shoulder loose. I’m planning to move/angle the dart next time I make the pattern. I mention it because it looks like you may have the same issue based on the side picture. Just a suggestion in case you plan to make another version!

    1. Thanks, Carrie! You know, based on my coat muslin, I’m wondering if I have too little room for the back of my shoulders. I think the dart might be an inch behind my actual shoulder!

  7. Good lord I want that sweater dress. I think the fit is actually pretty good – it looks like you could maybe take out a little bit of the seams but sometimes i think obsessing about fit is just useless when we have a perfectly awesome garment that looks good on us.

    1. It’s true! My standards for fit have gone up dramatically since I started sewing but I ease up quite a bit once my comfort requirements are met. Then it’s just fun to consider the fit possibilities for next time while looooooounging in a sweater dress.

  8. That sweater dress is amazing! Really, really. I have a few vintage raglan sweatshirt type patterns laying around. I always imagined them as lounge wear, but now, I’m tempted to sew a sweater dress! It would be instant gratification compared to a knitted version.

  9. That cable knit is amazing! The dress is absolutely fantastic! I’m not much of one for darts at the shoulder for a raglan in knits either, but it is amazing how much better it makes it fit.

    1. This was my first time seeing a raglan sleeve dart! I don’t have much experience with raglans, so I was surprised. I tend to not like darts in knits at all, but this has been eye-opening.

  10. So good! I’m sure I read somewhere that a raglan sleeve is always going to have some wrinkles – just by nature it’ll never fit as perfectly as other sleeve types. I really like the look and the feel of them, though, not to mention the eeeeasy sewing. I’ve used New Look 6230, which has the usual bizarre styling on the cover, an extra seam at centre back just to annoy me (I left it out), and no shoulder dart but maybe it could use one…

    1. I’ve read that before, too. I wonder if it’s true?

      Man, sewing pattern styling – why are the bigger companies always trying to “experiment”? I just want to see the seams, not the embellishments!

  11. Ha! You are so smart! Now you have a sweater dress without the hassle of knitting a few months. Looks awesome! And I hope your coat mojo is returning now that you have started to work with the real fabric!

    1. Coat mojo is in full swing! I can’t go too fast, since it’s all new to me and I have to really pay attention, but I’m making steady progress.

  12. That dress turned out really lovely. I have very square shoulders and last week I was making a muslin of a raglan sleeved swim top…I had to add in a dart and then it took me 7 iterations to get it to fit! Now I am so over it, but seeing your lovely creation might be just the inspiration I need to get back to it.

    1. Oh my goodness, 7 iterations! I think I would have been in the same boat if this was a more fitted style. Why aren’t there more resources for fitting broad shoulders?

  13. I love the sweater dress and sweatshirts! I remember reading in a knitting magazine that raglan sleeves aren’t flattering on broad shoulders, and I was really disappointed because I love raglan sleeves, but after looking at lots of pictures, I’ve decided that the opposite is true, and I think raglans actually soften broad shoulders. Well, maybe that’s just what I tell myself. I just made a whole bunch of SJ tees, and most of the sweaters I knit are raglans too. I just love the relaxed, casual look of them. All this is to say that I think your raglans look great on you, and you look comfy!

  14. I love the sweater dress! I was designing felted wool sweaters for my friends and I discovered the friends with broader shoulders actually liked the raglan sleeves because there is no straight up shoulder seam to be to small for the broad shoulders. I think you look lovely.

  15. Oh man, I LOVE the sweater dress! So awesome. As is the sweatshirt… I just can’t get enough of the sweatshirts I’ve made, and I have fabric for a few more. Can’t wait to see your coat also, glad you’re able to work through the fit issues. It takes so long to get from muslin #1 to finished product sometimes, but it’s worth it to stick it out!

    1. Thank you! It’s been wonderful to start working with my fabric; I’ve finished the back of the coat, the undercollar and am starting on the fronts.

  16. I LOVE the sweater dress!!!! I may have to copy your idea! Love love love it. I made this sweatshirt in a boiled wool and love the shoulder dart but like you, was a little annoyed to have to see it at first. It does improve the fit though. Your coat is looking great, can’t wait to see the finished coat.

  17. Interesting debate on raglans vs. no raglans for broad shoulders. I have huge shoulders too, and I think I’m slowly accepting the fact that my shoulders will be broad no matter what type of top I wear or how well it fits. Thus, I have nothing to add to the debate, LOL. 🙂

    Anyway, both the tops and the dress look really comfortable! I love how you used the fabric for the hem band on the dress – it’s really eye-catching. I’ll be curious to see how your coat progresses!

    1. I probably could have called this post Shoulder Progression! I’ve gone from trying to squeeze them into garments that fit my waist, to making sure I can at least move in a garment, to trying to fit them. Like you said, they’re going to be broad no matter what – might as well it them nicely!

  18. that sweater knit raglan dress is gorgeous gorgeous! I think the fit is pretty good … actually much more than good – fitting a raglan is a totally different beast – shoulder dart seems a good idea but the strain caused by a proeminent shoulder ball is impossible to eliminate completely. You did an amazing job!!!

    1. Ah, good to know! I could easily see strain being an issue, as my shoulders are almost at a 90 degree angle. I plan on using organza selvedge to stabilize the shoulder and upper sleeve seam, so hopefully that helps. Also considering, against all my intuition, a raglan shoulder pad…

  19. I love those little fitting light bulb moments. It’s one of those things that seems SO darn obvious in higndsight, but when you’re in the thick of it, can’t see the leaves for the trees! Lovely to see your progression on mastering the raglan – it’s a winner of a sleeve type.

    1. Yes! It really justifies the whole muslin process. What’s more, I took a look at a RTW short raglan-sleeved coat I wear frequently for the first time today – same problem and I’d never realized it!

  20. If that progression of pictures doesn’t convince people that it’s freaking awesome to sew your own clothes, I don’t know what would. It’s a bit magical to basically be able to see an idea take shape through a lovely sweater, in to a sweater dress that I think you might have stolen from my brain! I’ve wanted a sweater dress for ages, but kept stopping short of making the Lola dress because it never seemed quite right to me. I’m still not convinced that this silhouette would look good on me, but yours looks perfect on you.

    1. I’ve wondered about the Lola pattern myself, and have ultimately held off. I think any knit top pattern you like could work as a sweater dress!

  21. The thrifted jersey sheet muslin is so smart! I never really muslin for knits because of cost, or I think they’ll look fine anyway but will definitely be keeping an eye out for those sheets.
    Also super jealous of that sweater knit- mostly because I would die of itchiness if I ever wore wool that close to my body! It looks really great and I would be wearing it alllll the time if I could. It’s too bad it wasn’t the quality you expected, but such is the plight of any sewer in the internet age! 😦

    1. I found that sheet near your neck of the woods in Mt. Vernon! And underlining the so-called wool really helped the scratch factor, although it’s made for a supremely warm dress.

  22. absolutely lovely dress it really suits the fabric! it also fits you to a tee 🙂 you are so prolific with your sewing i am slightly jealous. I know what you mean about sewing and fittig muslin over and over again feeling hopeless you will never get started with sewing the real fabric – hang in there i feel like it is almost always worth the pain!

  23. That dress is so cute. Sorry I missed it till now! I personally love shoulder darts over a 2 piece raglan sleeve or sleeve with an overarm seam.

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