Saturday, January 28, 2012

Little Man Letterman Sweater Tutorial

I like cardigans and sweaters for boys that have something different or unique about them. One glance through the girls section at Target yields a cartful of fun clothes, but for the boys it's all fleece zip-ups, hoodies, and sweatshirts. We have our share of those, some very cute! Maybe it's because college basketball season is in full swing,  but vintagey looking sportswear with all of its stripes and letters and embroidery has been on my mind!

So I picked up an X-Large, men's t-shirt for $4.99, a little piece of gray, ribbed knit from Hancocks, and raided my button bag and ribbon scrap box to make this:

Here's how!

Create Pattern Pieces:
Grab a loose fitting long sleeved t-shirt that fits your little cutie, a fabric marker, scissors and the men's t-shirt (or similar knit fabric). Use the child's shirt as a template and trace a back and a front piece giving a little extra width if need be so that the cardigan won't be too snug. I positioned these front and back pieces so that I could use the existing t-shirt hem as the bottom of my cardigan (saved a little time). Trace the front piece just like the t-shirt, we will make it into two pieces in the next step. Now trace two sleeves but don't taper them to the wrist! You want to cut them straight from the underarm to the cuff. Cut out your four pieces. (See rough sketch of pattern pieces below)

Front Opening:
Take the front piece and fold it in half so that the fold is along what will become the front opening. Take your marker and trace a curve from the shoulder to about the middle of the front (in a very gradual, gentle 'v'). Cut along this line and then straight up the fold from the bottom. Now you will have a left and right front piece with a "v" neck. Here are the basic shapes you should have once you're done cutting.

Attach front to back and add sleeves:
With right sides together stitch front and back pieces together at the shoulders. Next, take a sleeve and match the shoulder seam to the top center of the sleeve, pin and sew. Repeat for the other side. (You should have open sides and open sleeves).

Front Edge and Collar:
For the collar and front edging, cut a 5 1/2 to 6 inch wide strip of ribbed knit (with the grain) long enough to line the front opening, go around the neckline then back down the front plus a little extra for seam allowance on each bottom end. Fold the strip in half with right sides together and sew across each bottom end. Now turn right sides out (this will leave you with clean, finished bottom edges).

Now pin the doubled strip of ribbed knit to the right side of the cardigan opening-matching raw edges. Sew all the way around using a stretch stitch or zig-zag stitch set on 0 stitch width, finish seam using serger or zig-zag.


Now flip the ribbed knit "open" and topstitch (still using a stretch stitch) all the way around the seam of cardigan and ribbed knit. This helps it stay put, cleans up the seam inside and gives a more professional finish.

Here's the inside.

Sleeve Stripes:
For the sleeve stripes, you could use single fold bias tape or strips of knit fabric, I used twill tape. The red is poly (but it feels and looks like cotton) and the gray is cotton that used to be handles on an Anthropologie bag (Ha! That's a lesson in not throwing away anything textile related :)!

Lay the sleeve flat, position the trim in rows, straight across the sleeve and pin in place. Raw ends are fine, they will be sewn into the seam when you stitch the sleeves closed. Sew the trim in place, stitching along each edge.

To Close up the Sides and Sleeves:
Turn the cardigan right sides together, and pin, matching raw edges, all the way from the bottom edge to the armpit then down the sleeve to wrist opening. Sew together using a stretch stitch, finish raw edges and repeat this process for the other side.

For the cuffs, cut two rectangles of ribbed knit 4 inches wide and as long as the circumference of your child's wrist plus 1/2 inch. Ribbed knit is stretchy in all directions, but most stretchy against the grain. The ribs should be perpendicular to the long side of your cuff so that they are nice and stretchy (check out the photos just to double check).

Fold the cuff in half with right sides together and sew along short sides of the rectangle, press seam open.  Turn cuff right side out and fold double so that the two long, raw edges are together and the seam is hidden inside. Now put cuff around sleeve (right sides together) matching raw edges and seams, pin in place. You will need to stretch the cuff open as you pin so that the sleeve is evenly spaced, now stitch the sleeve and cuff together (important to use a stretch stitch here) stretching cuff open as you sew. Trim raw edges if needed and finish seam with serger or zig-zag. Repeat for the other cuff.

 It will look a little wonky on the inside, but awesome and professional when you turn it to the right side!

Buttons and Buttonholes:
Last step! Starting just under the "v," mark button and buttonhole placement on the ribbed knit edge. I used 3 buttons, you could do less or more depending on the cardigan size. I did not reinforce the buttonholes with interfacing, that wouldn't be a bad idea, but the double layer of knit holds its shape pretty well.

I LOVE how it turned out. It's comfy and wearable and lightweight enough for a NOLA winter. Imagine how stinkin' cute this would be in a newborn size! Good thing I've got some friends having baby boys soon!

Go Team!!  C---A---T---S!  CATS, CATS, CATS!!

I'm toying with the idea of adding a letter P, I went so far as to cut it out of felt and back it with interfacing. The next step was going to be adding french knots all over, really close together to give it that old-fashioned, "carpeted" letter look, but I'm not sure. I don't want this to look overly 'costumey.' It is, however, an option and could be super cute!

P.S. If you sew up one of these, I would love to know how it goes! Leave comments or add some pictures to my Flickr group "You Sewed" and maybe be featured on my blog. Just click the Flickr tab under the header!


  1. I absolutely love this! My favorite thing you've made so far (that I've seen at least!). And definitely add the "P" - it makes it even cuter!

  2. Adorable! Baby P is so stylin!

  3. I just wanted to let you know I featured your cute sweater on Blissful and Domestic tonight. Stop by and grab a button:>

  4. The sweater is awesome! I have added it to my to do wish list!