Monday, October 20, 2014

The Thumbhole Sleeve T-Shirt Experiment

Who doesn't love a thumbhole t-shirt? I love them, but I'm not a workout wear kind of girl, so I rarely wear them. No more. After a few weeks of intermittent experimentation I have cracked the thumbhole sleeve origami case wide open. Now everyday can be a thumbhole t-shirt day. 

The best part about this little customization is that it can be done with any t-shirt pattern, for children or adults. I'm demonstrating the process with the Oliver + S Field Trip Raglan, but I imagine it would work great with the Flashback Skinny, or the Recess Raglan

Cut 2" off of the length of each sleeve piece. Measure the length of the resulting raw edge, you will need this measurement to make the sleeve cuffs later. Assemble the shirt as indicated in the pattern instructions. Finish the neck and bottom hem. Finish the sleeves as follows:

Cut out two rectangles with a length of 10" and a width that is 90% of the length of the trimmed sleeve edge. My size 7 sleeve edge was 8" long. Here's the math:
90% of 8" is .8x8"= 7.2"
Its not an exact science so I rounded to 7.25". I cut my cuffs 7 1/4" x 10"

The cuff is sewn in three segments. The first is split by the fold at the finger edge of the cuff. The second is around the thumbhole. The third is from the thumbhole to the raw edge where it joins to the arm of the shirt.

Even if you normally serge knits, I recommend sewing the cuffs using a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine, because it is easier to control the stopping and starting point of each seam segment. I am sewing with a large zigzag stitch and a contrasting thread to make the stitching easy to see. If your stitches are showing through the final seam like mine, switch to a smaller stitch length and a tighter zigzag stitch.

Fold cuff in half lengthwise with right sides together. Using a ruler mark the center of the raw long edge. Measure and mark 1" to either side of the center marking.
Remove the center marking. Using a zigzag stitch sew between the remaining markings. Be sure to backstitch securely at each end.

SECOND SEGMENT (thumbhole opening)
With the cuff positioned as shown on the left above, bring the flaps on the left side together.  
Position right sides together and aligned from the raw edge to the end of the first seam. Position so that the rest of the cuff is tucked up inside and out of the way. Place a pin at the end of the first segment of stitching, to keep the edges flat, and the rest of the cuff out of the way. Use another pin to mark 1 1/2" from the end of the first seam. Using a zigzag stitch, sew between the marks. Get as close to the end of the first seam as possible without overlapping it. It is easiest to start at the end away from the first seam. Be sure to back stitch securely at each end. 
Repeat with the other set of flaps. Turn the work to the right side (as shown above) to be sure you're on the right track. This is the thumbhole opening. 

You can see in the above image that there is a set of outer flaps and a set of inner flaps. In the next step you will sew the outer flaps together, and sew the inner flaps together. 
Turn the outer flaps so that you can sew with right sides together. Sew from the bottom edge to the point where the second seam begins. Get as close as you can without overlapping. Be sure to backstitch securely at each end. Repeat with the inner set of flaps.
This is your finished cuff. Repeat with other cuff piece.
Right sides together attach the cuff piece to the sleeve. Align underarm seam of the sleeve with the seam of the cuff. This connection can be made with the serger.
Now this guy sure looks cozy!

I'm adding this humble t-shirt to the KCW pool. Are you sewing for Kid's Clothes Week? This is my first project. I have a thousand planned.

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  1. What a great idea! As a cyclist I love a thumb hole sleeve. I'd been thinking about doing it with a bound hole but your way certainly looks easier.

    1. I considered the bound hole too Lightning. That method might work better for thick knits. I thought the sewn hole would be more durable, only time will tell.

  2. Thank you for this tutorial! I've been wanting to figure out how to do this and now I don't have too!!!

    1. So glad to hear people are interested! Tutorials are time consuming, but you just never know if the time will pay off!

  3. Brilliant tutorial. Thanks for sharing

    1. Glad you liked it! My husband (who never wants anything homemade) even asked for some thumbhole sleeves. I'm thinking about trying the new Thread Theory pattern for him!

  4. Brilliant, now I can make thumb hole sleeve inserts for the almost perfect coat I bought, which will now be perfect!! Thank you so much

  5. Thanks for your tutorial. I´ve just made a running shirt with thumbholes. I didn´t allign the underarm seam of the sleeves with the seam of the cuffs because it twists the sleeve when you wear your thumbs in the cuffs. I just tried it on before attatching the cuffs and pinned the cuffs to the sleeves.