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Mar 12, 2014

FIT Class #7 -- Finishing the Dickey: Attaching Collar and Buttons



I'll say this for my FIT Menswear Sewing class -- you get a lot of bang for your buck.  We're at week 7, we're finishing our sample dickey, and we're still not quite at the half-way point.

Next Tuesday, we'll present our completed dickeys in class.  Just to review, a dickey is a half-length shirt with no sleeves or cuffs.

Yesterday Professor B. taught us how to attach our collar/collar stand unit to the neckline, demonstrated the correct way to sew on a shirt button, and told us where to have our buttonholes made (Jonathan Embroidery).  We will not be using any sort of buttonhole attachment or professional buttonhole machine.  It seems odd to send an entire class to Jonathan Embroidery to have (four) buttonholes made, but so be it.

For the first time, almost all the material covered in class was new to me.  Not that I haven't attached a shirt collar before -- I've attached dozens -- but the technique I use, which I learned from Margaret Islander's video, Shirts, Etc. (part of her Industrial Techniques series) is completely different from what's taught here.  You can follow Margaret Islander's method in my 2011 Men's Shirt Sew-Along here.)

At FIT, we're instructed to complete our collar and collar stand the same way we did our cuffs -- turning under what will be the outside edge and stitching the turned-under edge to secure it in place (a visible stitch line approx. 1/4" in from the edge) -- so that the only thing that remains to be done is to sew the (outside) collar stand raw edge to the neck, fold the stand into place, and close up the inside collar stand seam with a single line of edgestitching (see photo below)

The inside collar stand (note extra line of topstitching 1/4" above lower edgestitching).  This is the only interfaced side, btw.

I think I mentioned last week that one of the objectives of this method is to complete an entire unit of work (the collar/collar stand) so that it can then be passed on to the next sewer.   Naturally, after four years, I find my method easier, but I can definitely see certain advantages to the one we learned yesterday.  It's disadvantage, however, is that the collar stand MUST fit perfectly, which means it must be cut perfectly, and allow for stretching (due to excessive handling) or shrinking (due to the attachment of fusible interfacing).

The method is too complicated to review in full detail here, but in short, both corners are meticulously measured, pinned and sewn (roughly 1") so that the collar band fits over the top of the shirt plackets PERFECTLY.  Only then do you go back and sew up the rest of the seam, easing in any excess bulk by gently stretching the neckline, even if it means having to break the stay-stitching.

Here are my two collar stand edges.  It's obvious that the first (posted up top and below) fits better than the second.

Stand is virtually flush with the placket edge.

The collar stand edge juts out nearly 1/8" -- a big no-no

The disadvantage of the Margaret Islander method is that you're attaching your inner band to your outside band upside down and inside-out (it's then flipped right-side out).  But once you get the hang of it, you have more control over the (extremely visible) collar band extension edge (where the button and buttonhole go).











As far as sewing on a button, readers, I had NO IDEA how.  I never attach shirt buttons by hand, I use a zig zag sewing machine (lately my Bernina with a buttonhole foot).  I would be embarrassed to admit this to Professor B., but it's the truth.  I'm sure the correct method is explained in many sewing books; I've never looked.  It was good to learn -- finally -- the correct method (when I have a better handle on it, and more experience, I'll explain it in detail).  I never knew you were supposed to use double thread, or use a lockstitch instead of a knot, or hold the button so that it's nearly standing up when you sew it on, so you can create a shank.

For next week, we're to complete our dickeys, mark our buttonhole positions and have our buttonholes made (measuring 3" between each button), stitch up the side seams, and press our work so that it's ready to be evaluated publicly in class.

I will probably go with the dickey I have so far (as opposed to making a new one from scratch).  It's not perfect but it's not too shabby either.   Or maybe I'll feel inspired and start over again.  I'm just not confident I could do a better job of attaching my collar/collar stand to the shirt than I did in yesterday's class.

After next Tuesday we have a week's break, and then after that we'll begin making our final shirt (in our final fabric, which I have yet to choose -- it can be patterned, but no stripes or plaids (because these require more complicated pattern layouts).

In closing, if you make shirts with separate collar stands (or bands), what method do you use to attach them?  Do you sew shirt buttons on by hand?

Have a great day, everybody!

40 comments:

  1. Re: sewing buttons on, I'm glad to know that my home ec instruction in 1969 is what's recommended by your professor! ;)

    And yes, I'm still using that approach. Old school, c'est moi.

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  2. Gee, I have always sewn buttons on by hand and with a short shank. If I had a button foot for my machine, I probably would've used it.

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  3. I was taught to sew buttons by hand in sewing class in high school in the 80's and for some reason I am unable to fully trust a machine sewn button. Nice job on the collars by the way. I like the yellow one with the contrast on it. I wonder what it would look like if the contrast was some wacky 'loud' colour like neon or something....

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  4. Love these posts. I sew buttons by hand (but since I suck at buttonholes and am about 9,000 miles from Jonathan Embroidery , I avoid buttons as much as possible) but am guilty of using a knot. Quelle horreur! I will amend my ways immediately.

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    Replies
    1. I won't tell. ;)

      Apparently the problem with knots is that they can damage silk fabric.

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  5. Oh well, since I rarely sew with silk, I guess I won't have to worry about that!

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  6. Thanks so much for sharing all the information, it is a great learning experience for your readers, too.

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  7. I only started sewing buttons on by machine in the last year or so. My mom (who taught me to sew) didn't tell me machine sewing them was an option and it took me that long to figure it out for myself. I may have told her recently that her teaching methods were somewhat Victorian, jokingly, of course.

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  8. your question about hand sewing buttons made me laugh. my mom (from frugal german and 4-H) taught me how to do all of that when i was about 6. so i do all those steps, even when i feel like i'm being sloppy (like when i cut out a broken zipper from jeans and put in snaps). i am such a novice at everything sewing wise and here i know how to do buttons in the FIT-tailoring class approved way. for me this is hilarious. i feel like doing some sort of thank you ritual for my ancestors (though i probably should just call my mom and say thanks for teaching me that). cheers!

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  9. Not sure what happened to my first comment?? I sew most buttons on by hand, but sometimes use the machine and sew the shank by hand. For purely decorative buttons, I use the machine alone and dot the thread with seam sealant to prevent unraveling.

    I am really enjoying your class vicariously, Peter. Thanks so much for sharing with us. I teach sewing at a college campus and often hear about original homemade sewing ideas and I'm enthralled to hear the official position of the sewing industry. Sometimes I'm horrified by what students learned from their relatives, but not often.

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  10. I'm the same as you Peter, only a little less couth, lol, no one showed me how to do buttons and I didn't even know about the button foot untill this past year. I just used the zigzag and a regular foot.

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  11. I always sew buttons on by hand, have since I did the first one at 8 years old onto my Grandad's pyjamas. He said that button outlasted the rest of the pj's.

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  12. I've sewn buttons on both by hand and by machine. My Nina has a button sew on program and the button foot has the shank finger on it. Did they teach you to spin a few rounds of thread between the button and shirt front to form a thread shank?

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  13. I only made a collar with a separate stand once for a shirt dress.
    I did the collar first and turned it to the right side. Then I sandwiched it between the inner and outer stands, stitched and proceeded to sew the outer collar stand to the dress. I hand stitched the inner collar stand.
    Basically I constructed the collar unit and sewed it to the dress.
    I was very unsure whether this was a correct way to do it, but I couldn't figure out the instructions. Anyway, the collar looked good.

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  14. What an excellent experience this class has been! And to think that you wondered whether it was the right course to take. I and many other readers thought that it would be too basic.

    As they say in the South, "Well, shut my mouth!"

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  15. To sew the collar and stand I use David Page Coffin's technique he teaches in his book, Shirtmaking. I use his attachment technique on waistbands as well. Works every time. I've always sewn buttons on by hand, the way you were taught by Professor B. I never had a button fall off and I love the criss cross look the hand sewn button gives.

    I'm loving these FIT posts!

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  16. Thank you for passing on all the instructor 's tips. It is almost like being in class myself.

    I made one shirt with the attach the completed collar and stand to the shirt way. Ugh! I had fits. But turned out beautiful in the end. I always sew on buttons with the machine because my hand sewing stinks.
    A person doesn't need a special foot. Just use clear tape to tape the button where it should go and use a regular zig-zag foot.

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    1. That's my method too (with the tape).

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    2. I actually do both. Depending on how many buttons I need. If you take a large embroidery needle and place it between the eyes of the button-zig zag over it - it makes a great shank. Looks like you are getting great bang for your buck! Tailoring classes make your clothes the bomb digity!

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  17. I truly think that buttonholes should be taught in a shirtmaking class.

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  18. Karen from BaltimoreMarch 13, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Peter - I am taking a patternmaking class in Timonium, MD (at the studio of a custom designer). The information is mind-boggling, and I purchased 2 textbook priced books on patternmaking, so that I can continue to learn before the next class.
    I've noticed that our teacher will often refer us to professionals that she has worked with, who can offer specialty services in all aspects of garment-making. I wonder if your teacher is introducing potential customers to Jonathan Embroidery, for the benefit of both the student and the business. If some of your fellow students are interested in mass production, they may be grateful to know where to send shirts for perfect buttonholes. It's all fascinating! Your blog is brilliant, inspiring, beautifully written. I sent the link to your blog to my daughter (who doesn't sew) just because it's one of the best blogs I've ever read. Thanks.

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  19. I sew buttons by hand, and use a thread shank (this makes them much nicer than my previous method of welding that sucker to the fabric with thread, haha!) but I do use a knot.

    To avoid damaging the fabric with it, I tie the thread to the button with the knot on the back, throw a few decorative stitches through the buttonholes to make sure it won't rotate up front, and only then sew it to the shirt.

    Works like a charm. :)

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  20. I didn't know how to do it either evidently. Would you care to provide a tutorial on this method? I'd appreciate it.

    PS: GREAT job on the collar!

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  21. I am really loving these shirt making posts. Thank you!! Such great details that you're sharing. And I'm very envious of your perfect topstitching so very close to the edges. I don't really understand the FIT collar stand technique. Would love more deets on that. I make quite a few mens shirts so would love to try a new collar technique. I have always sewn my buttons on by hand. But unless the fabric is thicker I never bother making a shank. By the time I get to the buttons I'm kinda done and already thinking of my next project so I just want this buttons on already! There is a fabulous Japanese Men's Shirt pattern book I can recommend. It has a lot of options on different button sewing techniques. (It's all in Japanese, which I don't speak or read, but it has great illustrations and if you've made a few shirts you can figure the jist of it.)

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  22. I sew buttons on by machine, using my Bernina button foot, but I use a glue stick to keep the button in place instead of tape. Just a regular glue stick, not fabric glue. Works great. I find that machine stitching my buttons is a whole lot more secure than my hand sewing. But I suspect that I never learned to "properly" sew on a button by hand. : )

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  23. I'm totally sticking with your shirt sewalong method. It works for me and gives a very professional looking result.

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  24. I learned a hand stitching technique from a couture sewing show on Canadian TV featuring an Italian woman named Angelina. She threaded every needle by cutting a yard of thread, and threading both ends through the eye of her hand sewing needle, and tying one time at the eye. The thread doesn't slip out of the needle and the end has a loop that you pass the needle through to lock the first stitch. I was proud of my ability to make perfect, small knots when I hand stitched with a single thread, but I soon started using this for everything, and especially for buttons. No ugly knot on my handwork.

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  25. Love your fascinating reads on FIT. I attach shirt collars in a modified Islander technique coupled with David Page Coffin, I think. Hmm, don't quite remember.

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  26. Eljean what a GREAT technique!! Thank You. I have always sewn on buttons by hand. That's how I was taught, and we made shanks for thicker materials so that the material would float around the button, rather than be pulled in tight. For particularly thick material, like a boiled wool coat, we would put a matchstick under the button, to give us enough of a shank for the thickness of the material. The matchstick would be removed and the thread would be knotted up the shank using a sort of blanket stitch to make a neat embroidered looking shank, similar to a belt loop on lingerie.
    Peter I am loving your class. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  27. Again, fascinating!!! Interesting that making your own buttonholes is not covered.

    I'd love to be there for your show and tell. Do your classmates know who you are or do they have no idea they are in the presence of greatness?

    So where are you going for spring break????

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  28. I've always sewn my buttons by hand.
    When I buy a new garment, I remove all the buttons and sew them back by hand to make sure that they are secured with a proper lockstich.
    I hold my method from my mum who taught me sewing.

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  29. My collar stand technique is similar to your class method, but instead of actually stitching the seam allowance I like to press it up. When I attach it to the neckline, I have a sharp edge to edgestitch, and no two lines of stitching. My philosophy on button sewing, if I make a shirt, hand sewing as many as 12 buttons would take forever. Machine stitching is so much faster, efficient, and neat. They will be secure if you remember to take at least five stitches on one side to lock the threads. Remind your instructor that even high end shirts use an industrial button attaching machine that can attach a button in seconds.

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  30. Thank you very much for keeping us updated. I'm reading all of this with great interest as I prepare to sew a shirt dress. I will look at the posts from your sew along as well.

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  31. **stitch up the side seams, and press our work so that it's ready to be evaluated publicly in class.**

    So the class dickey will have the completed collar, full placket fronts with buttonholes and buttons, full back and closed side seams?

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  32. Hand sewing on buttons is about the only hand sewing that I find meditative.

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  33. This is very interesting Peter, I make my cuffs the way you are learning at FIT . I will try it on a collar. I was taught to bag out the collar at each end and then turning the collar stand the right way out and completing the collar seam . This makes a very neat finish at each end . This method was taught to me by a lady who trained in Paris at the Haute Couture sewing school. I have used it a lot but maybe your method is what is used in menswear?

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  34. I hope you will do a new shirt sew along!

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