Shirt Sewing Instructions

By Terry Glasier, 6th MA Regiment

Linen preparation:
Hem raw edges of cloth. Wash in hot water. Lay out flat to dry. Remove hem stitches and iron. Trim raw edges of cloth. When cutting always cut between two threads in the weave excepting cuts diagonal across the weave (neck gussets and the tail reinforcers).

The length of the body, collar & cuffs of the shirt should all be cut with the warp of the cloth.

  1. Fold body of shirt together aligning the bottoms and sides. Crease along the top on one thread all the way across. Fold aligning the sides to find the exact center of top, mark that point and mark bottom of what will be the vertical slit. Cut ½ of the total length of the horizontal slit to one side, then the other, along the center crease between two threads. Starting from your center point on the horizontal slit cut down to your bottom mark for the vertical slit (between two threads!). Take care that you only cut through one layer of the cloth. Cutting the vertical slit determines what will be the front and the rear of the shirt, the vertical slit being on the front of the shirt.
  2. Along the vertical slit crease a ¼ inch hem along both sides (pin or baste to secure). The bottom of the slit you must roll into a hem. Moist fingertips are helpful. After securing the hem sew the side of the slit with a hem stitch. At the bottom of the slit where the cloth was rolled into a hem change to a running stitch, through the middle of the rolled cloth changing back to a hem stitch when you reach the folded hem on the other side of the vertical slit. You have now determined which side of the cloth will be the inside of your shirt. The side to which the hem was folded and rolled is the inside. Bury your sewing thread ends in the hems as you sew, beginning and finishing a stitch.
  3. Take one of the neck gusset squares and cut in half diagonally corner to corner. This is one of the few times you will not be cutting between two threads. Press a 3/8 seam onto the two adjoining sides with the right angle in the middle. Trim the excess beyond the diagonal side. Leave the diagonal side raw. Pin and baste onto the outside of the shirt the right angle over the end of the horizontal slit. The raw edge of the seam folded under should be even with the raw edges of the horizontal slit. One placed on the right the other on the left. Sew with a backstitch.
  4. Take the remaining neck gusset square, cut in half diagonally. This time press a ½ inch seam onto the adjoining sides of the right angle, leaving the diagonal cut raw. Trim off excess on ends. Turn shirt body inside out pin and baste to the neck gussets already in place the seam allowance on the inside contacting the neck gussets already backstitched to body. Sew with a hem stitch.
  5. Take shoulder strap strips press 3/8 seams along the lengths, making a one-inch wide strap. Turn shirt right side out. Pin and baste one end on the center of the neck gusset the other end on the top shoulder point, the same crease used for the horizontal slit. Repeat on the other side. Sew with a backstitch.
  6. Working on the outside of shirt gather neck area. Lay in four sets of gathering stitches. One set each between the front slit and the neck gusset on either side. Count down 7 or 8 threads from the raw edge lay in thread under two threads and over four, etc. to the gusset. Lay in another thread 3/8 inch below the first mirroring the first exactly. If you erred on the first (e.g. under two over five) do the same on the second thread. In the rear of the neck area repeat gathering process. Two sets of gathering threads one each from the neck gusset to the center of the back. When all the threads are in place pin a pin at the end of each set of gathering threads. Carefully pull the threads two at a time to gather the cloth in between. If you break a thread you'll have to lay in another thread to replace it. When you've gathered the cloth tightly wind the thread ends around the pins to fix it in place. Next carefully using your fingernails or a small pointed but not sharp instrument, make sure each gather is neatly creased into the cloth. The result will be accordion like folds. This is very important for ease in attaching the collar.
  7. Press 3/8 inch seams along length of collar. Press collar after folding it together along the length following one thread along the entire length. The bottom seam edges of the collar should match exactly. Pin the ends of the collar to the exact edges of the front slit. Make sure that 3/8 inch of the shirt body is in between the two sides of the collar. Pin the collar to the neck opening of the shirt. Let out the gathers until it fits. Work your way from the front to the center of the back. Here is where you will make the final adjustments to fit the body to the collar. After pinning baste to body. Then sew with a backstitch 3/16 from the edge of collar. Then hem stitch both the inside and the outside edges of collar below the backstitch to the body. Close the open ends of the collar with a whipstitch. Remove gathering threads if possible after securing collar. If you've caught a gathering thread just snip off where it emerges from collar.
  8. Next assemble sleeves. Take arm gusset lay it on top of the sleeve aligning the square with the corner of the sleeve's width and length. Pin and baste. Starting from the edge backstitch along length of sleeve allowing 3/8 inch seam to 3/8 inch from the edge of the gusset lying along length of the sleeve. Fold gusset and attached sleeve to meet the other edge of the sleeve length. Pin and baste gusset to sleeve and the sleeve to itself beyond the gusset to the point of the bottom of wrist slit. Backstitch sleeve to gusset to exact point where you ended the first back-stitch on gusset. From this point on backstitch the sleeve length together to bottom point of wrist slit. Flatfell the seam allowances onto gusset and then to wrist slit point. Along the sides of the wrist slit make 3/16 inch hem to edge of the sleeve. Gather all the end of the sleeve with one set of gathering threads and attach cuff as you did collar. The sleeve end with the gusset, gather from one inch from seam with gusset around to same point above other seam with one set of gathering threads. Don't forget to crease the gathers as you did for the collar.
  9. Attaching sleeves to body. Turn shirt body inside out. Put sleeve inside of shirt outside of sleeve contacting outside of shirt. Find the bottom point of the arm opening. Fasten the point of the arm gusset and the two sides of the shirt body here. Pin and baste each side of gusset and sleeve to corresponding side of body of shirt to the point where you started gathering. Let out gathers as evenly as possible until sleeve fits arm opening. Backstitch with a 3/8 inch seam allowance. Backstitch from bottom gusset point to top of bottom slit of body. Flatfell sleeve seams to body and below gusset point front to rear.
  10. Hem sides of bottom slit and bottom of shirt 3/8 inch folded in to result in a 3/16 inch hem. Sew with hem stitch.
  11. Your shirt is now complete except for finishing, tail reinforcers, front slit reinforcer, and sewing on buttons and making the buttonholes for same. Cut the tail reinforcer square in half diagonally. Press in ¼ inch seam allowance on all three sides, same as you did for the neck gussets only on all three sides. Place the right angle of the triangle over the end of the side seam on the bottom of shirt. Seam allowance facing to inside of shirt. Hem stitch about halfway down along the tail opening. Just enough so when you fold the bottom of the tail opening reinforcer up it just covers the inside of the top half of same. Hem stitch into place.
  12. The easiest method of reinforcing the front slit is to run four threads horizontally across the slit one inch from the bottom. The four threads across the slit should match the width of the slit as it lies flat naturally, not pinched together. Then buttonhole stitch the width of the slit on the four threads.
  13. Buttons may be shell, bone, horn, or thread. The width of the button determines the length of the buttonholes. The buttonhole length should be slightly less then twice the width of the button. Both buttonholes will be placed ½ inch in from the edges of the cuffs or collar. One button and companion hole in the center of the width of each cuff. An examination of any modem shirt will tell you which end of the cuff is for the button or the hole. On the collar are two buttons with their companion holes. Buttons on the right side of the collar the holes on the left. Again ½ inch overlap. The bottom button and hole are placed ½ inch above the collar seam. The second button and hole are placed one inch above the first. Before sewing either mark out with contrasting thread. For the buttons use small x's. For the buttonholes first run a contrasting thread ½ inch in parallel to the edge of the cuff or collar. Run a second thread parallel to the first. Parallel by the length of the intended buttonhole. Then run a third contrasting thread across the first two at right angles to both to form a horizontal marker at the appropriate spot for the hole. To make a proper buttonhole, first sew a running stitch all around the horizontal marking thread giving about a two thread allowance. Pull the horizontal marking thread. Place a hardwood block under the cuff or collar and cut buttonhole between two threads from one contrasting thread to the other. A good sharp wood chisel works well as a cutting tool. Press straight down and check, be sure you've cut it clean through before sewing. Next whip stitch around hole and running stitch surrounding it. Now run two threads through the needle, even the ends up so you have four threads from the needle to the end this will form the gimp around the buttonhole. Pass needle into cuff and bring it out at the end of buttonhole (the end that is not ½ inch from the edge) along the cut. Parallel the cut then loop around the end and parallel the other side of the cut burying it in the cuff or collar at the end you started from but on the other side of the cut. You will have to run it just ahead of the buttonhole stitch as you go to keep it in place. Buttonhole stitch around hole from where you began gimp to where you ended it. At the end of buttonhole where you started finish the buttonhole by forming a bar tack. Run thread around end of buttonhole until you have four threads across the end of the buttonhole. Buttonhole stitch along these four threads from end to end. A note on the gimp, it will tend to try to slip into the buttonhole take care to keep the gimp on top along the hole as you go. Your shirt is now complete no mean feat!

Copyright © 2000 Terry Glasier. All rights reserved.