Launching today is the first post in our Bootstrap sew-along for the month of February. A reminder, we have three garments we’re making: a semi-fitted women’s blouse, a classic trouser, and a jacket with diagonal zipper. These garments were selected as being classic, yet having opportunity for many possible variations.
Today, I will be leading you through the semi-fitted women’s blouse. This is a rather slim-fit menswear-style top with gently-shaped side seams:
This garment is probably the middle-ground of the three we’re featuring this month. Menswear shirt construction can be quick-and-dirty, or far more exacting when it comes to seam finishes. This sew-along will lean to the latter, but I will give you shortcut tips.
OK – let’s get started!
For the true, absolute beginner – let me talk about the parts of the shirt, as we see them on the Bootstrap pattern sheet:
From top left: under collar, upper collar, back body, patch pocket, and front. The front is formed with a double fold placket. Some shirts will have a facing – either cut-on or separate – for the leading edge.
At bottom, from left: sleeve (including a fitted, 3/4 length), collar stand, cuff, and back yoke.
Shirt patterns may or may not include yokes, and the yokes could affix anywhere on the front and back of the shirt; this yoke is dropped to the front of the shirt slightly (shoulder lines are marked on the yoke pattern, about 1 1/4″ from the yoke edge). Collars can be made a variety of ways, but this is more or less standard: a slight difference between under and upper collar, to make a good-looking roll line, and a separate stand. This is a very fitted sleeve through the shoulder – in general, you can tell by the very high, narrow sleeve cap.
If you have any questions about shirt parts – post them in the comments!
I am using a very lovely cotton suiting from Mood Fabrics. This was listed as a “suiting” but I believe this may be an error as it is very light-weight, and fine like shirting. In any case, there is a 3/8″ stripe that is subtle, but important enough to stripe-match. To that end, I made sure to fold right on a stripe, to cut the shirt front and back (next two photos):
Before cutting, note that I am going to be adding 1/4″ seam allowance to the armscye (for the yoke, sleeve, and front and back) so that I can French seam. If you plan on serging, or stitching and pinking, or a simple seam finish, you can keep the seam allowance at 3/8″. I do not recommend trying to French or flat-fell the seam without adding additional width, as the shoulder fit is a close one.
So, for most the marks on the raw edge, we can clip 1/8″ into the seam allowance:
I used a thread-tack to place the pocket edge. As I am cutting the shirt precisely on-grain, and the pockets are placed precisely on the crossgrain, I only need to mark one corner of the pocket placement. You will notice my perforated marks – I have made this shirt a few times now!
On your sleeve, make sure to clip in at the placket location (top notch, below) as well as all four pleat locations (the little “boxes” that intersect the raw edge):
And ah – the sleeve! I find it helpful to label the parts of the sleeve. It’s simply two easy to get confused otherwise. I also put a safety pin on the front, right side of the sleeve. This has saved me lots of time and headaches. Note also below, my added seam allowance for French seaming.
Remember to cut the yoke pieces right on a stripe:
I cut one yoke from the shirting, and the other from a grey chambray (shown beneath the outer yoke). This is the only contrast fabric in this shirt:
Since the two collars are roughly the same size, I cut two layers of fabric to interface the collar and stand pieces:
Both my pockets, and the cuffs, will be cut on the crossgrain. This provides a little interest in the shirt. The top edge of the pocket will be interfaced (as shown by the penned line below)…
And the entirety of the cuff will be interfaced. Again, I cut a slightly larger double layer, and block-fuse. Block-fusing isn’t generally effective for larger garment pieces, but for these shirting elements it will do:
Finally, I interface two pieces for the placket. I have sewn up many, many shirt sleeve plackets (here is one method); you can use the pieces provided in the pattern, or one you find elsewhere. My method will be using a one-piece placket; if you want to use a two-piece method, simply cut up from the triangular slash point, after you’ve block fused:
Below: fused and serged pockets, ready for pressing:
The fused, then cut collarstand. Go ahead and mark your buttonhole placement (in blue carbon, at left) and your button placement (goldenrod thread). You don’t need to worry about which side is which, for now, as the collarstand pieces are identical:
The fused collar; mark “upper” and “under” in the seam allowance, to keep them straight later:
Marked: the leading edge of the buttonhole placement, on the fused cuffs (note crossgrain placement). Mark in mirrored fashion, on the right side of the two cuffs:
Go ahead and press the placket in a double fold as marked on the pattern piece. You can place the placket fold on the public or inner side of the garment; I chose the public side. Topstitch:
Press your pockets along seam allowances:
Mark your pocket reinforcement triangles with chalk, as a stitching guide. You don’t need pocket reinforcement but if there’s any chance these pockets will be used, it is wise:
Pin the pocket (aligning side of pocket to grainline, and corner of pocket to thread-marked pocket position, and pin:
Start stitching your pocket. I start at the base of one of the triangles, and stitch the entire pocket in one seam:
After finishing, bring the threads to the backside, knot, and pull the threads to hide them in the pocket seam allowance:
Time for the yokes! You can certainly sew both the outer and inner yoke to the shirt bakc at once, but I like to sew them separately. Here, I am affixing the outer yoke to the shirt back, right sides together, right on the seam allowance:
Now, I pin the inner yoke to the inside on this seam, right-side of yoke to inside of shirt:
I stitch right on top of the previous seam:
… and then grade it. (We are in for LOTS of grading, people!) In general, you leave the seam allowance closest to the public side of the garment, as the longest seam allowance. Grade, then press the seam up:
How, it’s time to create our finished shoulder seam! We are using the burrito method, which can be a bit confusing at first but it very simple (and is detailed on may blogs).
Here is the pinned shoulder of the inner and outer yoke, right sides together, with the shirt body rolled up inside:
Stitch this seam, slowly and carefully, making sure not to catch the shirt body in the seam:
Now – grade these shoulder seams!
Below – the shoulder seam, finger pressed:
Set the shirt body aside. It’s time to mess with that pesky shirt placket! I am following a method almost identical to that so wonderfully illustrated on Pam Erny’s shirtmaking blog.
Most of the placket fuss, is making sure you set it up right. You will place the placket RIGHT side to the WRONG side of the sleeve, with he short placket piece towards the back part of the sleeve. The larger volume of the placket piece, is associated with the larger sleeve volume (if the placket line was cutting the sleeve in two):
Carefully stitch that rectangle, 1/4″ from the slash line, pivoting 1/4″ from the raw edge) above. Then cut the triangle shape carefully, right to the corner of this rectangle:
Carefully turn and press the placket pieces to the right side of the sleeve (below, at right). Below at left, you’ll see the clean-finish on the wrong side of the sleeve:
Now, go ahead and mark with chalk, for reference to the top of the seam you just stitched. We are about to form the placket underlap:
Press the placket underlap seam allowance to the wrong-side of the underlap piece. Either finger- or steam-press:
Fold that long raw edge of the underlap at 1/4″ to the wrong-side of the underlap piece, and press:
Now fold this underlap on itself, enclosing the underlap-sleeve join. Press:
Stitch from the right-side, 1/16″ away from this fold and just two or three stitches past your marked line:
Here is this seam, from the inside of the sleeve. Lovely!
Okay – time to tackle the overlap! We will be taking our long raw edge (at bottom right in the photo below) and folding it and pressing it at 1/4″:
Steam- or finger-press the overlap-sleeve seam allowance to the wrong-side of the overlap piece; fold the raw edge fold to enclose that seam, and press:
Go ahead and fold or shape your overlap head any way you like! I enjoy a classic triangle:
And – as per many awesome tailors before me, including David Page Coffin – I use a nice goupy bit of glue stick to really cement that triangle tip to the shirt. I usually set my sleeves aside to dry, and fiddle with something else for a while.
You can either stitch your overlap head down right along that previously-marked chalk line (as the aforementioned Pam Erny’s blog illustrates), or you can mark a parallel line a little further downstream. Just make sure both sleeves have the same markings:
To stitch, I start at the “closed” side of the assembly, stitch along this line, and pivot and turn to complete the “P” shape we end up with:
Much like our pocket, we will pull these starting threads to the inside of the garment, knot, and hide them in the underlap layer:
While were’ fiddling with the sleeve, why not install our pleats? Make sure your pleats are symmetrical, when comparing the sleeves:
Time for the armscye! Remember, I added 1/4″ for a 5/8″ seam allowance, and I will be french seaming here. If you want a different finish, post in the comments and I can lead you through it.
So first, pin the sleeves at a scant 3/8″, wrong-sides together, and according to the sleeve markings:
Stitch the armscyes at that scant 3/8″ at about a 2 mm stitch (I lift my IDT and stitch with the sleeve head down, and the shirt body facing up). Using a tailor’s ham, press this seam open:
Here’s a view from the inside of the shirt:
Now, trim the seams down to 1/8″. You will not want to catch any threads from the raw edge, in your second seam. And yes, it sucks to trim the two seam allowances separately, but it’s better to press open first, than to trim and then press open:
Now, this seam will be easier. 🙂 Finger press the seam back in on itself, and pin at 1/4″. By pressing this seam open, it should fold so beautifully at this point!
Slowly stitch this seam – you will be stitching the garment right-sides together now. Go slowly but sew with confidence:
OHMYGOSH, how gorgeous is this seam? Go ahead and steam-press it:
Now, it’s time to make up our side seams! We will French seam these as well, but I’m going to show you a little cheater method. Because the side seams are practically straight, we can make use of a serger (if we have one) to trim our first pass.
So first, pin and stitch the side seams wrong-sides together at that scant 3/8″ (eagle-eyed viewers will notice I’ve changed machines here! My foot pedal went out!):
(From the inside of the shirt):
Now serge at 1/8″, closing those raw edges right before they pass into the serger:
Perfect! Faster than trimming by hand, and no pesky threads.
Go ahead and fold the seam back on itself:
And stitch this seam! Make sure to pin well at the armpit, and sew slowly over this join.
This is the result you get from careful pinning – as you can see above I do not remove my pin until right before the needle traverses the intersection.
Go ahead and lightly press these side seams.
Now it’s time for that collar!
We are applying the outer stand first, then forming the collar, and then applying the inner stand – much like this well-photographed method by Andrea at Four Square Walls. This is when you need to think about which stand piece you will apply, depending on whether or not you want buttons on the right or left. This client I am sewing for (my oldest child!) identifies as non-binary, so I elected a masculine-style shirt with the buttonholes on the right. But don’t worry too much if you use the wrong stand piece – you can remark you buttonhole and button positions.
So first, pin the long raw edge of the stand, to the right-side of the neckline:
Shown below: the leading edge of the placket should intersect one seam allowance from the collar stand edge:
Start and end with a firm backstitch, right at that join shown above.
Finger-pressed up – make sure there are no little puckers in that seam:
Now, pin the collar pieces right-sides together and sew. Sine the upper collar is slightly larger than the undercollar, I will pin and stitch with that piece against the machine bed:
Go ahead and grade and trim your collar points (if you are a point purist or want to be, DPC wrote a wonderful article on this subject last summer):
After clipping and grading, turn and press:
Here you can see the upper collar (at bottom), and how it gently rolls to conceal the seam on the under collar side:
I like to baste the bottom raw edge, at this point, before topstitching the collar:
After topstitching, I pin the finished collar to a tailor’s ham and steam-shape it, leaving it to dry thoroughly before picking it up again.
Next, I pin the collar to the outer stand as marked, right-sides together, and stitch:
We’re ready to apply that inner stand to our collar! Flip the collar into the interior of the shirt, and pin that inner stand to the outer stand, right-sides together and with the two leading edge seam allowances pinned up:
Go ahead and stitch, firmly backstitching and being sure not to snarl your thread tails:
Grade, making sure not to overgrade the bottom edge:
Gently fold these leading seam allowances into the interior of the stand. Finger-press the final raw edge up and pin thoroughly to either machine- or hand-finish (I will be demonstrating the latter). Since I will be hand-stitching the cuffs in a similar fashion, I leave this seam for a bit.
We’re going to apply our cuffs in the same method! Make sure to match the chalked or marked side of the cuff, to the right side of the sleeve.
Also, make sure to pin the side seam in whatever direction you want it to face – I generally place the side seam to the back of the garment:
Shown – this seam finger-pressed up:
And on the inside of the garment:
Now go ahead and fold the cuff, right sides together, and along the clipped notch:
Just like with the inner collar stand, pin with the two seam allowances flipped up, and then stitch:
Then – you guessed it! Grade, and flip right-side out.
Go ahead and pin the inside folded seam allowance, for hand-stitching:
Now let’s look at that bottom hem!
The curve here can present a challenge. I like to use either a line of stitching (here’s one tutorial demonstrating this) for a shirttail hem – or in this case, use the serger:
Again, make sure your side seam faces the way you want it to, and go ahead and serge-finish, leaving long tails at both leading edges:
Hide these tails in the double-folded shirttail hem. You can glue them in if you like, or just secure them as you stitch:
I stitch from the wrong side of the shirt, carefully folding a few inches ahead of the needle and sewing slowly. You want to be careful here as if you sew too quickly you can end up with ugly hem ripples that aren’t easy to press out.
Look at this! No ripples! And I haven’t even pressed:
Coming up on our final serge-tail, simply tuck it in with a pin before stitching to hide it:
Pull both threads to the inside of the shirt, knot, and hide the tails int the hem.
Press the hem:
Now we get to do our handstitching! In general, I use a single thread, and condition the thread with my fingers. I like a whip-stitch on the inner collar stand and at the inner cuff, but you can use a slip stitch if you want invisible stitches:
Now all that remains, are the buttons! (Edit: I have posted a Facebook live video showing how to mark button placement, and how to sew buttons; give it a view). I mark my placement with chalk, just like at the cuffs:
And I use my trusty Singer buttonhole attachment, along with a stabilizer beneath:
I then remove the stabilizer, and carefully apply thread glue to the backside of the buttonholes. After they have dried, open the buttonholes with a chisel:
And sew my buttons on! (For reals: here’s a great video closeup of the process)!
Wow! You did it!
Next up, we are tackling our trousers!
My readers know I am available via comment, Skype, Facebook, or email to help. I do not generally cover layout in my sew-alongs – so if you have any questions at all, please ask!
Thank you Kelly for this wonderful step by step tutorial. I’ve just finished making a dress shirt for my husband and I loved doing all the sewings. The placket was one of them and just like you I made my under collar a slightly smaller then the upper collar. I did the same for the cuffs and it worked very well.
Thank you, Sonja! Yes, sometimes menswear shirts go together like a dream… and sometimes, well it’s a bit of a struggle! I’d love seeing any pictures if you have time to share.
This is an amazing tutorial! Thank you so much. I’ve been sewing shirts for a while but have been looking for more details, better finishing techniques. Applause!
@Michelle – I am so glad you found it helpful!