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Feb 4, 2011

Men's Shirt Sew-Along 4 -- The Placket Racket

Friends, I want to teach you all about plackets.  Actually, I'd like you to read this first, from Wikipedia, and spare me some work.

Those of us sewing the Colette Negroni pattern have it easy: the only plackets we have to deal with are the sleeve plackets above the cuff.  Those sewing more traditional dress shirts are no doubt making a front placket, where the buttonholes will be sewn (on men's shirts, this is the left front side; on women's the opposite).

As you now already understand, front button plackets are generally reinforced with interfacing to strengthen an area that is subject to stress (pulling, opening and closing, etc.).  If you're not sure whether you need to use interfacing or not, just ask yourself if the fabric you're using needs more support in that area.  (I do not interface a back yoke but I always interface a collar stand.)  Try it both ways and then use the method that you like best.  There's no right or wrong here.

As far as a sleeve placket goes, no interfacing is called for.

Our goals today are:

1. Create our right and left sleeve plackets

2. Feel good about our right and left sleeve plackets

There are a few different ways of making sleeve plackets.  One way, like the Negroni pattern, presents the placket as one extended pattern piece.  Another is to use two separate pieces (a separate under placket and top placket piece).  Either way it all adds up to the same thing.

As I said yesterday, the Negroni instructions are very well written.  And it me?  What is it about sleeve plackets that makes them so confusing?   I hope the following helps.

For me, the biggest challenge with plackets is always remembering which sleeve is the right and which the left, and which is the right and wrong side of the fabric.  I have sewn beautiful plackets only to discover they were upside down or backwards.  I actually once considered having my arms switched just to preserve my work.  This is a very painful operation, readers.

1. The Negroni shirt sleeve pattern piece, when facing up, is the LEFT sleeve.  Do you see why?  The two notches you see at the top of the shoulder (the rounded edge of the pattern piece) designate the BACK of the sleeve, the single notch the front.  Lay that piece over your shoulder face up.  The line showing where you'll cut the placket is on the back side of the sleeve.  (You have to turn your head to see it if you're the wearer.)  Do you get that?  So make sure you see that placket on the side of the sleeve that has those double notches.

I recommend laying out both sleeve pieces, right side up, and making sure that the plackets on the two sleeves are mirror images of each other.   The top placket (with the little peaked roof on top) folds over the bottom, or under placket, toward what will become the side seam.  Again, the placket is beneath the double notches, the back of the sleeve.

OK, so start folding.  A seam gauge will help here if you haven't traced the lines from the pattern onto your fabric (I didn't).

OK, now I'm going to tell you what not to do.  Don't cut through the placket line on either the shirt or the placket piece until you have stitched around the 3-sided box (p. 20, diagram 8 of Negroni instructions).  You'll have a much easier time.

Regardless, make all the little folds as described in the instructions.  Surai shows the left sleeve.  I am showing you the right.  They should be mirror images of each other.

When you've made your folds on the placket piece and stitched your box (the wrong side of both shirt and placket should be facing up), slash your placket.  You're cutting through both layers of fabric: the placket piece and the sleeve.  Those Y-shaped slashes must be cut right up to the stitch line -- but not through it.   

You're then going to turn your work over, with right side up, and push the placket through the slit.  It may look messy at first.  If there's way too much puckering, check to see if your Y-shaped slash is cut up far enough toward the stitch line. 

Press your work.  Now it's origami time. 

Fold the smaller under placket over and edgstitch (approx. 1/8" or less) along the outer edge.

Now fold the top part of the placket over that.  The top piece (with the pointed roof) of the placket should fully cover the under placket.  Here's a tip: when you're folding down the little peaked roof, and pressing, if the fabric isn't holding in place, use a dab of white school glue.  It's much easier to edgstitch fabric that isn't shifting beneath us.

Now edgestitch the outer edge of the top of the placket, up and over the top of the roof and down approximately 1" and then across.  Make sure before you go across that you have enclosed raw edges of the under placket. 

The finished right sleeve placket looks like this  (I've already added the pleat in this photo, ignore that):

The left placket:

A few RTW versions are below.  Look at some plackets on RTW shirts you own if you're unclear about where to stitch.

I think the challenge here is accurate edgestitching.  You may want to use a stitch guide for this, or a straight stitch foot if you have one.   Depending on the shirt pattern, the placket may be slightly longer or shorter, wider or more narrow.  What's important is that on your shirt, the plackets are similar (ideally, identical) to each other.

2.  Now we want to assess our work.  How do your plackets look?  Did you follow the Negroni instructions carefully?  Post a few pics on our Flickr page if you care to.

BTW, I've started a new discussion thread, "Learn from my mistakes!"  It's a great place to confess your screw up in hopes of preventing others from doing the same.  It creates good karma.

How's it going so far?   Questions, comments?

Tomorrow we'll interface what needs interfacing and make our collars.

Good luck everybody!


  1. I haven't created a placket in this way yet and I found the instructions just teensey bit confusing, probably because I don't have my own shirt sleeve and placket in front of me at the moment.

    Will try this at home this afternoon and looking forward to it!

  2. I don't think I have the attention span for this, and will probably use Summerset's or Nancy Z's placket method. But you never know …

  3. Hmm, I think I'm kinda glad I'm going with the short sleeve version of this shirt!

  4. Gosh-- You make me wish I'd chosen the long sleeve version of my shirt pattern! Beautiful work.

  5. Oh, great instructions and pictures Peter, thanks! This was the part I was most terrified of. Much demystification here, yay.

  6. Peter, first of all, I really like the quality of your photos - very clear. I use this placket technique.. with one exception. After stitching and slashing, I make very narrow triangular clips out of the small placket SA above the slash, right down to the stitch line. I then trim the little triangular tab on the sleeve piece back to ~1/8"; I leave the placket piece triangle uncut. I then turn the little rectangular tab above the slash to the outside, enclosing the remaining little triangle in the process. I press this down flat from the outside sleeve side. This really simplifies the the turning out process, reduces the seam bulk.

  7. Love your patience for photographing and explaining each step. Thank you.

  8. You make this look sooo easy! I agree with previous posters about the quality of the pictures and the detailed explanations. I only hope when it comes time for me to insert my plackets, they look half as good as yours.

    One thing I noticed is that you press the folds in before you sew the placket in. The one time I made a shirt previously, I did not think to do this and for some reason, I didn't have enough material to make a peaked roof. I had to square it off which seemed to work better considering my screw up. I will be trying your method this time. That is when I finally get there.

  9. What a great blog. I just finished an Islander Simple Shirt using David Coffins placket method from Shirt Making Techniques video. It took several practice pieces to get comfortable using it on the good material. Anyhow, it looks like a similar set up for the Negroni pattern. Which I just ordered. Looks like a very nice shirt.

  10. I was waiting with bated breath for your page to finish loading- unsure if the delay was my computer or because every single sewer in the ENTIRE WORLD is madly logging on to follow this. Thanks for the enormously helpful photos and directions. The tip that I should have worked out years ago but will use from now on to sew plackets is simply checking that the placement line is on the same side as the double notches at the sleeve head. It will save me hours of worry.
    Peter, I’d love to know which patterns you have seen that use two placket pieces. So far I’ve only come across the one piece sleeve placket. And slowly, slowly I’m getting more comfortable with them. I find it really helpful to iron in the creases on the placket piece and use them as a guide. I’ve also had success (with cotton flannelette and some synthetics) by interfacing the placket and tracing the lines onto the interfacing – especially lines for the tower/roof at the top. I use very light iron on interfacing and haven’t had any sewing or washing problems with it. My big difficulty is still making sure that the top stitching for the square encloses the underplacket. I’ve got several shirts with two rows of topstitching at the bottom of the tower – which is the solution of course if you’ve got a lovely looking right side and unseemly raw edges on the wrong side.
    Happy sewing to everyone engaged in this great project!

  11. I don't belong to the Sew along, but I'm following all your posts. Your pictures are great, very clear, no shadows, you can see clearly all the details, the seams, Everything! Love your blog!
    Raquel from Florida

  12. Holy Shit Peter! Ok, so I was behind and thought I'd bust out a couple days this morning. It is now FOUR THIRTY (approximately 6 hours after I began) and I have JUST finished two plackets. I can't even tell you how much I've learned...polyeslyter sucks (ok maybe just the blend that is in my muslin), checkerboard patterns can be friendly for cutting (or your worst enemy) and that I officially am in WAAAAY over my head. Having said that, thank you for keeping me motivated and giving us LOTS of pictures!!

  13. Thank you so so so much for this beautiful, detailed tutorial! I'm trying to sew my first triangular placket (instead of continuous loop), from a German pattern no less (German is most definitely not my first language) and I was way over my head... until I found this! Thanks a million!

  14. Not continuous loop! Continuous lap, rather.

  15. This was such a great reminder of how to do a proper placket...this is the way I was taught in High school about a hundred years ago! I just never knew the technique had a name! Awesome work! Thanks, thanks, thanks!

  16. Hello! I'm just having a break before doing the topstitching, but so far, so good! It was a bit scary to see how many instructions there are for the placket, but once I got started, I could see they were just trying to spell it all out as simply as possible. It's very hot today and I'm very, very pregnant and trying to get the shirt done for DH before D day, so frankly if I can follow them, anyone can!

  17. Thank you! Will refer to this frequently :)

  18. Hi Peter, I am trying to sew a placket on a men's dress shirt that has a two piece sleeve where the sleeve pieces are sewn together with a flat felled seam. I understand doing the basic placket fairly well, but I am not quite sure what is the proper way to position the placket on the seam. Do I just do it the same way as if the seam wasn't there?

    1. A two piece sleeve is essentially a one piece sleeve cut in half. If you have a one-piece sleeve pattern piece see if you can figure out the position by comparing the two side-by-side. It should always be toward the outside and back of the sleeve. Hope that helps.


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