January 19, 2014

TUTORIAL: The Shirt-Sleeve Placket - a Professional "Custom Shirtmaking" Method and Pattern

In  this tutorial I will be showing you a method for a 2-piece sleeve placket (also known as a 'gauntlet') that is used by many Custom Shirtmakers and Traditional tailors. I did not invent this method, it was  (drilled into my head during weeks of practice)  kindly passed along to me during my shirt-making apprenticeship. This is the method we use in my shirtmaking studio/shop every day, with every fabric...from the lightest cottons and linens to bulky denim, corduroy, and flannel.  We do this placket completely while at the machine, using a fingernail to "Crease and Press".  Yes of course, the finished placket is given a final hard press with an iron before the cuff is applied.  Keep in mind that there are many ways to make sleeve plackets. Those made in factories are different from the method I show here. Other custom-shirtmakers may use different methods. I have found that this process gives me the most consistent results among a broad range of fabrics, and is already used by  (or easy to teach to)  the tailors I employ to assist me.

Why bother with a 2-piece placket?  Beyond that it's fast, easy and can be done completely at the machine, countless design opportunities exist.  Because the overlap and underlap are separates pieces, they can be cut from different fabrics and the directions of the grainline of one or both pieces can be changed to achieve a unique look.

Rather than a one piece placket made from a single square piece ot fabric with an array of fussy difficult angles and edges to turn, this method uses 2 rectangles to which a single seam allowance is added to one side of each piece. The 2 simple pattern pieces are shown below on a 1" grid for you to copy.

Now let's make a perfect placket!

(Please note that I am writing this tutorial as if you have never made a sleeve placket before. I am going to show it to you one very detailed step at a time with many detailed photos. So, at first glance it may seem complicated, but in reality after your first practice-placket it just takes 5 minutes --or even less-- to complete)

First, you will notice that I am demonstrating this method using two rather "soft and spongy"  quilting cottons that are not of the best quality... not bad, but rather thick as compared to traditonal shirting fabric. Why? It was a good way to clearly show the right and wrong sides of the fabrics for demonstration purposes, and I wanted you to see that even on lower-priced fabrics, you can get great results.

PLACKET PATTERN-- grid is 1" square.
On Placket Pattern- Broken lines are stitching lines, solid lines are fold lines,
 angle lines are slash lines.

I apologize that this is not a sophisticated rendering. But it does not have to be.  If your pattern pieces are close to this size, this method will work.  Seam allowances and fold lines are 1/4". All this will become clear as you see the stitching method. And in the future when you work with this method, you can choose to make the pieces a little wider or more narrow/longer or shorter,  depending on the look you want.  This method is very versatile! In fact, you will see that in this example I did not take extraordinary care when cutting these pieces from my fabric...they are a tiny bit rough...just like what might happen to you when cutting your placket pieces.

Pattern and Slit Length are based on a 1/4" sleeve-to-cuff seam allowance.
If your pattern has 5/8" seam allowances, lengthen the Placket Pattern (at the bottom by about 3/8", and cut the sleeve-slit about 3/8" longer. That said, please remember the length and width of the placket (and accompanying slit in the sleeve) is not set in stone. Make a sample placket and change the dimensions if you want to do so.

Cut the PLACKET Pieces from fabric--- Cut 2 of the larger (overlap) placket, right sides together. Cut 2 of the smaller (underlap) placket, right sides together. Try very hard to cut them as straight as possible. 

Now Place one Sleeve WRONG side up, and cut the slit that was marked  on your pattern piece. Cut it 5" long. Yes really, cut it me, I know what I am doing. <smile>

Next, the placket pieces will be sewn to the sleeve slit...RIGHT SIDE of Placket to WRONG side of SLEEVE.
An easy way to remember this at this stage is that ALL of your pieces, Sleeve and both Placket Pieces will be WRONG Side Up. So....if all you see facing up at you are the wrong sides of are doing it right!

Pam's Tip-- Remember that in every single sleeve placket that you will ever sew-- The “Little” Under-lap placket piece will be placed on the “Little Side” of the slit (where there is only a “Little” bit of fabric toward the edge of the back side of the sleeve), and the “Big” Over-lap Placket piece will be placed on the “Big Side” of the slit (where there is a “Big” amount of fabric toward the edge of the front of the sleeve.) So if you always have these 2 things in mind,your plackets will be sewn correctly--
  1. Little placket goes on the Little Side, Big Placket goes on the Big Side. 
  2. Everything you see you at this point is Wrong side up.

Let's Stitch!

Stitch the (little) under-lap placket piece to the sleeve-slit, matching the stitching line edge of the placket piece to the sleeve slit, as shown above.
You will start from the bottom and then stitch until you are 1/4” above the end of the slit, then pivot and sew to the edge of the placket piece as shown (and this is why we cut the slit so easy to align cut edge to cut guessing).  Remember...everything you see is wrong side up!

Then match the stitching-line edge of the (big) over-lap placket piece to the other side of the slit,as shown above. Again...remember that everything you see is wrong side up!

At the machine, drop your needle into the *Corner* of the previously stitched (little) Under-Placket shown above.   (Have you noticed that everything is still WRONG side up? <smile> ) 

Then stitch across and onto the (bigger) Over-lap Placket piece, as shown above.  Stop stitching when you are 1/4” past the cut edge, then pivot and sew down the remaining side of the sleeve-slit, matching edge of placket to edge of slit, stitching a 1/4” seam.

 (Please ignore that stray cut piece of means nothing but sloppy photography....sorry)

Now snip from the center into the corners (through all thicknesses) as shown. It is essential to snip into the corners as close to the stitching as possible, even if you snip a teeny-tiny bit past the corner stitches! Otherwise you will have a puckered placket...and we don't want a puckered placket, now do we?  So be brave and SNIP!

Then as shown above, bend the snipped triangle up, and crease it with your fingernail, or press it in place with an iron.

Now turn everything through the slit to the RIGHT side of the sleeve. Now we will be working from the RIGHT side of our sleeve. In each of the following steps, you will be seeing and working from the RIGHT Side of the Sleeve.

Pam's Tip-- Look! The Little Placket is still on the Little Side of the Sleeve, and the Big Placket is still on the Big Side of the Sleeve...always remember that, and you won't mix them up!

Move the (little) Under-placket so that you can see the top of the stitching line (which is the bottom of the slashed triangle), and mark a (removable) line that is about 1-2" long as shown above.. It will be used a reference point later. You can see my yellow chalked line in the photo, above.

As shown above, flip the “Big” part of the sleeve up and out of the way so the Under-Placket is exposed. This will make it easier to work with as we continue.

Press the seam allowances toward the placket-piece, as shown above. You can do this with an iron, or as many professionals briskly stroking the allowances a few times with a fingernail.

Then fold the free edge by 1/4” as shown above, and press it (or crease it firmly with your fingernail).

Next as shown above, fold the placket over so that the edge (that you just folded by 1/4” and creased), barely covers the line of stitches. Press the newly turned edge firmly with an iron or your fingernail.

Finish constructing the Placket Under-Lap as shown above,  by stitching it closed as close to outer edge as possible. Notice that this stitching extends just above the yellow chalk line.

Bring the previously “flipped out of the way” part of the sleeve back down (covering the completed under-lap) so that the (big) Overlap Placket and its stitching is visible, as shown above. 

Then, like was done with the Under-placket, mark a (removable) line at the top of the stitching line (which is the bottom of the slashed triangle).
It will be used a reference point later. You can see my yellow chalked line in the photo, above.

Just like what was done with the (little) Placket Under-lap...Press (or crease) the seam allowance toward the placket-piece, and then fold the free edge by 1/4” and press it (or crease it firmly with your fingernail).
^ When these steps are complete, it will look like the photo, above ^

Next as shown above,  fold the placket over so that the edge (that you just folded by 1/4” and creased), barely covers the line of stitches. Press with iron or crease with fingernail.
Notice the chalked lines, they will be used soon...but next the “peak” at the top of the (big) Placket Over-lap will be folded.


Note—either side can be folded first)

Fold one side of the top of Placket UNDER at an approximate 45-degree angle.

Don't let me lose you here, it's easy...the following photos will make it more clear. For now, just finger-fold one side under at an angle, but do NOT press/crease it...yet. It should look (approximately) like this next photograph--

See the photo above? That was side folded under!

Now.....fold the other side UNDER the first fold.. After the this second fold, your “placket-peak” will look approximately like this next photograph--

The angles on the “peak” shown above are pretty good, but I fiddled with one fold for a few seconds until the angles were as perfectly even as my eyes could detect. In other words, no one gets “perfect” peaks unless you have one of those $$$$ auto-folding machines that they use at production shirt factories. But you can get very very close by eye....and if you want to use a triangle shaped cardboard template, go ahead...I just prefer not to.

While I don't usually use templates, I do use a glue stick in some cases to make my shirt-making life a little easier. So, after you are happy with your folded peak and have pressed the creases (with an iron or your fingernail)...feel free to dab a bit of glue-stick on the underside of the peak. A little goes a long way...just a quick light dab...away from the edges, fold it back up and then just “finger-press” it down.

The photograph below is here to make certain that THIS edge...the side that covers the seam the one that will be stitched closed when we finish the placket.

Now let's finish this Sleeve Placket!

As shown above....DROP YOUR NEEDLE.... at the MARKED LINE....on the “covered seam-allowance” Side of the Over-Lap Placket (the side I showed  to you in the previous photo).

Start edge-stitching up to the first “corner” point......Pivot....stitch to the top of the “peak”....Pivot....stitch to the final “corner”......

Then Pivot again and stitch until you reach the Next MARKED LINE....then STOP as shown above.

Now Pivot at the MARKED LINE, and stitch straight across the placket through all layers until you meet the point where you STARTED stitching.
And then.....

..PIVOT again, and edge-stitch all the way down, to finish the placket!

This is what the finished placket looks like from the Right Side....
 (of course, you will most likely be using matching thread..and you will have brushed your chalk line away!)

( Gee whiz...weren't those marked guide-lines handy?)

This is what it looks like from the wrong side--

And this is the placket shown open---

Before applying the cuff, trim the edges of the placket even with the bottom of the sleeve.
And yes of course you may work a buttonhole in the Upper Placket. You can easily do it now, after the cuff is attached, or before the final placket stitching is done. In my shop we work the buttonhole at this stage.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my shirtmaking studio!  I have many more "Custom-Shop" Shirtmaking techniques planned to share with you!

December 25, 2013

It's been a while...but I'm Back!

I started this blog with the best of intentions....but as you know, sometimes life gets in the way.
It has been a tough year for me, with a some big health challenges. Now I am a bit better and I will be posting about shirtmaking here again soon.  In the meantime, I'd like to show you a shirt I made to test some design details to offer my clients. The pattern is my original hand-draft.  Roger (my DH) really enjoys wearing this shirt...which was his early Christmas/Hanukah  present.

This Flannel Shirt has a  double (2-layer) front button-placket. The black contrast pieces are made with lightweight denim.  The top-layer placket and pocket accent are made from the same denim that I distressed with sandpaper to get a faded effect. The slightly rumpled appearance of this shirt is entirely intentional....a "hard" press + distressed denim...not a good look, IMO.  This shirt has been pressed. but softly in order to preserve the lofty, cozy feel of the thick flannel.

After all the orders are shipped from the Interfacing Sale on now at , I will be posting new Tutorials featuring Shirt Design details and construction techniques. Two of the many I have planned are photographed and I have written the instructions. After the sale is over, I'll have the time to combine words with photos, and get them posted  here for you.  Along the way, I'll be showing you the shirts I've designed, plus a few I've made from published patterns.  So stay tuned..I'll be blogging again :)

SEWING NOTES-- Fabric--Cotton Flannel from my wholesale supplier.  Interfacing--ProSheer Elegance MEDIUM (great for flannel, corduroy,  and denim, etc) from  Buttons--  1/2" 4-hole Black, found in a packet of "By-The-Scoop Dark assortment" from Fashion Sewing Supply.

September 13, 2013

An OTC Classic Shirt Design...with Asymmetric Neckline and Chisel Hem

This shirt is one of my "classic designs", which sounds very La-dee-da, but really just means that is was made for one of my clients quite a while ago.  <<smile>> 

This client called this morning and ordered another just like it (different fabric, of course..that has yet to be decided) wish me luck that I can find his pattern again after 3 years...or I'll be drafting a new one!  In any case, I thought I'd show this shirt to you again because it has some interesting details. 

These details include an asymmetrical band collar that joins a narrow front button placket, and an angled "chiseled" hem, rather than a curved one. Other design features include very light gray contrast stitching, a Chiselled (spade) Hem, and a "Cigar Pocket".  I also decided not to use light gray buttons, and use less predictable dark gray buttons instead.

SEWING NOTES: The Left Front pattern piece was drafted with less of a neckline curve (slightly shallower) than the right, so that the band collar falls open when worn.  Pro-Woven Shirt-Crisp Fusible Interfacing and "By the Scoop" Buttons are from Fashion Sewing Supply, the textured cotton fabric came from my personal "Shirt-making Stash".

September 8, 2013

TUTORIAL--Chevron (Bias) Pockets and Yokes...The Easy Way!

I love the look of Chevron details on a shirt or other garment, don't you?   I like the added interest they give to the Pockets and the Yokes of the shirts I design, and so do my clients.

But it can get fiddly and frustrating to cut one one piece on the diagonal, then move it (without stretching), to cut its opposite "twin"..all the while trying to cut the second piece so that all the stripes match exactly after it is sewn!

In my studio, getting it right the first time is important because time is of the essence and I don't like to waste fabric. So, I'll show you a method I've used for most of my shirt-making career to create these kinds of bias details.  
(You may click any of the photos to enlarge them.)

After laying out the pattern, I find that there is usually some extra fabric left, or that there are large enough scraps after the pattern is cut out.  For this method I start with 2 rectangular pieces that are about 10-12" wide, and about 13-16" long--

Then I lay them on top of of each other, right sides together. I try my best to match the grain-lines, but having it perfectly straight at this point is just a goal, not a strict necessity. If it looks good to my eye, (as shown below), it's "perfect" enough. decide the angle to cut...hmm. Do I want a 45-degree angle...or Not? It's up to you to decide. There is no rule that a chevron must be at a 45-degree angle. So I don't stress over it.   I just place my ruler on an angle as shown below, and cut off a triangle with my rotary cutter--

Discard the small cut-off triangle pieces, you will be working with the larger pieces.  
Now is when some precision is needed.  Move the top piece down so that it is about 1/4-inch away from the angled edge of the bottom piece, as shown below. Move it a little bit to the left if needed. The Top piece shown below is now about 1/4-inch away from the bottom piece along their angled edges. 

(Tip-- If I am losing you here at this step...take 2 pieces of paper, lay them on top of each other, cut off a triangle through both layers, and then move the top piece down a bit...see? The top angled edge is now also  "moved over" and you can see the bottom angled edge...just like in the example in fabric that I show here.) 

Look closely at the photo below. Note that the reason for moving the top piece is so that the stripes match almost perfectly along the angled edges. All that matters now are those angled edges. This is important.

Next, take your pieces to the, don't bother to pin anything. I told you that this is an easy method and it is, I promise!  For one thing, there will be no guessing if the stripes are going to match...because we can See them, and since we can See both edges of the angled pieces that are about to be sewn together...Yippee...there is No "blind" matching!

So then, at the machine....start to line up your stripes....and start to sew a 1/4-inch seam on the TOP layer, as shown below. As you continue to sew, shift the layers a bit if necessary, so that the stripes match....and since we can actually see them, it is not hard to match them.

This is what the sewn piece will look like when the stitching is complete--

...and below, a close-up photo of the stitched seam--
(What? It doesn't look like those stripes are matched along the cut edges (seam allowances)? They were when I shifted the piece when sewing, but then afterwards the bias edges relaxed and naturally shifted a bit, while the stitching is holding the matched stripes firmly in place. Wait until you see the finished piece <<smile>>)

Next, press the seam allowances flat, being careful not the stretch the seam. Yes, one seam allowance is bigger (wider) than the other. You can trim it...I usually do. It's just one quick-but-careful cut with my rotary cutter.

Then press the seam allowance open...again being careful not to stretch the seam.  

This is what the seam looks like from the Wrong (back) Side, after pressing--

And this is what the entire piece looks like from the Right (front) Side--

...and here is a close-up of the nicely matched chevron seam--

So here we have a piece of fabric with a chevron (mitered/angled) seam running through it, now what?  All that is left to do is place the center of the yoke pattern piece along that stitched seam (as shown below), and cut it out!   I even had room for a pocket!

And when cut out, there is a lovely bias-seamed chevron striped yoke, ready to be sewn to the rest of the shirt pieces--

Just one more thing....yes, of course you can cut your yoke or pocket or whatever pattern piece so that the chevron stripes are "pointed" in the opposite direction than what I've demonstrated here. If you look at the yellow pocket shown near the top of this tutorial, you'll see that I chose to have the points of those angles run "down" rather than "up".

So, what do you think?  Is this fast easy method one that you might try the next time you add bias-seamed (chevron) details to a garment?