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Apr 9, 2014

FIT Class # 11 -- Almost Finished With Our Shirt!

Last night's class was devoted primarily to closing up the sides of our shirt.

We were instructed to do this using a method identical to the one we used to attach the sleeve.  With the shirt right-side up we fold a 1/4" seam allowance on the back and back sleeve edges, we stitch at the fold and trim down to the stitching.  Then we line up the shirt front and front sleeve edge with the trimmed raw edge and stitch at approximately 1/4" (right-sides together).  OR you can line up the shirt front and front sleeve edge with the stitch line itself (which will result in a narrower seam when you fold one edge over the other).

Next, you press the seam allowance with the longer edge on top (toward the front) and topstitch it down from the right side.  Again, it's exactly the same method we used to attach the sleeve to the body of the shirt, which I detailed here.

Before class started, I showed Professor B my purple gingham shirt with the welt pocket (I was wearing it), and wondered if the reason the shoulder still seemed too wide (which he agreed was the case) was because his method uses only 1/4" from the torso side, but nearly 3/4" from the sleeve side.  He didn't agree and created a little three dimensional model to show me why.

He said that as long as the total seam allowance added up to 1" (regardless of how it's divided) the result will be the same.

Maybe it's me, but I still don't get how, if you take only 1/4" from the torso (aka, body) side and 3/4" from the sleeve, your shoulder seam won't end up 1/2" further down from where it would if both edges had a 1/2" seam allowance.   I'm thinking he means there won't be a different in the actual fit of the shirt -- yes, that's true: whether your wider seam allowance is on the sleeve or the body side of the shirt, the sleeve length will be the same; the cuff will be in the same place.  But the shoulder SEAM is going to be further down your shoulder, right?  Because you're using just 1/4 from the shirt-body side.

Your eyes are glazing over so I'll move on.  I asked Professor B. if I could use a commercial shirt pattern of my choosing to make my final shirt for class, and he said that as long as I use the techniques we've learned in class, it's fine with him.  So I think that's what I'm going to do, rather than keep tinkering with the size Small pattern he had me trace that is still too full on me (for my taste).  He did compliment me on my double-welt pocket, btw!

Privately, Professor B. showed me how to make both a covered front button placket and an attached placket (The dickey, you'll recall, had a simple turnback placket).

Nothing complicated about these plackets as long as you know the measurements to use.  They both result in a front left placket that's 1 1/2" wide.  I'll likely demonstrate these the next time I make a shirt, probably in the next week or so.

CF stands for Center Front; the measurements to the left are the extensions added to create a covered placket. 

Finally, as a bit of extra enrichment for everyone, Professor B. taught us how to prick stitch a collar edge and cuff by hand, instead of topstitching by machine.  We're not required to do this, but he thinks it's a nice touch (It's usually seen on better jacket lapels.).   He modeled a Canali shirt with a prick-stitched collar.  It's not a look I love but it certainly looks more hand-worked, i.e., expensive.  (Canali shirts seem to go for a minimum of a few hundred dollars each.)

And that's it.  Next week we're off for spring break, then we'll attach our cuffs and hem our shirts.  Maybe in the meantime I'll make another shirt -- with a lace overlay!

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. I agree with you that the resulting shirt will have no correction in the shoulder, but will have a shortened sleeve length. The total length, as Prof. B says, doesn't change, but where the material came from makes a difference.

  2. Your class sounds absolutely brilliant and so full of useful information in every lesson. Really looking forward to seeing your lace shirt. The fabric is beautiful.

  3. Hi Peter:
    I'm trained as a pattern maker, although now teaching. You're right - the shirt shoulder will still be too wide. Love the techniques you're learning and thanks for documenting the flat-felled seam method - very slick.

  4. The way I think about this type of seam is this: the actual seam is exactly between the two rows of visible stitching, not where the two fabrics join. I first ran across this when constructing the center seam of jeans and I think it is more clear what is going on with a symmetric center seam like that. For example, there is a 3/8" seam allowance on both sides, but you sew the crotch seam such that the cut edges are lapped with cut edges 1/4" apart. You sew a seam 1/2" from one of the cut edges and 1/4" from the other. Then you press the seam allowances so that longer covers the shorter and you double topstitch in place. One row of stitching close to the fold, the other 1/4" away. (Same as your shirt construction but with heavier fabric, I wouldn't bother folding the internal edge in.) The seam doesn't alter the fit because a total of 6/8" of seam allowance is consumed at the crotch, but the actual joins is shifted 1/4" to one side. However the visible topstitching is now exactly centered between the legs which is more important than the join. In the case of your shirt, where the join is more prominent than the stitching because of the contrasting fabric, the fit isn't altered by the construction, but having the join shifted toward the arm probably only exasperates the look of the too large shoulder.

  5. Smart Professor B. - now he can use the Canali shirt as a tax deduction.

  6. Hello Peter:

    For years I have made my husband "Hawaiian" style casual shirts; but have wanted to make him dressier casual shirts. Your last few classes have shown me how I can finally do this - I could never understand how that shoulder seam was done! THANK YOU (and Prof. B) for the instructions.

    What I really wanted to tell you was I have made him a pair of jeans - using the Kwik Sew pattern you recommended. I did not know there had been a sew-along for these, I only found your pics from last fall. When I was making them, I had considered doing a button fly but could not be bothered trying to figure out how, then today I discovered you had already done that for me too! (Insert smiley face here)

    Another surprise - I made his from WHITE Bull Denim (my machine is none too happy with me after that), so I was interested to see yours were as well. My husband had a pair of white jeans when I met him 46 years ago, now he has a pair again - and still looks fabulous in them!

    Thank you, Peter, your column is finally enabling me to make my man some decent clothes, properly stitched of course. Cathrine

  7. I showed my husband the lace shirts in your last post and he is very interested. I have some amazing laces at home that I may try employing for this purpose.

  8. Thanks for showing that seam finish; it's very useful. I like prick stitch idea as well; jackets finished like that always look retro-classy to me.

  9. I love lace shirts or tops. I have several.


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