Turning a shirt collar - before and after

Turn a shirt collar

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.

A shirt collar - worn, torn and in need of turning
A shirt collar – worn, torn and in need of turning

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.

Unpicking the upper section of the collar
Unpicking the upper section of the collar

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.

Collar-turning tool-kit: stitch ripper, pins, needle and matching thread, scissors
Collar-turning tool-kit: stitch ripper, pins, needle and matching thread, scissors

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.

The lower collar piece is now open and the upper collar piece has been turned ready to reattach
The lower collar piece is now open and the upper collar piece has been turned over ready to re-attach

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.

Repinning the upper collar piece in place
Repinning the upper collar piece in place

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.

Backstitching collar piece in place
I backstitched the upper collar piece onto the inner part of the lower collar section

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.

Repinning the back of the collar in place
Repinning the back of the collar in place

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.

Slip-stitching the back of the collar
Slip-stitching the back of the collar

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.

Securing the end of the collar piece
I like to make sure the ends of the collar piece are firmly secured in place

… and there we have it … one turned collar, looking as-good-as-new again.

and now we have one neatly turned collar
… and now we have one neatly turned collar

The next time you find a favourite shirt with a worn collar don’t discard it, just turn the collar over.

J Peggy Taylor

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16 thoughts on “Turn a shirt collar

  1. Thank you so much for this reminder of how it’s done. My gran taught me to do this over 50 years ago but I thought I’d check if the method was still the same. I’ve just done two of my husband’s shirts which were perfect apart from the collars. Took me about 20 minutes. So now I won’t be so quick to discard a shirt just because the collar is worn.

  2. That was so thorough! Thank you! Recently I took the collar off a favourite, wellloved shirt of my husbands, and it suited teh ‘grandad syle’ look with no collar at all, so that is a much easier option!!

    1. I’m glad you found my tutorial helpful! Oh yes, the grandad style is another good option – and it’s especially easy isn’t it when the shirt has a two piece collar like in my example – just unpick the worn top part and sew the collar edge back together 🙂 It really is a useful way to prolong the life of a favourite shirt. I hope your shirt collar turned out well!

  3. Excellent tutorial, thank you so much! 🙂 I’ve done this once before and it was years ago, so I looked to see if there was a tutorial and here you are – with step-by-steps and pictures, whoohoo! BEST tutorial on collar turning I’ve seen.

  4. Thank you for the great step by step description and pictures. After decades of other sewing projects I turned my first collar this morning : )

    -Bob

  5. Superb idea Peggy! You have explained it nicely. Yes, everyone has some favourite shirts that they don’t want to stop wearing… Will remember this tip 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us 🙂

    1. Glad you liked the tutorial, Sindhu! I had thought of turning shirt collars as maybe a little old-fashioned but I like to do this myself so I thought I’d make a quick tutorial about it. But sewing tips certainly seem to make a popular blog post, don’t they! This has been one of my most popular blog pages!

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