Pattern Hacking – Turn a raglan t-shirt pattern into a cowl-necked, zippered “hoody”.

Honestly, raglan sleeves are so much fun. Maybe it’s because I sew so many set in sleeves and it’s something new, or maybe it’s the greater range of motion they provide? Who knows, all I know is I’m in love with the raglan pattern.

So in love, that I wanted to make a new pattern from that old tried-and-true one.

Now, if you’ve heard of my Make-It-Your-Own Society, a membership all about sewing with knits and making them your own, you know that we often take a core pattern, after we get the fit down, and create new designs with it.

And that’s just what I did here.

I had my heart set on a cowl-necked “hoody” with deep pockets, made out of this extremely gorgeous bamboo/cotton french terry I picked up. And before I get into how I changed up the pattern, let me tell you what I learned. Because every time we try something, it’s full of lessons and the chance to fine-tune your process, even if you’ve been at it for a good long time.

What I learned

I learned that my drapey, silky french terry did not have enough body for the cowl of my dreams. Now, to be clear, had I made a drapey cowl-necked shirt, it would have been perfect, simply perfect…but I wanted this to be more of a hoody with a zippered front and a cowl that stood up a bit.

To be honest, I suspected this french terry was too drapey for that, but I forged ahead anyway.

It’s not a deal breaker, I still love this layering piece, but it reminds me of two things.

ONE – listen to your gut. I knew this was a poor-ish fabric choice from the get-go.

TWO – to make clothes that you love you have to know how fabric behaves and choose a fabric that fits with your vision. Ahem.

Anyway. The second lesson I learned was that I needed to cut my ribbing smaller than I did. I used rib knit for the cuffs and waistband. I cut it about 10% less than the original pieces. I should have gone with more like 20-25%. I’ve not worked much with rib knit and so this was a good experience. Better too large than too small!

All-in-all, I know have a “hoody” I really, really like.

Here’s how I changed the core pattern

By the way, this would work just the same with a regular t-shirt pattern too.

  1. I began by tracing out my raglan t-shirt pattern and adding approximately 1/2 an inch to the side seams of the bodice (front and back) and the sleeve seams. I didn’t extend the shoulder seams any more than what they were extended when I moved the side seams and the sleeve seam. I wanted this shirt to fit more loosely than my t-shirt normally does, so I added this amount as ease. Remembering that each bodice piece is a quarter of my body, increasing those side seams by 1/2 inch gave me two more inches of ease in the bodice and 1 inch more ease in the sleeve.
  2. I checked that my neck drop was where I wanted it to be. I wanted this neckline to be a bit of a scoop so that the cowl came down that far. My original pattern was already a scoop and just what I wanted, so I left it.
  3. I added a 1/2 inch to the center of the front bodice piece for inserting my zipper and made note that I would need to cut two pieces of fabric for the front bodice and one piece on the fold for the back bodice.

Working out the waistband and cuffs

  1. Speaking of zippers, I purchased a 27-inch zipper for this project, so I needed my waistband, front bodice piece, and cowl to equal 27 inches all sewn together.
    1. So, I determined how long I wanted my hoody (where I wanted it to end on my body) and cut off my pattern (both the front and back bodice) at that point.
      An easy way to do this is to take 27 inches on your tape measure and hold the 27 mark where you want the shirt to end. Then, holding the tape against your body, determine where your neckline will end and see how many inches you have left on your measuring tape. That’s how tall your cowl can be.
    2. I then decided how tall I wanted my waistband and cut that off of the front and back bodice patterns (the ones I already changed for total length wanted). I added a 1/2 inch seam allowance back onto the new bottom of the bodice patterns and cut out my fabric. One piece, cut on the fold, for the back and two pieces for the front.
    3. I took the pieces I cut off for the waistband and made them 10% shorter to account for using a rib knit for the band. (next time, I’ll take 20-25% off) Then I added my seam allowance to the top, where it gets sewn into the bodice pieces, and also added seam allowance to the bottom. Out of my fabric, I cut 2 waistband pieces on the fold for the back and 4 waistband pieces (not on the fold…due to the zipper) for the front. The waistband will be doubled up and then sewn together along the bottom before sewing them to the bodice pieces.
  2. For the sleeves and cuff, I again measured how long I wanted my total sleeve to be. I measured on my body from where the neck opening would be down to my wrist. I then cut my sleeve pattern to that length (or in my case, increased it that much).
    1. For the cuff, I then decided how long (or tall) I wanted my cuff to be and cut that amount off of the sleeve. I added my seam allowance onto the end of the new sleeve pattern and cut two sleeve pieces from my fabric.
    2. I then made the cuff 10% smaller (next time, I would do 20-25% smaller) and added seam allowance to the top where it is sewn into the sleeve. The bottom edge of the cuff, I cut on the fold. I cut two cuff pieces out of my fabric.

Making the Cowl Piece

  1. For the cowl, I measured the neck opening on my pattern pieces. (tip: measure along the sewing line and not the cut line) and took 10% off of that measurement to get a total length for my cowl.
  2. For the pattern piece, I worked with half of that number as I planned to cut the cowl on the fold at the center back. My pattern piece needed to be 24 1/2 inches long. So I drew a line that was 12 1/4 inches long on a piece of paper.
    1. Then I drew a line at one end that equaled the height I determined earlier for my cowl, perpendicular to my first line. This was my center front. (where the zipper will be attached) At the center back, I drew a line that was 2 inches shorter as I wanted my cowl to dip down a little in the back. I drew a perpendicular line off each of those lines, towards each other, and curved the back line up to meet the front line at about 2 inches from the back. (see the pic above!)
  3. To finish off the cowl piece, I added my seam allowances to the top and bottom of the cowl piece. The center back is getting cut on the fold and the center front is being sewn into the zipper. I cut two of the cowl pieces out of my fabric.

Drafting Kangaroo Pockets

  1. To draft the pockets, I got out the front bodice piece and simply drew a pocket that looked pleasing to me on the front bodice piece. I made sure my hand will easily fit in by pretending to slide my hand into the pocket. Another way is to trace a pocket on a hoody that you already own and love!
  2. I then added seam allowance to the top, the pocket opening and side of the pocket that is away from the center. The center front and bottom will get sewn into the zipper and waistband and my front bodice piece already account for that. I cut two of the pocket pieces out of my fabric.

Now that everything is drafted and cut out, here’s the order that I sewed up my “hoody”.

  1. First, I sewed the dart on the sleeves.
  2. Next, I prepared the pockets by adding elastic to the wrong side of the pocket opening, sewing it in with a stretch stitch and then folding it towards the inside of the pocket and topstitching it down. This helps keep the pocket opening from stretching out.
  3. Then I sewed the pocket to the front bodice pieces, I folded over the top edge and the side edge (the one away from center front) and topstitch them into place with a stretch stitch.
  4. Then I attached the front shoulder seam on the bodice to the front shoulder seam on the sleeve. For both sides.
  5. Followed by the back shoulder seams. For both sides.
  6. I matched up the sleeve opening, the armhole, and the hem of the hoody and sewed the entire side seam. On both sides.
  7. After sewing the tops of the cowl pieces together, I folded the cowl with the right sides out and pinned the cowl to the hoody neck opening, with the right sides facing. I also pinned in a length of elastic, to stabilize and strengthen the neck opening seam. I made sure to ease the cowl and elastic into the neck opening, as I purposely made the cowl a bit shorter than the neck opening. (I wanted it to draw the neckline in) For the elastic, I used 1/4 inch wide lingerie elastic!
  8. Next, I prepared the cuffs by sewing the side seam of the cuff and folding the cuff with the right sides out. After that I eased the cuffs onto the sleeve opening and sewed them together, right sides facing.
  9. For the waistband, I sewed the bottom edges of the two layers of waistband together, flipped them so that the right sides were out. I sewed the folded band into the hoody with the right sides facing, easing the band in as I sewed. Like the cuff, the band was purposely cut smaller than the hoody so that it could be eased in.
  10. Finally, I sewed the zipper into the entire front, from the bottom of the waist band to the top of the cowl.

I’m super happy with it! And I know how I want to change it up next time.

In Kinship,