finished DIY henley t-shirt

How to sew a henley tee: A buttony, snappy DIY tee

Today it’s all about how to sew a henley.

If ever there’s a t-shirt style I keep coming back to, it’s the classic henley.  The front placket gives you a chance to use some nice buttons which can add some detail to a plain t-shirt.  And if you’re suddenly sweating over the thought of sewing buttonholes in knits, we’ll deal with that fear!

Plus henleys are awesome layering tops.  Pop one on under a jacket or a sweater and you’re good to go.

I’ll walk you through how to change up a basic t-shirt pattern for the henley placket.  Next I’ll show you how to sew a classic henley, then we’ll change it up with snaps for a different look.  

"How to sew a henley t-shirt" with DIY henley tee

How to sew a henley: supplies

  • Your favorite t-shirt pattern
  • Ruler
  • Jersey Knit fabric
  • Chalk/marking pencil
  • Lightweight knit interfacing
  • Ballpoint or stretch machine needle + thread
  • 6 buttons or ring/pearl snaps
  • Snap setter if using snaps

Choosing a pattern for a henley

There’s plenty of stand alone henley patterns out there, but with 1 small change, you can easily make this add-on to your favorite t-shirt pattern.

You can make a henley with a raglan sleeve or a standard t-shirt or really any style. If you don’t have a t-shirt pattern that you love so much you’d bronze it, here’s some options.

Off to hacking your pattern!

How to sew a henley t-shirt

Make the henley pattern piece

To make the henley placket piece, draw a rectangle that’s 2 5/8″X11″.

The only other thing you’ll need to do is add 2 1/2″ to the length of your neckband.

There’s 1/4″ seam allowances for this tutorial.

How to cut a henley t-shirt

Now that you have your extra pattern piece, cut out your t-shirt. You’ll need:

PiecesHow many to cut
Back1, cut on the fold
Front1, cut on the fold

Mark the front

There’s one more thing we need to do to the front to get ready for the henley placket.

marking front for how to sew a henley t-shirt

First draw a line 10.5″ straight down center front on the wrong side of the front. Make two more lines 1/2″ away from the first one.

Next draw a small line perpendicular to center front 10.5″ down from the neckline to connect all 3 lines.

Prep the henley placket pieces

Next we need to prep the placket pieces. First press 1 1/4″ of each placket piece to the wrong side.

prepping placket pieces for DIY henley

Open up each placket piece. Cut 2 strips of fusible knit interfacing that are 1″ wide. Fuse them to each piece, lining up the edge with the fold on the narrower side.

Press back 1/2″ on the side of the placket without interfacing.

Refold the plackets along the center fold and press them again.

Sew the placket to the front

Draw a line 1/4″ on the interfaced side of each placket piece.

Line up this line with each of the outer lines on the front. The right side of the placket should be facing the wrong side of the front. Pin in place.

pinning plackets to front for a henley t-shirt

Next sew the long side of the placket piece to the front along the line you drew. Use a narrow zigzag stitch (0.5 width, 2.5 length) here.

Repeat for the second side.

Finish sewing the plackets

Next the careful bit. Cut down the center front line. About 1/2″ from the bottom, cut at an angle towards the corners. Carefully cut all the way into the corner. Trim the seam allowance on the top so that they’re even with the placket.

cutting open front for a henley placket

After that, wrap the plackets around to the right side. Cover the stitching line with the pressed edge. Pin or hand baste this in place.

Next, stitch through the sides of each placket piece close to the edge.

Overlap the placket pieces right over left. As you do this, sandwich the little triangle you cut open on the front in between the plackets. Fold the raw edges of the top placket in and press.

Stitch through all the layers, making a box with an X in the center.

Sew the buttonholes

Now comes the buttonholes.

Make a mark 2.5″ from the bottom along that line and another 1″ from the top. Spread out the other buttonholes evenly between the two markings.

marking buttons for a DIY henley t-shirt

From there, sew the buttonholes. The interfacing in the placket will make it easier for you to stitch out nice looking buttonholes. If you’re having a hard time with the buttonholes, I would suggest making a sandwich with water soluble stabilizer. I talk about that more in Gamechanger Tips for Sewing Buttonholes.

Make the top

At this point, sew the rest of the top together. For specific construction advice, check out how to sew your own raglan tee. You can use your pattern directions here too.

How to sew a raglan t-shirt

Baseball season is coming. Make a classic baseball tee now!

Finish the neckline

When you get to the neckline press it in half lengthwise. After that, press up one of the long raw edges by 1/4″. Add a scrap of interfacing to the end of the right side of the neckband.

Match the center back of the neckband to the center back of the top, pinning the right side of the neckband to the wrong side of the neckline. The ends of each side should go past the end of the front neckline by 1/4″.

Stitch the neckband to the top, stretching the neckband to fit. Press the seam towards the neckband.

Now bring the ends of the neckband right sides together. Sew the end together with a short stitch length. Trim the seam if necessary, then flip the neckband to the right side.

Overlap the stitching and pin or hand baste the band into place. Topstitch the neckband down close to the pressed edge. You can use a narrow zigzag, a twin needle or a coverstitch to do this.

Finish off the neckline by adding one more buttonhole in the band itself.

Sew on the buttons and your henley is finished!

Skip the buttons: How to add snaps to a henley

If you want to skip the buttonholes entirely, just add snaps.

Ring snaps or pearl snaps will give your henley a totally different look, and the snaps are way easier than adding the buttonholes.

You can see how to add the snaps on this video starting at minute 26’29”.

So are you Team Buttonholes or Team Snaps when it comes to henleys? As we’ve walked our way through how to sew a henley top, you can see how that little placket can go a long way in changing up a basic tee.

Other raglan tee variations to try:

12 thoughts on “How to sew a henley tee: A buttony, snappy DIY tee”

  1. Lovely top! I miss easy and fast projects! The bee is taking its toll on me! I hardly ever leave things unfinished too, if I cut the fabric I am in for it … but non started projects I could probably write a full book on them! Good luck with your costumes! Looking forward to see them!

    1. You are going to need a break after all the creativity you’ve been pouring into your bee makes! I’m like that too. If things get cut they have to be made like yesterday, unless it’s a bag because those aren’t terribly interesting to me! 😀

  2. That is such pretty fabric for you Henley Elizabeth! I have so many Not Yet Started projects! My hesitation is always this: will this fabric shine with this pattern? I really need to get over this!

  3. That is an absolutely beautiful fabric on you.
    I do hope you saved the scraps for some signature “Elizabeth Made This” color blocking.
    And the way you put together your outfit makes you look relaxed and warm and the almost perfect Mom to those cute kids that periodically show up on your blog. (BTW: it has to be “almost perfect” because good moms always give their kids-especially teenagers-something to complain about)

  4. I love this very cute little top! Looks absolutely adorable on you and has so many options for wear too! Thank you so much for including all the information on how you constructed! That YouTube tutorial was awesome!

  5. I love this top – -It’s so you! The print is perfect and fits your wardrobe perfectly. And I have so much anticipation for your costume efforts. Can’t wait to see the finished Dr. Who!

    1. Thanks Linda! It’s not too often that I find prints in my color palette, so I pounce on them! My jacket exceeded my expectations–I’m really looking forward to sharing and seeing how my husband’s suit evolves!

  6. In your instructions you say: “Overlap the placket pieces right over left.” Shouldn’t it be left over right for men’s?

    Also, your instructions are obviously versatile enough to also allow for an arbitrary length or width of the packet and an arbitrary number of buttons…

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