Make My Hoodie, Part 2

In this conclusion to the Make My Hoodie series, we’ll look at fit, some samples I made, as well as pattern alterations to make this hoodie even more beginner-friendly than it already is.


The thing that made me most curious about MakeMyPattern was the fit.  How well would a computer-generated pattern fit me out of the box?

The answer: pretty well for the first attempt, well enough that I’m inclined to stick with it.  Here’s some self-timer fashion photos of my first sample.

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A hoodie is a loose-fitting garment, and made from a knit fabric so fit is less an issue. That means the bar to clear is much lower than for a tailored garment.  But even so, this turned out pretty well.

There was one issue – the head opening is a little bit small, so pulling it over the head is a bit tight.  I tried to finesse that by lying to MakeMyPattern, telling it my neck diameter is 3 centimeters larger than it really is.  I generated a new pattern and made a new sample.

This trick worked – sort of.  The neck opening was more comfortable on the second attempt, but the pattern drafting bot also added some extra ease to the raglan sleeves, causing them to bag up a bit near the underarm area.  It’s something that only a fitting nerd would notice, but I’m inclined to just stick with the first attempt.

Beginner Friendliness

The site bills this pattern as “very doable”, and says the most difficult part of construction is to attach the hood to the body of the shirt.  You need to align the parts, stitch through several layers of fleece, and finish the neckline with a knit binding.

I would say there’s two additional additional steps that could give beginners trouble: attaching rib knit bands for the cuffs and waistband.  The trouble happens because the rib knit band is smaller circumference than the waist or cuff on the garment, and must be stretched while sewing to make up the difference.

The traditional way to do this is to “quarter mark” the rib knit bands and the cuff (or waist), then match up the marks to evenly distribute the stretch around the garment.  Nancy Zieman describes the technique here.  (Favorite comment from that article: “This is what real sewing looks like, sometimes it’s not perfect.”  I can relate).

Having done this as a beginner, I can say this is not the easiest thing to do.  You need to stretch the knit band so it is the same length as the garment, but NOT so much that you stretch the garment.  Then, you need to run it through the machine at the same time you stretch, at the speed the machine is sewing.  And pinning between the quarter marks is cumbersome, so you also need to keep the edges lined up while doing everything else.

So I wanted to make the pattern even more beginner friendly, so people new to sewing could get through the project in two class sessions and quarter-marking could be taught in another class.  But I also didn’t want to “dumb down” the project to the point where it is no longer compelling to make.


The first thing I did was to do away with the binding on the neck band.  This makes the hood attachment easier to do, because there’s fewer layers to deal with and no binding strip to keep aligned with everything else.  Constructed on a conventional machine, the hoodie is going to have zig-zag finished seams everywhere, so the neckline won’t be any different.  And the neckline is buried well inside the hood, so it won’t look any different from the outside.

Waist and Cuffs

For waist and cuffs, I eliminated the knit band entirely in favor of a hem in both places. On the waistband, I added some interest by adding a drawstring. The drawstring openings are interfaced on the wrong side of the fleece, and machine-sewn buttonholes reinforce the openings.  This also provides an opportunity for students to learn buttonhole sewing.


Since the project no longer uses rib knit, the body and sleeve pattern pieces must be lengthened by the height of the rib knit, plus hem allowance.  That nicely works out to 4 inches on both waist and cuffs.  This provides another opportunity to teach students how to lengthen or shorten a pattern – the most common kind of pattern alteration.

Here’s a sample color-blocked hoodie I made with the new beginner-friendly pattern.  A black hood with black and charcoal gray racing stripe and a red drawstring to match the drawstring at waist. Finally, a charcoal pocket picks up the racing strip in the hood.

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Inside hood racing stripe.img_2740_result

Even though I didn’t finish the neckline, you can’t tell from the outside.img_2742_result

An Experiment

I wanted to have a sample on hand to give the students an idea of the creative possibilities for making hoodies.

This green and purple waffle knit has been in my stash since I began sewing. As a beginner, I intended to make a Simplicity raglan-style knit shirt.  On my first try, with a gray knit, I screwed up the orientation of the pieces and created a wadder.  I finished on the second try, but  I used a super drapey fabric and the pattern was WAY too big, so it was still unwearable.  And I had no idea how to alter the pattern to fit.  I abandoned that project, and the fabric sat in my stash until now.

I tried incorporating some argyle print jersey into the pocket and hood stripe as a design element.

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Here’s a closeup on the knit binding on the neckline, which I eliminated in the “beginner friendly” version of the project.


Here’s a closeup of a buttonhole used to reinforce the drawstring openings. So much easier to do than applying grommets, at least if you don’t have proper grommet tools.


Truth be told, I’m not in love with the way this design turned out.  But I’m curious to hear what readers think.  I think it will make a useful example for the class. The waffle knit is more challenging to work with than sweatshirt fleece, so I know now to steer newbies to sweatshirt fleece and save stretchier, less-stable knits for future projects.

Make My Hoodie, Part 1

Though I like the challenge of working on intricate shirt projects, I also love to make more casual wear, especially hoodies.

For the fall, I’ve started a hoodie making project with several goals in mind. The first, of course is to make hoodies. The second is to try out, a free online service that drafts patterns for you based on your measurements, and provides them as a print/cut/tape PDF download.

And the third is to develop a hoodie pattern I can use in a course to teach beginning sewists. The Sips N’ Sews studio offers a bootcamp course to complete newbies.  It teaches basic machine operation, measurements, fabric, and patterns. The students leave the class ready to work on their first project. I think a hoodie can be an ideal first project for a new sewist. And the hoodie is ideal in several respects:

  • It is free, so students don’t have to spend extra money on a commercial pattern.
  • It is drafted to the student’s measurements, so this makes an end-run around finding the proper size for a commercial pattern.
  • It is a pullover, rather than a zip-front, so there are no zippers for a newbie sewist to cope with.
  • It has raglan sleeves, so attaching sleeves means sewing six nearly straight-line seams.
  • Sweatshirt fleece is a relatively stable knit fabric, so it won’t pose too many difficulties to a beginning student.

The only difficult parts are attaching the hood to the neckline, and attaching cuffs and waistband which are made from rib knit. Constructing the hood does requires sewing around curves, but this is not as challenging as attaching a sleeve to an armscye and there is no easing involved.

Getting Started with

I signed up for an account at This is a project of Joost De Cock, a menswear sewist in Antwerp, Belgium. The site is an incredibly professional piece of work. Everyone I demoed it to at the studio was astonished to learn that it is free and that it is not a commercial effort.  The current selection of patterns is menswear-focused, though some of the patterns are unisex and there are a handful of women’s patterns (such as a corset) available.

You can create as many profiles as you like for people you sew for. I created a profile for myself, entered my own measurements and saved the profile. Then I chose the “Homeboy Hoodie” pattern. I was offered a choice of sloping vs. square shoulder adjustment. Though my shoulders are somewhat square, I went with the defaults because they are tuned for the site author, and “What works for Joost works for me”.


You get several download options for your pattern. It is available paginated for US (Letter, Tabloid) as well as European-sized (A4 and A3) sizes, as well as a full-size PDF if you have access to a shop printer that can print the entire thing in one go.


Here’s an overview of the full-size PDF it generated for me, displayed in Adobe Reader.


The pattern pieces for waistband, cuffs, hood center and neck binding are all pure rectangles; in the interests of saving paper it omits those pieces unless you specifically request them. The printout does include the dimensions for each of these pieces so you can measure and cut your own in fabric.


Here I drew out rectangles for the hood centers right on the fabric, since I was using shears rather than rotary cutters (more on that below).


Notes on Pattern Making

MakeMyPattern will not generate a pattern for you unless you have entered all the measurements it needs to draft the garment in question. It does helpfully tell you which measurements are missing, and every pattern lists the necessary measurements to create it.

Though this is mainly an issue for United States users, the site uses metric units for measurements, so you need to multiply all inches measurements by 2.54 before entering them. I used a spreadsheet to convert all the numbers in one go before entering them into the site. If you are math-averse, Google can convert for you. For example, enter “10 inches in cm” into the Google search box and it will give you the answer “25.4 cm”.

The printout is also a little unexpected, as compared to other patterns I have print/cut/taped. I downloaded the US Tabloid (11×17) size, and discovered the grid arrangement is unusual. The pages are arranged in rows and columns as you would expect, but Row 1, Column 1 is at the lower right corner of the grid when the pages are all arranged.

Additionally, nearly all PDF patterns have a test square or rectangle, to allow you to print just that page and measure the rectangle with a ruler to ensure that your printer is not sizing the printout incorrectly. The site does include one of these with the pattern, but it is not on the first page. So you will need to hunt down the page containing the test rectangle and print it out first. The good news is that the test rectangle has two boxes, one in US and the other in metric units.

As well, there were some minor glitches in the printout. On Piece 4 (the front pocket), the labeling fell outside the boundaries of the pattern piece, and was cut off by its neighbor (the hood side piece). The pattern piece was still intact and usable; I labeled it by hand with a Sharpie and pressed onward.


The pattern pieces all include a 1cm seam allowance, which is helpfully highlighted right on the printout with a light grey border. The stitching lines are included on the pieces too, a nice touch.

Constructing Samples

I wanted to make some samples to judge the fit from MakeMyPattern, evaluate the construction process, as well as have examples to show students.

For cutting fabric, I use a rotary cutter almost exclusively. On this project I used shears to cut the sweatshirt fleece, because that is what the students will have on hand for the class. (The studio does not make rotary cutters available for insurance reasons, though members are free to bring in their own rotary cutters if they choose).

I made the first sample with contrasting thread, to show the students the seaming. Normally on a project like this I would break out the serger and coverstitch machine. But once again, students in a class are new to sewing and unlikely to have a serger at home, and teaching serger operation would dramatically increase the scope of the class. So, I’ve made my hoodie samples all on a conventional sewing machine.

The technique I’m using comes from Nancy Zieman’s beginner’s book The Absolute Easiest Way to Sew (and also included in her book Sew Knits With Confidence).

First stitch the seam with a 3.0mm straight stitch, using a ballpoint needle. I used a straight stitch because sweatshirt fabric is mostly stable. But for a stretchier knit, you can use what Zieman calls a “wobble stitch” – a zig-zag with stitch width 0.5mm and stitch length 3.5mm. This creates an almost-straight stitch which still has some give. (I personally dislike the “lightning bolt” stretch stitch on modern sewing machines because it is completely impossible to unpick if you make a mistake and have to rip a seam.)

In the above video at 3:00, Zieman discusses the various seam treatments and how to choose between them.  At 4:07, she demonstrates the wobble stitch.

To finish the seam, run a line of zigzag stitching next to the seam, and trim the seam allowance to the edge of the zigzag. (Zieman has you trim then stitch the zigzag, I think reversing the order is a little easier).


I made the first sample exactly following the pattern and the instructions given. MakeMyPattern provides a six-part video tutorial showing the construction process.  I had bought a metric ton of gray heather sweatshirt fleece to use for experimenting with hoodie projects, so this was a great way to sew down my fabric stash.

Constructing the hood was indeed the most difficult part of the process. The neckline seam is finished with a strip of rib knit binding.  At this point, you’re sewing through several layers of fabric.  At the studio, the Janome HD1000 (a mechanical machine) choked on this many layers of fabric, but the Janome DC-5100 handled the layers without skipping a stitch.

Hood is pinned to the neckline, then on the outside the rib knit binding is quarter marked and pinned to the outside.


Hood, neckline and binding are all attached with a zig-zag stitch and 1cm seam allowance.

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The binding is folded over the raw seam and pinned in place.  Then a second line of stitching holds the binding in place.


Finally, excess binding is trimmed.


The finished sample is quite wearable.

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Next Time

We’ll see how well the sample fits.  I’ll also alter the pattern to make it even more beginner friendly, and show some more samples.

The Chevron Latte Shirt, Part 3

Finally, the Chevron Latte Shirt is complete!

This shirt was a lot of work.  Not only was the detail work intricate, but other items such as the collar, pocket and cuffs gave me problems during assembly – and as I covered in Part 2, the front pocket was a complete re-do.

(Click or tap for closeups of any of the photos).


The pattern alterations worked well. The tightness across the front of the shirt is gone, and the shoulder slope adjustment has eliminated the drag lines from shoulder to chest.  This photo does show a minor wrinkle line running from left shoulder to center front, but it’s more of a fluke the way the shirt was laying when the photo was taken.

The fit is especially good considering my shoulders are asymmetrical, and I will never get an exact fit without making what’s called a “complete pattern” – separate pattern pieces tailored for right and left.  Truthfully, I don’t think I need to.

IMG_2696_result Continue reading

The Chevron Latte Shirt, Part 2

Today, I want to cover the design and construction aspects of the Chevron Latte Shirt. (ICYMI, Part 1 covered fitting adjustments.)


I chose another fabric from one of Michael’s Fabrics shirting bundles. The cut was pretty generous – a few inches short of three yards in a 60-inch wide fabric. So I had plenty to work with.


I wanted to make a chevron effect, to give the shirt some personality. My original plan was to give the yoke this treatment, and because I had enough fabric to work on bias, the entire front band of the shirt as well. Continue reading