All that’s left to do is attach the buttons. I prefer to use a silk buttonhole twist here for its durability, but you could use a linen or other such thread, perhaps taking more passes through the button. Transfer the buttonhole positions to the other sides of the placket opening and cuffs.
Begin by passing a knotted thread from the wrong side through all layers.
Pass the thread through opposite holes of the button.
And pass the needle and thread back through the fabric for your first stitch. Keep the buttonhole rather loose at this point.
Make a second stitch through the buttonhole. At this point, you can adjust the final height of the button from the fabric. I like to make mine just a little taller than the width of the fabric the button will be passing through. The two stitches give just the right amount of tension to adjust this height.
Make one (or more) stitch across, then make the same number of stitches in the alternate direction. With each stitch, gently pull the thread taut, keeping the appropriate height.
Pass the thread through to the right side, without going through the button. Instead, wrap the thread around the previous stitches about 4 – 6 times, depending on the height, pulling it tight after the final wrap and forming the button shank. This gives the button great strength and the fabric will probably wear out long before the button falls off.
Finally, pass the thread through the shank three times in alternating directions to secure it, and trim.
Attach the other buttons in a similar manner. Work from left to right to keep your thread from getting snagged on the previous button.
And with that, your shirt is complete! I always feel happy when a project is done, but at the same time, sort of let down, as in, “am I really done? What shall I do with my self now?” I hope you’ve enjoyed this project and able to follow along and make a nice shirt of your own! Please feel free to share your work in the community support forums!
One of the last things to do on the shirt is to cut and work the buttonholes. I’ll be using a silk buttonhole twist for mine, but you could also use a linen or cotton thread for a more homemade look. If these are your first buttonholes, I highly recommend going through my in depth class, The Art of the Buttonhole, and getting in a bit of practice first.
Laying out the buttonholes is fairly straight forward, but care must be taken to ensure that everything is in the right place. Beginning with the cuffs, lay out each sleeve so that the overlapping cuff is facing you.
On this outer / upper side of the cuff, mark out the buttonhole opening using white chalk if you can, or very lightly with a pencil. I went a little darker than I should have so that they’d show up on camera.
The buttonhole should be about 1/2″ in length, centered in the smaller cuff extension area, about 1/4″ from the edge. If you’re using the curved style of cuff, the buttonhole should be 1/4″ from the cuff seam.
I made mine parallel to the outer edge of the extension, but parallel to the cuff seam might work out better.
At the center front of the collar extension, mark another horizontal buttonhole, centered in the extension with the outer edge roughly centered above the shirt placket.
Down the front shirt placket, determine the number of buttons you want and space them out equidistantly. I made these buttonholes vertical, but they could also be placed horizontally as well. The should be placed in the center of the placket – if you look carefully mine are much too close to the inner edge, I got distracted by the camera.
When you’re happy with the position of the buttonholes (double check!), chop them open one at a time with a hammer and small 1/2″ chisel on a block or scrap of wood. Make sure the chisel is carefully aligned and strike firmly, multiple times if necessary, to get a clean cut.
I do usually baste around the buttonholes before cutting them, but in the case of this shirt, I found it unnecessary, as the areas around the buttonhole are so narrow to begin with.
Begin the buttonhole by knotting your thread and inserting the needle at the base of the buttonhole between the layers, exiting the fabric about 1/8″ or so away from the buttonhole. The width really depends on the particular fabric you are using.
Take a second stitch, this time from under the buttonhole, exiting at the same distance away from the cut, and right next to the previous stitch.
Before pulling the needle all the way out, grasp both threads coming from the eye of the needle, and pass them clockwise underneath the tip of the needle.
Pull the needle and thread taut, forming a purl, the main feature of the buttonhole stitch.
Continue working the buttonhole stitch along the first side. The exact depth, placement, and density of the stitches really depends on the thread and fabric you are working with.
Here’s the first half complete.
If you look carefully you can see how I moved my buttonholes over to the center of the placket, about 1/4″. Oops . . .
To prepare for the bartack at the end of the buttonhole, make another stitch, but do not form the purl. Now the thread is at the outer edge of the buttonhole rather than in the center.
Now form a bar tack by stitching across the entire width of the buttonhole three or four times, or more if you are using thinner thread. You’ll have to estimate the width of the stitches on the second side of the buttonhole, something that definitely gets easier with practice.
Now stitch around these threads about 6 to 8 times across the width of the bartack, catching the fabric underneath with each stitch, to secure the end of the buttonhole.
Here’s the completed bartack.
Continue working the second half of the buttonhole with more buttonhole stitches.
And work the second bartack as before. This time there’s no need for estimating the width!
Pass the thread to the underside after completing the bartack. Then pass the needle and thread along the length of the buttonhole three times in alternating directions to secure the thread. Trim the remaining thread.
Here’s the completed buttonhole. Continue with the others in the same manner.
With the sleeves complete, it’s finally time to attach them to the shirt! I like to begin by laying out the shirt and sleeves, right sides out, with the armscye facing me. Find the bottom of the armscye at the side seam, and the top of the sleeve seam.
Align the two points together at the side and sleeve seam, and pin. This gives us a reference and starting point for setting the rest of the sleeve.
Next carefully turn the shirt inside out – the sleeve should still be pinned at the bottom, and right sides are still together inside the shirt. Arrange the armscye and sleeve head to the general position.
Now find the top of the sleeve, which should have a slight crease from it being cut on the fold. Pin the top of the sleeve, right sides together, to the shoulder seam (where the shoulder and yoke meet).
You can just make out the crease here. If necessary, you can mark the top of the sleeve with chalk.
Working from the bottom of the sleeve, pin the sleeve to the shirt from the bottom to where the gathering stitches begin on each side of the sleeve seam, keeping a neutral tension.
With the lower portion of the sleeve as well as the shoulder point secured, it’s now possible to draw in the gathering stitches with more control. Work on one half at a time, pinning and arranging the small pleats as you go.
With the sleeve pinned in position, baste around the entire sleeve with a small running stitch, around 1/4″ in length. Remove the pins as you baste.
After the first round of basting stitches, you can turn the shirt right side out to check your work. Does the sleeve hang correctly? Are the pleats distributed evenly? Are the sleeves on the right side (never make that mistake again!)?
When you’re happy with the position of the sleeve, go around with another row of basting stitches directly on top of the first row, offsetting the stitches so that they almost lock each other in place.
Here’s the sleeve after being basted in position.
Now it’s a simple matter of sewing the seam by machine (if you wish), using a 1/2″ seam allowance. The basting stitches make this step simple with how they keep everything in place so nicely.
Alternatively, if you’d like really small pleats and full control over how they look, you could try back stitching the sleeve to the shirt by hand. I tried this method on one sleeve hoping to get much better results and smaller pleats, but unfortunately, it truly does take a lot of practice and patience, and I simply don’t work with these often enough.
Ideally each stitch should hold one small pleat in place.
Here’s the back side of my stitching. The stitching should be fairly straight if possible.
With the sleeve sewn, fold the seam allowance of both the shirt and sleeve into each other around the armscye. I did about an inch or so at a time.
It gets a little tricky in the areas with multiple layers but with a bit of fiddling you should be able to get it.
Fell the edges together around the entirety of the armscye.
And here’s the completed armscye seam from the inside of the shirt.
Finally, turn the shirt right side out. Top stitch the sleeve to the seam allowance underneath using a back stitch(the seam allowance should fold back naturally towards the sleeve). You can top stitch around the entirety of the sleeve, or just the gathered section.
Here’s what the top stitching will look like on the completed shirt. Try to keep the stitches a constant distance from the edge of the sleeve, about 1/16″.
Before finishing up the sleeve seam, it’s helpful to take a couple of measurements to determine the amount of ease that needs to be gathered into the sleeve head. First, measure the circumference of the armscye. Mine was around 20″.
Then measure across the entire sleeve head from side seam to side seam. The photo here makes it seem as though I started from the center of the sleeve, unfortunately. Mine was 29″.
Now take the difference between the two measurements, 9″ in my case, and mark that distance away from the center of the sleeve on towards both edges, on the wrong side. 9″ is a lot of ease, normally I’d aim for more like 5″, but I wanted to stick with the measurements the draft gave me as an experiment.
The measurements do not have to be extremely accurate here, so don’t worry if you’re slightly off.
Now work three rows of gathering stitches in between the two marks.
Now pin the sleeve seam together at both ends, then in between.
Be sure that the cuffs are properly aligned when pinning.
Now sew the side seam, either by machine or using a back stitch, beginning at the cuff end just where the rolled hem stops at the mark you made previously, to the top of the sleeve, using a 1/4″ [or 1/2″] seam allowance.
Up to this point the sleeves have both been identical, but it’s time to determine the left and right sides. Lay the sleeves so that they’re mirror images of each other, and trim the seam that is facing up down to 1/8″ [or 1/4″]. Repeat for the other sleeve, trimming the opposing seam.
Press the seams over to one side, hiding the narrower seam in between.
Now fold under the raw seam allowance. It’s kind of a hard seam to access so I end up bunching the seam into one hand as I work. At the start of the felling near the cuff opening, just ease the transition into the rolled hem as neatly as you can.
And fell the seam allowance closed.
After the felling is complete, turn the sleeve right side out. At the cuff opening, you’ll find one side naturally wants to overlap the other. Overlap the rolled hem onto the other, and back stitch through all layers for about 1/2″ into the opening to secure the cuff opening.
As an alternative method, you could make a gusset as you did at the bottom of the side seam. I’d make it smaller though, maybe starting with a 1 1/2″ square piece of fabric.
I then reversed my stitching and back stitched over my previous stitches to secure the seam even further.
Repeat for the other sleeve, ensuring that you’re overlapping the seam in the opposite direction to get mirrored left and right sleeves.
Lay the second cuff piece on top of the half you just attached, right sides together, and baste the first short edge.
Now turn the entire sleeve over so that the second half of the cuff is underneath. Use your hand to shape the fabric into a deep curve as you baste along the lower edge of the cuff.
By shaping the cuff in this manner, it makes the inner cuff a little shorter than the outer cuff, helping to avoid excess fabric when the cuff is completed.
Continue basting along the remaining short end.
Mark the 1/2″ seam allowances along the right-angled areas to help guide your stitches, if you need to.
Sew along the outer and the two shorter ends of the cuff using a 1/2″ seam allowance. At the corners, be sure to take a stitch across on the diagonal, rather than making a sharp 90 degree turn, to allow room for the fabric to turn under.
Trim the seam allowances to 1/4″.
Clip to the inner corners and trim away the seam allowances at the other corners to within about 1/16 – 1/8″ depending on how stable your fabric is. It’s basically identical to how we trimmed the collar.
Press the seam allowances at the corners over as neatly and as you can to aid in turning the cuffs right side out.
Turn the cuffs right side out, using a point pressing tool to get the crisp corners.
Baste along the outer edges of the cuff, rolling the inner cuff back about 1/16″ from the edge.
The view of the inner cuff showing how it’s set back.
Being careful to hold the layers of fabric together evenly, baste along the inner edge of the cuff, about 1/2″ from the sleeve edge underneath.
It’s still a good idea to let the fabric drape over your hand as you baste to make the inner cuff shorter as you did earlier.
Trim the remaining seam allowance by 1/4″.
Fold the seam allowance under and press with your fingers as you go.
Baste across the folded seam.
Finally, close the cuff by felling the remaining folded seam, being sure not to let the stitches show through to the right side. I hid the diagonal part of the stitch in between the layers.
Finish off the cuff by top stitching around the entirety of the cuff. I like to start nearer to the sleeve as the ends of the stitching are less visible here.
If you’re planning to use a larger seam allowance of 1/2″, or 1/4″ finished sleeve seam, as a beginner, just ignore the next step. But if you’d prefer a 1/8″ finished sleeve seam, mark a line 1/4″ from the edge of the sleeve.
And trim off the 1/4″.
Mark a line on both halves of the sleeve to denote the length of the sleeve opening. You’ll also have the cuff on here, remember, so 2″ – 3″ is probably a good place to start. I made mine 2 1/2″ to account for the seam allowance for the cuff.
Press under the raw edge from the sleeve cuff to the mark 1/8″ (or 1/4″).
Using a rolled hem stitch, roll the edges of the sleeve opening on both edges.
Working from the wrong side, sew three rows of fine gathering stitches along the cuff end of the sleeve.
And of course, tie a knot in each end to keep the threads from being pulled out.
Taking up the cuff, mark along the bottom edge 1/2″ from each side.
With right sides together, pin the cuff to the sleeve at each end, then at the center.
Carefully draw up the gathering stitches.
And pin in place.
Baste the cuff to the sleeve, replacing the pins as you go.
Sew the cuff to the sleeve using an 1/2″ seam allowance. I’ve found that if you want to have very fine gatherings or pleats, it’s imperative to do this step by hand, making one backstitch per pleat or gather.
Press the seam towards the cuff from both sides.
I almost forgot this step (hence the additional steps shown in this photo). Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″. This is definitely easier after you’ve pressed the cuff seam.
To draft, first draw an equilateral triangle, 2″ on each side. You can refer to this video to draw the triangle.
Next, mark the midpoint, 1″ from each corner, on both sides.
Add a 1/4′ seam allowance all around.
Finally, draw a line (they don’t have to be dotted), passing through the two points you made along the side. Then make another two lines across the bottom corners, about 1/4″ from each corner. These are the fold lines.
Here’s the completed pattern with the grain line indicated.
With your pattern complete, cut out two gussets. You may want to cut a couple of extra to practice with the pressing.
The pressing is definitely the trickiest part here, as the folds are so small. You get one looking good, and then it gets messed up as you press the next one. Just keep working at it!
Press the two bottom corners up along the fold lines. Press the top corner down so that the fold is where the top of the triangle (without the seam allowance) falls.
Press the two sides over using a roughly 1/4″ seam allowance. I say roughly, because it’s almost impossible to get the folds to 1/4″ exactly and have everything still looking good. Try to get the top corner as sharp as possible.
Fold the bottom edge upwards. The bottom corners of the triangle are not sharp, but form two additional flat edges.
Press everything as best you can, then turn to the right side and press again. I used a bit of starch in an attempt to get everything to stay flat. After the photo I did sharpen up that top corner a little more.
Finally, fold the gusset in half along the vertical fold line as shown.
Repeat for the other gusset.
Attaching the Gussets
With the gussets all folded up, lay the shirt side seam right side up and position one of the gussets in place, the smaller triangular half facing upwards towards the seam.
It takes some fiddling with, but I ended up folding the gusset in half as I positioned it at the bottom of the side seam. The tip of the gusset should be about 1/4″ above the bottom of the side seam. The shirt the splays out a little to make room for the gusset.
Fell one edge of the gusset to the shirt, keeping the rolled edge of the shirt as tightly into the gusset as you can without distorting the fabric. It’s a little tricky in that the shirt will want to pull out of the gusset since the tolerances are so small.
Fell the other half of the gusset to the shirt in the same manner. If you’ve made it this far the rest is much easier!
Now fell the inside of the gusset to the shirt, smoothing out the shirt and gusset as you work as necessary.
Here’s my gusset from the inside. I found it tricky to keep the inner layer centered, so both of mine were off by quite a bit. Will need to work on that next time.
Finally, top stitch the gusset from the outside along the edges through all layers using a back stitch. I sewed across the upper sides of the triangle where the shirt could be felt underneath. Then I sewed across the bottom of the triangle to further keep the layers in place.
Shirts of the period were often hemmed with what is known as a rolled hem, a very narrow – 1/8″ or even less – stitch that rolls the fabric back over itself. It can seem intimidating but once you learn how it works, it becomes second nature very quickly.
Begin by trimming the remaining seam allowance near the bottom of the side seam to 1/8″, tapering it into the curve at the bottom.
Turn back the raw edge to the wrong side 1/8″ along the entire hem, pressing with your fingernails as you go.
The curved areas can be a little troublesome, just keep working at it, keeping the fold as narrow as possible.
You can press the fold with the iron afterwards to keep everything more firmly in position.
Start the hem stitch about 1/4″ below the bottom of the side seam, allowing us to taper the seam after and keep everything flat. Begin with three stitches in place on the fabric, just past the raw edge of the fold.
Take a small running stitch directly across from the end of the previous stitch, catching only the fold.
Then take another small running stitch just below the raw edge, directly under the end of the previous stitch. Don’t pull the stitches taught yet.
Continue working stitches until you have an inch or so of progress.
After sewing about an inch, gently pull on your thread, tightening up the stitches you just made. The folded edge should begin to roll over itself, forming the rolled seam. Don’t pull too tight, or you’ll begin to pucker the fabric. You can make up to about 2″ worth of stitches before pulling, though the tension on the thread does get a little higher and you risk breaking the thread.
Here are the results so far. Continue stitching across the entirety of the hem to within 1/4″ from the bottom of the other side seam.
On the right side, you should have a crisp edge, and a row of small running stitches showing about 1/16″ from the edge.
Here’s the completed hem.
At the bottom of the side seam, I kept the stitching about 1/4″ from the bottom, to allow the hems to taper gently out of the roll, giving a flatter edge. This also avoids having to deal with 1/16″ or 1/32″ seam allowances trying to get everything lined up perfectly with the rolled edge.
Everything should be as flat as possible near the bottom of the side seams, no puckering or anything.
With the side seam felled, we can begin closing up the lining permanently with a felling stitch. Begin by folding under the remaining raw edge of the front lining just below the armscye, along the side seam. Baste.
Begin felling the lining down with a small stitch, 10+ per inch, though it really depends upon the size of your thread and the fabric how small you can go. Catch only a couple of threads on the right side. Work from shoulder seam, across the bottom, and along the side, or the other way around as works best for you.
One half of the front lining felled in place. I ended up taking larger stitches than I should have due to the new thread I was testing. I ordered a slightly heavier weight accidentally, and going any smaller with the stitches would have made the seam too bulky.
Now turning to the back of the shirt, fell the yoke along the shoulder seams.
Take extra care along the shoulder seam near the pleated front, that your stitches don’t show through on the right side.
Fell also across the bottom of the yoke, across the width of the shirt.
Finally, top stitch the yoke through all layers across the shoulder seams and across the lower seam using a small back stitch. This secures everything more firmly in place and helps prevent shifting of the layers over time.
Before moving on to more interesting areas such as the sleeves, there are a few details to take care of in the shirt body, beginning with felling the side seams.
Shirts of the period usually had very small seam allowances – 1/8″ or even less. If you are a beginner or new to shirt making, I’d recommend leaving the full 1/2″ seam, giving you a 1/4″ finished seam, otherwise, I’ll be demonstrating a 1/8″ seam.
Begin by trimming the side seam allowance to 1/4″ from the armscye to the bottom. I don’t measure this at all, just do it by eye.
As you get to the curved areas at the bottom, just taper the cut into the existing curves.
Now carefully trim one of the seams back to 1/8″. I chose to trim the front seam allowance but it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re consistent between the two seams. Try to cut as evenly as you can. At the bottom edge you’ll have to taper it into the curve again.
Trim all the way to the armscye. Also be sure to keep the front lining folded or pinned out of the way.
On the back or other half of the seam, snip the seam allowance at the bottom of the seam just to the stitching.
This frees the seam allowance to be manipulated more easily.
Lay the side seam on the pressing table and insert a sleeve roll under the seam to make pressing easier. Press the seam towards the front, or the 1/4″ seam over the 1/8″ seam.
Working from the bottom or top of the seam, fold over the 1/4″ seam allowance, sandwiching the 1/8″ seam in between and forming a 1/8″ seam. I just fold an inch or so at a time, and then fell that, folding more as I go.
Fell the side seam, keeping a small stitch on the right side and the diagonal part on the wrong side. You should only catch a thread or two of the right side of the shirt. Keep the stitches small, at least 8 – 10 stitches per inch. Originals can be seen with threads as dense as 20 per inch!
Continue sewing until you reach the end of the seam. The bottom of the side seam is fairly weak at this point due to the cut in the seam allowance, but we’ll reinforce it after hemming the shirt.