flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

flannel shirt sew-a-long: lined pocket, sleeve placket, and yokes

flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

Hello my awesomesauce stitching fiends! Yes, I am still on top of this sew-a-long business. “The show must go on”, as they say.

Today we have a fairly easy series of tasks ahead of us in our flannel shirt sew-a-long. You should be pleased with yourself at the session’s end! Among other things, we will be working buttonholes. So be prepared to bust out your manual and practice – ideally on shirt fabric scraps.

Remember – I am available to support via email, blog comment, and Skype!  Just last night I had an email from a sew-a-long student and I responded within the hour.

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Let’s get started!

SOooooooOOO this is another super-heavy picture post. I hope you enjoy looking at plaid a LOT! I feel like I am never going to de-etch this pattern from my brain.

Today we are also going to be delving into a bit of topstitching. Typically, topstitching is done with a heavier-weight thread (or, as I have done for this project, using two top threads) and a longer stitch (I used 4.0 mm). You will need to set up your machine to topstitch, and be prepared to switch back and forth between topstitching and construction stitching. You can either add a thread through a topstitching needle for a double-threaded topstitch, and then change out your needle and go back to one thread for construction seams or wind a separate bobbin with topstitching thread and use that thread for topstitching. If you have more than one machine you can set up one machine for topstitching and one for construction seams (as I have done).

In the tutorials here all stitching is construction-seam stitching unless otherwise designated.

First, we will be making lined pockets. Remember, you have two pocket pieces, two linings, and you’ve fused an interfacing strip to the wrong side of the pocket pieces. Handling your pocket pieces carefully, stitch the top edge of the lining and the top edge of the pocket together, right-sides together, and leaving a backstitched gap in the middle of this seam. Like so – the right-hand pocket serving as an example of the finished part of this step:

Lining Pockets... Easy Peasy!

Next, take the pocket to the ironing board and press the seam allowance toward the lining (below left). Then, fold the  lining and the pocket together, right-sides together (below right):

FLIP IT (The Pocket)

Now, stitch around the edge of the pocket at the 3/8″ seam allowance. This is self-explanatory (if you can’t make a perfect 3/8″ seam allowance, practice first! The shirt needs a lot of accuracy to look good!). Steam press those pockets and let them dry before proceeding:


Trim the seam allowances as so (showing bottom corners of the pockets):


Now, we are ready to turn the pockets through that gap we left in the top:

Pockets, Inside-Out

Turn your pockets and gently press out the corners with something pokey but not too sharp. No, I do not have a bone folder or any tool for this – yet. I use… well… I hate to tell you as someone will be upset I’m doing it wrong. But yes, I use the end of my scissors. I’m really careful about it though! I promise:

Mirror-Image Pockets

A gentle steam-press, and the near-finished pockets:

My Pockets Get ALLLLlll The Ladies

Now all that remains is to slip-stitch, whip-stitch, or ladder-stitch the opening between the lining and the facing closed!

Ladder/Prick Stitch

Below: all stitched up, with pretty invisible stitchery if I do say so:

She Seams To Have An Invisible Stitch, Yah!

And now… get ready to set aside this sew-a-long to practice. IT’S TIME TO MAKE A BUTTONHOLE! Two, in fact. In the shirt pockets.

I am not going to go over how to make buttonholes here. Your machine is unique and you need to practice on it. I will say that I use a stabilizer underneath my buttonholes, always. I often use Fabri Sticky-Solvy by Sulky, but any washable stabilizer will work. If you don’t have some of those products, you can also just use a piece of paper – it will tear away nicely when finished.

But, for realz. Practice buttonholing a lot before you start buttonholing on this shirt. Make the buttonhole process your friend. I use my Singer buttonhole attachment, which is over sixty years old and ROCK-SOLID!

We only have to pull off two buttonholes for the shirt pockets. We’ll be doing several more later. When finished with these two, I usually Fray Check the backside of the buttonhole carefully, and let it dry before I open the buttonhole up. You don’t have to do this – I find it helps the buttonholes wear well. I will say: be careful with Fray Check as in some cases it can leave an ugly little stain on the right-side of the garment. Always check ahead of time and be cautious!

I used white thread for my buttonholes. Had I to do it over again, I would have used cream to  more thoroughly match the fabric:

Buttonholes, Fray Check

Now it’s time to set the pockets aside and work on the sleeve placket.

Oh yes. The sleeve placket.

Now first off, I am going to give you a little template that should show you how to sew up this placket. Then I’m going to post pictures with minimal verbiage as the diagram is pretty self-explanatory. DEAL WITH IT


Here’s the template:

Shirt Sleeve With Cuff , a pdf. Download and print!

Now, I follow the directions on that pdf – laying both the overlap and underlap right-sides to the WRONG side of the sleeve. Notice also how I’ve clipped the overlap, and folded under ALL seam allowances (I used 1/4″ but you can use 3/8″ if you like) except for the seam allowances abutting the slash mark and those at the sleeve’s raw edge. I’ve also edged the plackets lower than the sleeves; I’ll trim them after my first two seams:

Overlap And Underlap, Placement

Now – two lines of stitching, making sure to backstitch at all ends:

Overlap And Underlap, After Stitching But Before Slashing

Slashing. Slash right up to the same distance as the stitching lines:

Stitched, Then Slashed (Carefully!)

You can now trim up the ends of these placket pieces and trim the top folded edges too. I clip the underlap and overlap seam allowances right at the top of the two seams parallel to the slash. Shown below, the clipped underlap seam allowance. I haven’t yet clipped the overlap seam allowance in this picture:

Clipped Overlap And Underlap Pieces

Now: fold over the underlap to the right-side of the sleeve so the folded over edge covers up the first stitching line, then topstitch. I elected to use a regular stitch for this. We’ll soon be using a topstitch seam for most of topstitching during construction, but not here:

Underlap, Topstitched

Folding the overlap to the right-side…


Pressing and/or pinning: Make sure that the entire placket facing lies parallel to the grain. Shown before pinning:

Overlap, Before Topstitching

Pinned, and now stitched (again – follow instructions as per the above pdf). As you near the place where the overlap and underlap will join, make sure to straighten that underlap underneath the overlap. If you get it wrong, you can carefully take out the seam, re-steam and re-pin, and try again. It’s a little tricky:

Flannel Shirt Sew-A-Long

You can start stitching at the raw-edge as in my example, or you can start at the crossover on the cap of the placket. There are control advantages to either. Again, just make sure that cap is pinned securely as it will try to shift while you’re stitching.

Overlap Topstitching

Above – the finished overlaps. And below – the underside / wrong side of the sleeve placket: Looks pretty good, eh?

Wrong Side Of Sleeve Placket


Sleeve pleats.

Easy enough. Fold as per pattern instructions and using notches (remember those tiny clips we made?), then stitch 1/4″ from the raw edge to secure.

Pinning Sleeve Pleats

Press the pleats, and the placket as well:

Pressing Sleeve Pleats

Sleeve, near finished! Again – there are more than one way to make a sleeve placket so if this is different, cool beans. This method is pretty reliable though and it’s what I use when I’m not feeling too fancy.

Now, on to the back pleat on the shirt body back. Here, remember, we cut out the piece so that the middle of the back piece ran perfectly down the center of a plaid motif. Fold the top pleat so that you are folding symmetrically along the plaid. Here’s the pleat after it’s been folded and sewn 1/4″ from the raw edge – the yellow thread is the thread-marked pleat. OH NOES it looks all wonky and bad! … right?

Pleat... But Don't Panic!

Nah son. Its fine. Carefully remove the marking thread and carefully press. Then lay it out and compare it to the size of the seam it abuts – that of the bias yoke. DANG that is looking good!

Outer Yoke... Lookin' GOOOOD

So – time to join up the yokes. No jokes. (titter!) Here also is a great example of a camera angle giving you the wrong impression: my inner yoke (remember, the one cut on grain, not on the bias) is about 1/4″ a little smaller than the outer yoke (shown upside down in the below photo), but the size difference here looks huge here. The SECOND picture below more accurately represents how well the two pieces compared:

Before Proceeding, Practice Seam Allowance Precision

… and I should also point out – even with 1/4″ difference, because of my flannel’s fairly loose weave, it was very easy to carefully stretch the inner yoke so that it matched the outer yoke and the shirt body. Everything came together fine. Small imperfections in cutting often work out without additional trimming.

Pinning the outer yoke to sew 3/8″…


After this seam is complete, pin the inner yoke to the inside of the shirt, and sew RIGHT along that first seam. Shown here – both yokes attached. You can’t see the inner yoke at all as it is under the two layers.


Now – finger -pressing, then gently steam pressing, both yokes up, and pinning them for temporary security. We aren’t topstitching yet – I’m going to address that in the next post, when we apply the pockets (remember our pockets?).

Outer Yoke

And here, after flipping over the yoke and back piece, is the inner yoke:

Inner Yoke

Now, we are going to join our yokes together at the shoulder. First pin the outer yoke to the front body, right sides together:

Pinning Outer Yoke To Shirt Front

Stitch that seam with a construction stitch, clip the corners, and grade the seam:

Clipping Seams

Clip the seam allowance closest to the body, not the public side of the garment – the shirt body seam allowance (note I used pinking sheers to grade):

Shoulder Seam, Grading/Trimming

Press this seam up toward the yoke. Next, fold over the seam allowance of the inner yoke. I like to add a little Steam A Seam Lite tape here, to affix it to the outer yoke / shirt body seam allowance. As shown:

Shoulder Seam, Inside, Inner Yoke

After fusing and pressing (remember, here we are looking at the inside of the shirt):

Shoulder Seam, Inside

Now – topstitch! If you carefully folded and pressed and/or fused that second seam allowance, your inner seam should look pretty good:

Wrong Side, Shoulder Seam

… and here is how the topstitching stitch looks:

Right Side, Top Stitch, Shoulder Seam

And now – go ahead and open up those pocket buttonholes, if they’re dried. I use my seam-ripper – carefully. There are several ways to open a buttonhole and the way I’m showing you is kind of RECKLESS and BAD-ASS but to be honest, creating thousands of buttonholes it has always worked for me.

Cutting Buttonholes (WITHOUT Drama)

So now! We are done with today’s session. Next session we will be doing a bit of double-threaded topstitching for applying the pockets, making the front placket (including our last bit of interfacing), and putting the collar and collar stand together. By next session your shirt will look a bit like a shirt – and you’ll start feeling pretty peacock-y about it!

Thank you for joining me! Remember to post your comments here if you get lost, or if you have something of value to add.

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