RTW Shirt Making – Introduction to a new series

Dear readers,

As promised, I am back with a compilation of my favorite shirt making techniques and strategy. If you want to follow along, my first recommendation is to have 1 or 2 shirts with you for reference. I prefer men’s shirts because they tend to have more elegant finishes than women’s, at similar price points.Even top of the line Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and J. Crew can be used  references (not the outlet type).

My most important disclaimer is that I do not like David Coffin’s book. I’m a bit irrational about it but I will not use it as a reference for this post.I know it’s been tremendously helpful to a lot of you, I own it and I just don’t like it. I even gave it away.

The less important disclaimer is that you don’t need to have sewn shirts before to use the techniques I will describe but you do need to have sewing experience and a good handling of your machine. I use an industrial Juki for the entire process (except the buttonholes) but there is no reason it wouldn’t work on a home machine.

If you tried my free pencil skirt pattern (see here to subscribe to the mailing list to get the latest version of the skirt and updates) you know that one of my goals is to engineer as much of the construction in the pattern as I can. It requires preparation before cutting for me it helps with clean results and make the construction a smooth process.

The next post in the series will be about pattern changes but I first want to look into the features of the shirt so that you know the changes you want to apply and the ones you don’t!

Flat-felled seams throughout

This includes side seams, underarm seam AND the armhole. Actually, the sleeve is attached first, so the underarm and the side seams are sewn at once since I prefer to attach the shirt sleeves flat.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Flatfelled seams

Man Linen Shirt-3

French-seamed darts

I’m actually not sure how they are called but it’s the principle of a french seam applied to a dart. It works well for deep darts and darts that extend all the way down to the bottom (or front) of the shirt.SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - French seamed darts

Separate button band

A very common feature on my RTW shirts that I love the look of! It does require you to wok with different front left and right pattern pieces but since I cut single layer it’s really not an issue !

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Buttonband

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Button Band

Alternative pocket and placement

I will provide the pocket template I copied from a RTW shirt but I really recommend that  you go in your closet and figure out which of your shirts has the best pocket size and placement for your shirt. I’m convinced that they make a huge difference when it comes to ensuring your shirt looks more professional!

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Alternative pockets

2-piece sleeve placket

I think that traditional plackets are just so much nicer than the continuous bound type. For this step, I use a combination of Off-the-Cuff tutorial and and Fashion Incubator.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Sleeve placket


Cuffs attached and top stitched in one-go

This Fashion-Incubator technique is the way I do it and I don’t think I will ever go back. I’m trying to implement it collars too but I haven’t had the same level of success yet.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - The Cuff

The probability of this series being too ambitious for me is real, therefore I will not attach any time frame to it! It make take a month, a year, you never know!! What I can say for now is that I’m already working on the post detailing changes to the pattern. In the mean time, I would love to start a conversation here about shirt making here, please share your favorite resources and tutorials but also the ones you tried and did not work out!!


25 thoughts on “RTW Shirt Making – Introduction to a new series

  1. Chris

    I am just SO excited to follow this series! I have started sewing shirts and have had decent success but there are some points that still defeat me (attaching the collar stand is my top problem) so I’ll look forward to learning from you. I don’t at this point have much in the way of resources or tips to offer, but obviously, once I do discover anything I will let you know.

  2. crab and bee

    Exciting! I’ll be following along to learn about the French seamed darts and the plackets.

    Also, one of my local sewing friends has a similar reaction to the Coffin book recently and gave it away in a white elephant exchange! I’ve read parts of it and have picked up a few good tips, but it’s not organized quite right for me to read it cover to cover. What don’t you like about it?

    • Sewing Tidbits

      It’s sort of a relief that I’m not the only one! I find the explanations not clear, the presentation is very messy and the techniques just didn’t wow me. Oops, I guess it’s kind of everything!!

  3. Deb Cameron

    Oh wow! Super excited to follow this series, I am always intimidated by shirt making. Can’t wait to learn about separate button bands and hear how you do your cuff packets…they intimidate me immensely!! Thanks

  4. maryfunt

    I’m looking forward to your shirt making details. I love my industrial machine for its ability to sew beautiful straight stitches. Does yours have a clutch to servo motor? I’m thinking about switching to the servo for more slow stitch control. Thanks and enjoy New York.

  5. Meg Kundert

    I’m looking forward to your tutorials. I’ve only made two shirts so far and with mixed results. I followed David Coffin’s book to a T and had trouble with the collar band and cuff attachment. His sleeve placket so turned out quite nice and I like the way he adjusts the yoke to fit the shoulders.

    • Sewing Tidbits

      Hi Jane! I use my own pattern (which started as an Archer) but the next post will be about making changes to whatever pattern you want to use. Do you already have one you really like the fit of?

  6. 24

    J’ai utilisé deux fois les patrons du livre Les chemises de Ryuichiro Shimazaki (pour homme); les manches sont aussi cousues en premier avec une couture rabattue, puis les côtés et dessous de manche. Certains modèles ont une patte de boutonnage séparée. Pour les autres techniques, je suis curieuse de voir les tiennes !

    • Sewing Tidbits

      I agree that I didn’t have the same level of success with the collar as I had with the cuffs.
      Thank you for reminding me of that front band technique. I usually cut my band separately and never had any issue but it would be interesting to try something different!

    • LisaB

      How did I miss this the first time I read this post? I also sew on an industrial Juki and don’t like Coffin’s book. I can’t stand the flow of it and how hard it is to find what I want. I moved on to other methods a long time ago.

  7. PsychicSewerKathleen

    I was on such a shirt making run earlier this year, I never thought I’d get off it! I fell in love with making shirts 🙂 My favourite pattern and instruction so far has been Cashmerette. Her fit has worked wonders for me (I wear at 36FF bra but normally cut a size 14) without all the fiddling I have to do with most patterns. Her video course on the Harrison is also brilliant. I’m looking forward to following your tutorials though because I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more!

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