How to Sew a Shirt Collar

I’m hooked on sewing shirts! It started with shirt dresses and summer uniform dresses for Amelie, and quickly developed into me wanting to sew shirts for myself. I admit, I’d been nervous to sew shirts because of how fiddly they seem, plackets, loads of buttonholes, cuffs, so say nothing of the collar. But I never like to be beaten so I’ve given it a go and you know what? It’s not so tricky after all.

I showed one of the shirts I’d done on Instagram and promised to take step-by-step photos with the next one so here we go…

(The pattern I’m using is the Painters Shirt by Ottobre and it’s in the Autumn/Winter 5/2020 issue.)

First up, you’ll need to interface the upper collar and outer collar stand pieces. Ottobre patterns don’t include seam allowances within the pattern piece, so I trace around the pattern piece onto the interfacing to mark my sewing line. Do this with a marking tool that will wash out and/or won’t show through your fabric.

So here are the collar and stand pieces ready to go:

2 x collar stand (one interfaced with sewing line and notches marked on the interfaced side)

2 x collar (one interfaced with sewing line and notches marked on the interfaced side)

Just a little close up here on the collar stand piece so you can see the marking on the interfaced side. My fabric is extremely squirmy and I would probably have been better off starching the un-interfaced pieces to make them more stable. Consider that if you’re fabric is very wriggly!

First step is to place the collar pieces right sides together and sew the short sides and long outer edge together. As you can see, because you’ve marked the sewing line on the interfacing, it’s really easy to sew this accurately.

Carefully trim down the corners on the seam allowance to reduce bulk…

…so you can turn them through really neatly and get nice, pointy points to your collar tips. I found that the bit on a biro lid was ideal for poking the corner out nicely as it’s less likely to poke straight through the fabric than a knitting needle, or scissor tip.

Next topstitch really close to the edge. Leave your needle down as you sew so that you get a nice pivot in the corner.

Set your collar aside for a sec, and turn your attention to the collar stand. The pattern directions suggest that you turn up an allowance on the long edge of the uninterfaced collar stand and top stitch it. Like I’m doing in this photo. I have done this on some shirts I’ve made and it’s worked fine, but for this one, I end up unpicking this later. I’ll show you why as we go on…

I don’t realise that this stitching line isn’t going to work for me in this example until later, so for now, let’s plough on…

Layer up the collar stand pieces right sides together, with the collar sandwiched between, all raw edges aligned and notches matching. The interfaced side of the collar should face the uninterfaced side of the collar stand. Pin lots, especially if you’re fabric is all over the place like mine is.

Working from the side with the sewing line marked, sew this sandwich together.

Snip some of the seam allowance down from the curved areas to make them easier to turn through.

Turn it through and all of a sudden it’s starting to look like a collar!

Top stitch around the top edge of the collar stand to crisp up those edges.

And here it is so far. Can you see that horribly wavy edge of the inner collar stand? That’s because my fabric is so badly behaved and that edge I turned and topstitched is not neat. This is why I decide to unpick that line of stitching and deal with it in a different way…

Next, sew the collar to the body of the shirt.

Here you can see I’ve just done that, sewing through the outer collar stand and short body, right sides together. All the raw edges are still visible on the inside at the moment.

From the outside of the shirt top stitch along that seam.

Now, here is where there’s an option: if you’ve kept the turned edge on the inner collar stand then you should pin this in place and at this moment, you’ll be stitching through all layers. This makes everything neat on the inside.

However, if you’re fabric is squirmy and won’t stay still or hold a nice fold, and you’ve decided to undo that fold on the inner collar stand like I did, at this point you’ll want to fold that out of the way so you DON’T stitch through it!

So with mine, I had topstitched the neckline seam from the outside, but the inner collar stand still was raw and the raw edges from the neckline seam were still visible.

I fold a seam allowance on the edge of the collar stand and blind hem it in place by hand. I think this is the very neatest way to finish the inside of the stand. Well, so far, it’s the neatest way I’ve found! I quite like hand sewing and it really only takes a few minutes to do. Work carefully so that your stitches float through the stand, but not to the outside of the shirt.

And here it is all finished.

Things to consider:

The topstitching could be done in a contrast colour if you fancied making more of a statement with it.

The inner collar stand could be cut from a different fabric, for instance, I might have had an easier time if I’d cut it from a well-behaved cotton lawn rather than the slinky crepe viscose. It’ll only show a tiny bit at the front of the collar when you wear it open, and it again could be a great design detail to use a contrast.

If you want to add a label or a hanging loop, that would be easy to add before you hand hem down that inner collar stand piece.

And a close up for good measure.

Just like the inner collar stand, the under collar could be cut from a contrast fabric.

I hope that helps if you’re sewing a collar on your next project.

Best of luck with your shirts!

Bye for now,