flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

flannel shirt sew-a-long: topstitching, front placket, collar, and collar stand

flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

Hello my awesomesauce stitching fiends! We are still working away on our flannel shirt. Make sure to check out the results of my particular project. TOTES ADORABLE.

Today we are tackling topstitching and we are going to see just how accurate you were with cutting and staystitching (she smiles, sweetly, like a stitching she-Demon). We will be applying the patch pockets and creating the front placket, collar, and collar stand. We will be working with interfacing together so get that out!

At about 52 images this is a beefy post. So, let’s get started! Remember – I am available to support via email, blog comment, and Skype! Here is our overview, before we get started:

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So first, it is time to attach those lovely pockets we created last session. You remember how we only marked one side for pocket placement? That is because it is very easy to place the other pocket in the symmetrical position on the other side, provided you cut accurately. Like so:

Pocket Symmetry

A closeup. This is, in general, all I pin for a patch pocket. Ignore the linty fabric. I de-lint when I’m all done with the shirt. LIKE A BOSS

Pocket, Pins

Topstitching! You are going to have to practice with what works best for your machine. Shown here: my groovy 70s Pfaff. Two threads through a topstitching needle (you want a needle with a large enough eye to easily accommodate more thread). Also important: lengthen your stitch. 4.0 mm in my case:

Topstitching With Double Thread

Practicing, on a scrap. The topside:

Topstitching With Double Thread

The bottom side of the topstitch. Remember, this should only be ONE thread (as opposed to the top two) but the tensions should be balanced:

Testing Topstitching (Backside)

Time to sew that pocket! I start at one of the little triangular legs, and go around the whole pocket with one line of stitching:

Pocket, Pinned

When finished, here is the pocket with my two topstitching threads shown – and, on the backside, my two bobbin threads are dangling.

Getting Ready For An Invisible Knot Finish

Time for an invisible knot, which I covered a bit last entry re: button-sewing. First: get your top threads to the back side of the work, by either tugging on the bobbin threads or, as I’m doing here, using a needle to pull them through:

Invisible Knot (Step One)...

Shown: three threads on the back side. Knot them together:

Invisible Knot...

Then “hide” these three threads in that convenient little triangular pocket:

Invisible Knot...

Pulling the threads through…

Invisible Knot...

And clipping. INVISIBLE!

Pocket, Wrong Side, Invisible Knot

Finished pocket. Yay!

Pocket - Finished!

OK. So now it’s time to do some pretty fussy symmetrical closure. So we have to measure and sew accurately, here.

I grabbed this picture to show you my variety of tape-and-ballpoint-pen-marked vintage sewing machine bed:

Perfect Seam Allowances

In order to determine how much to fold our front placket, we need to measure the bottom seam of the collar stand, as the collar stand is what will be sitting right on top of the shirt body’s neckline. Here I’ve folded my collar stand in half, and I’m measuring right along the bottom seam at 3/8″. I came up with a measurement of 7 3/4″. Make sure you understand how I came up with that measurement, before proceeding. Remember, you are measuring along seam allowances, not to the edge of the pattern piece:

Measuring Collarstand

Two times 7 3/4″ equals 15 1/2. So I simply measure the neckline – again, along that 3/8″ seam allowance, to discover where I’m going to be folding my front plackets. You can either measure the entire neckline or, as I’ve done, measure that 7 3/4″ from the center back mark:

Measuring Neckline

After you think you know where to fold them, fold (and pin if necessary), and re-measure. You want the collar stand and the shirt body neckline to flow together easily when it comes time to stitch.

Measuring Neckline

Now, necklines need to look good. I grabbed up my model and quickly rough-pinned the shirt to him, to make sure it would fit. It looked great (you can see from the finished work it is a perfectly-fitting collar). While at it, I checked the shoulder seams and the sleeve length. Everything looked good:

Fitting - Neckline, & General Fit!

So now that I know the total distance of that front placket fold, I want to interface the whole thing. Now, this will depend on your fabric, your interfacing, and what kind of effect you want. This shirt was almost more of a jacket than a shirt, so I wanted a very firm front placket and therefore wanted to interface both folds of the placket. I measured the width of the strip I had to cut:

Measuring Placket Area For Interfacing

Fuse your interfacing carefully and according to directions: then simply fold twice to create the placket, and press:

Pressing Front Placket

Before topstitching the placket, staystitch the shirt body’s neck edge at 1/4″ (all of this project’s staystitching has been 1/4″, which is 1/8″ in from the 3/8″ seams):

Staystitched Neckline

Topstitching. Yes, you are going to be stitching from the front side, and catching that facing edge. You simply must go slow and feel the ridge of fold underneath. The meticulous cutting and folding means that you are going to be stitching in relation to that plaid – shown here, about 1/16″ from one of the blue vertical stripes:

Topstitching Front Placket

The backside – tension looking good, perfectly accurate topstitching from the backside:

Topstitching From The Top. LIKE YOU DO

Now that we are done with the placket, it’s time to create the collar and collar stand. The following is a collar method that helps make uniform and attractive points. First, pin along the top edge of the collar, then stitch:

Pinned First Seam Of Collar

Press the seam open and place thread in a loop, right at that edge where we will be stitching the side collar seams:

Inserting Thread For Corner-Turning

So – before stitching those side seams, your loop should look like this:

First Seam Of Collar, Pressed

After stitching the remaining two seams, and after trimming (being careful not to trim the thread loops – ask me how I know this!) your collar points will look like so:

Collar Points Before Turning Right-Side Out

Flip the collar, and then pull the threads (both of them) to pull out that corner. Shown here, before I pulled on the threads:

Pulling Out Collar Points

Gently remove the contrast thread, and voila! Points. Now it’s time to topstitch the collar. I like to use a fabric shim (upper middle of the picture below) when I’m turning the collar corner. I also backstitch quite firmly at the base of the collar (shown at lower left, crossing the 1/4″ staystiching):

Topstitching Collar, Using A Fabric Shim

The collar, backside of topstitching. Looking good!

Topstitching Collar

Use that fabric shim every time the arse-end of your sewing machine foot is dangling in space:

Topstitching Collar

Here you see the collar and the backstitching at the base of the collar. The collar is kind of folded in 1/3s here which looks a bit confusing:

Backstitching On Collar Topstitch

Now are are going to sew the collar to the outer collar stand. In general, I proceed according to the pattern’s directions with a few modifications. First, I pin-mark the center of both the top part of the outer collar stand, and the base of the collar itself:

Center Marks Of Collar And Collar Stand

Next, I pin the collar to the outer collar stand, matching those center marks and making sure the collar is symmetrically placed on the stand:

Pinning Collar To Stand

Stitch, making sure to start an inch or so before they join, and stitching right on that 1/4″ staystitching line for both pieces:

Collar To Collar Stand

Just stitchin’. Still:

Collar To Collar Stand

Clip those thread tails (always! Well. Most always) and set the collar and the outer collar stand aside. Now, pin the inner collar stand piece to the inside of the shirt, and stitch:

Inner Collar Stand, Pinned

This picture cracks me up. Clearly I am lining something up, and it lines up perfectly, but I can’t figure out what! Give me a break though as I’ve taken about 200 pictures of up-close plaid and I’m bound to miss something. If I figure out what I’m showing you, I’ll let you know.

Oh wait, I figured it out. I am pinching the two front facings together – and as you can see they are lined up, with the seamlines that attach them to the inner collar stand matching as well. I honestly think they are like 1/8″ difference, but that will not show on the finished shirt once a button is added. The button itself can help line up very small imperfections like this, yay!

Lines Up Perfectly!

Steam-press that inner collar stand away from the body of the shirt:

Inner Collar Stand

And now! Pin that outer collar stand, with its attached collar, to the inner collar stand – everything right-sides facing. This is basically how the illustrated pattern instructions direct you. Fold up the seam allowance of that outer collar stand (center of picture):

Pinning Collar Stand

And now – sew that final collar stand seam (the “upper” seam of the collar stand): Be meticulous and backstitch at those front placket edges:

Collar Stand And Placket

Here is a SUPER UP-CLOSE picture of the collar stands and the front placket, after we’ve made this stitch:

Collar Stand Meets Front Placket

More collar stand, before trimming:

Collar Stand, Sewn

OK here you see me being a BIG CHEATER McSHORTCUT-PANTS, as I often use pinking shears to perform a notching, grading, and trimming operation all in one:

Collar Stand, Trimmed Ala Pinking

Everything’s looking good. I elected not to do any trimming or grading of the neckline seams, but you may want to go through the trouble:

Collar Stand, Trimmed Ala Pinking

Now before I turn this collar stand seam, I used a hammer to really knock down the bulk at the collar stand/front placket juncture. Trimming doesn’t work so hot here, so I use a hammer to get the bulk down:

Hammering That Pesky Bulky Top Seam

And now – pin that outer collar down to the inner one. It’s almost time to topstitch again!

Pinning The Collar Stand

Topstitching. GO SLOW! Why you in such a hurry?

Topstitching The Collar Stand

Below: the finished, topstitched outer collar stand – looking FRESHHHHH:

Collar Stand, Inner-Side

And – the inner collar stand – also looking picture-perfect! If you didn’t catch the inner collar stand perfectly, don’t worry, It is well-secured and won’t fray:

Collar Stand, Right-Side

And now, press the collar and stand, from the public side of the garment. Let it fully dry, and then hang your shirt on the hanger. LOOKING SHARP

Pressing The Finished Collar StandNext session we’ll be messing about with the shoulders, the side seams and the hem. We are SO CLOSE to having our shirt done!

Thank you for joining me; please do point out any errata or typos in my blog entry, so I can correct them.


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