Tutorial: Adding Shoulder Buttons or Snaps

shoulder buttons
Sewing for Boys

Hi, Sewers! This post marks our first month of Sew You Had a Boy. We hope you’ve found a nugget or two to use in your own sewing. Today we are sharing a tutorial to dress up your boy t-shirts. In reality this would work for girls- or grownups too!

The inspiration for this project came from a number of pictures we saw floating around the web and Pinterest.

The top I made today has snaps at the shoulder. I have a button shoulder in process, too, and I’ll tell you where to make the change if you would like to make that version.

You Need

A knit top pattern or existing top  to draft off of. I’m using the Flashback Skinny Tee.

Your base fabric. I’m upcycling a woman’s tee.

Rib knit for your neck, optional knit for your cuffs and/or waistband

Snaps or buttons. I’m using 2 5/8″ snaps on each shoulder.

To Begin

boy shirt detail

To create your shoulder placket (is that a placket? I’m going with that), extend the shoulder straight out 1″ on your front and 2″ on your back.

Cut your sleeves as you would normally.

finish shoulder

I serged the top edge of my shoulders. I did it in part  to make it clearer in pictures, and in part to make me feel the edge was a little more finished.

Now I’m going to turn over the top  on all four edges. Turn 1′ over toward the wrong side of your piece. Press the heck out of it.

shoulder buttonsYour front now matches the pattern, the back is one inch longer. Stitch down your tab. I sewed along my serging line.

Now if you are going to use buttons. Sew your buttonhole(s) now. Put them on the front tab you’ve just created.

Sleeve detail tutorialLay your shoulders over each other. The tab on the back of your shirt will be on the bottom when the shirt is worn. In other words, it’s where the button is sewn. So in this situation you are looking at the wrong side of your fabric, the back is on top. The tops of your shoulder should line up with the stitching line you made above.

I pinned my shoulder pieces together as they will be when your button/snap is in place. If you aren’t confident you can keep them together, baste them first.

Set your sleeve as you normally would.

shoulder 2


Flip it over. Pull your pins, and now you have this:

sleeve 2


I’m using a clearance tshirt, and I stole the hems, so that step is done for me. If you need to finish your cuffs and hems, now is the time

As a side note: while these snaps do function, his shirt slips on and off without undoing them.

I cut the normal neck ribbing and then cut it in half. Then I sewed it on the front and back of the neckline.  As a last step, I add the snaps (or the buttons).

And for a refreshing change of pace, he loves it.

How do you dress up your boy’s basics?


Happy Sewing,



{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Mira (Sewing the Littleheart Collection) February 21, 2013, 7:01 am

    Thanks Rachel, this is great. One question – How did you finish the ribbed neckline on the edges? In the picture it looks like you folded it under?

    • onceuponasewingmachine February 21, 2013, 10:26 am

      Hi Mira, You know I was posting this and realized I sort of stopped taking pictures! Hopefully this will make sense.
      The ribbing is tapered off the edge. So pin what would be the top corner of your neck ribbing to the end of the neckline, and then pull it back up around the rest of the neckline. Was that clear as mud? I’ll snap a picture and add it!

  • Cindy February 21, 2013, 8:06 am

    Love the snaps, they are a fun detail. I can see why he loves the shirt!

    • onceuponasewingmachine February 21, 2013, 10:22 am

      Thanks! He likes that they make noise- he’s a boy 🙂 He spent the first 30 minutes shaking his arms around and going “what’s that noise” MY BUTTONS! Whatever makes you happy kid!

  • Amy Mayen February 21, 2013, 9:00 am

    I don’t know why I always assumed that this was way harder and too complicated for me. Thanks for the tutorial-I pinned it 🙂

    • onceuponasewingmachine February 21, 2013, 10:21 am

      You know I thought it was going to hard too, then I opened up a onsie…Isn’t it funny the things you think are going to be hard!

  • Jill Flory February 21, 2013, 12:16 pm

    Great tutorial 🙂 And how wonderful that he likes it!

  • Pam February 23, 2013, 9:42 pm

    Adding the snaps at the shoulder allows you to have quite a tight fit at the neckline if you want, as well as the added visual impact. I’d call it a shoulder placket.

  • Shelly February 27, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Love the snaps! Wish I could do this!

    Stopping by from WKWW

  • kilee March 1, 2013, 3:08 pm

    Love that detail! The red looks great with the snaps as well. Thanks for linking up!


  • kilee March 1, 2013, 3:08 pm

    Love that detail! The red looks great with the snaps as well. Thanks for linking up!


  • elastic yarn June 10, 2013, 7:52 pm

    haha, the boy seems to love the new shirt 🙂 You did a good job. I am thinking of doing something similar. Just waiting for my new button attaching machine to arrive. It can act as a button sewing machine and button hole sewing machine so work will get done very fast. Good luck with future projects 🙂

  • Audrey November 6, 2020, 5:57 pm

    I was just wondering if I have to add more to the neckband if I do this, or can I use the original size of neckband that the pattern comes with? Thank you.

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