Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Tutorial- fake layered sleeves

I love the look of fake layered-style sleeves on my boys' clothes.  I think they look so much nicer than a plain long-sleeved tee.

When I first started making t-shirts I had no idea how to get this effect with my normal sewing machine.  I don't have a serger, and my twin needle and I don't see eye to eye (I think the point of having a twin needle is to make two nice parallel lines. My twin needle, on the other hand, thinks its job is to do one nice line of stitching, and skip 9 out of every 10 stitches on the other line.  I have tried all sorts of things to solve this problem, but none of them work.  None of them.  So to punish it, I have put twin needle away in a box to languish sadly and reflect on the error of its ways).

So I made up a way to get the fake-layered look, and I'm pretty pleased with it.  The only thing I use which is not totally basic kit is my overcasting foot (Or 'magical brush foot' as I like to call it) but you could do this without- just substitute a zig-zag close to the edge for step 3.

Here's how it goes (with apologies to any metric/imperial purists- I think and work in both, depending on what suits a particular task or measurement.  So there are bits of both scattered throughout):

1. Take the normal pattern piece you were going to use to cut out your sleeves and decide where you want to cut it.  You want it to look like a short sleeve with a long sleeve underneath.  For an inset sleeve, I cut about 1 or 1.5" below the bit where the sleeve seam starts (for a toddler tee).  The joining and fake layering is going to mean you lose about an inch of sleeve length so you may want to add an inch to the lower sleeve to compensate for this.  I find most of the patterns I use seem to have super long sleeves anyway (or maybe my kids have short arms?  But I don't think so) so I just cut my pattern piece into two.  What you end up with is two pattern pieces for your sleeve, and two pieces of fabric like this:

2. Pin the pieces RST along the join.  I'm a very lazy pinner and these pieces are the same length, so I just pop in a pin at the middle and far end.

3. Use your overcasting foot and a wide zig-zag stitch to overcast the edge.  The stitch needs to be reasonably long, too, or your fabric will go all bunchy and wavy.  I use a 2.5 length here.

You end up with something like this.  See it's a little bit wavy?  That will flatten out nicely in the next step.

4. This the the tricky bit.  Actually it's not tricky at all, but it's the trickiest bit of the process.  Turn your sleeve right side up and roll the upper sleeve over the lower sleeve piece.  I do this by feel- I don't measure or anything.  Though you could, of course, but I find it works fine without.  You want about a cm (3/8") underneath, and you will be able to feel if it's nice and even as you fold and pin it.  If you look at the pic here you can just about see the line underneath too:

And this is what the back will look like:

5.  Now sew a line to secure the fold with a straight stitch, on the right side.  I use the edge of my presser foot as a guide for this bit, which gives the perfect width.  You need a long stitch (I use a 3.6) to give the line a bit of stretch.

6.  Stitch a second line, parallel to the one you just sewed.  Your aim is to get it to look like you used a serger or a twin needle to do this.  You probably want a gap of about 4mm or so, but I just use the side of one of the toes of my clear presser foot to guide me:

And that's it!  The back looks pretty tidy...

And the front looks fab.  The upper sleeve is loose a bit over the lower sleeve, giving the illusion of one shirt on top and another underneath.  Hooray!


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