… or at least, How I Sew On A Shirt Cuff..!

Hello Sewists,

I hope this post finds you all safe and well. Although there has been a slight and tentative easing of the Isolation-Regulations, MrA and I are still ‘Locked-down-in-London’. It will be at least a month before our shops may be allowed to reopen, two months or more before bars, restaurants and salons. Builders however have been allowed to return to work, which is great for them, but has had an adverse effect on the peace and quiet we have come to enjoy during the lockdown. I guess you can’t have it all.

I am itching to get back to work, not just to start earning again, but I miss my clients. I miss the buzz and camaraderie with my colleagues and I miss the chatter. Maybe one of the positives of a late reopening will be that we can all be (or at least feel) a little more relaxed by then. I am sure that the hygiene guidelines will (rightly) be super-strict and I have no doubt that we will be able to adhere to them, I just hope we can all enjoy it too. Anyway, wherever you are, I hope you are keeping busy and staying safe.

So, if you read my last post you will know that I helped a friend to sew his first shirt over Zoom recently. I’m documenting some of the processes here, today, it’s how we attached the cuffs.

Check the last post for attaching the placket to the sleeve. The cuff goes on once your sleeves are attached and the seams are sewn up. Here we go…!

1. Prepare the cuff.

If you have a two piece cuff, interface the outer cuff and sew the two together along one long edge. I use a lightweight iron on interfacing. Once stitched, I press the seams towards the inner cuff (If it’s a one piece cuff, interface just the outer half of it and press it in half length ways.)

Outer and inner cuff sewn together and pressed.

2. Pinning the cuff.

I always start at the under-lap of the cuff placket. Mark your seam allowance on the cuff (pink dot in pic) and pin the right side of the outer cuff to the right side of the under-lap. The edge of the cuff should overhang by the amount of seam allowance.

Photo shows orientation of pieces, not alignment.

If I turn it over, you can see the seam allowance on the left side. I use that second pin as an opportunity to keep my french seams in the right direction. When I get to about halfway, I stop.

Make sure you leave your seam allowance!

Next I mark the seams allowance on the other end of the cuff and put a pin in there. There is excess fabric on the shirt, this will create the pleat.

Pin the other end to start working on the pleat.

3. Creating the pleat.

With my finger in-between the cuff and the shirt, I support the excess fabric while I place a pin about an inch from the upper-lap of the placket.

Folding the pleat.

Then I flip the excess over itself, away from the cuff edge, and secure it with a pin. From the inside, the folded pleat should be facing away from the upper placket. Depending on how much excess you have you may want to do two pleats or even a bit of gathering if you’re in the mood.

Cuff pinned and ready to sew.

4. Attach the cuff.

Sew the outer cuff to the sleeve edge making sure you have your seam allowance visible at each end.

Outer cuff attached at sleeve.

Take it to the ironing board (I use a sleeve press to get into the tricky areas) and press the seams away from the shirt – towards the cuff.

Press the shirt seams up towards the cuff.

5. Prepare the inner cuff.

Flip the inner cuff into position so that the right side is facing outward. Make sure it’s flat and smooth. Then, fold under the raw edge and press it so that the folded fabric edge is just covering the stitches underneath (these mini irons are really handy for cuffs (and collars) less risk of burning your fingers!). I prefer to do this now rather than before attaching the cuffs, this way I can make sure I get the fold nice and neat with the stitching line. (Spray it with some starch to get a really sharp crease.)

Fold the seam allowance under – make sure the stitches are covered.

6. Sew up the edges.

Flip the inner cuff back to the wrong side (right sides of the cuff are facing each other). Line up the short raw edges ready to sew. You can just about see in the photo below that the inner-cuff-hem sits slightly lower than the seam of the outer-cuff – That’s the bit you’re going to catch later on. For now, sew the short ends of the cuffs. Start with your needle butted up to where the placket meets the cuff and sew to the end. Backstitching when you get to your previous stitches.

Short end ready for sewing.

The seams on the long edge should already be pressed, so you just have to press the short edge over. Fold and press it along the line of stitching you have just sewn.

Pressing the seams over to help turning through.

Then, with all the seams pressed neatly in place, turn the cuff to the right side. If you need to, use a point turner (or knitting needle/ chopstick) to shape the corner and make sure the seams are laying flat inside. This should be easier as they’re pre-pressed.

Turning out the cuff corner.

7. Pinning the inner cuff.

With everything sewn then pressed into position, it should all line up pretty nicely now. From the right side, I put a pin into the cuff seam, then bring it out through the cuff (see pic below). I didn’t take a picture, but the test is to check from the other side that the pin catches the fold of the inner cuff piece. The photo shows one pin, but I’ll usually put in at least four or five before sewing it.

Pinning the inner cuff from the outer side.

8. Attaching the inner cuff (Stitching in the ditch!)

From the right side, sew directly into the seam where the shirt meets the cuff, catching the folded inner cuff hem underneath. (I love that this technique is called Stitch in the Ditch – ‘Crazy Names’ is one of my favourite things – there’s a tap dancing step called Tacky Annie and a haircut called the Bobby Shingle – I love that stuff!). Anyway, I wisely used a dark green thread in the bobbin so it would blend with the inner cuff, my regular green thread was great in the needle, except where it went over the dark placket – you can really see it there, but I’m not going to lose sleep over that!

Stitch in the ditch.

9. Topstitching.

For topstitching cuffs, I like to use my open toe foot. With the needle as far as it will go over to the right, I can use the edge of the foot, lined up with the seam to give me a nice even topstitch 5mm from the edge.


On shirts, I topstitch with a 3mm stitch length. I think it’s best to start and finish at the under placket, this keeps the backstitching out of sight when the shirt is buttoned up. Once you’ve gone all the way around the cuff, you’re done! Well, you’re done so long as you did them both as you went along… otherwise you’ve still got another one to do! But you knew that, right?!

Finished cuff.

Well, this is the bit where I usually like to post a photo of me in the finished garment. This is always the trickiest bit for me – it’s a disappointing combination of me not being great in front of the camera and MrA not being all that great behind it! So, if you’ll forgive me, I’ll repeat the shot I went with on the last post…!

If you’d like to read more of my posts on shirtmaking, try these links…


But as a special bonus, how about an outtake! – I realised that one of the downsides to teaching a friend to sew online while making your own garment is that you’re not always paying strict attention to what you are doing yourself! Proven when I sewed one of the placket buttons on totally wonky. There was only one thing to do… unpick it!


I don’t like unpicking buttonholes. Who does? It’s one of those tasks that takes extra concentration, extra focus… it’s at these times I reach for my ‘Husband’s Glasses‘ (… whether you have a husband or not, I believe this is (now) the official term for ‘stepping-up-one’s-magnification-at-times-of-need’). Thankfully, I took my time (used the glasses!) and it was like it had never happened…

What buttonhole…?!

Until next time,

Happy Sewing!

Andrew x

Notes to self:

  • I used to iron the interfacing to the inner pieces because I always had problems with it bubbling – now I buy better quality interfacing and always leave it to cool… no more bubbling!
  • That’s it for shirt-construction posts for now – I didn’t take any more photos!