The Archer Button Up and Shirtmaking Techniques

For 2024 I have committed to developing my sewing skills by learning more advanced construction techniques. To start the year off I decided to tackle a button up shirt and research different techniques for the more complex elements like collars and cuffs. While I've made many shirts I've never felt that my execution was top notch, until now!

To start this project I went right to the shirt making source David Page Coffin's book "Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Shirtmaking".  I did some additional online research, but honestly I consistently referred back to this book for my final approach.  If you haven't read it I highly recommend it, David is very detailed and the book is supported with lots of easy to follow illustrations.  He even includes a few templates for collars, stands, sleeve plackets and cuffs. 

Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin

I was particularly tickled by David's strong point of view, he is not shy about telling you what is the right way to do things.  This quote made me laugh out loud when I read it: " Non-flat-felled side seams are ugly and shapeless, and there is really no excuse for them." What's not to love!  Also, I did not sew flat-felled seams this go around since I do not have the proper foot attachment, but I will be ordering one now!  I hope David won't be too disappointed in me!

I'd like to focus on the collar, collar stand and cuff construction here.  The rest of the shirt I made following the pattern instructions.  The pattern I choose was the Archer Button up by Grainline Studio.  Grainline has a full set of video tutorials for this shirt, I highly recommend checking them out as well.

Fabric Selection

I choose our Organic Cotton Poplin for my shirt.  Poplin is a tightly woven, high thread count cotton, its crisp, soft and typically opaque.  These qualities make it a great choice for shirtmaking and achieving the precise detailing of a button up shirt.

Explore other great fabric options here.



This method gives you a really neat finish on the inside of the cuff particularly at the edge where the inside and outside of the cuff together. 

This pattern has a continuous placket detail which I will not go into here, refer to the Grainline video series.  To attach the cuff prepare the sleeve placket and sleeve pleats, then pin the interfaced side of the cuff to the sleeve with right sides together.  For the Archer, the placket adjacent to the pleats should be turned to the inside of the shirt, the opposite placket should be turned out. The cuff should overhang the sleeve by the seam allowance on each end.  Sew the cuff to the shirt, the Archer uses a 1/2" seam allowance.  Note: It could be helpful here to sew a 1/2" line of stitches on the non-interfaced side of the seam, this will later be used as a guide for turning the seam under.


 Next turn the cuff with the right side facing up with the seam allowances flat, see below.  Turn the sleeve up and fold it away from the raw edge as shown below.

Now turn the top of the cuff in half so the right sides of the cuff are together.  Pin the short end of the cuff and over the seam allowance approx 2" or as far as you can without catching the sleeve.  Mark where the corner of the sleeve placket is to turn your work. We will trim very close to the seam so use a small stitch length here, I used a 1.5.

Trim the seam allowance grading at the underside of the cuff.  Be sure not to cut too close to the seam allowance that will be turned under.

Once both ends of the cuff are sewn turn the remaining seam allowance to the inside, use the previous stitches as a guide.  Top-stitch around all sides of the cuff.

 The result is a crisp cuff and all the raw edges are neatly tucked inside. 

Collar Sand

David Page Coffin's method of attaching the collar and stand is to attach the stand to the shirt first and then attach the collar.  This technique was a first for me but I was game to try it and I'm so glad I did!  David likes this approach because you can be sure the collar is centered in the shirt and you can try it on and make any adjustments to the collar location before sewing it in.  I like it because your ugly seam (the final seam that encloses all the layers and it is never perfectly aligned inside and out) will be under the turned collar and therefore never visible.

First, when you stay stitch your neck openings at the beginning of the project you want your stitches only slightly under the seam allowance.  I followed my 1/2" seam allowance moving my needle location 2 clicks to the right giving my slightly less than 1/2".  It is important to be accurate here as we will be clipping the curve to the stitch line.

Clip the curve of the neckline to the stay-stitching line but not through it, be sure to preserve your notches. Pin and sew the interfaced collar stand to the shirt with right sides facing, you should sew from the center to the edge.  The collar stand should overhang the edge of the shirt front by the seam allowance. 

Next trim 1/8" off the ends of the non-interfaced collar stand.  Now Pin this collar stand to the inside of the shirt lining up the collar stands, you will need to stretch it to match the ends.  Stretching the collar stand in this way will build in a natural curve to the stand and will help shape the neck opening.  Again you want to stitch from the center out. 

Now we will sew the ends of the collar stand together using the same technique as the cuffs.  First you will want to temporarily fit the collar, centering it and marking the two ends, do not sew beyond those marks.  Align the two ends of the collar stands and turn the shirt out of the way.  It is helpful here to draw on your stitchlilne to get an accurate curve.  As before use a small stitch length and sew up to your marked point, do not backstitch here.  Trim your seam allowances very close to the curve and turn out your collar stand points.

Collar (as David says, the Collar is the hardest part so we'll save it for last)

Like we did with the collar stand we are going to build some curve into the collar.  To do this trim the under collar (the non interfaced collar) by 1/4" along each end and 1/8" along the top.  I am combining a few different techniques here, in the book David doesn't bother to trim the fabric, instead he just stretches the under collar as he is sewing.  I like a little more control so I'm using the trimming technique.

With the right sides facing pin the two collars together.  Start sewing at the center and sew towards the edge lining up the edge and collar point.  As you get close to the collar points switch to a short stitch length around the point.

To turn the point I used the string method, I followed the tutorials from Closet Core Patterns and Cashmerette.  I found this gave me the sharpest point I've ever had on a shirt collar.

When you turn the collar to sew the short end you should have 1/8" less on the under collar, sew about 1" toward the end then pull the under collar to align with the top collar.  This will build curve into the collar at the point where it springs from the collar stand and not at the collar point.

You can see how the collar is already curving right off the table!

I used my point presser to press all my seams open.

Now turn out the collar.

Now press the seam of the collar starting at the points and working towards the center.  You want to turn the seam slightly to the underside of the collar.  Top-stitch the three seamed edges.

Now we want to shape the collar before we sew it into the stand.  Align the raw edges of the fabric and turn the seam allowance toward the under collar.  Now using your tailor's ham shape and press the collar, see below.

Baste the raw edges together close to the now folded seam allowance.

Now sew the collar to the stand.  Pin the top of the collar to the inner collar stand with right sides together and lining up the raw edges.  Sew from the center to the edge making sure you do not catch the outer collar stand. Turn the collar up and raw edges to the inside, now turn the remaining raw edge under by the seam allowance and pin to the collar.  Top-stitch around the entire collar stand.


I really enjoyed learning these new techniques, in the end this really looks like a professionally made shirt (in my opinion)!  I will definitely be tackling the flat felled seam construction in my next version and possibly try my hemmer foot as well! 

I'd love to hear any tips and tricks that you use when shirtmaking!

Best, Robin


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