Friday, August 26, 2011

Arrowhead tabs; or, Ways to fancy up your shirt

One of the easiest ways to add a little something extra to a plain man's button-up shirt is to put on a few arrowhead button tabs.  My husband is a very classic dresser and prefers his shirts without embellishments such as these, but for my two boys a few tabs are just about mandatory!  A very plain casual shirt is tres frumpy, boring and old-fashioned from a young man's point of view, so it is worth going to the small effort of putting a few on your shirts if you want your guys to love them.  I have to admit to being partial to the look of them on the men's shirts I have made for me too, because I think that to overplay the masculinity of a menswear shirt that I am wearing myself will paradoxically enhance my own femininity.  Makes sense?  Well, I think so...
Another plus is that you are using up scrappy little offcuts that would otherwise be thrown away.
In my lazy and/or more hurried projects I have been known to wing the arrowhead tabs and hope for the best, but obviously the best results are gained from careful measurement.   Cut both tabs together to ensure they are identical in size, and apply interfacing.  (Later edit:  In this case, I have folded the tabs right sides together, and the fold forms one of the long sides of the tab.)  Then measure and mark out the arrowhead part as exactly as possible with pins...
Start by manually inserting the needle right into that first pin mark.  Secure the end by going forward and back one or two stitches and then carefully sew in a straight line to the second pin.  Ensure the needle ends up exactly in second pin position; it may take lifting the presser foot and moving the tab slightly to really make sure the needle goes down in exactly the position you have marked...
With the needle at its lowest point (to ensure that it has picked up the bobbin thread down below, and so that the stitch is completed) lift the presser foot and reorient the tab so you will be stitching down to the third pin position.  Lower the presser foot and stitch down to the third pin, again ensuring that you are finishing as exactly as possible into the third pinhole.  Secure the end by one or two careful backwards and forwards stitching.
Now sew the long straight edge. (Later edit: That long lower edge with no stitching is the fold...)
Clip the seam allowances, as close to the corners as possible, but obviously without cutting through your stitching!
Turn the tabs right side out through that short open end.  I know there are proper tools for turning (which probably cost a bomb) but I use a not-too-sharp pencil for this job, and wiggle it carefully into the corners teasing them out, but not allowing it to burst through the stitches!
Press and topstitch the tabs.  Sometimes when one is topstitching close to the edge of a tab and you turn a corner, your feed dogs may have trouble "catching" the tab and getting started on the next straight bit.  This will be because you are stitching so close to the edge that there is no fabric underneath the presser foot, making contact with the feed dogs.  In this case I find it handy to use the second tab and just slip it behind the tab you are topstitching; over the feed dogs.  Just its presence there will allow your tab to slide smoothly along, no matter how close to the edge you are stitching.
  
On my army shirt I added a decorative strip to hold down the shoulder tabs, this was just zig-zagged firmly into position on the double thickness yoke area.  If your shirt pattern has only a single yoke piece you will need to reinforce this area underneath with a little strip of bias cut fabric; and also for the tab's button when you sew it on.  In fact, if your pattern only stipulates a single thickness of fabric for the yoke I recommend you cut out two and sew them on together for more stability; as this area is subject to a lot of fabric strain in a man's shirt.
For the sleeve tabs; you can make your tabs as long or as short as you please, this is an individual preference and depends on how long you want your sleeves to sit when rolled or pushed up.  Whatever you choose, the tab is sewn, wrong sides together to the inside of the sleeve. Obviously it is easier to do this before you sew up the sleeve seam!  I like to sew a nice firm little cross within a square for a stable strong base to sew the button on.

13 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing this. i use them on shirt sleeves for my hubby.

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  2. Thanks for sharing. I want to do this on a trench coat I am planning.

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  3. You include such nice details on your mens shirts that they look like very hip RTW (in a good way). Not that I'm an expert in men's clothing (at all) but I find myself thinking of Pac Sun (a "surfer shop" here in SF that my daughter really likes) when I look at the things you make for your sons.

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  4. Great tutorial. I think I might incorporate the "holding up the cuffed sleeve version" at some point, so practical and a neat little accent too.

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  5. Thanks for this great tutorial. These little details make your shirts look so fab and well finished.

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  6. What a nice tutorial. I use a haemostat clamp to turn tabs, grabby, thin ended but not pointy, and inexpensive.

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  7. Just wondering why you only sew one long side and then turn the tab right side out - is it to make it easier to turn right side out? I'm assuming you then fold the other long side (wrong sides together) and topstitch all around but there doesn't seem to be a seam allowance for the second long side.

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  8. Great tutorial, thanks. I like this "tab" look, it's a bit "military" which is an aesthetic I enjoy.

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  9. love love love the upgrade! these are elements I'm in love with and your shirt looks one of a kind!

    Magda

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  10. Zeddie; no, the fabric is folded right sides together along one long edge before any sewing is done, and the stitching completes all the edges apart from one open edge through which you turn the tab out. That unstitched long edge is actually a fold
    I do it this way for three reasons, firstly because it is easier! secondly there is less bulk from seam allowances on the inside, and thirdly because it uses less fabric!

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  11. Thanks for the tutorial! I always have trouble topstitching round corners. I will definitely be giving the extra bit of fabric thing a go. Your shirts look so professional.

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  12. Surely not just for a blokes shirt. I love this look on women's shirt sleeves and epaulettes too.

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  13. Thanks for sharing, I especially like your tip to use a pencil to turn points. I usually use the tip of smaller blade on my shears, but sometimes I poke through... your method sounds more foolproof!

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