Electron Layette Sewalong: Sweatshirt

The first step is to select your fabric. The sweatshirt calls for a mid-weight knit with less than 20% stretch. This means fabrics like french terry, sweatshirting, even fleece or ponte. For more about selecting fabric, see the post on Choosing Fabric for the Electron Layette. Along with your fabric, the notions you need are snaps and interfacing.

Cut your fabric. If you cut your pattern pieces out with your fabric on a single layer you can squeeze it into a smaller amount of fabric. Regardless, you need to end up with 2 fronts (mirror images of each other), 2 sleeves, 2 pockets (optional), 1 back, and 1 back neck facing. Note that there are two options for the neck facing piece – one has size 3 months, 9 months, and 18 months on it while the other has size newborn, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years on it. The pocket piece comes in two sizes as well – one for newborn through 9 months and one 1 year through 2 years.

Cut out your interfacing. Your interfacing pieces are slightly smaller than the garment pieces that they are interfacing so that the interfacing isn’t visible at the edge of the pattern piece. There are many different kinds of interfacing. You can use either a knit or woven interfacing for the sweatshirt if you use a fabric with <20% stretch. If you opt for a stretchier fabric, make sure that you use a knit interfacing with the direction of greatest stretch going the same way as the garment pieces. A midweight interfacing is recommended. If your interfacing is too lightweight it will not help to stabilize the fabric. If it is too bulky it will be difficult to manipulate.

Generally, no matter what you are sewing, it’s a good idea to go through all your pattern pieces and transfer markings before beginning to sew. It is generally best to use tailor’s tacks because they will stay through the duration of construction and chalk will often rub off before you’re done, especially on a plush fabric like that used for sewing a sweatshirt.

On the Fronts you need to mark the pocket placement guidelines and the snap placement marks on the right sides of both of your Fronts. As I said, I think tailor’s tacks are the best, but you can also cut a little snip out of the corner of the pocket placement guide and chalk through that hole onto your fabric below (I find old school tailor’s chalk works the best for this application instead of the chaco liners that I prefer for most marking).

If you do use chalk, connect the points of your pocket placement with straight lines of chalk so you have the whole pocket placement square marked on your fronts.

You also want to mark the circle on the top of each sleeve. You can do this with a tailor’s tack or a line of chalk. (While a line of chalk isn’t technically the correct way to mark a point, the purpose of the point is to mark the center of the sleeve so that we can line it up with the shoulder seam so a line will suffice for this instance).

To help with aligning the front interfacing properly, mark the fold line on the wrong side of both sweatshirt fronts.

Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of your front pieces, aligning it to the fold line that you marked. Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of your back neck facing, aligning it to the top of the pattern piece. (Note that I have slightly changed the interfacing size since taking these photos so your interfacing will end a bit closer to the edge of your fabric.)

The pockets are totally optional and not recommended for beginner sewists as they are a little fiddly. But they are also pretty cute, so if you feel up to it, give them a shot! The stretchier and plusher your fabric is, the harder it will be to sew the pockets so if you’re worried, try sewing them with a ponte instead of a plush fleece-backed knit (like I used). Start by measuring 5/8″ down from the top of the pocket and chalking a line on the wrong side of your pocket. This will help you fold them the perfect length. I like to use a quilting ruler and chaco liner.

Fold the top of the pocket down, right sides together, along the line you just chalked and sew the sides of the pocket together along the fold.

Trim the edges of your pocket. I like to chalk the fold lines for the other edges of the pocket. This time, do so on the right side of the fabric at 3/8″ in from the side. Press the sides toward the back along the lines you chalked. This is the part that is particularly fussy with plush fabric that won’t hold a press. To make wrangling the pockets a bit easier, you can baste the sides in by hand or machine or glue baste them down using a water soluble fabric glue.

Sew the top of the pocket down with a line of stitching close to the edge of the fabric. You can see that this distorted my pocket quite a bit (left) but it eased back flat after a good puff of steam (right). If you do think your babe might actually use these pockets, you might want to stitch the line with a narrow zig-zag or other seam that stretches.

Put the pocket in its place. I find it easier to hold it in place by glue basting or hand basting and then sewing it on instead of using pins as pins can pull it out of shape a bit. To secure the top of the pocket, backtack your sewing at the top or sew a little triangle on either side that is ~2 stitches wide at the top using the diagram above.

Whew. We’re done with the fiddly bits (i.e. the pockets). Now let’s get sewing the sweatshirt together. We want to start by running a line of stay stitching on the back neck line as the curve can stretch out as we manipulate the garment. Run a line of stitching just inside the 3/8″ seam allowance.

Sew the fronts to the back at the shoulder seams If you want, you can finish the seam allowance. Most fabrics that are appropriate for sewing this sweatshirt won’t ravel so they don’t require finishing of the seam but it does give it a bit more polished of a look. I opted to serge my seams. You can also pink them.

Fold the bottom of the sleeves up by 5/8″ and stitch them down by sewing close to the edge of the fabric. This is another place that can be stretched a lot as babe puts on the sweatshirt so I recommend a stitch that stretches like the narrow zig-zag shown above. To easily get the hem folded to the right length, you can chalk the fold line first like you did for the pockets.

Now we are going to set in the sleeves. First line the sleeve up with the body at both ends. Then match the center mark to the shoulder seam. Then match the single notch on the sleeve to the body front and the double notch on the sleeve to the body back. (I’ll let you in on a little secret, these sleeves are symmetrical about the central axis so it’s okay if your single sleeve notch matches your double body notch and vice versa, but this often isn’t the case so follow best practices and match the numbers of notches).

Sew the sleeve seam. Finish the seam, if desired.

This is a good time to press the seams that you have already sewn. A big part of crisp sewing is pressing and technically you should press every seam right after sewing it. This is cheating a little bit, but make sure you do get your pressing in as it will really up the quality of your finished product.

Now we will sew the side seam of the sleeve and the body. Match up and pin the top and bottom of each seam. Match and pin the underarm seam.

Sew the seam and, if desired, finish it. Then press your side seam.

We used a non-traditional way to sew the side seam (i.e. we hemmed the sleeve before sewing the side seam) because the sleeves are so tiny it makes it hard to wrangle them for a traditional hem. This means that we want to tack our seam allowance to one side  at the cuff so it’s not so visible. You can do this with either a small line of vertical (shown on left) or horizontal (shown on right) stitching.

Sew the collar facing to the front facing and press the seam allowances open.

If you want to, you can finish the outside edge of the facing at this point. It is not necessary as the facings will be sewn down, but it makes a visually prettier inside. To do so, use your serger or pinking shears removing as little of the fabric as possible. (Ignore the fact that I have already stitched the facing down in this photo.)

The same goes for your hem – you can finish the bottom of the sweater at this point though it is unecessary.

Fold the facings toward the wrong side and pin in place.

Sew the facing to the body of the sweater around the neck edge using a 3/8″ seam allowance, starting and stopping at the edge of the fold.

Sew the bottom of the facing to the body of the cardigan 5/8″ up from the bottom. Trim the corner.

Clip the curve of the back neck of the cardigan and trim down the seam allowance at the front of the facing.

The next two steps are for understitching your sweater. This is a technique that will help make sure your facing stays rolled to the inside of the sweater. It isn’t hard if you go slow, but it is optional, so if you are a beginning sewist, feel free to skip this step. To understitch the facing, press both seam allowances toward the facing.

Run a line of stitching very close to the seam line through both seam allowances and the facing. That’s it. That’s understitching.

Sew down the facing using a 3/4″ seam allowance along the center front and a 5/8″ seam allowance along the neck.

You can see that understitching helps the neck facing to roll to the inside of the fabric so that all along the edge the body fabric is visible instead of the facing fabric. The bulkier your fabric is the thicker the the turn of the cloth will be. Since this scuba knit I used quite a thick fabric, there is a very visible turn of the cloth.

Fold the hem up 5/8″ and sew it in place, stitching close to the edge of the fabric.

All done!

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