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 MakeMyPattern.com, 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 MakeMyPattern.com 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 MakeMyPattern.com
I signed up for an account at MakeMyPattern.com. 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 MakeMyPattern.com 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.
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.
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.
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.