flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

flannel shirt sew-a-long: flat-felled seams, side seams, and narrow hem

flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

Hello my awesomesauce stitching fiends! This is our penultimate flannel sewing post! Yay! Make sure to check out the results of my particular project. A perfect shirt. Pretty much. Almost perfect. I made one error. Can you spot it? Today we are messing with one of the most difficult seams – the flat-felled shoulder seam. It actually isn’t hard to do, it’s just hard to do and have it look perfect. After we sew this up we have the much-simpler side seam, and then the narrow hem. Let’s get started! Remember – I am available to support via email, blog comment, and Skype! I will Skype support any stitcher through the months of November and December 2013 – and if you’re lucky and just finding the sew-along today, why not give me a ring? Email, Twitter, Facebook – come find me!

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So: your shirt is ready for the sleeve. I can tell you that the sleeve’s shoulder is a bit of a fussy seam. To begin, we will be using a regular stitch, not a topstitch. So either remove one of your threads from the topstitching rig (and readjust and test tensions), or if you’re like me and have another machine, move to the other machine for these next seams. First, carefully pin at 5/8″. That’s right, 5/8″. Remember how I mentioned we would be going off-pattern? Here we are doing it. REBELZ Pinning Shoulder Seam A closeup: Pinned Shoulder Seam And now – baste the sleeve to the armscye with a high-contrast thread. Baste it exactly at that 5/8″. We want to have this seam be pretty exact and this is a great way not to end up having to remove a seam later. Basting The Shoulder Seam The finished, 5/8″-basted sleeve-to-shoulder: Basted Shoulder Seam And now: stitch the seam! Make sure to backstitch securely at both ends of the seam. I stitched with the SLEEVE facing up, and the shirt body against the sewing  machine bed. The reason for this is, we are going to be folding the seam allowance towards the shirt body so the stitch I’m making here, has to look great. Stitch right next to the basting thread (this makes it way easier to pull out the basting later, as compared to if you sewed over the top of the thread). I use my fingers in between the shirt body and the sleeve, to keep things moving smoothly. In the below picture, the lump to the left of the sewing machine foot=my fingers. Stitching The Shoulder Seam... SLOWLY At this point, when you’ve finished these seams, you can carefully remove the basting threads: Finished Sleeve Seam Then carefully trim the shirt-body side of the seam allowance. I trimmed to 1/4″: Trimmed Shoulder Seam Press, making sure to only press the seam allowances and seam line: Pressing The Seam ONLY, On The Shoulder Then, fold the sleeve seam allowance over the trimmed one and press again. Here, I’m using a tailor’s ham so it’s easier to press a curved seam. By the way, a tailor’s ham is often found in a thrift store for like a couple bucks. Pressing The Shoulder Seam And now it’s time to sew that flat-felled sumbitch! Topstitch, making sure to backstitch at both ends. Go slow. GO SLOW. Keep shifting the shirt body and the sleeve so that you don’t catch anything extra. Here are a few angles: Sewing The Shoulder Seam I don’t pin or anything, just adjust with my fingers as I go. It’s a little tricky, especially for newbies. Be patient and GO SLOW. Did I mention – go slow? Sew Slow Finished! Note, at the middle-top part of the photo, how I’d securely backstitched these seams: Finished Felled Shoulder Seam Now it’s time for the side-seam, which will be a French seam. This is a simple seam where we sew wrong-sides together, trim, then re-fold over those raw edges and stitch again. This seam will also take up a 5/8″ seam allowance, instead of the pattern’s 3/8″, which results in a 1″ girth reduction for the shirt. So! The next few pictures will be a lot of boring pictures of me lining up the plaid all along the sleeve and the side seam – two long seams running down the garment sides. First, pin wrong-sides together. Pin so that the horizontal lines of the plaid motif line up RIGHT at that 5/8″ mark. Lining Up The Plaid All pinned and ready to stitch, using a construction stitch. Even though we pinned at 5/8″, we are going to be sewing at 1/4″. Sew, making sure to backstitch at both ends of the seam. Make sure too you have a fairly tight stitch, as we will be trimming very close to this first seam, in a moment: First Side Seam, For French Seam After stitching, remove pins and press: Press Before Trimming And now, trim. I trim to about 3/16″. That means, a little more than 1/8″: Clipped & Ready For Pressing Now, we fold our garment seams back over that raw edge, and press again. Make sure you are doing this second fold right along that first stitching line. This takes a little finger-pressing before the steam pressing. Like so: Side Seam Pressed & Ready For Second Line Of Stitching Now, pin – this time 3/8″ from this first seam, and making sure to line up the horizontal aspects of the plaid: Lining Up That Second Seam For The Side Seam... Lining up right on that blue line: Lining Up That Second Seam For The Side Seam... Here you can see how well the motif is lined up: Plaid Lined Up - Perfectly! Once we’re all pinned, it’s time to sew at 3/8″ using a construction stitch. Preparing For Second Stitching In Side Seam Here you go! French Seam At Side Seam And now – the narrow hem. I ain’t gonna lie: narrow hems can be annoying, especially on certain fabrics. There are many ways to make a narrow hem but I’ll show you a decent one (I’m open to more suggestions and no, I don’t much like the serger-method although I sometimes use it). So first, sew at 1/8″ from the edge using a construction stitch, then press and (if you like) starch: Pressing Hem After First Stitching Line I know it’s hard to see my seam line at 1/8″ in the above picture, but it’s there – and it’s important, to help us give something to turn under for the next seam. Trim any little threads that have resulted from handling the shirt. Then turn that 1/8″ under, and fold another 1/4″. We’ll be sewing this hem from the wrong-side of the shirt, and using a construction stitch. Start stitching a little bit after the front placket, leaving long thread tails (the placket is too bulky to machine sew so we’ll be going back and handsewing that part. Here’s a picture using pins for control of the hem… Hem, With Pins... And here’s a better method – using finger-control: Hem I AM NOT GOING TO LIE, those curves at the hem’s hips don’t go super smoothly. I gently clipped up to the first seam in order to give a little stretch but the hem is often a little wonky there. Shown before my two folds of 1/8″ and 1/4″: Clipping At The Side Curves, Before Second Hem Stitch Shirt hem is finished, you should have a front placket hem to handstitch: Hem, Before Securing Placket Hem Use a whip-stitch, ladder stitch, or slip stitch to secure up the bottom of the front placket: Hand-Sewing Hem At The Placket And here is our hem, before pressing. If it has a few ripples, don’t worry. The pressing will remove those! Finished Hem, Before Pressing Okay so – whew! You should be looking at something that LOOKS A LOT LIKE A SHIRT. We’re going to be applying cuffs, then placing and applying buttons and buttonholes. You’ll want to be an EXPERT at sewing buttonholes on this fabric before you sew them on the shirt, so next installment plan on practicing. Any questions so far? METHINKS some students have fallen behind. That’s okay, as I’m still here to help! Happy sewing!  

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