Correcting the Collar and Hemline: Shirt Alterations

I was hard at work on the men’s shirt project all day yesterday! After a few final pattern alterations, I’m ready to cut out the real fabric, with less than ten days to go. (Yikes!) After we re-drew the neckline, the next step is to alter the collar and collar stand to match.

First, grab your pattern pieces. You’ll need the neckline pieces and the collar pieces. In my case, I have the back yoke and shirt fronts that form the neckline, and the collar and collar stand that create the two-piece collar.

Now, let’s measure around our new neckline. My pattern is well-prepared because the seamlines are marked! A lot of multi-size patterns won’t have the seamlines marked though. In that case, simply measure 5/8″ inwards from the edge and draw a line where the seamline would be.

Take a tape measure, and stand it up to measure along the neckline. You want to do this because it bends a lot easier on its end!

Measure along the front neckline, and write it on a scrap piece of paper or on your pattern itself.

Now, measure off the back neckline, from the seamline to the centre back. Write down this measurement as well!

Now, we’ll measure the collar stand, as that’s the piece that attaches to the neckline.

Measure from the centre front marking to the centre back, standing the tape measure up along the seamline so it curves easily.

Write down the collar stand measurement as well. Our collar stand measures 20.5 centimetres, and our new neck opening measures 21cm. Based on the math, it looks like we need to add half a centimetre to the collar stand, which would add up to 1cm total increase. Does that seem right?

Here’s a way to double-check your calculations. Measure off the original neckline seam on your body pieces – we’ll compare it to the collar measurements, and see whether the math makes sense!

On my shirt pattern, I only made changes to the back neckline. So I measured off the original back neckline on the pattern piece, as you can see below:

Let’s compare the new back neckline to the old back neckline:

As you can see, there’s a half-centimetre difference between the new and old necklines – which makes sense! The original neckline AND the original collar both measure 20.5cm. So if I add 0.5cm to the collar piece – resulting in 1cm total increase – then the collar stand will match the new neckline. Does that makes sense?

Let’s add the one centimetre increase to the collar stand and collar! Take your collar pieces, and slash up centre back.

You’ll need a piece of scrap paper, anything will do! I’m using white scrap paper from an old notepad.

Tape one side of each collar piece to the white paper.

Now, measure the amount to increase from the centre back line, and mark it on the white paper. Draw a line parallel to centre back.

Now, draw a line squared off from the bottom edge, as if you’re continuing this line onto the white paper.

Take the other half of the pattern piece, and line it up along the extension line AND the bottom line. This piece should have its centre back line along the pencil line we just drew.

Tape the other half of the pattern piece in place, and trim off extra paper.

Repeat these steps for the collar piece, adding the extra one centimetre the same as we just did for the collar stand.

And we’re done! Our collar will match our new neckline.

If you’ve made these alterations and don’t feel 100% confident that it will work, make a second muslin! Just cut from the chest-line up, so you’re not wasting a lot of fabric. Cut the shirt front, shirt back, yoke, collar and collar stand, and mock up a little neckline muslin.

I don’t have time for that on this project, unfortunately! I’m going to take my chances and hope for the best. I know the neckline fits him well, so at the absolute worst case, I’ll have to re-cut a collar if my math is wrong.

You might remember that in the first fitting, the shoulders seemed too large. However, after we fixed the neck, the shoulders were fine! I was surprised, but Mr Sewaholic has also decided he wants to wear an undershirt underneath. So our last few fittings have been over a lightweight tee shirt.

Another fitting tip: fit your muslin over the layers you plan to wear underneath! If it’s a blazer or jacket, or even a shirt that you plan to wear layered over another shirt, then be sure to do any fittings while wearing the layers.

The last alteration is to reduce the scoop of the hem. He was concerned that the shirt curved up too much at the sideseam, and wanted it to be an inch longer at the sides. No problem!

First, grab your shirt front and back pattern pieces.

Now, we’ll need more scrap paper to fill in the extra length. Take a scrap of white paper and tape it to the hemline where you want the extra to be. (Bonus – if you line up the paper edge with the sideseam, that’s one less edge to trim and straighten!)

Now, we want to add 1″ to the sideseam length. Make a marking 1″ down from the sideseam, and square it off about 1″ towards the shirt.

Now the tricky part – drawing the hemline curve! You can make the hemline any shape you want. What I did was used the other front pattern piece to redraw the hemline shaping! I have a different left and right front so this was easy. You could use the back pattern piece, or make a template by tracing the original hemline onto a scrap piece of card paper.

Here’s the new hemline shaping, with slightly more coverage at the sideseam!

Trim off the extra paper below the new hemline.

Repeat with the other side of the shirt.

And voila – the hemline is corrected! Finally, I’m ready to cut the real fabric!

PS. Interested in more of the men’s shirt process? Read the rest of the posts on Mr Sewaholic’s Christmas shirt here:

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6 Responses to Correcting the Collar and Hemline: Shirt Alterations

  1. Mav December 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Good to read about so much progress! I was looking forward to your shoulders tutorial but since you didn’t have to alter them after all, is there any tutorial online that you know about and would recommend? I haven’t been able to find anything. :(

  2. Jennifer December 16, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    These are such great tutorials! I am really enjoying following along with the process!

  3. indigorchid December 17, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    I must applaud you for the thorough posting on the steps you’re taking in making this shirt – I’m really enjoying reading about the details!

  4. Nancy December 17, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    Great tutorial! This is very clear and easy to understand.

  5. Lois December 17, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    Well, the very best tip for me on this tutorial was to stand your tape measure on end to measure curves. You’d think I would have thought of this, but I hadn’t.

  6. Tasia December 17, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Thanks guys! Mav, I sent you an email with some links, I hope that helps answer your question!
    @Lois: I learned that one back in school, in my patternmaking class! Seems obvious but I’d never thought of it either :)