Sunday 1 November 2015

Wardrobe Staples: Basic Button-Down Shirt

Considering that the classic button-down is one of my most loved garments, it's a miracle I've never attempted to make one before. Now I'm feeling mild anxiety over all the button-downs I could've made in my life already had I given this a go earlier! The plan is to start making up for lost time with the men's version - We found 5 amazing fabrics over the weekend for W!

This is a lazy person's button-down, because I figured teaching myself 2 new things (collar and cuffs) was enough risk of meltdown for one project.. Meaning I didn't do a yoke (that rectangular piece at the top of the back that you see in most shirts), or the traditional sleeve plackets, rather came up with a quick & easy sleeve slit solution. I've since figured out how to do both as I started my foray into men's shirts, and as usual, it's way easier than I had intimidated myself to believe!

Tutorials take a lot of time & effort to create, and I choose to make mine available for free. If you enjoy this guide, you can support me with a donation that feels right for you, here.

photo 0 Tools.jpg
Fabric (I used only 1 m of 100% cotton, but I recommend getting 1,5 m)  |  Small piece of interfacing (15 cm x 20 cm) for the collar  |  Scissors  |  Buttons (I used 9 total)  |  Fabric marker  |  Thread, sewing machine, needle  |  Pins

I. Here are some indicative measurements of my traced pieces (I am EU 36/US 4). You'd want to adjust based on your sizing to get the torso, sleeve length, etc. to fit yourself. The most important measurements to get right are those of the neckline so it matches the collar. In the images below, I've marked these lines in pink. The total circumference of your neckline (back neckline + both front necklines - which incorporate the button band) minus seam allowances should be equal to the length of the collar band (marked in pink in lower image below) - seam allowances. The button band will be folded in half, so in my example: Back piece neckline 13 cm (15 cm - 1 cm seam allowance for each shoulder seam) + Front piece necklines 2 x 13 cm (14 cm each - 0,5 cm seam allowances for both the shoulder seam and button band seam) + Button band width 2 x 2,5 cm (6 cm/2 = 3 cm minus 0,5 cm seam allowance) >> Results in total circumference of 44 cm. This should be the same as the length of the collar band - seam allowances. And this was also my main mistake in the process. Even though my collar band length as I measured it was 45 cm, which minus 0,5 cm seam allowances on each side should equal the same 44 cm.. I somehow messed it up and had to do a little pleat fix as I was attaching the collar, as you'll see later on.
photo 1 Cut pieces.jpg In addition to the pieces above, you need two pieces for cuffs, and two pieces for the collar and collar band each, with just slightly smaller pieces of interfacing. As you can see, in my shirt the stripes go in different directions, this was mainly because I only had 1 m of fabric to work with so I had to get creative with how I was cutting.
photo 1.1 Cut pieces collar.jpg
II. I started with the collar. Iron the interfacing onto the reverse side of one collar piece and one collar band piece. Hopefully less crooked than mine.
photo 2 Interface collar.jpg
Pin the collar pieces together right sides facing, and sew a straight stitch just at the edge of the interfacing, which should be equal to your seam allowance.
photo 2.1 Pin collar together.jpg
Trim excess around the corners..
photo 2.2 Sew and trim.jpg
.. And flip right side out, pushing the corners out gently. Press.
photo 2.3 Turn and press.jpg
Finish with a stitch right next to the edge.
photo 2.4 Topstitch.jpg
Take the interfaced collar band piece and press a fold the size of your seam allowance on one long side.
photo 2.5 Press long edge of lower collar piece.jpg
Stack the pieces so the collar is in the middle, and your two collar band pieces sandwich it, right sides facing. Sew around the collar band at your seam allowance.
photo 2.6 Pin collar in between.jpg
Flip the collar band right side out and press. At this point I realized my first brain lapse - Since my collar had the stripes in different directions on each side (due to scarcity of fabric) - my fold on the collar band was on the wrong side. I pressed it off and added it to the non-interfaced part. This really made no difference in attaching the collar to the shirt later.
photo 2.7 Turn and press.jpg
III. Next up are the button bands. Press a fold the size of your seam allowance to one long edge of each, on the reverse side.
photo 3 Press long edge of button bands.jpg
Pin the button bands to the front seams of the shirt pieces, right sides facing. Sew down the pinned edge.
photo 3.1 Pin button bands to shirt.jpg
Fold the attached button band onto itself, right sides facing, pin at the bottom..
photo 3.2 Turn over and pin.jpg
.. And sew a straight stitch through the bottom. Trim excess.
photo 3.3 Sew bottom and Trim excess.jpg
Turn the button band right side out and press.
photo 3.4 Turn over and press.jpg
Pin the loose edge on the reverse side down..
photo 3.5 Pin and sew.jpg
.. And add a straight stitch on the right side right next to the first seam.
photo 3.6 Done button band.jpg
IV. Shoulder seams! I did a lazy version of a flat-felled seam. Pin the front pieces to the back piece at the shoulders, right sides facing.
photo 4 Pin shoulders.jpg
Sew together, and trim the seam allowance of the back piece down to half that of the front piece. Zig-zag-finish the longer seam allowance.
photo 4.1 Trim seam allowance.jpg
Press both seam allowances towards the back piece of the shirt and pin down.
photo 4.2 Press towards back.jpg
Add a stitch on the right side to secure the seam allowances in their flat position on the reverse side.
photo 4.3 Stitch on right side.jpg
V. Time to attach the collar to the shirt - and for me, time to come to terms with my second brain lapse. No matter how meticulously I thought I had measured my pieces, I somehow managed to make my neckline circumference on the shirt longer than the collar band.
photo 5 Start assembling collar.jpg
So when I started pinning the unfolded side of the collar onto the shirt (right sides facing, start with the fronts to make sure they match) I realized that for reasons unknown to mandkind (I measured everything twice) there ended up being excess fabric at the back of the shirt neckline. PANIC!!
photo 5.1 Pin collar to shirt.jpg
.. Or not! Here's an awesome trick to fix a situation where one side of the seam is longer than the other, and you don't feel like backtracking and re-doing your work: Box pleat!! I added one right at the middle of the back of the neck, and problem solved!
photo 5.2 Box pleat fix.jpg
Once your first seam is done, just confirm your fold on the other side of the collar band is good for that piece to just cover the seam after you've pressed all the seam allowances towards the collar.
photo 5.3 Sewn outiside seam.jpg
Slip stitch in place by hand (or you could do a machine stitch right at the edge).
photo 5.4 Inside seam slip stitched.jpg
This is what my box pleat fix ended up looking like on the right side. Onto the next!
photo 5.5 Box pleat from outside.jpg
VI. Pin the sleeves to the shirt, right sides facing. Sew along the curved edge.
photo 6 Pin sleeves.jpg
To finish these seams, I did the same as with the shoulder seams; trimmed the seam allowance of the shirt back and front pieces to half that of the sleeve, finished edge of sleeve seam allowance with a zig/sag, pressed both seam allowances towards the shirt body..
photo 6.1 Sewn and pressed sleeve seam.jpg
.. And added a stitch on the right side.
photo 6.2 Sleeve seam done.jpg
VII. Same deal with sleeve under seam and side seam. Pin and repeat the process above.
photo 6.3 Pin under sleeve and side.jpg
VIII. Slowly but surely, getting there. Lay the shirt flat, back facing up, and cut a slit on both sleeves in the center of the the back of the sleeve. Cut two pieces about 3 cm wide and double the length of your slit.
photo 7 Cut sleeve slit.jpg
Take those pieces and make your bias tape: fold in half width-wise and press, and repeat to create this:
photo 7.1 Press bias tape.jpg
Fold the piece in half length-wise, right sides facing, and sew a triangular stitch at the bottom of the fold:
photo 7.2 Sew triangle.jpg
Trim the fabric:
photo 7.3 Trim.jpg
.. And turn right sides out, press, and you should have this:
photo 7.4 Press.jpg
Pin onto the slit, sew along the edge. Repeat for other sleeve.
photo 7.5 Pin to slit and sew.jpg
IX. So close!!! We're at the cuff. Fold the width of your seam allowance on one long edge of both cuff, on the wrong side.
photo 8 Press long edge of cuff.jpg
Pin the unfolded edge onto the shirt sleeve, right sides facing. Sew in place.
photo 8.1 Pin to sleeve.jpg
Fold the cuff in half, right sides facing, and pin the sides.
photo 8.2 Fold cuff pin and sew side.jpg
Add a stitch down the side and trim excess around the corner.
photo 8.3 Trim excess.jpg
Fold right side out and push out the corner. Press. As you did with the collar, iron the seam allowances inside the cuff and either slip stitch on the reverse or machine stitch on the right side.
photo 8.4 Turn press and slip stitch.jpg
X. The last step is to add your button holes and buttons. Check your sewing machine manual for how yours works for button holes, or this video which is pretty universal.
photo 9 Buttons done.jpg
At the end, I had exactly this much fabric left. So yes, you can make a shirt out of 1 m of fabric! I decided to go all the way and use up the very last bit, so I made a pocket.
photo 10 Pocket.jpg
Pressed into shape with my iron, pinned onto the shirt, and sewed in place by hand to make sure the stripes aligned exactly.
photo 10.1 Pressed pocket.jpg
Self-made shirts make me happy!
photo ready1.jpg photo ready3.jpg photo ready4.jpg photo ready5.jpg


1 comment:

  1. I love those stripes! If I had all the time in the world I would make myself one button-up shirt a week!


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