Monday, May 7, 2012

Louise Cutting's Collar

Yesterday night and this evening I finished the collar following Louise Cutting's Technique. Having measured the collar stand to the shirt body, I next transferred the fold line from the stand template to the collar template.

My new fold line was 1/4" longer than the Vogue pattern piece indicated.  To keep my seam centered in the back of the neck, I also added the 1/4" to the cut line.  Positioning my template on a folded piece of fabric and interfacing, I cut both collar and interfacing together to produce pieces that are pretty close to being exactly the same. I didn't bother trimming the interface because it's pretty thin.

Now that the pieces are cut, my work shifted to the ironing board.  The interfacing and the fabric need to be fused without shifting the angle of my hockey stick-like piece.  I laid out the fabric on the board, and then placed the template on top of the fabric to line the fabric up with the template.  I then placed the interfacing on top of the fabric, checking again that I hadn't shifted the angle. 

To keep my interfacing from moving around, I place organza over the work and PRESSED the iron on different points.  Pushing the ironing up and down along the interfacing while it's fusing risks causing ripples and other evil things (as I've discovered) to happen.  I checked the seam against the center notches; you can see I came pretty close.  I had my doubts about adding the 1/4" to the cut line above.
I sewed the seam, trimmed it to about 1/4" and then pressed it open on my point press. I am always uncomfortable trimming because if I mess up, I have that much less fabric to work with.  Trimming is for brave hearts.

Once the seam was pressed out, I pinned the top edge of the collar.  Because the feed dog pulls the fabric, the interface / seam side is down.  Take care sewing over the pressed open allowance (I usually screw this up).

With the top edge sewn, I trimmed off the seam allowance.  The angle of the trimming at the tip needs to be more acute than the angle of the collar tip.  This reduces the amount of the fabric inside the tip after it's been turned. 

After trimming, the seam allowance needs to be ironing out to set the stitching and make it easier to turn the collar so that it is right side out.  By the way, the correct way to hold the point turner is to hold the turner with the curved side down in the palm of the hand.  The thumb slips inside the collar and point of the turner applied to the point of the collar.  In one clean twist (like shucking clams), the point is turned out on each end.  There will always be a ball of fabric in the tip.  I've found I can 'walk out' the extra fabric by rolling it between two fingers while the point turner is inside.  Care must be exercised to keep the point turner from poking through the tip .. a very evil thing.

Here's my almost finished collar on both inner and outer (seamed) sides

The final steps are to edge stitch the collar.  It's a little tricky at the tip.  To keep the pressure even on the presser foot, I slip the opposite end of the collar under the rear of the presser foot.
I like to use a topstitch needle for the edge stitching.  It's a nice touch normally, but on white linen with white thread I highly doubt anyone will notice.  To attach the collar to the stand, I pin the outer side of the collar to the inside stand and sew through.

Then I flip the collar up, iron it out, and slip the collar bottom tips inside the stand. 

 You can see the seam is now facing out.  The outer stand is now tucked in 5/8" and then edge stitched from the center out.  I didn't quite like the way it was turning out.  I should have left well enough alone, but I razor cut my seams, tried to reset them, and made something of a mess. 

Here is the finished collar.  I've got the Bill Blass collar  and stand on a Simplicity shirt body.  This is the first time I've sewed linen and I have to say the fabric has a mind of its own.  Maybe when one spends more than $4/yard for linen, it's more compliant.  Next, I'll tackle the sleeve plackets.  G'night.


  1. Hi Tom,
    How did you start/stop the seam along the outside of the collar? Did you back-tack the seam at both ends, or did you "tie-off" with the thread tails?

    I like the idea of eliminating one of the seams (the end-sides) which eliminates half of the offending bulk at the collar point. Back-tacking will add back some bulk, so I suspect tying the threads would be the preferred method for minimal bulk.

    I always sew the collar pieces in two steps - starting from the center of the collar and sewing towards each point, pivot and finish. Yeah, I use David Coffin's technique of trimming the undercollar short (about 1/8" off each end only) and then stretch it to match the upper collar when sewing. It was a bugger to learn the skill at first, but the points are always balanced and curving in the correct direction - both around the neck and down.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. My Pfaff has an automatic back tack that leaves very small stitches. Some sewers do tie it off, but I always make more of a mess than the machine. Yes, both ends need the back tack. I bow to your skill in stretching the undercollar. The trick is to get a lot of practice. If you are wondering,I've busted more than one needle pulling too much. I've learned industrial needles are stronger because their shank is completely round, not the half-shank of home machines.

  2. Hey, Tom; nice looking collar, and very interesting:) Just stumbled on your blog (via Pinterest) and I'm sorry to hear you've struggled with the collar-easing technique I describe. If you haven't entirely given up on it, perhaps it will help to practice briefly running some sample strips under the needle under equal tension, pulling equally in opposite directions front and back while letting the feed dogs completely control the forward motion, avoiding broken needles! There's a little clip on this on the DVD that comes with my pants book, but it's a common technique in lots of situations and discussed in lots of places; google "taut sewing". Also want to suggest you check out my new favorite point turning device: the hemostat. I posted about it here:

    It's a real game-changer. Looking forward to seeing lots more shirts:)

    Best wishes,