Thread Theory

Welcome to the new era of menswear sewing. Go ahead and create something exceptional!


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Fairfield Sew-Along: Attach Sleeves

Fairfield sew-along

Today we are assembling the optional sleeve tabs and attaching the shirt sleeves to our Fairfield Button-up Shirts.  By the end of your sewing stint today you will be able to try on something that actually looks and fits like a shirt!

Let’s begin with the sleeve tabs.  They are very easy and are a great way to add a casual vibe to a button-up shirt.

Place two sleeve tab pieces with right sides together.  Stitch around all edges (except for the flat top) using a 1/2″ seam allowance.

How to Sew a Buton Up Shirt (28 of 99)

Trim and grade the seam allowances closely to reduce bulk as much as possible.  I like to trim off the excess fabric at each of the three points as well (this isn’t pictured in the photo below):

How to Sew a Buton Up Shirt (29 of 99)

Flip the sleeve tab right side out and press.

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Lastly, top stitch around the sleeve tab 1/4″ from the pressed edge.

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Repeat this process for the second sleeve tab.  Now that the tabs are assembled, it’s time to add them to both shirt sleeves!  The sleeve pattern piece includes a placement marking for the sleeve tab.  Transfer this marking to your fabric (I like to use my pin method – I place a pin through the paper pattern and both layers of fabric.  I flip the entire thing over and place a pin in the reverse direction.  I then peel off the paper pattern and make a chalk marking where the second pin has remained.)

How to Sew a Buton Up Shirt (32 of 99)

Place the sleeve tab on to the wrong side of the sleeve.  The point should face upwards and the raw flat edge should but up against the tab placement marking.  Pin to secure it in place.

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Stitch across the raw edge of the sleeve tab using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

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Flip the sleeve tab down over the stitching line and press.

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To enclose the raw seam allowance, we are going to sew a decorative box filled with an optional “x” of top stitching.  Stitch from wrong side of the sleeve using the edges of the tab as a guide.  The box can be as tall as you like – I’ve stitched it approximately 1/4″ tall here but you can make it 1/2″ or even taller if you like.  Stitch carefully because it will be visible on the right side of the sleeve.

How to Sew a Buton Up Shirt (37 of 99)

And that’s it for the sleeve tab (until we add the button and buttonholes later)!  Let’s attach the sleeve to the shirt body now:


 

Prep the sleeve pieces by folding over 1/4″ of the seam allowance to the right side of the sleeve.

Fairfield Sew-Along - Attach the sleeves (3)

Next we will pin the sleeve to the body of the shirt with right sides together.  The folded edge of the sleeve lines up with the raw edge of the shirt body.

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When you add your pins, keep the folded 1/4″ out of the way.

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Sew the sleeve to the armhole using a 3/8″ seam allowance.  Don’t stitch the folded fabric into your seam by accident!  I find it helps to gently and temporarily unfold it so that there is no chance of this:

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Trim the smaller seam allowance (the armhole on the shirt body) to 1/4″ if you like to make it easier to create the flat fell seam.  If your fabric frays a lot like mine does, don’t trim to closely to the stitched seam or else it will weaken it.

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Finish the flat fell seam by pushing the seam allowances towards the body so that the folded sleeve head seam allowance encases the body seam allowance.  Iron carefully to make sure the flat fell seam is consistent in width.  Pin your folded seam allowances in place.  I find the more pins the better at this point!

Fairfield Sew-Along - Attach the sleeves (13)Fairfield Sew-Along - Attach the sleeves (14)

Now you can stitch your tidy package of seam allowances closed so that no raw edges can escape.  In the photo below I am stitching from the right side of the shirt using a very scant 1/4″ seam allowance.  Stitching from the right side makes it simpler to stitch a consistent distance from the seam.  I have also tried stitching from the wrong side so that it is easier to see where the edge of the seam allowance package is.  You can try both ways to see which works for you!

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From the wrong side of the shirt you will see a tidy package of seam allowances like this:

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From the right side of the shirt you will see one line of stitching and one seam.

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Your first flat fell seams on the Fairfield shirt are finished!  Now we will dive right back in to sew the next set of flat fell seams – these ones feature the seam allowances on the right side of the garment and extend all the way from the sleeve seam to the side seams.

Begin by pinning the side and sleeve seams with wrong sides together.  The seam allowances are offset – the back of the shirt has a small 1/4″ seam allowance and the front of the shirt has a full 5/8″ seam allowance.  Offset them by lining up the notches at the hem.

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Here you can see the seam allowances offset and the hem notches aligned:

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Sew the entire seam from hem notch to the sleeve ends.

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Make sure to line up the seams at the armpit:

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Press both seam allowances towards the shirt front.  Press the 5/8″ seam allowance in half so that it’s raw edge meets the raw edge of the smaller seam allowance.

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Flip the entire package over towards the shirt back and pin it in place.  Stitch along the folded edge of the 5/8″ seam allowance.  Go slowly and tuck any fraying threads into the flat fell package as you go so that all you can see is the tidy fold.

I like to start at the hem and work my way towards the sleeve.  The sleeve feels a bit like stitching in a tunnel or, as my Nonnie described it, like looking down a well, but don’t worry, just sew slowly and shift your fabric often – you will get to the end of the sleeve soon!

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Give your flat fell seams a final press and step back to admire how tidy and professional both the outside and inside of your shirt look!

Fairfield Sew-Along - Attach the sleeves (1)

Have a wonderful weekend!  I will be back on Monday with more of the sew-along.


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Fairfield Sew-Along: The Shirt Sleeve Placket

Introducing Fairfield Button-up

Today we learn how to sew a shirt sleeve placket.  There are many approaches to sleeve plackets such as a simple bound edge or a delicate slit with a facing, but the tower placket is the best choice for menswear.  It is very sturdy and produces a great structured appearance.  If you examine store-bought men’s shirts you will likely struggle to find anything other than the classic tower placket on each sleeve.

Fairfield-Button-Up-31

There are a few different ways to assemble a tower placket.  In the fashion industry it is common to use two pattern pieces: The main tower (which is the part of the placket you actually see) and a separate binding piece for the inner half of the slit/vent.

At first we drafted our shirt placket in this manner but, after examination of every shirt sewing pattern that I could find (as well as an extensive search of tutorials on sewing a tower placket) it became apparent that there are more resources available in the sewing community for a different sort of tower placket – the sort that uses only one pattern piece.  We decided to switch to this style of tower placket so that it is easier for you to find help within the sewing community if it is your first time sewing a sleeve placket!

After trying both methods, I have come to the conclusion that both the two piece and one piece tower placket are equal – neither is more difficult to sew and the finished plackets appear exactly the same.  I don’t really know why the industry and the sewing community have developed two different ways to sew a shirt placket but I am curious to find out.  The only reason I can think of is that we sewists prefer to cut out fewer pieces so that we can get sewing sooner!  Probably not much of a convincing reason!  Do you have a better explanation?


My musings aside, let’s start sewing:

The key to sewing a great placket is to mark thoroughly and sew precisely as a result of your markings.

I like to mark on the wrong side of the fabric with colored chalk and a ruler.  To make my markings I pin the pattern piece to the fabric and make tiny snips with my scissors at the top and bottom of each line – make these smaller than 1/4″ so that you are snipping within the seam allowances.

Use a ruler to line up each snip and chalk in your line.  Don’t forget to chalk in the placement line on the sleeve itself!

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket

Place the placket on to the sleeve so that you are looking at the wrong side of both the sleeve and the placket.  Line up the placket’s “Y” shaped marking (between line 3 and 4) with the placket placement line on the sleeve.

Notice that the Main Column of the placket is closest to the center of the sleeve and the inner placket is closest to the back of the sleeve.

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket-2

Pin your placket in place by placing a couple of pins overtop of the “Y” shaped marking.

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Sew the placket to the sleeve by stitching along lines 3 and 4 to enclose the “Y” shaped marking in a rectangle of stitching.

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Now here’s the part that may make you a bit nervous if this is your first sleeve placket.  We are going to cut into the sleeve placket to create what is called the “vent”.  This is the slit that allows the sleeve to open up wide enough for the hand to travel through the narrow width of the cuff.

Cut up the “Y” shaped marking:

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket-6

And then follow both branches of the “Y” by snipping to each corner of your rectangle of stitching.  Be careful not to clip into your stitching:

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket-7

To reduce bulk and make folding your placket easier, you can trim the seam allowances that you have just created.  I like to trim to approximately 1/8″.  Leave the triangle of fabric created by the “Y” intact.  Only trim the long straight seam allowances:

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket-8

Okay, trimming is done!  Let’s start the fun part – folding everything until it magically begins to look like a placket!

 

Fold along lines 1 and 6 – these are the two outer edges of the placket.  Press thoroughly.

If your fabric doesn’t press very crisply or if it frays easily, you might like to keep all of your folds from shifting around by dabbing a little bit of glue on the underside of the fold.  Many people like to use regular white glue sticks and a Q-tip for precision gluing.  Other people like to use double sided hem tape (which can usually be found in the notions section of your fabric store).

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket-9

Clip horizontally towards line 5 so that you can free up the other seam allowance on the main column in preparation to press it over.

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Now press it over and tack it in place with glue/tape if desired.

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It is now time to create the attractive triangular point that is often found atop shirt sleeve plackets.  I’ve photographed two ways to do this – the first is the way I have seen in several shirt making books and tutorials.  The second way is the one that my Nonnie (my grandma) developed when she tested out our Fairfield Button-up.  We ended up including it within the instruction booklet because it makes it easier to create an even point!  That being said, her method includes smaller bits of fabric to fold…if you have have troubles with dexterity, you might like to stick the the first method:

Method 1:

Fold on a 45 degree angle so that the top right corner of the column is folded to meet the bottom left corner.  Press thoroughly and secure in place with glue/tape if desired.Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket-12

Fold again on a 45 degree angle so that the top left corner meets the bottom right corner.  Shift the fabric around until the point of the triangle appears centered.  Press and glue/tape in place.

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket-13

Method #2:

Fold along the horizontal fold line to divide the extended portion of the main column in half.  Press and glue/tape if you would like.

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket point-2

Fold both the left and right corners inwards so that they meet in the middle.  This will create an even triangular point.  Press and glue or tape if you like.  If you are not using either of these tricks to secure your folds, try temporarily pinning your triangle in place so that it doesn’t become unfolded in the following steps.

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Now our point is formed, we are ready to flip the entire placket to the right side of the sleeve.  Prepare to do this by pressing the seams where the placket joins the sleeve:

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Push all of the placket fabric through the slit/vent.

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Flip the sleeve so that you can view the right side.  Carefully press along the three sides of the vent so that your sleeve placket is inclined to sit moderately flat:

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It’s time to finish the inner column now!  Shift the main column out of the way.

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Fold along line 2 to enclose the vent’s raw edge.  Your inner column will look like binding.

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Stitch 1/8″ from the edge to secure the column in place.

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We can now finish the main column.  Spread it out so you are looking at the wrong side of the column.

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And then fold it in half along 5 to enclose the final raw vent edge.  Press thoroughly so that the column looks even and the point looks symmetrical.

The main column is positioned directly on top of the inner column like so:

Fairfield Sew Along - sleeve placket-24

Edge stitch along the main column from the bottom of the sleeve, around the triangular point, down the other side of the column for about 1″ and then across the main column.  Stitching across the main column encloses the raw edges at the top of both your main and inner column.

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Give your placket a final press and admire it!

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Don’t worry, by the time you get to the second sleeve it will seem much less of a mystery and you will fly through it!

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Resources:

An excellent Threads magazine article that teaches how to sew a precision placket.

This video demonstrates the placket as two pieces (the main tower and the inner binding).

This Sewaholic tutorial demonstrates how a differently shaped pattern piece can also lead to a classic tower placket.


 

Good luck with your plackets!  Take your time and use your iron lots.  We will continue with our shirts on Friday.  See you then!