Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Cosy Undercover Hoodie

About two months ago when we got back home from our lovely European holiday I went on such a sewing binge. I think I sewed about 5 garments in 2 weeks, and that included a couple of Papercut Undercover Hood tops. Back then Sydney was cool and rainy, and I thought summer would never arrive; cosy sweatshirts seemed really sensible...

Papercut rate this a "rookie" level pattern and describe it as follows:

"Versatile slouchy fit sweater, make as a hoody or as a sweater with neck binding.  With the option of full or cropped length, you can take it from casual hoody to cute cropped sweater worn with high-waisted jeans or skirts. It is raglan style with long wide sleeve and hem cuffs. It has a lined hood, and a centre front pocket. A great basic for any wardrobe, good for layering or on its own."

I made the hooded, full length version in the size M, which was the best match to my measurements. However, I think I may have turned this into a size S by using a 1.5cm instead of the designated 1cm seam allowance, which could explain why my hoodie is not at all slouchy. The information about the seam allowance to use in this pattern was on the top LHS of the very initial page of instructions, but I'd ignored this page because I thought it was just talking about the cutting layout, which I like to optimise for myself. So - if you're new to Papercut patterns, learn from my mistake - read that first page as carefully as you do the sewing instructions! 

The "rookie" classification is pretty spot on if you ask me. This is a very basic pattern - front and back are virtually identical, hood outer and lining are made from the same pattern piece, and cuffs are simple rectangles. No special fabrics are needed, and there are no special tricks or techniques in the instructions.

The pattern is very attractive with lovely graphics, and I know it's hard to get simple shapes just right, but I honestly feel silly for spending money on a pdf pattern for something so basic. Anyway, I've made the hoodie with a few simple modifications and I think it's a keeper - a nice wardrobe staple, and snuggly to boot.

In the original Papercut photos of the hoodie,I thought the hood might be a bit short, though it's hard to tell with that gorgeous mane of hair obscuring most of the hood. So to avoid that pulling up on the shoulders you get from a too-short hood, I added about 2" in length to the hood. Maybe I have a long head, but I like the resulting fit - my hood at least is slouchy!

As you can see I left off the centre front pocket - I did this based on difficulties I've had sewing kangaroo pockets neatly on kids' fleece hoodies, and also because I know I prefer to use side pockets at hip length.

Instead of making the cuff for the body of the sweatshirt from a single rectangle with a seam at centre back or at one side seam, I made this cuff from two rectangles; one for the front and one for the back of the sweatshirt with side seams continued from the body section. I thought this would look better, and obviously cutting two half-girth rectangles is gentler on your fabric requirements that cutting a single full-girth rectangle...

Still on the subject of cuffs, I found the instructions for sewing the cuffs unnecessarily complex so just looked at a sweatshirt of my son's to work out what needed to be done (and it was very simple). The sleeve cuffs on this pattern are quite deep, which I like - if you prefer a standard RTW cuff length they're of course very easily shortened but you may then need to add length to the sleeves.

Probably the most interesting modification I made was in sewing the hood. The same pattern piece is used for both the hood outer and the hood lining in this pattern, but I think it looks a lot neater if the lining fabric doesn't come all the way to the edge (and this applies to skirts, jackets etc too). I could have removed some width from the hood lining on the edge where the hood opens, but the quicker approach was to just sew the outer to the lining with different seam allowances. I used a 1.5 cm SA for the lining and a 1 cm SA for the outer fabric, and this gave me about 0.5cm of turned under fabric at the hood opening.  I then trimmed the outer fabric in the seam, then pressed the trimmed seams to the inside with the hood opened out flat. Finally I top stitched the opening about 2.5cm in from the edge.

In my opinion the Papercut pattern hood pattern desperately needs something between the hood and the body; something to hide the seam allowance. If you dig out a RTW hoodie or do an image search on hoodies, you may see the little trick that I would have expected to see in this pattern: the strip of self-fabric or coordinating binding that covers this join on the inside. This detail then implies top stitching around the neckline, which I guess then means top stitching lots of other areas of the top for a consistent look, but I do think it would have made for a higher level of finish.

I absolutely loathe altering completed projects, so even though this bugs me I'm not going to fix it - I'll just be crossing my fingers that an overlocked seam doesn't pop up at the neckline when I wear the top.

I think it's interesting to compare this hood design to that in an old Vogue designer hoodie pattern I picked up secondhand for a few dollars on etsy and sewed up back in 2012. The Vogue pattern was designed for woven fabrics, but included details like a deep cuff on the hood opening, flat felled seams and top stitching throughout, facings for the back neckline and an interesting sort of placket for the front neckline that neatly hid the join between hood and body. These two hoods are like chalk and cheese!

OK, onto the fabric. My outer fabric, a soft and cosy cotton knit of the kind I've seen described as French terry by American bloggers, is from my local Tessuti Fabrics shop, and was originally destined to be part of a StyleArc bomber jacket. I only used about a metre of this outer fabric (a very wide fabric though). The hood lining is a thin, t-shirt weight cotton jersey bought ages ago from The Fabric Store here in Sydney - this warm, orangey coral colour is one of my favourite colours, and there's enough left for a coordinating t-shirt if I get around to it! The lining fabric is not an ideal match to the outer because it's a lot stretchier than the outer, but I loved the look of the two colours together and couldn't find anything I preferred in my stash.

I know finding coordinating ribbing can be quite a challenge when you're making a sweatshirt or hoodie, but one of the pleasant surprises in this pattern was that there was no call for ribbing. The sleeve and body cuffs are simply rectangles of folded over fabric, the same fabric as used in the sleeves and body. I was a bit dubious about whether this would work, but it seems absolutely fine - I'll definitely try to keep this in mind for future sweatshirts!

I think that's all I have to say - quite a lot for a simple pattern!

Overall I like this pattern, but I don't love it. I made another Undercover top straight after this one (but one with more of a Grainline Linden flavour); I'll try to get some photos of that one soon!

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx


  1. Fabric Epiphanies23 December 2014 at 12:57

    I was wondering about this pattern but after reading your review, I think in future I may just copy a rtw sweatshirt or adapt my Jalie. I do like your finished look though. It is handy not to have to match ribbing.

  2. This top is ridiculously warm, Gail; I want to wear it but it makes me too hot! The pattern is absolutely fine in terms of design, but I guess I was hoping for something a bit more special in the finish... Maybe that's unrealistic for a pattern rated "rookie"!?

  3. Thanks Jillian, it is SUPER snuggly and I want to wear it!

  4. I have probably been a bit harsh in this post as i was really tired and grumpy when I wrote it! The pattern is absolutely fine, but very easy - basically a raglan top plus a hood - and it would honestly be very simple for someone as experienced as you to make your own pattern of this style either based on rtw or a composite of other patterns :). But it would be excellent for a rookie!

  5. I have made this up recently as a hoodie and agree about the hood piece. I under stitched mine in an effort to keep it tucked in but lucky I also used the same fabric for the inside. Agree too about the attachment of the hood to the neck. I have been worried about the overlocked edge poking through. It's stitched down but. ....Oh and I'm interested in your point about the grainline linden. What do you think is the major style difference. They seem so similar to me.

  6. Great tips for anyone making this thanks!! I think it was brilliant that you lengthened the hood. Great looking hoodie!!!!

  7. I think Papercut could learn a thing or two from your review! A rookie sewist may not pick up on the things you've noticed and either be disappointed in the way their hood wears or think they aren't skilled enough because of a complicated method for attaching cuffs. I'm still not convinced by indie patterns as yet.

  8. Great hoodie, that's one of my favourite colour combinations. Thanks for the tip on the seam allowances, I'm just about to make my first Papercut pattern so handy to know.

  9. Oh I'm so glad to hear it wasn't just me being nitpicky! I think the Grainline Linden would be drafted for shorter woman, and the neckline looks a lot bigger. On the tech drawings there also looks to be some waist shaping, but seeing the top made up it looks a loose fit so not sure if the waist shaping is very noticeable... Are you tempted to make the Undercover again, Linden style?

  10. Thank you Margo, I have one of those deceptively big heads so I have to watch out for hoods and hats...

  11. Thank you so much Kristy - I was worried I was being too nitpicky in my review, but on the other hand I do think nitpicky feedback is what companies need to improve their products... I've been enjoying exploring a few indie patterns lately. but I'm really a BIg 4 sewist at heart!

  12. Thanks Robyn, it's a classic combo, isn't it :). Good luck with your Papercut pattern - which one are you making?

  13. It's the bigger neckline that turns me off the linden. I like the look of a smaller neckline on a raglan sleeve. I've made the undercover 3 times now(!) twice as a sweater. I'm still not convinced on raglans on me but I like the look of a tighter/smaller raglan sweater on other people so might persist. And they are such a quick and easy make aren't they!

  14. I'm having a go at the Anima pants, pre-washed the fabric and traced off the pattern today. With a bit of luck I'll be able to sew them up tomorrow :)


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