Turning a shirt collar means literally unpicking the collar from the garment, turning it over and then restitching it in place … but with the worn part now neatly hidden underneath and the upper part looking as-good-as-new. Exactly where to unpick the collar from the shirt depends of the kind of collar it is and the level of wear you are trying to conceal.
The collar on this green check shirt is a two-piece collar – you can see this from the line of stitching at the fold-line – and the worn part can be seen above the fold. So with this shirt I am unpicking only the upper part of the collar. Sometimes collars are made in one piece, with no stitch-line near the fold. With one-piece collars, or if the worn area was spread right across the fold-line seam of a two-piece collar, I would have unpicked the whole collar along the seam where it attaches to the top of the shirt.
It can be a bit tricky getting started with the unpicking part. If I find it difficult to get started at one end, I will start a little way along. This allows me to get into the stitching far enough to tug gently and find those tighter end stitches I am seeking to remove. I find a stitch ripper, used very carefully, is the best tool for this job.
Depending on how the original garment has been put together, sometimes you may find only one line of stitching needs removing, but more often there will be two. It’s best to take time with this stage, because it is easy to accidentally damage the fabric of the collar with the stitch ripper, which of course I don’t want to do.
You will see that when I’d unpicked the worn part of the collar the lower part of the collar is open, with an inner part (towards the inside of the shirt) and an outer part (towards the outside). When I had removed the upper part of the collar I simply turned it over and repinned it in place along the inner part of the collar that was still attached to the shirt. The checks made this an easy pattern for me to match up as I was repinning the collar piece. If you are turning a patterned fabric remember to try and match it up as you are repinning onto the inner side of the collar, as this is the part that will be most visible when the shirt is being worn.
I find it easier to repin the collar at each end then gradually work towards the middle. When I was happy that the collar was correctly positioned and firmly pinned in place, it was time to start sewing. I was sewing by hand with a needle and thread but it is equally possible to use a sewing machine if you have one. I carefully backstitched this first stage of re-attaching the collar piece, keeping the collar in its right position as I went.
It’s important to restitch the collar piece back on as near as possible to the original line of stitching so as not to affect the shape of the finished collar. I like to pay particular attention to the ends of the collar piece too and make sure they are very firmly stitched in place. This provides additional strength at this potential weak point.
Next it was time to turn the shirt over and re-attach the back of the collar piece. I found the pattern didn’t match up so well on this underneath part, but as it’s going to be hidden I wasn’t really concerned about this. When I’m working on the back of the collar I look to make sure the first line of stitching is covered up, so that is the guideline for repinning this side of the collar piece in place.
For this second row of stitching when turning a collar I like to use a small slip-stitch to give a neat finish. Again, when I reach the end of the collar I make sure my sewing is firmly finished off with a few extra stitches.
… and there we have it … one turned collar, looking as-good-as-new again.
The next time you find a favourite shirt with a worn collar don’t discard it, just turn the collar over.
J Peggy Taylor