Reversible Unlined Fleece Sweater

So on my last fabric shopping trip, after a long stay away from the store, I found this most amazing fleece. Normally I’m not a big fan of poly fleece clothing (I grew up in the nineties, can ya blame me?), which is double faced. One side is navy, one is mustard, and they are bonded together. I remembered that someone told me I should try a mustard sweater, and that I had hesitated since I wasn’t sure how much wear it would get. Suddenly, the idea of a mustard/navy reversible sweater floated around in my head, and I impulse-bought 3m.

The sales lady asked how I was going to sew a sweater so both sides looked right, and I shrugged. I wasn’t sure then, but I was confident I could find instructions somewhere online.

As it turns out, almost all reversible sweater tutorials online are simply lined. Since most of the time, fabric has a distinctive wrong side, who would want both sides to show?? So I sat down with a sketch pad, and my trusty smart phone, and I worked it out. I knew it would take some extra effort, some more time, and lots of planning, but by now, I had my heart set on it.

So first of all – I had to pick a pattern. After sifting through my pattern stash a dozen times, and looking online for the millions of patterns I don’t own yet, I settle on the Sophie Cardi by Muse Patterns. I have a WIP zip-up version of the pattern that I am nearly done, but got stalled on before the summer and now it sits. But I know it fits me, and I felt confident with the instructions.

If you plan on doing the same, here’s some things to keep an eye out for in your pattern choice:

  • Minimal amount of seams. The less seams, the less work. A pullover style would be even better for this
  • Sleeve style. I chose a raglan sleeve because it will be much easier to top-stitch than a set-in sleeve
  • Hem. I realised that I couldn’t properly hem this fabric without one side showing the other, so I chose a banded sweater
  • Seam allowances. This one is easy to adjust, though. The way I’m doing this, you’ll need 5/8″ seam allowances
And of course, there are design choices, like banding, and pockets… I could have placed patch pockets on both sides, but I chose to omit pockets altogether. Most of my cardigans don’t have them.
So, the first step for me was to adjust the seam allowances. The Sophie Cardi has 3/8″ seam allowances, and I need 5/8″. I read somewhere to tape two pencils together, but when I taped my disappearing marker to a pencil, the space was too big. I experimented with a few things, and settled on my point turner. As odd as it may look, it worked great! I lined up the tips carefully, and then taped them with washi tape so that it will come off easily.

And then I simply traced my whole pattern. I only had to cut the two fronts, the back and both sleeves out of my double faced fleece. At first, I traced the pattern, and then added 1/4″ to that, but then I got lazy and just ran the point turner down the edge of the paper pattern piece. (Note: I only added to the seam allowances where fleece would attach to fleece. I left the bottom, neck and center front seam allowances at 3/8″.)

My next challenge to tackle was seaming. How to create a seam that looks like the right side from both sides? I took a large scrap of the fleece and experimented with different seam options. The easy answer was a flat-felled seam, since I had all sorts of practice on those with my recent Fairfield project. However, the fleece was way too bulky to properly fold in on itself and stitch down. After some more experimenting, I found that simply zig-zagging the raw edge down seemed to do the trick!

I show my process in the photo above. I stitched the mustard sides together with a 5/8″ seam allowance, then trimmed one side of the seam allowances down to 1/8″ (1/4″ will also work). Then I folded the other side over the seam and zig-zag stitched it down. I made sure to use navy thread in my needle and yellow thread in my bobbin.

The body of the sweater came together very quickly, and then all that was left was the bands. After much thought, I decided to use navy ribbing for the bands. I was a little unsure if it would look okay on the mustard side, but I actually really like the definition it gives. The navy ribbing doesn’t quite match the navy fleece, but that’s okay. the ribbing is just a few shades darker.

To attach the ribbing, again, I played around with a few scraps before settling on a process. I stitched the right side of the ribbing to the navy side of the fleece using a 3/8″ seam allowance. (Remember: This is the allowance as drafted, I didn’t add to it.) Then I folded the other side of the ribbing down 3/8″, folded it in on itself, and hand-stitched it to the mustard side. In the photo above, I show this process with the interfaced button band, so that the wrong side is clear.

This hand stitching certainly did take a lot of time, but my husband decided we should start watching all of the Harry Potter movies over Thanksgiving long weekend, and since I didn’t really want to watch them, I just sat there stitching. I finished this sweater before the end of the 3rd movie!

I played with doing all of the stitching on my machine, but I found I couldn’t top-stitch consistently enough to make it look really nice from both sides. With a bulky fleece and four layers of ribbing, the stitching always came out a little wonky on one side. Feel free to experiment with your scraps.

I then had to decide if I wanted any closures on this sweater. I opted not to add anything for now. I considered both hooks and eyes as well as buttons, but I decided to keep the sweater as is and wear it a few times first. I can always add either option later on.

To summarize, if you want to make an unlined reversible sweater, the steps are:

  1. Select a simple pattern
  2. Check for seam allowances, add if you must
  3. Use flat-felled seams, or mock-flat-felled if your fabric is too bulky
  4. Consider bands, binding or bias tape to finish the edges. Hand-stitching takes more time, but looks great from both sides
  5. Consider closures, and how they will look from each side
  6. And most of all – constantly practice on scraps first!

And now for a few quick notes on the pattern I used. I used the Sophie Cardi by Muse Patterns, in a size 42. I added seam allowances to the sleeve and side seams, as I noted above. I also added my standard 2″ of length to the body, but I actually took away 1″ of length to the sleeves. I lost the sleeve cuff pattern pieces, so the cuff is my own dimensions – I believe it’s longer and tighter than the drafted one. I also took a few inches away from the bottom band, so that I had to stretch it to attach it. And, I forgot to add 2″ of length to the button/neck band, so I had to stretch that one a little more too. I made these changes to the bands because I used a stretchy ribbing, and because I like the look of tighter cuffs and bands. As mentioned above, I omitted the buttons for now.

I quite like the Sophie pattern. It has quite a few options, and I find raglan sleeve sweaters are easier to layer than set-in sleeve sweaters.

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