Tuesday 9 February 2016

Techniques: Sewing a Shirt Yoke and Sleeve Plackets

Shirt yoke and placket sewing.jpg
I think the highlight of my DIY year 2015 was hands-down the discovery that I could make buttondown shirts. I've also realized there's and endless sea of possibilities to step up my shirt sewing game, so much to learn!! In this one I'll just share my favourite methods for sleeve plackets (proper ones, not the shortcut version I did in my first shirt post.. The shame!) and the yoke. Both super easy compared to what I had feared.

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There are tons of different ways to sew plackets, this is just one I've been using lately and I find pretty easy. You could adjust the width and length for a longer and/or thinner placket, or instead of the triangle do just a straight ending.

I. Here are the pieces I work with when I get started. I've done enough by now just to eyeball it when I cut them out, that's why the measurements here are a bit out there (I just cut them out and then measured and this is what they happened to be).  The main points are: both pieces should be equally wide and equally long, apart from the triangular part that sticks out from those measurements on the larger piece.
photo 020Cut20placket20pieces.JPG
II. Pin your plackets on your sleeve (when it does not yet have the cuff attached), right side of placket facing the reverse of the sleeve. The way I remember which way they go is T's together - the piece with the Triangle belongs on the Top of the sleeve.
photo 1 Pinned onto sleeve.JPG
.. Here's a closeup of the placket pieces pinned in place.
photo 1.1 Pinned on closeup.JPG
III. Once pinned, sew a box about 0,5 cm from where the edges of the pieces meet (this box will be the length and width of your placket, more or less. Cut the sleeve underneath open as shown below, cutting two slits at the end right to the corners (careful not to cut the stitch).
photo 2 Sewn and Cut.JPG
IV. Then we start folding, from the rectangular piece's side. First fold to the stitch line. Press.
photo 4 First side folded once_zps9qgcljrj.JPG'Then fold again, now to the cut edge. Press again.
photo 5 First side folded twice_zpsqmbvf4md.JPG V. Moving on to the piece with the triangle. First fold about 0,7 cm and press:
photo 6 Second side first fold_zpspwgrukw5.JPG
.. Then fold the edges of the triangle and press:
photo 8 Second side triangle folded_zpsqcjhow0j.JPG
.. And finally fold the whole thing to the cut edge, and press well.
photo 9 Second side final fold_zpsircwfamw.JPG
VI. Now turn the sleeve around so your right side is facing up, and pull the rectangular side of the placket through. This will also pull that little triangle you cut to the bottom of your box, through. Press those triangle pieces down so they stay nice and flat.
photo 10 Turned around triangle pressed_zpsro16ijj4.JPG
.. Then reassemble your rectangular piece as you had pressed it before on the reverse side. The seam allowances should arrange themselves nicely inside the fold..
photo 11 First side pulled through_zpscvdvyacu.JPG
.. And it should look something like this once you've pressed it flat again. Take the sleeve to your machine and straight stitch along the free edge of this first side of the placket.
photo 12 First side pressed_zps4suvppev.JPG
VII. You've then created the bottom piece of the placket! Pull the other side through just like you did the first and it should sit on top of your lower placket layer. Press.
photo 13 First side sewn second pulled through and pressed_zpsktxrkml9.JPG
.. Then stitch the edge of this side down. Mark the spot where you want your box to start with a pin, and make sure you are only stitching this side of the placket. Sew until the pin.
photo 14 Topstitching_zpsa4sdmncz.JPG
At the pin, lift your presser foot..
photo 15 Topstitching until the mark_zpsattw2s57.JPG
.. And pull the other side of the placket under. Continue stitching both layers along the edges of the triangle..
photo 16 First side pulled under_zpsnjislfva.JPG
Like so. Finish your box by continuing the stitch straight trough the placket.
photo 17 Completing the square.JPG
VIII. And done! Next up would be sewing the pleat (if adding one next to the placket) and attaching your cuff.
photo 18 Done placket.JPG
Here's what my ready sleeve looked like after adding my cuff. Nice and crisp!
photo Completed Shirt Sleeve with Placket.jpg


Many women's shirts don't even have a yoke, which in my opinion is a shame. I love the masculine, more structured look it gives a shirt, plus there is so much you can do with the materials - In this example I just had the stripes on the outside facing yoke, cuffs, and collar go horizontally vs. vertically in the rest of the shirt.. But I've made W some shirts where the lining piece of the yoke is from another fabric, which can look really cool and give a shirt a more expensive feel (even if the wearer and maybe a lucky someone are the only ones that ever see this detail).

I. Here's what you'll start with. instead of one back piece, you'll need one for the lower part of the back, and two pieces for the upper part.
photo 17 Cut pieces.JPG
II. Start by pinning the first yoke piece to the larger back piece, right sides facing.
photo 18 First yoke pinned.JPG
.. Repeat the same on the reverse side of the back piece - pin the second yoke piece there. From this fabric you can't really tell the right and wrong sides apart, but when working with fabric with a clear reverse side, I still like to pin my lining yoke right side to the wrong side of the main back piece, so you end up seeing the right side of the fabric inside the shirt.
photo 19 Second yoke pinned.JPG
III. Sew the 3 pieces together with a straight stitch about 1 cm from the edge. If working with stripe, make sure your stitch stays in between two stripes..
photo 20 Yoke sewn.JPG
.. So it looks clean when you flip the yoke pieces up. Press well at this point.
photo 21 Flipped right side out.JPG
IV. Then topstitch on the right side, a couple mm from the seam. I find it also helps at this point to stitch the two yokes together along the edges.
photo 22 Topstitched and stitched around.JPG photo 23 Front pieces attached.JPG
V. To attach the newly completed back piece to your front pieces, pin the shoulders together right sides facing and complete the seams. I like to go with flat-felled seams on my shirts, where one seam allowance wraps around the other one on the reverse (pic below). It's little things like this that make your selfmade things feel not so DIY.
photo 25 Shoulder flat felled seam reverse.JPG
.. Here's a look at the top-stitching on the right side.
photo 24 Shoulder seam topstitch.JPG
That's it for this one!
photo Shirt Yoke.jpg xo,



  1. You're so dang cute and clever! Would love to know more about where / how you learned to sew and where you figure out all these techniques. Looking forward to all your sewing this year and yah, you should be might proud of your button down shirt efforts! x


I would love to hear what you think and learn about your DIY adventures! If you use one of my tutorials, tag me on social @contour_affair, I'd love to see!


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