Do you have sewing day-dreams? Those moments when you zone out of life and into that little world in your head where all your great ideas float around, hoping to one day be made. The idea of a Rowan ringer tee has been floating around my imagination for a while now, and with the release of our updated sizes this month I decided it was finally time to make those dreams reality!
What’s a ringer tee you ask? It’s a retro style tee that’s found it’s way back into our wardrobes again – think 70’s youth, gym classes and rock & roll. Ringer tees are simply t-shirts which have neckbands and sleeve bands made in a contrasting colour to the rest of the tee. They’re such a cool style and are super fun and easy to make, so I thought I’d take you guys through 3 different methods to turn your new Rowan tee into a ringer!
I know what you’re thinking – curse you Naomi, presenting me with so many wonderful options! I can’t possibly decide between them! To help you decide, here’s a little overview of your options:
Method 1 – The Neckband
- The simplest method! Joining the band to your tee involves only one row of stitching and it uses the existing neckbind pattern piece, so there’s no maths except for a little on the sleeve bands.
- It works with both thick and thin fabric or ribbing, and has a lovely clean look to the outside. On the other hand, the overlocking on the inside of the garment is not enclosed, so it’s not the cleanest of the 3 options on the inside.
- It’s a less traditional looking ringer tee, but hey, which may be what you’re looking for!
Method 2 – The Megan Nielsen Neckbind
- Also easy! A couple more steps, but nothing hectic.
- This method has a beautiful clean finish, inside and out – all edges are enclosed and its just… *chef kiss*. And even though it’s not a traditional binding method, from the outside it looks it.
- It’s probably the chunkiest of the methods, and I wouldn’t recommend it if your binding fabric or ribbing is super thick.
- A bit maths heavy in the first couple of steps.
Method 3 – The Traditional Neckbind
- The most traditional of the 3 methods, this is a classic ringer tee bind. It’s got a beautiful clean outside finish that’s also pretty *chef kiss*, especially when you get that twin needling just right!
- Because this method has less layers in it’s seams, it doesn’t mind a thicker bind fabric or rib and looks great with either!
- It does end up with an exposed edge on the inside, it’s perfectly secure, but not as clean.
- It’s also a bit mathsy and this method probably has the most steps of the three methods, but only just!
So, have you decided yet? No stress if not – if you’re indecisive like me, you can just make all three!
As you know, pre-washing your fabric is essential to make sure any shrinkage happens before you make up your perfectly fitting garment, as well as to help wash out any excess dye in the fabric to prevent colour running. This is pretty important for vibrant colours like red which are pigment heavy, especially when they are going to be combined in the same garment with light colours like white! You don’t want to go to the effort of making a beautiful crisp white ringer tee with bright red bands, only to chuck it in the wash and pull out a pink tee! I pre-washed all my fabrics in loads with similar colours using the wash settings that I’d use for the finished garment, but then gave my bright red rib an extra vigorous hand wash on top of that, washing and rinsing until the water wasn’t being turned pink.
If you’re finding your fabric is continuing to bleed even after a thorough wash, you might consider trying a dye fixative. There are commercial products you can buy, or you can try adding some salt to your wash water. There seems to be a bit of debate among sewers whether or not salt actually works, but my mum says it’s worked for her and she tends to have a frustrating habit of being right all the time, so I reckon it’s definitely worth a go.
With everything dried and pressed, you can go ahead and cut out your front, back & sleeves from your main fabric and sew the shoulder seams as per the instructions. It’s at this point that we turn this tee into a ringer tee, so let’s get into it!
Method 1 – The Neckband
A neckband is already included in the Rowan pattern, so for this method we can simply use the neckband pattern piece and just use a contrast fabric to the tee! It’s that easy! Because this method doesn’t get doubled back over itself, it can accomodate thicker band fabric, so even though I was using a lovely light bamboo jersey from Maai Design, I decided on the gorgeous chunky organic cotton rib that we have in the studio, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out!
Following the pattern instructions, align the short edges of your band and sew the seam to make it a tube. You can then fold it half so the raw edges are aligned, give it a press and pin it to the neckline – matching notches and the seam of the band with the left shoulder seam.
I like to sew with the neckband on the bottom, and the neckline facing up. That way I can see when I have stretched the band enough to match the neckline and I can also make sure that the curved edge of the neckline is aligned with the band edges, and hasn’t slipped out of the way. You might prefer to sew it the other way though, and that’s ok too!
After sewing the band to neckline, it might seem a little puckered – but don’t panic! there’s no need to cry or throw it out the window, it just needs a bit of an iron and a little sweet talking! Press the band up away from the tee so the seam allowances are pointing down and the folded edge of the band is pointing up, and let the steam sort things out. It’s probably already looking loads better and even if there’s still a little bit of a wobble in it, remember that Rowan is drafted with negative ease, so when it’s stretched over the body, it’ll sit great!
Optional: I decided not to on this tee but if you like, you can stitch a row of twin needling around the edge of the neckline at this point. This will hold the seam allowances in place and is also just a nice detail!
So that’s the neckband method done – how simple was that?! I’m going to go through the neckbind methods now before I get into the sleeve band & binds, so feel free to skip ahead if you like!
Method 2 & 3 – Neckbind calculations
Ok, just a heads up, the first few steps for method 2 & 3 are pretty mathsy! Bear with me and it’ll all be over in no time, I promise!
You might have noticed that the Rowan neckband piece is smaller than the neckline and needs to be stretched while sewing. The band length is approximately 80% of the neckline seam circumference, i.e the largest curve that the band‘s outer edge has to stretch to. The inner edge of the band that sits further up and closer to the neck, then gets to relax into it’s smaller form, causing it to sit flat against the body. Pretty clever right?
For both neckbind methods, instead of adding to the height of the neckline like the band does, the outer edge of the bind will sit further in from the neckline edge, back towards the tee, and the inner edge of the bind will end up sitting around the original cut edge of the neckline. This means that the outer edge is going to be stretching to fit a larger curve, and if we want to keep our neckline pucker free, that also means the bind pieces are going to need to be larger!We can calculate the new length pretty easily by first measuring this larger curve, where the outer bind edge it going to sit, either on your tee or on the front and back pattern pieces (being sure to not include the shoulder seam allowances). My bind widths are going to be approximately 2cm (3/4″), so I drew and measured a curve 2cm (3/4″) in from the pattern piece edge around the whole neckline. If you are making a different width bind, you will measure in a different amount from the edge.
Once you have this curve circumference, you can find the binding length by calculating 80% of the measurement and adding seam allowances (I am using 6mm or 1/4″ seam allowances to match Rowan’s).
Bind length = Outer Bind Edge Circumference x 0.8 + Seam Allowances
At this point, to make it easier to cut out now and for alllll the future ringers your going to make, it’s a great idea to make a little pattern piece from scrap paper for yourself! It will just be a rectangle that’s the length you just calculated and it should be 7.5cm (3″) tall. This will produce the approximately 2cm (3/4″) wide binding that I am making, but of course you can make it shorter if you want narrower binding.
Everyone following so far? Don’t worry, we’re almost done! The last thing we need to is put in our notches! Because the front neckline is more scooped than the back, you’ll notice that the neckband isn’t evenly split between front and back. Rowan’s front uses about 60% of the band, and the back the remaining 40%, so we need to make the same calculations for our bind pieces. Simply multiply your bind length measurement (not including the seam allowances) by 0.6 to find the front amount, and the rest will be for the back!
Front Bind Portion = Bind Length (not including seam allowances) x 0.6
Back Bind Portion = Bind Length (not including seam allowances) x 0.4
I am going to have my bind seam at the centre back, to make the front of my tee more obvious for late-to-work panic dressing and so the binding seam bulk is in a different place to the shoulder seam bulk. This means that the front portion will be in the middle of the pattern piece and the back will be split into two portions at either end. Measure out your seam allowances and front/back portions, marking notches for the shoulder seams between them, as well as a centre front notch in the centre of the pattern piece to finish it off.
Tip: You can also use this method of calculation for non-ringer purposes like if you want to lower the neckline and need to calculate a new band length! Something to note though is that not all stretch patterns are going to have the same neckline/neckband ratio, and not every fabric is going to stretch in the same way – these calculations aren’t always an exact science. If you’re unsure, just do a little test with your fabric by making a little neckline mock up out of scraps!
Method 2 – The Megan Nielsen Neckbind
So, time to crack on with our first bind method! Using the pattern piece we just created, you can go ahead and cut out your contrast fabric or ribbing. I used some lovely cherry red ribbing from Maai Designs to pair with some plain white jersey for that classic ringer look!
Align the short edges of the bind piece with right sides together and overlock or zig zag the seam.
Tip: Alternatively, you can sew this seam with a straight stitch and press the seam allowance open. This seam doesn’t get stretched so the straight stitching wont be an issue, and opening the seam can really help to more evenly distribute the bulk.
Fold your bind in half so the raw edges are aligned and the seam allowances are enclosed.
Insert your bind into the neckline so the right side of the bind is sitting against the wrong side of the fabric. I like to do this with the right side of the tee facing up like in the picture above.
Align the notches and seam on the bind with the shoulder seams and centre front & back notches of the neckline and pin in place. If it helps, stretch each section of bind individually so it matches the neckline and add more pins to keep the edges aligned.
Overlock or zig-zag around the neckline, using a 6mm (1/4″) seam allowance, stretching the ribbing slightly to match the neckline as you sew.
After attaching your bind to your neckline, it’s time to press the bind and seam allowances up, away from the tee. Your seam allowances should be on the right side of your tee.
You can now turn the bind down towards the right side of the tee, first going up and then over the edge of the seam allowances (i.e. the seam allowances should remain pointing upwards, and shouldn’t get folded down against the tee).
Pin the folded edge of the bind in place around the neckline, being careful to:
- Keep the fabric on the underside as flat as possible
- Stretch the bind evenly around the curves
- To keep the width of the bind that’s visible from the outside consistent.
Using a twin needle on a normal sewing machine, sew a row of topstitching carefully and neatly around the folded edge of the bind, securing it to the tee and fully enclosing the seam allowances. How good does that look!
Tip: To avoid twisting on the underside of the fabric, try to turn as much as you can around the curves, stretching the binding to fit, instead of pulling things into a straight line where the bind will be in a more relaxed state, and the fabric underneath will bunch.
And that’s our second method done! Pretty easy right?
Method 3 – The Traditional Neckbind
So last but not least, we’ve got our traditional bind method! Using the same neckbind pattern piece we created, you can go right ahead and cut out your fabric or ribbing. My ribbing was another lovely cotton rib from Maai Designs.
Sew the short edge seam like in Method 2, but this time you don’t fold the bind in half.
With right sides together, place your bind over your neckline so one raw edge of the binding is aligned with the raw edge of the neckline. Match your centre front, centre back & shoulder notches.
Using a stretch needle and a zig-zag stitch, sew around the neckline, stretching the binding to fit. Your seam allowance will determine the width of your bind – I am making my bind 2cm (3/4″) wide, so I used a 2cm (3/4″) seam allowance. If you’re using a narrower binding, you will use a narrower seam allowance to match.
Tip: Before you sew this seam, it’s always a good idea to do a test on some fabric scraps, to make sure that the stitching will stretch appropriately. The zig-zag stitch on my machine didn’t like my knit and didn’t give me enough stretch, so I experimented with some other different stitch functions before I settled on the “vari-overlock” stitch that my machine has.
Press the binding and seam allowance up and away from the garment. The seam allowances for this method should be on the inside of your garment.
Turn your garment inside out, so the wrong side of the fabric and seam allowances are facing you. Fold the binding down over the seam allowances, so they are fully enclosed and the raw neckline edges are sitting at the top of the fold.
Pin first at the centre front, centre back and shoulder seams, then stretch the binding evenly between those points to make sure the binding doesn’t get skewed on the underside. The picture above is from the right side of the garment.
Just like in method 2, you can now topstitch around the edge of your binding on the right side of the garment, using a twin needle.
Double-check that the bind was fully secured by your stitching on the inside of your garment and trim away any excess, leaving just a small border of bind around your stitching. And that’s our third neckline complete, woohoo!
Sleeve Bands & Bind
Now onto our sleeves! You’re going to use the same construction processes that we went through with the necklines, just on a smaller scale, so these will be really easy.
Start off by inserting your sleeves and sewing your side seams, as per the instructions! Our ringer finishes are just additional to the sleeve so you don’t need to change anything, except trimming back the little kick-out that’s built into the short sleeve side seam to accommodate a turned up hem.
To create the pattern piece for both our band and binds, we need to find the sleeve opening circumference and calculate 80% of the measurement just like the neckline. Even though the different methods are technically going to be attached at slightly different parts of the sleeve, there isn’t a huge variation in the sleeve widths, so I simply measured between the hem notches (not including the side seam allowances) and used the calculated 80% width for both the band and bind lengths. Don’t forget to add seam allowances!
I made the height of my bind pieces 7.5cm (3″) to match the neckline and I cut the band pieces to be the same height as the neckband pattern piece. With two pieces per tee cut, we’re ready to attach them!
Method 1 – The Sleeve Band
Prepare your sleeve bands in the same way as the neckband, sewing the short edge and folding them so the raw edges are aligned. With right sides together, place your bands over your sleeves, aligning the sleeve and band seams.
I found it useful to divide my bands and sleeve openings into quarters and mark with pins beforehand, so I could match these marks to make sure the band was distributed evenly around the sleeve.
With everything secure, you can stitch around both the sleeve openings, pulling out your pins as you go, before pressing the bands down and away from the garment.
Tip: If you find that the small sleeve openings can be a bit fiddly to sew, try sewing along the inside of the sleeve opening. You don’t want to accidentally 4WD over layers you’re not supposed to and put a big hole somewhere, and having the bulk of the sleeve opening on top instead of underneath where your sewing can make it easier to keep track of it all.
Now just take a step back and admire your handiwork, because that’s it for our first method! Yay!
Method 2 & 3 – The Sleeve Binds
That just leaves us with our beautiful binds to go! Following the same steps as the neckline, sew the short edges of your binding, and align the raw edges if you’re using Method 2. Divide your bind pieces and sleeve openings into quarters and mark with pins, so you can align the seams and distribute the rest evenly.
For Method 2:
Insert your bind into your sleeve opening with the right side of the bind facing the wrong side of the tee and align the raw edges of the bind and the sleeve. Sew around the openings, stretching as you sew, before pressing the bind and seam allowances down and away from tee. You can then bring the folded edge of the bind up and around the seam allowances to the right side of tee to then topstitch down with your twin needle.
For Method 3:
Insert your bind into your sleeve with the right sides of both facing each other and align one of the raw edges of the bind with the raw edge of the sleeve. Zig-zag stitch around the openings with a seam allowance of 2cm (3/4″) and press the bind and seam allowances down and away from the garment. Fold the other raw edge of the bind over the seam allowances onto the wrong side of the tee, ready for that final row of twin needle topstitching that will enclose the seam allowances and finish off your bind. Trim any excess away.
And that’s it, everyone, the only thing left is your hem! Woo!
Thanks for coming along on this Rowan ringer ride!
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