Men’s Cotton Knit Rugby Shirt


I don’t often sew with knits. I generally find woven fabrics more rewarding to work with.

But last summer I found a beautiful medium-weight striped cotton knit at Mood Fabrics in New York City that reminded me of those classic French cotton boatneck shirts that have become so popular. This navy blue and off-white knit had the same beefiness as those shirts, and I was delighted to discover that there was no Lycra in it (not a fan of cling, on me at least). It also had only two-way stretch, making it more stable.  (You can shop Mood’s online selection of striped cotton knits here.)

Rather than make a boatneck shirt, which strikes me as strictly a summer garment, I decided to make a men’s rugby shirt, which I can wear all year round. I used the knit shirt option (View C) in a favorite vintage Seventies shirt pattern I’ve used often, Butterick 4712, below:


If you’re familiar with classic rugby shirts, they generally have knit cuffs (when they have cuffs at all) and the front placket is sewn like a continuous lap on a sleeve, so that only the fashion fabric shows on top, as in the photo below.

rugby shirt

My shirt is a little different.  I used the shirt placket template found in David Coffin’s book Shirtmaking. You can see what it looks like below: basically it’s an upside-down sleeve placket.


For the collar and cuffs I used a sturdy white cotton percale from my stash. (White cotton canvas would be another option, or really any white shirting that’s interfaced to give it more crispness.)  I used a two-piece collar (i.e., collar and separate stand) instead of the one-piece collar with facings included in the pattern.  I narrowed the collar a bit (Seventies collars tended to be WIDE) and also shortened the cuffs.




I sewed all my seams first with my sewing machine and then stitched over them with my serger so that the seams could stretch without popping the stitching. The only challenge on a project like this was attaching the woven parts (collar, cuffs, and placket) to the knit: you have to be careful not to stretch the knit as you sew it to the woven. Pins help — and practice.





I love the way this shirt turned out and it’s the perfect garment to wear on these cool fall days.   It’s classic and a little preppy, which is basically the way I dress 80% of the time.

Now I really should research what this rugby thing is.  😉

See you next month!




  • Erica Bunker
    October 21, 2015

    Peter, you always find the best vintage patterns! This shirt looks great!

  • Amanda S.
    October 21, 2015

    I love it! You have such a good eye for turning dated patterns into modern but classic pieces.

  • Cynthis
    October 21, 2015

    wow that looks really good on you – great job with putting it together. looks better than RTW

  • Lori
    October 21, 2015

    Peter, that is a great looking Rugby shirt. You have the perfect pattern and fabric combination.

  • Pam
    October 21, 2015

    The nautical feel is very nice, too. You definitely hit the sweet spot between trim and relaxed in the fit. Did you use a walking foot or any seam tape when sewing this?

    • Peter
      October 21, 2015

      I reinforced the shoulder seams with pre-shrunk cotton twill tape so they wouldn’t stretch. I did use my walking foot, which helped a lot.

  • alison
    October 21, 2015

    looks really good on you, better than on most rugby players , who tend to be rather chunky guys, muscle bound and broken nosed…built like a bus.

  • GeorgiaMin
    October 21, 2015

    The shirt is really nice but your modeling is fabulous! I’ve been a reader of your blog for a couple of years and have seen you grow from tongue-in-cheek to extremely professional. Good job on providing the whole package!

  • Jenny
    October 21, 2015

    Great timing with the rugby shirt. The rugby world cup is currently on in England at the moment. It’s considered the national sport here in New Zealand and we have high hopes of taking out the cup again.
    Absolutely love your take on the shirt. It looks great on you. Well done.

  • Mainelydad
    October 21, 2015

    From the streets of NYC to the French Riviera, you’re covered. This shirt can take you anywhere.

  • Charlotte
    October 21, 2015

    I love it! The fit looks perfect

  • Graca
    October 21, 2015

    Peter, love those glasses! Oh, and the rugby shirt too.

  • Lisa
    October 22, 2015

    Awesome stripe matching on top of the shoulders!

  • Kelly
    October 22, 2015

    The rugby World Cup is going on at the moment, so good timing! Alas, the US has been eliminated, but still good watching 🙂

  • Virginie
    October 22, 2015

    Oooohh – I love that! It’s beautifully made and you wear it extremely well.

  • John Thomas
    October 22, 2015

    I played rugby many years ago and wore a number of rugby shirts “off the pitch” as well when they were popular back in the ’70’s. The RTW version was usually cut too full for my taste. I think you designed and executed a more pleasing version of this classic. Well done!

  • Michael
    October 23, 2015

    Great material – very Gaultier. If you have any left do make the sailor shirt for summer because it would be fabulous. Btw, talking of Gauthier, I think the recent Paris exhibition is coming (has come??) to NY. If so, it’s well worth a visit. The look is quite punk so it’s not to everyone’s taste (mine included!) but the working of the fabric , which covers an amazing range of material/substances, is superb.

  • Roberta
    October 23, 2015

    I love this shirt! Looks better than the inspiration garments. Great fabric and pattern, but your tweaks make the garment so much better.

  • Sandy
    October 23, 2015

    Really, really love this shirt!

  • Diary of a Chainstitcher
    October 24, 2015

    I love how you’ve used this fabric Peter, you’re always so inventive! The solid collar and cuffs really make this