Muslin-ing a Man’s Shirt: Part Two

I’ve made progress on the muslin for Mr Sewaholic’s shirt! We’re getting really close to the fitting stage. I thought I’d share how to sew up a muslin to check the fit, without spending a lot of time on the finishing details. I’ll show you which steps I skipped and how it all came together. (This is by no means a perfect method, it’s just me sharing what I did, hoping you will find it helpful!)

Here’s the shirt pattern again, if you’re just joining us!

I hoped to finish it all up before writing another post, but the muslin was more time-consuming that I thought! (I’m about 80% done the muslin.)

In the previous post, I started by stitching the seamlines on the front and back. If you use this exact pattern, make a note! Some of the seam allowances are 5/8″, some are 1″ and some are 3/8″. It can be very confusing! That’s why for the muslin, it helps if you’ve machine-stitched the seamlines, or drawn them on the muslin with pen.

My ultimate goal is to get this muslin made up as quickly as possible, so I can accurately check the fit on Mr Sewaholic’s body and adjust where needed, and move on to the real shirt! So I’m skipping any steps that are just for show, and only sewing parts that are needed for fitting.

First, we make the pleats in the back panel. We need these for fitting, so that the back matches the yoke.

Fold the pleats, and baste into place.

Next, take one of your yoke pieces, and pin to the shirt back. You’ll notice I didn’t mark the seamlines on the yoke as they are all 5/8″. Plus, in my Shirtmaking book, David Page Coffin recommends making all of your fitting changes to the shirt body pieces, not the yoke. So the yoke pattern will stay exactly as is!

Pin the other yoke piece to the back of the shirt back. Our goal here is to sew one yoke seam, and then flip the yoke pieces up to cover the seam allowance. It’s a yoke sandwich!

Go ahead and sew the yoke seam. Here you can see the two layers of yokes, one on the front and one on the back.

Give the yoke a quick press, so that the seams are as open as they can be. If you don’t press, then the seam will be puffy and the back length will be shorter due to the puffy yoke. All seams need to be pressed nicely so we can fit the shirt accurately!

Next, let’s get our shirt fronts ready. This pattern has a different left and right front, because the left front gets a separate band for the buttonholes.

On the right front, the one that goes underneath the placket, press under the seam allowance.

Press again on the facing line. (Isn’t it handy that we stitched the facing line, so we have a guideline for pressing?)

We need to do this step, so when we’re fitting we know exactly how much the shirt is supposed to overlap at the front. Baste the facing down along the right shirt front. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it’s just a muslin!

Now let’s add the band to the left front. Press under the seam allowance on the band.

Pin band to front edge, and sew.

Press seam open, and then press band to right side. Stitch or baste along folded edge of band.

Note: if your shirt pattern doesn’t have a band, just facings, then you can skip the facings. The only reason I’m adding the band on my muslin, is because the band is needed to fill in the width of the shirt. Without the bands, my shirt probably wouldn’t meet at centre front!Now that the centre fronts are finished, we can attach the front to back. It’s starting to look more like a shirt! (Mr Sewaholic thinks it looks like an apron right now.. must be the gingham!)

Pin the fronts to backs along the yoke seam.

Sew yoke seams. Now that I think of it, I didn’t need to cut two yokes, either. One would have given me enough to fit with. Wow, there’s a lot to learn when sewing a man’s shirt! Same general concept as sewing for women, so many tricky details.

Because I’ve cut both yokes, I’m going to press under the seam allowance on the top yoke piece and baste along the edge. Just so it looks nicer and more like a shirt. (Ok, not a whole lot nicer due to the mismatched thread! The real thing will look much better…)

Next, the collar. I thought about skipping the collar, so I had Mr Sewaholic try on the muslin at this stage to see how close we were. Turns out the collar is pretty important, especially if the man is going to be wearing the shirt buttoned to the top. (And even if he says he’s never going to wear it fully buttoned, it still needs to be an option.)

So, let’s put on the muslin collar! I was tempted to skip interfacing the collar, since it’s just a muslin. However, the gingham is so lightweight and might stretch around the neck, which would make our real, interfaced collar too small.

Let’s fuse some interfacing to at least one of the collar stands and collar pieces. (I don’t know why I’m feeling lazy when it comes to making this muslin, perhaps it’s the lack of time to finish this shirt before Christmas. Or maybe women’s clothing is truly more fun to sew? Whatever it is, I need to get my men’s dress shirt groove back!)

For the collar itself, I’m going to sew around the edges and turn right side out. We’ll be able to see the size and shape of the collar on Mr Sewaholic and make sure it looks good.

Press the collar. (Whoa, that’s a dirty looking ironing board! I swear it’s clean, just a little scorch-stained. One day I’ll recover it just so it looks prettier in photos…)

This is as far as I got before stopping to write it up. I was really hoping to get it all done before this post, but I’m glad I didn’t rush and sew sloppily.

Next steps are to add the collar stand to the neckline, set in the sleeves and sew the sideseams. The sleeve goes in before the sideseams, which makes it much easier to sew!

I made a few notes while I was working, here are a couple of tips and thoughts on this project!

Things I Learned:

  • Cutting is so important! It’s super noticeable on the gingham when pieces are slightly off-grain. Men’s clothing is very boxy and full of straight lines, so it’s important that all the lines are perfectly cut. Especially since I’m using a stripe fabric!
  • Gingham is a pretty cool fabric for muslins! I figured out my gingham is made up of 1/8″ checks, so pressing, stitching and marking are really easy. A 5/8″ seam allowance is 5 checks long! Pressing under seam allowances is super easy, just count the squares. Although, the cutting has to be spot-on for that to work…
  • Reading, while cutting, is pretty important too. I made a lot of silly cutting errors because of the complexity of this shirt pattern. A lot of the pieces say ‘Cut 1’ and I cut two, the grainlines aren’t always the way you expect, and there are a ton of interfacing pieces that need to be kept separate and not cut out of fabric.
  • If you have a complicated pattern, keep the pieces handy for reference. I found I was constantly referring to the pattern tissue for seam allowances, markings, and other reminders. Depending on your skill level, this is a good tip for any project. It even helps to see which way is up, where centre front is and check for markings you may have forgot to mark on your real fabric.
  • Too many shortcuts equals sloppy fit. Don’t be tempted (like I was) to skip pressing, interfacing and sewing the collar. All of these steps are important to get the fit right!

I am typing up the things I learned for two reasons – so I remember them for future, and so you can tackle men’s shirt muslins with confidence!

Time to finish up the muslin, then snag Mr Sewaholic and fit the muslin properly!

I have Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin as my reference book, since I’ve never fit anything on a man before. I’ve made men’s clothes before, in school, but they didn’t have to fit anybody specific. Does anyone have tips or suggestions on fitting for men? Leave a comment if you do!

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14 Responses to Muslin-ing a Man’s Shirt: Part Two

  1. Tanit-Isis December 2, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    This is looking good! I recently ordered another shirt pattern to try out for my hubby (nothing wrong with the first one I made him, but it was more of a poet-shirt than a regular dress shirt). If it arrives soon I may be tempted to try it out before christmas :)

  2. Patty December 2, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    I totally stalled on Mr. Bug’s coat – working through samples at the shop – but I noticed that fitting on him is a lot like trying to figure out why Lucy (my basset hound) doesn’t feel well. It’s very difficult because he doesn’t ‘speak the language’ – i.e. I’m still not totally sure if the coat’s sleeves are too tight. The look good, the pass the pinch test… but he can’t tell me how they feel!

    Other than that – Dan’s a straight size 40, with legs on the short side. There’s SO much less pattern alteration to deal with – we tend to be more curvy than them!

  3. Elizabeth December 2, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    Enjoying your progress!

  4. Kristin December 2, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    I have a tip for you regarding the yoke. You can make another nice clean yoke sandwich for the front shoulder seams as well. You just have to roll up the entire shirt inside the yoke, then sandwich the seams together like you did for the back. Hope this is helpful! Great job on the muslin!

  5. Tasia December 2, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    @Kristin: Ooh, thanks for the tip!! That would be much easier than trying to land the edge of the yoke along the seamline perfectly. I followed the pattern instructions, but I’m definitely going to use your method for the real thing. Yay!

    @Tanit-Isis: Ah nice! If I don’t finish, I’m going to wrap up the work-in-progress and put it under the tree :) there’s not a lot of time!

    @Patty: I know, that’s what I’m afraid of too, that he won’t feel comfortable but won’t be able to explain exactly why and where it doesn’t feel right. Ah well! It’s a sewing adventure! I can always compare to his real dress shirts and see how close or far this muslin is..

  6. Dei December 2, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    Very thorough and good tips. Didn’t think about using the seam lines for comparison.

  7. Amy December 2, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    David Coffin’s book excels on giving better instructions than the usual envelope patterns. For instance, the method Kristin mentioned is used. Also, I find his information on sleeve plackets invaluable. I am still working on his directions for collars…
    I am working on the sixth or seventh shirt for my husband, and the shirts I have made since I started using David Coffin’s book for technique and for fitting get worn alot – which is probably the best sign that I have made something wearable.

  8. amber December 2, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    You’re making quick work of this project. I’m also happy to see that the O+S collared shirts that I stitched up this fall for a friend’s baby are very similar to what you are doing here. Makes me think that it was good practice if I ever decide to sew a button down shirt for real. :)

  9. AnnieV December 2, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    I’m the mother of 2 boys, so I sew a lot of shirts! Fitting points for men (or boys) are not the same as ours. I never made a full muslin to fit shirts, I learned to sew by myself, so it’s maybe not a good method. I begin by measuring around chest, neck, wrist and waist. I also measure arm and back length. Then, I report these measures (with a few ease) to the pattern : collar, wrist bands, sleeves, back and width. I always choose pattern size relative to their neck circumference because they have a large neck and an athletic shape. I find it easier to remove ease at shoulders or chest than to add ease to collar, because collar affect width of all pieces. I first cut the interfacing for collar, wristbands and button placket and pin on them (on their clothes, don’t be afraid!) to check the fit at these critical points and the length of the shirt.

    I think that make a real muslin is more professional, but i’m ashamed that i have no time for this and cotton fabric to sew shirts is not very expensive. I tend to rather do that for jackets, pants or other garments thst are made of more expensive fabrics. I should say that I sew more casual than dress clothes, especially for my sons.

    I will follow the rest of your project, it is very interesting to see another way to proceed!

  10. K-Line December 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    Looking great. Just want to say (and maybe I’m the first?) but I received the pattern today!! Adorable packaging (with you logo on the envelope). Haven’t had a chance to look it through yet but I will asap…

  11. Louise December 2, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    I have found that some men need the yoke tweeked a little to get the best fit. Allow for posture. Check shoulder width. And the neckline can change too. If you live in a hot climate, as my family does, then the front centre neckline needs to be 1 or 2 cm lower. This involves changing the collar and the fronts, and button placement. Some men like the body of the shirt to be a little fitted so shaping the side seams makes them happy.

  12. CGCouture December 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    The yoke tip suggested by Kristen is also shown in the Kwik Sew patterns for men’s shirts, and I highly recommend the KS 3422 as a good starting out pattern for others who aren’t as experienced, even more than I would recommend the David Coffin book in all honesty.

    The most important measurements that I’ve found are the sleeve length, the body (bodice?) length, and around the chest (unless your beloved has a poochy tummy–then that would be more important). You can make the neck work on virtually any size, but you can only let the side seams out so far, and men don’t wear 3/4 length sleeves. Men are easy peasy to fit–don’t psyche yourself out about it. :-)

    I found a really cool sleeve placket method on the Rusty Bobbin blog, which I’ve blogged about here ( It requires making up a “jig” that can be used over and over–I made mine from a yellow file folder that had been whited out and remarked a few too many times. I think it just makes a much prettier and professional placket than any of the men’s shirt patterns I’ve seen. It’s takes some fiddling to get right, but once you figure it out it’s one of of those “Ah-Ha!” moments. :-)

    Can’t wait to see what your finished shirt looks like! :-)

  13. Dina October 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Thank u. Thank u. Thank u!! U r a life-saver!!! I have not been able to understand how to make a yoke. I read and re-read mccalls instructions but I just couldn’t grasp what they were saying. That is until I found your response from my goeogle search!!!! I love ur website by the way! U do a great job.

  14. Fleurs Adventure In Sewing Mayhem April 22, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    Glad I found your site and about the David Coffin book, am about to order it….thanks…