Following on from our Sewing Buttonholes : Tips n Tricks! post, today we bring you the second instalment of our #sewtogetherforsummer posts to help you create your best ever Shirtdress – our Top 10 tips ‘n’ tricks to sewing the perfect collar – I can’t wait to have another go at my McCalls 6696 Shirtdress so that I can incorporate some of these fantastic tips myself!
This post is guest-written by our lovely #sewtogetherforsummer Co-Host* Suzy. If you haven’t already met Suzy, let me tell you that she is a passionate, prolific and talented sewist, a keen Instagrammer and all-round lovely human being. Having learned the basics of dressmaking as a youngster, over the last four years she has rediscovered the delights of creating a handmade wardrobe. She lives in the province of Córdoba, southern Spain with her understanding husband and a menagerie of rescue dogs and a cat (that also thinks he’s a dog!)
Over to you Suzy!!
Let’s jump straight in!
A quick online search will bring up many styles of collar, but here let’s look at the classic shirt collar; it’s made of two parts, the collar and the collar stand. This image is from Gillian Holman´s ‘Pattern Cutting Made Easy‘.
1️⃣ On your marks
The most important part of successful collar making comes before we start sewing. Cut very precisely and double-check that your collar pieces match the pattern. Then transfer all the pattern markings on your pattern pieces. There are many ways of marking, but for collars I prefer old-fashioned tailor tacks and thread tracing as they don’t rub or iron off. Here I have thread traced the centre front and centre back with silk thread.
2️⃣ Biased approach
Still on cutting out – cut the undercollar on the bias, this helps the collar to roll gently under. You can draw a bias line on your pattern piece: just draw a square using the original grainline as one side and draw a diagonal line between two opposite corners.
3️⃣ What’s right for you?
Think about your collar size and shape preference before you start; different collar shapes suit different face shapes. I often find collars of the big four pattern companies a bit large for my round face and short neck – I have finished a shirt, just to find I don’t like the shape or size of the collar. So before you start cutting, get hold of the pattern piece of a collar which you know you like – here I have a Grainline Studios Alder collar – and put it on top of your collar piece, here McCall’s 6696…you can see how much bigger the lower one is.
I would suggest tracing your collar and placing the other on top, then you can trim or reshape the pattern piece. Don’t touch the bottom seam which fits into the collar stand.
Alternatively, you can compare it to a RTW collar you like, but remember to add seam allowances. You could trim off the corners to give a rounded shape if you prefer; in this case, plenty of notches before turning out will give you a nice curve.
4️⃣ A quick trim
Once you have cut out your collars, take the under collar and trim off a sliver of fabric, 2mm (just under 1/8th inch), from the sides and the top, but tapering to nothing at collar points. Trim the same amount from the curved edges of the inner collar stand. This also helps the collar to roll the right way.
My fabric frayed easily so my trimmings are a bit untidy, but if you are using a cotton it’ll be much easier.
5️⃣ Let’s interface it!
Interfacing is vital and will influence the look of your collar, so it’s worth considering what type you need before you start sewing.
- For a soft collar look, use a cotton batiste instead, or a very light interfacing, or simply interface the under collar.
- For a medium look interface the upper collar with interfacing of similar weight to the fabric
- For a very crisp collar interface both the upper and lower collar pieces, or use several layers of organza.
Cut the interfacing to sit just within the seam allowance, so that it does not add bulk to the seams.
6️⃣ Flash point
Let’s get sewing! Woohoo! Sew the two collar pieces wrong sides together, start stitching at the centre back mark of your collar, and make your stitches smaller as you get nearer the point. At the point, don’t pivot, but sew one or two small stitches on the corner, strangely enough this gives you a better point than a pivot.
Then turn the collar over and do the same for the other side from the centre back. Sewing from the middle will give you a more even collar.
Now trim and turn as usual. There is a wonderful couture way to turn the perfect points collar out using a thread sewn into the collar temporarily – you can find out more from Off the Cuffs blog post.
7️⃣ Collar under construction
Normally your pattern will tell you to make your collar and then attach the collar to the collar stand. The completed two piece collar is then attached to the neck of your shirt. I don´t know about you, but I have a heck of a job attaching the straightish and stiff constructed collar into a more wobbly and curved edge, and get the collar stand lined up. So this is the method I use nowadays, which gives me much better results.
First of all, stay-stitch your neckline and cut snips inside the stay-stitching. Attach your interfaced outer collar stand to the neckline, start pinning at the centre back, matching all notches. The collar stand will extend 1.5cm, or whatever your seam allowance is, from the button band on each side. Stitch.
Then attach your prepared collar to the collar stand, matching notches and the centre back markings (again I start pinning from the centre back). See how valuable that centre front thread tracing is now? Baste.
Now you just need to attach the other collar stand, sandwiching the collar in between the two stands, and stitch. Trim and turn out. Hooray! You can slipstitch the collar stand to the inner neckline, but I usually grade the seams, turn it out, press well, tack it in place and topstitch the collar stand, starting at the centre back once again.
8️⃣ Keep your Template
I find it really helpful to make a template of the curved end of the collar band minus the seam allowances. I then keep it in with my pattern.
You can draw around it to make sure both sides of your collar band follow the same curve, and you can insert it inside to press the collar band before sewing down.
9️⃣ Add a little extra
It’s easy to attach a ribbon to your inner collar stand to make your shirt more special but it also gives the collar stand more stability and is used in men’s shirts to reduce wear.
You’ll need a piece of ribbon 4cm longer than your collar stand. Pin and tack it in place on the inner collar stand.
Then edge stitch both sides of the ribbon. Trim off the excess ribbon.
Then make up your collar as normal and the ribbon will be inside your collar.
🔟 If all else fails…simplify
If you don’t like collars, or you or find it too time consuming, then you could just sew the collar stand and leave the collar off, to create a kind of Mandarin collar or granddad collar.
Attach the inner collar stand and then the outer stand as before.
So there you have it…10 tips and tricks to stop you getting hot under the collar!
Now over to you, what collar tips do you have? (Can you kindly leave them in the Comments section below for others to read please)
* The #sewtogetherforsummer Hosts
Until next time,