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How-to

Techniques for Getting to the Point—the Collar Point

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As I was working my way through creating a linen shirt recently, I realized that pressing was the key to getting my shirt looking professional, particularly with each collar point.

I’d like to explain how I got to making this shirt. Linen is one of my all-time favorite fabrics and an essential part of my summer wardrobe. I have had an easy-to-wear, oversized white linen shirt on my sewing list for years. Somehow, it gets relegated to the bottom, below the more colorful projects. This year, it finally made it to the top of the list.

Special fabric

The fabric I chose for the shirt is a textured linen I acquired in a vintage shop years ago. It probably could be considered double-vintage, at this point. The yardage was narrow, and I had to work around a few age spots. It was one of those precious pieces I did not want to mess up because I knew I couldn’t replace it.

Let me share a couple of ironing tools and techniques I used on my linen shirt. I found that these really got to the point.

Collar points

If you have been sewing for any amount of time, you have likely produced a wadded up mess of a collar point. It’s a fact of life in the sewing room. Creating a collar point looks like an easy task: Sew a corner, turn it right side out, and press. But, as the unsuccessful, mismatched collar points of the world demonstrate, looks can be deceiving.

Collar points often have a bias seam on one side. This encourages stretching, and it encourages it differently from one side to the other. That means the way you manipulate the points can be the difference between even, nicely shaped collar points and a hot mess. Simply shoving a point turner into the corners creates a wad of seam allowances that turn each point into a little bulb shape at the end of the collar.

Here’s how to avoid that.

Essential tools

Turning a corner gets much easier when you have the right tools.

Go ahead. Treat yourself and invest in a seam pressing tool with a point at the end. You will wonder how you ever sewed without one. This one also doubles as a pressing clapper. It’s always nice to get a twofer.

Seam pressing tool for collar points

The second essential tool is the aforementioned point turner. This tool comes in all varieties of materials and shapes. Basically, you want something to gently coax the sewn corners into lovely points. (For more point turner information, see “Tools for Tight Places” in Threads #140, Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009.)

Collar point turner options

Last is a press cloth. This tool is optional and depends on the fabric you are sewing. My press cloth is a piece of silk organza. I can see through it, and it protects most fabrics against the dreaded shine that can happen as you iron. (See “Q&A: Press without creating a shine,” Threads #203, June/July 2019.)

Silk organa press cloth used when pressing collar points

How to turn collar corners

1. Make sure you’ve sewn the corners the same. This may sound silly, but slightly different angles going into the point can trip you up before you start. Don’t worry about counting the stitches (unless you want to), but do measure once the stitching is in place to make sure the corners are evenly sewn.
2. Trim the seam allowances, and clip across the corner. You want to reduce as much seam allowance that must go into the corner as possible. Don’t trim so closely that you may lose the seam, but be sure to get rid of the bulk. Clip the corner to reflect the angle of the point. A square point can handle a 45-degree clip. A more acute angle may need more than a 45-degree clip to allow the corner to lie flat.
3. Use a point pressing tool to get all the way into the corner, and press the trimmed and clipped seam allowances open. Do this from the wrong side of the collar before turning it.

Press and trim the seam allowances on the collar point

Note: The seam allowances are not an equal width in this example because I like to grade the seam allowances to make a smooth edge.

The collar is made with a folded edge in this example, so there is only one seam going into the corner. Depending on the pattern, you may need to press seams on both sides of the corner.

4. Turn the corner right side out and use a point turner to gently encourage the seam to flatten into the corner. Avoid a big push. Instead, trim more aggressively if the corner is not flattening. The idea is to perfect the point at this stage, before folding the collar into its finished position.

In this example, the 45-degree clip flattened nicely into the corner of the collar.

Use a point turner flatten the seam into the corner of the collar

 

5. Working from the right side, put the corner back onto the point pressing tool and press the seam open again. Here is where to put the press cloth into play. Note that it is easy to create an undesirable shine on fabric when working on an unpadded ironing surface. If in doubt, test with the press cloth.

Use a silk organza press cloth to press the seam open

6. Finally, fold the corner into its collar shape and press again, using the press cloth, to finish the job.

Fold the corner into the collar shape and press again

Not just for every collar point

This technique is not reserved for collars. My shirt had lapel-type points and pocket corners as well. I pressed and turned all of them in the same way. It takes extra effort, but the results are well worth it.

Finished white linen shirt with sharp collar points

Here’s to making your point.

Editor’s note: Becky offers two favorite sources for linen, and the Threads team suggests one Manhattan-based retailer.

•  Britex Fabrics in San Francisco

•  Gray Lines Linen in Manhattan

•  Merchant & Mills in Rye, England

 

 

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  1. JohninKent | | #1

    Do you recommend taking one or two stitches across the collar point, or do you sew a perfect angle point?

    1. User avater
      BeckyF | | #2

      It depends on the weight of the fabric. If the fabric is very light a stitch across the point may give you a "blunt" point, which I don't mind. If you are all about the sharp point this may not work for you. If your fabric has a bit of heft, a stitch or two is a good idea. It also depends on your stitch length. I know that some folks like to decrease their stitch length going in and out of the point, so if you are using a very short stitch a stitch or two across the point is less noticeable. I think I probably did at least one stitch across in this example. More than one or two stitches and you will end up with a three sided point...I think that's an oxymoron! ;)

  2. slpreed22 | | #3

    In your Threads article on "collar points" I'm very curious as to what pattern you used for the linen shirt. I love the simplicity of the garment & would love to make one for myself. I look forward to your answer & the possibility of creating a similar garment.

    1. User avater
      smcfarland | | #4

      I believe the pattern is the Merchant & Mills Factory Dress, modified to a shirt style. I recognize the details from Becky's article "Evening Fabrics for Daywear," in Threads #210.

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