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Feb 9, 2011

Men's Shirt Sew-Along 9 -- Side seams and cuffs!

Long-suffering Sew-Alongers, we're nearly at the end of our journey. We've been through so much together, I can hardly wait to relive the whole thing with my real fabric! (We'll be drafting new facings and collar stand/collar too.)  But first a few more steps.

Our goals today are:

1. Stitch the side seams closed

2. Attach our cuffs

I know, it's a relatively light day, but you deserve it!

1. Now that we've flat-felled our shoulder seams, we're ready to stitch our sleeves and torso sides.

First, I line up my armhole seams.

I also check my notches on sleeve and torso and line those up too.

Now you have some options.  You can flat-fell these seams if you care to.  I didn't.  Instead, I stitched the whole long seam, cuff to hem, at 5/8", serged the seam allowance, and then stitched down the serged seam allowance at 1/4" from the outside.

Of course, there's still the challenge of stitching down the length of the closed sleeve, bunching up the sleeve as you move toward the cuff, but this is unavoidable if you want something that looks, from the outside, like a flat-felled seam.

This also leaves the inside looking nice and neat.

You can also overcast the seam allowance by zigzagging along the edge to prevent fraying.

You don't have to stitch down that seam allowance if you don't want to.  But it is a nice touch, imo.  Of course, the truly ambitious among you will want to flat-fell, and Sarai has provided very clear instructions for doing this with a regular 5/8" seam allowance on p. 26 of the instruction booklet.

However you do it, when you're done, try on your garment.  Does it resemble a shirt?  I've been pressing as I go and at this point I give my sleeves and torso a good touch up.  Eventually I get out of my pajamas.

2.  Next, we're going to attach the cuffs.  Before we do, we want to create our sleeve pleat, which is explained clearly on p. 25 of the Negroni instructions.

Personally I find that single pleat to be a little deep and I think on my final version I'll break this up into two smaller pleats. 

We've already made our cuffs, so let's get those out.

We'll be attaching the inside of our cuff to the sleeve, which has been turned WRONG SIDE UP,  with the longer side of the cuff (the side without the 3/8" folded over) ON TOP (in my case, this is the gingham side).   This is very clearly explained in the instructions on p. 28.

The cuff is another part of the shirt that -- like the facings -- will get turned right side out.  Make sure you understand what's being stitched to what and why.   When we turn our cuff right side out, we'll want the interfaced outer cuff facing the outside.   The edge of the cuff (the one that meets the sleeve) will already be folded under and we will simply edgestitch this outer cuff closed.

NOTE:  When you're attaching the cuff, remember that the plackets must be stitched into the cuff parallel with the edge of the cuff to create a continuous line between sleeve and cuff.  Does that make sense?

The nearly vertical stitch line you see in the lower right hand part of the photo above will form the outer edge of the cuff.  The outer edge of the sleeve placket (above it, in the photo) should be on the same vertical line.

Stitch the longer side to the sleeve using a 1/4" seam allowance, and then trim, all the way around the cuff.

Turn the sleeve and cuff right side out.  Use your point turner to push out those edges.  Press them flat.

Edgestitch the outer seam closed and topstitch around the entire cuff.

Friends, that's all we're going to do together today.  We're almost done -- with the muslin/test garment that is.

Tomorrow we add buttons and hem. 

As always, I'm here to answer your questions both here and in our Flickr group.  Virtual hugs to those who need them.

Happy stitching, everybody!


  1. Oh, I've fallen so behind in my man's shirt this week! I'll catch up this weekend.

  2. I have enjoyed your Shirt Sew A-long posts. They have been very interesting and informative, too. I especially like todays post about sewing the cuffs. By the time I get to the cuffs (and I want my blouse - DONE!) I usually just 'grit them out' and don't so such a nice job on them. Your cuffs are so neat and precise. Yes, neatness counts - my Home Ec teacher used to say that again and again over my head in class! Should have listened to her. . . . .

  3. I did not think I would like that fabric for a shirt but I do, it looks great! not so much with the pj bottoms though

  4. I have also fallen very badly behind. No sooner did I cut out my pattern pieces that I got clobbered with a deadline from hell which will last at least another 10 days... That's my Valentine's shirt out of the window. Grr.

    I figured I would catch up later referring to your wonderful posts for assistance. I notice in the collar post that you've only done the one-piece collar for now. Will you be showing us how to do a two-piece collar later? Also what about cufflinkable cuffs (I'm sure there's a name, but I don't know it!)?

  5. the shirt looks like a keeper to me.

  6. Went ahead and did the flat felling of the side seams as well, I figured it would be good practice and looks sharp if it turns out well. It did take some patience to get through to the end of the sleeve, but not too bad. My only problem with the flat felled seams so far is that I can't seem to get the tension right on my machine for nice balanced stitches. So I end up with nice neat straight stitches on the top (needle side) which ends up being the inside of my garment, and a crappy looking sloppy line on the feed dog side which unfortunately ends up being the exterior since we are sewing on the wrong side of the shirt. This may take a lot more refining before I dive into my real shirt...

  7. Kami, that sounds frustrating. My hunch is that your tension isn't tight enough on top so it's not fully pulling the thread through multiple layers of fabric. Just a guess...

  8. Peter, I'm interested to know whether your sleeve length was adjusted from standard size S, as it fits you nicely. I'm working up a size 'L' and I've had to completely re-size the 'L' sleeve - cuff circumference too small, and sleeve length waay too long (~+2"). I'm usually close to the standard pattern sizing for 'L'..??

  9. Hi Peter! I'm learning so much from this project! I chose to do flat-felled seams up the sides but chickened out 5 inches from the cuff with the edge stitching. I turned it around and finished from the cuff side. Acceptable for the real shirt?

  10. Why not, Jacqueline, as long as it isn't visible?

    David, I shortened my size Small sleeve one inch.

  11. Peter, you are amazing, such a beautiful seamstress

  12. I flat-felled the ENTIRE LENGTH of the side seams. I wasn't sure if I could do it, and it was a bit fiddly, but I did it and it was WAY easier than my imagination made it out to be. Cuffs and collar are done, and it's modeled in the flickr group. Hurray! (see, I caught up) I'll be able to move on once I figure out what's wrong w/ it.!

  13. I didn't do cuffs on my first muslin so am only just trying one now. The trouble I'm having is that the pressed fold on the outside part of the cuff is done at 3/8 inch, then the inside of the cuff is stitched at 1/4 inch. Therefore, when I fold the cuff over, the outside part does not reach far enough to cover the stitching from attaching the inside part in the first step. It is about 1/8 inch too short. Does that make sense? I'm wanting the outside one to be a fraction longer, not shorter. Have I done something wrong?

    1. I have this same problem and would love to know if it's some detail or whatever that I'm missing.

  14. Thank you so much... The cuffs were just not making sense to me!

  15. What sewing machine do you use? It looks like an old singer. I have 11 of them now as I enjoy repairing them but want to start making my own shirts. Can I do this on a normal flat bedded vintage Singer? What I mean I need s machine that you can remove a part so as to do cuffs etc?
    Many Thanks

    1. Yes, you can do it on a flat bed machine very easily (as opposed to on a free arm machine).

    2. Many thanks Peter for your fast response. Good that means I do not need to buy a Singer 222K. I will use my 221 featherweight and my treadle Singer 201K when I have read your entire blog.
      Its nice to see that people still use these old girls. They are just lovely to use and will be in another 50 years.
      Many Thanks

  16. Hello Peter.
    I have just refurbed a lovely Singer 201K complete with its cabinet. Because it is not a free arm, will I still be able to make shirt cuffs with it and to also hem trousers? They managed it vintage years ago. I actually may not NEED my featherweight 222K. Surely I can make quilts and everything else on the 201K.
    The machine hardly makes a sound and I have kinda got attached to it. I could flog the featherweight and buy a banjo!!
    Peter Darling.


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