Shirts like the Granville from Sewaholic and the Grainline Archer have introduced us all to the joys of sewing shirts – they’re perennial, you can mix and match all kinds of pretty and precious fabrics and we know we’ll wear them.
A tower placket is commonly used on button down shirts. It may seem a little daunting, but after doing a few I find them quite satisfying to complete. A little origami and voila – done. The blue gingham image above is from a shirt I drafted using a basic bodice block. Thanks again to Anita for the fitting assistance.
An alternative to the tower placket is the bias placket, better in my opinion for lighter weight fabrics and a touch more feminine. Iconic patterns (Australian) produce the Rachel pussy bow blouse. Had to plug a local product – so proud!
This tutorial is based on the techniques used by Texan, Mike Maldonado, a professional shirtmaker of 40 years. You can watch his youtube video here. I bought his entire shirtmaking course and receive no returns whatsoever for the shameless plugging! He gave his permission for me to reproduce his techniques, though I fancy they’re fairly ubiquitous in the trade.
Threads magazine have a free download for a ladies placket, which looks so much more, ummm, ‘ladylike’ than the men’s size from Mike – same technique. I printed the Threads template on card and reuse it often. If you do use the Threads template, ignore the Steam-a-Seam in my opinion, its overkill. But do employ the finger pressing that according to Mike, all professional shirtmakers use. That is, scratch at the folded shirting where you want it creased like you’re trying to remove something sticky from the dining room table! It really does work and saves loads of pressing time.
Jump aboard the Tower Placket Express…
Looking at the Threads template (see link above, not reproduced lest someone sue me!) the shorter portion is approx. 16.5cm long. Make a cut in your sleeve 2.5cm (1″) less than this, that is 14.5cm long. You want to make that cut where your shirt pattern tells you the placket line is. I’ve marked my ‘mockup’ with a Frixion pen, it irons out, but always test, I have had it stain fabric indelibly.
Step 1 This is the shirt sleeve (left) and placket (right). Cut the placket down the centre of the box – this is where Mike’s method differs from Threads.
Step 2 I’ve flipped both sleeve and placket wrong side (WS) up here. Lay your plackets and shirt sleeves WS up. You must be looking at the WS of both. If you do both now, you’ll know you’re not going to sew 2 left sleeves! The beauty of cutting the placket apart entirely is that you can see that your are precise in your placket placement.
Take all this to your machine. The box is 1.3cm wide (1/2”)
Step 3 Now place the sml part of the placket on the small side of the sleeve and start sewing up the box. You are still looking at the wrong side of everything. See how easy it is to determine your placement? The seam allowance for the opening is ¼” (6mm) from the slit opening. You can see the placket slit is open, use this to judge your ¼” (6mm).
Place the large side of the placket on the large side of the sleeve and pivot at the corner, continue across and down the side of the larger placket piece. You know its all lined up because you can see the slit line underneath.
Step 4 Snip to the corners of your box. Remarkably, if you cut through the stitching – it doesn’t matter!
Step 5 Flip the whole sleeve over and pull the placket through to the front. You’re now looking at the Right side (RS) of everything.
Step 6 Press – nice huh? If you didn’t snip far enough the corners will look like Struggletown, so make sure you snip right into the corners – be fearless!
Step 7 The remaining steps can all be done at the machine.
Flip the larger side out of your way. Finger press under 6mm (1/4”) on the outside edge of the small side. You are going to fold this in half and just cover the stitching by “a hair”. That’s Mike speak for about 1-2mm!
Step 8 – Mark your sleeve either side of the top of your slit box. Edgestitch to just above that line by about 2mm or so. This is now your under placket.
Step 9 On the larger side – fingerpress the seam allowance of 6mm (1/4”) all the way to the top on both sides. It doesn’t look even here, but it doesn’t really matter. It will do as its told anyway.
Step 10 Flip that tall portion down toward you and fingerpress a triangle by folding it over twice like a baby’s nappy or perhaps a serviette! This is the ‘over’ placket or larger side.
It will look like this. Origami huh? Nice! Now to sew it down.
Step 11 Start a ‘hair’s breadth above the slit you marked earlier. This is hard to show but if you grab a man’s shirt, he doesn’t even need to undress, you can see how its done. There are various methods, some may appeal more than others – you can get arty! Essentially you want to avoid backtracking too much.
Something like this. Up to the point, and down. Go across the top of the little box first, then down and back in the other direction. This way the only back tack will be 2 stitches or so right before you continue down to where the cuff will attach. Press.
The wrong side. Naturally, with matching thread this looks awesome. Now do the other sleeve but make sure you do it the opposite way. Always start looking at the WS of both sleeve and placket and double check the small part is on the small side and the big part is on the big side. You don’t want to have to unsew this sucker!
Please do let me know if anything needs clarifying.
Next tutorial – ‘clean finish’ cuff – Mike Maldonado’s way.