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Sewing A Button Up Shirt – Tips, Tricks, Tutorials & More

Everything you need to know about sewing a button up shirt.

Recently I took on the rather insane project of making 4 Marco shirts for my oldest son.  He has outgrown the 2 I made him last year, and requested some more.  Since I reviewed the Marco shirt pattern then, I thought I’d share things I’ve learned about making button up shirts.

Everything you need to know about sewing a button up shirt.

So here’s the post you need to read before you begin sewing a button up shirt.  If you love these tips, be sure to check out Adrianna’s post today over at Hey June Handmade for even more button up shirt tips not included here.

Tips for sewing a button up shirt:

  1. take it slow

Or maybe tip number 1 should be don’t attempt to sew 4 at one time!  After I got started on this project, I realized I would need sewing friends to cheer me on if I was ever going to finish, so I created the hashtag #thereallybigshirtevent on Instagram. But I digress.  Take it slow.  Don’t expect to get this done in one hour, one day or maybe even one week!

2. muslin

You really want a project this detailed to be one you (and the recipient) to love when you’re finished.  So make a muslin first.  This part IS really quick- you only need to cut the front, back and sleeve pieces.  Just whip them together and check the fit.  Make adjustments, and then get onto the good fabric.  (More on good fabric in a minute.)

3. pattern matching matters

Let's play find the pocket...
Let’s play find the pocket…

Before you cut into your good fabric, take a few minutes to think about pattern matching.  This is really important.  Pattern pieces you really need to plan before you cut: fronts to each other, fronts to back, button placket to front, pockets.

pattern matching on a button up shirt by Skirt Fixation

And if you get really, really crazy about pattern matching, you can get the button placket to match up.  Might need aspirin after this attempt though.

4. wide seam allowances

Be careful your seam allowances don’t get too narrow, even if your pattern recommends it.  You really don’t want to go back and restitch cuffs, collar, yokes after they’ve come apart because of tiny seam allowances.  Ask me how I know.  Once you’re done, you’re going to want to be DONE!

5. topstitch everything

Top StitchingTopstitching adds a professional finish, and reinforces those seam allowances to stay in place.  It also hold the seam allowances where they need to be for a clean cut while wearing.

Tools for sewing a button up shirt:

Recommended tools for sewing a button up shirt from Skirt Fixation

  1. glue stick

A glue stick will become your best friend.  Seriously.  Pins can’t hold those tiny fiddle-y pieces together half as good as glue.  It won’t gum up your needle, I promise.  Remember I sewed 4 at one time and experienced no gumming.

2. good quality fabric

I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but you really want a project this in depth and detailed to last a long time.  Using good quality fabric ensures longevity.  When I couldn’t find a white shirting fabric good enough locally, I bought a high quality sheet with 600 thread count.  I really could notice the difference between this and the cheaper quality flannel I compromised on one of the shirts.

3. rolled hem foot

Those bottom hems are tiny, and a rolled hem foot will make your job lots easier.

4. good quality pattern

A pattern that teaches you as you go, with tips and tricks from a knowledgeable author.  Suggested patterns in a minute.

Tricks for sewing a button up shirt:

  1. pattern matching doesn’t matter

“Wait a minute, you just said…”  Yes, there are places pattern matching is pretty important, but there are also places you will not be able to match the pattern even if you’re a pattern matching genius.  These are those pieces: yoke, cuffs, collar stand, collar.

Fabric placement options for yokes

So what to do?  You have options; cut those pieces on the bias, a different direction, use fabric without a pattern, or just don’t sweat it.

2. add a tag

If you’re adding a tag to the yoke or collar stand on the inside, do this BEFORE you start sewing the pieces together, that’s the way the professionals do.

3. use contrast fabric

Possible contrast fabric placement on button up shirts

There are a couple of places you can sneak in fun fabric, the inside collar stand, the inside yoke and inside the cuffs.  Just pay attention to which way you are attaching them so they end up on the inside.  Not that’d I’d know anything about that. *cough*

4. Interfaced piece away from feed dogs

When you’re sewing two pieces together and one of them is interfaced, say the two collar pieces, place the one without interfacing down against the feed dogs when you are sewing.  It will be just a little bit stretchier than the interfaced piece, but if you have it against the feed dogs, there will be no puckers when you’re finished.

5. add tiny buttons

How to add collar buttons to a button up shirt from Skirt Fixation

Maybe your recipient prefers a button down collar.  Just add a small button hole at the corners of the collars.  Cut them open, poke through to make a mark in the desired spot, and sew on a small (smaller than 1/2 inch) button.  Follow the same procedure to add a button to the button placket on the sleeve.

Tutorials for sewing a button up shirt:

If you get stuck, or you just can’t visualize the next step, try these amazing tutorials:

Best patterns for sewing a button up shirt:

Once again, a good quality pattern makes all the difference in frustration levels and finished products.  Here are some we can personally recommend:

Beside these 4 button up shirts I sewed for my oldest son, I’ve made myself a couple of button up shirts this year.  It’s getting easier with the above tips, tricks, tutorials and patterns.  During the time I was sewing these 4 shirts, I became obsessed with all things button up.  All ready-to-wear button ups were fair game for my studies.  Mr. Skirt Fixation has been my biggest cheerleader all along.  He got me to sew my first button up shirt, and always encourages me to improve.  For example, he sent me this link.  Then I realized just how far I have yet to go…

To be continued!

Remember to check out Adrianna’s post today over at Hey June Handmade for even more button up shirt tips.  And leave your tips for sewing a button up shirt in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Sewing A Button Up Shirt – Tips, Tricks, Tutorials & More

  1. […] I’m partnering with Audrey from Skirt Fixation to load you up on a ton of button up shirt sewing tips!  Make sure you go visit her for even more […]

  2. Awesome! Thanks for having this great idea and including me!

  3. Great list!! I differ a bit on the hem technique. I Serge it then fold it twice. It’s small and consistent and my rollded hem foot never gave me those things. I’m sure I could take the time to make it work but I never have 😛 I would add too your fabric choice bit that flannel has a lot of stretch for a woven, and its really not a great starter fabric (even with how cheap it is). Shirtings are much better when you’re learning your button down technique and preferences 🙂 and the tricky yoke pattern matching, most RTW don’t even think twice about it. Drives this ocd print matcher bonkers! But if jcrew can get away with it, I’m gonna do it too.

    1. Well now, if I had a serger… I agree about flannel, I really haven’t found one good enough quality to make a shirt I’m satisfied with.

  4. a quilter’s flannel cotton made by moda or robert kaufman or some other high-quality mill is excellent for making flannel shirts … excellent quality, they don’t pill and they are not shoddy, has no *extra* stretch and drapes beautifully … certainly NOT joann’s flannel for (on sale) $2.99 yd … not much good for anything ….

    1. i should have a added that and sell 5oz flannel made in portgual that are amazing sheets, so i’m sure will make amazing shirts … no pilling, no shedding …


  5. […] in line is for “Kalvin” my second child and oldest son.  This is the same son for whom I sew really big shirts now.  At age 15 is is 6′ 7″ tall.  I asked Sarah (who her nieces and nephews call […]

  6. […] been pretty well established that I love to sew button up shirts.  So when Adrianna from Hey June Handmade, one of my favorite Indie pattern companies, published […]

  7. […] now we’re sticking with what works for us, this pattern for boys and men and a quick review of our tips and Hey June Handmade’s tips for sewing button up shirt posts before starting.  The only change […]

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