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i have made many pants for my boy, but never once a shirt.  this is largely because woven materials don’t usually make awesome shirts, and until this week i kept jersey far, far away from my sewing machine (although it literally makes up 99% of my own wardrobe, including formalwear).  however, i’ve been building courage and momentum to finally take the plunge, and after the relative success of the hoodie earlier this week, i was ready to go all in.  there’s a reason i dress myself completely in this material daily–soft, pliable, stretchy, unwrinkly, so low maintenance, so me.  it just felt wrong that it was so tricky to sew.

well, guess what.  SO FAR, it isn’t.  this shirt marks my second and third jersey projects (i’ll explain in a moment), and while these projects did have their issues, the material was not among them.  no special bells and whistles–just a ballpoint needle and plenty of hot steam, and to my surprise, my sewing machine did not explode, eat the fabric, yell at me, or jump out the window.  i used a zig zag stitch for pretty much every seam, though i know many people just lengthen a straight stitch without issue.

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i really love the look of retro baseball raglans.  they keep coming back into style, and i’ve owned a few of my own in my adulthood (just saw some at gap this winter, in fact).  i love to dress my kids in simple and classic styles, and while you can certainly buy kids clothes on the cheap these days, they are almost aways over-embellished with decals, words, phrases, appliques, bows, ribbons, ruffles, sparkles…you get the picture.  i see a ton of cute fabric in kid’s fashion every season, and then they have to go and spoil a perfectly lovely striped shirt with a race car and a caption pertaining to loving mom or dad, or being cool.  it kills me to see stripes desecrated in that way!

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i had this tutorial waiting on the back burner for my bravery to build enough to tackle a true knit piece, and after picking up some DSC04394jersey solids from joann’s with a shirt for my boy in mind, i was ready.  the trouble is, i don’t exactly have a shirt for him right now that fits quite right.  a lot of his tees are still too large on him, some too small, and those that fit this otherwise slight boy well in the sleeves and neck are creeping up the marvelous sphere of a belly that seems to grow a bit larger each day.  so, i opted to take one of those and lengthen it generously, adding a little extra in the other seam allowances because fabric is always better cut too large than too small.  i found the tutorial very beginner friendly and easy to follow, and aside from some hiccups getting the ribbing to align, i was pleased with the result.

until i put it on the model, and noticed some rather nagging flaws in this sandlot meets flashdance shirt.  but, i did love the simplicity of it, and it was fast enough to sew that i resolved to redraft the pattern and make it again, keeping the length of the sleeves and body the same, just shrinking the collar and taking in the side seams.  at least that’s what i thought i did.  having sewn it just the day before allowed me to fix a lot of minor, aesthetic errors, like getting that ribbing matched up better.

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DSC04401just as i was cutting the second draft, there from the sewing room floor staring up at me were those cute lions you might have seen in my stack of fabric.  i have no other plans for them, but i really wanted to avoid making the shirt too cutesy–i can buy that at any store.  so, i decided to make a little pocket and put the lion inside, so the shirt would maintain its simplicity, but have a little surprise in it i knew my boy would love.  i really agonized over that pocket!  the shape (square?  round?  diamond?), the color (white?  brown?), the topstitching (contrasting?  matching?).  and after all that, the pocket ends up being far too large for the space, yet not somehow not being large enough a) for a child’s hand, or b) to open it and see the lion (which is in there, by the way)!  grrr!  i’m keeping it a secret or that pocket will surely be torn off in persistent curiosity, and then we’ll be stuck with another tee with a decal.

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i obviously overcompensated for my initial errors in my second take, as now the neck is too small, and somehow now the body is too short on the little buddha…maybe because the loose neck allowed the previous body to drop more?  it’s possible the third time would be a charm, but i’m out of the fabric and ready to move on.  i feel okay about all of this since i really expected the jersey to spontaneously combust at my fingertips and it ended up going quite smoothly.  both versions of the shirt are still wearable though not ideal (and, i haven’t tried the big one on his sister…she might pull the look off!)  evidently i’m a jersey sewing prodigy, but should leave pattern drafting to the experts.  for now, i think it’s time to go back to pants!raglanand before i go, a quick word about boys who wear tutus (and bows, and necklaces, and pigtails, and nail polish, etc.).  imagine a world where we could look however we please.  wear whatever colors and styles suit our fancy, regardless of what society and culture have predetermined to be appropriate or not?  imagine your highly plastic brain developing in a nurturing environment like that, the problem solving skills you might develop when you aren’t immediately taught that certain people have to look a certain way, just because.  imagine a world where all that exists is you and your sibling of the opposite sex; some differences between you are clear, but many still are not in your beautiful little brain, untarnished and unencumbered by what the outside world dictates.

because my children are so close together and were born into a small and humble space, a lot of gender neutrality exists in our home.  reese loves to wear tutus, bows and jewelry, even when his sister does not.  he also loves cars, trucks and planes (of which they have far more of than dolls), has a mean overhand throw, and exceptional spatial reasoning.  it’s interesting what happens when we aren’t so quick to label things or behaviors or feelings.  he just does what he wants, what interests and appeals to him.  so, if you see my little boy in “girl” clothes, it’s because he woke up that morning and told me he wanted to wear them.  that is all.  and, i think his right to exercise choice and independence, as well as to develop whatever affinity for color and texture he wishes, is really fantastic.  i’m not a psychologist, but i’m pretty sure i’m not doing any lasting damage allowing him his freedom of expression.

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and speaking of expression, i hope you like this one, because it’s the one he makes unprompted now the second he sees the camera.  yes, that is an underbite.  and yes, it is awesome.

3 Comments on ctb: project two (and three), retro raglan

  1. Hooray for your first foray into knits! For boy sewing, especially, I find you have to break it out eventually if you want to replace a lot of manufactured clothes. You did a really nice job on the seams and hem, etc. I’ve had two little boys who liked some bows, some nail polish, dolls, etc. I think it’s really important to let kids choose a lot of that stuff for themselves. At least, if they *usually* get to pick out their clothes, but suddenly aren’t allowed to due to gender-panic, it’s a problem. (I think you can see some toenail polish on my kid in today’s picks. It chips off a lot, but it’s his favourite thing.) Also, that first picture? So beautiful and amazing!

    • i’m glad i finally did it–really not bad at all and i agree, a superior fabric for kids (and adults!). it will be great to recycle a lot of our clothes for them. and, i think the tutu really makes the outfit :)

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