27 May 2012

Turnback Cuffs: The Less Deceived

The title is from a poetry collection published by Philip Larkin in 1955. It's called, well, The Less Deceived, and includes such poems as "Toads" and "Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album."

When I first decided to sew turnback cuffs I was sure I understood how they worked. You have a long cuff, a tapered end, a couple buttons, and you fold the whole thing over. Easy. But when I started cutting the pattern the silhouette looked remarkably awkward. Naturally, I headed back online to figure out what was wrong.

In searching for tips I happened across a website called The Suits of James Bond. Turnback cuffs, also known as cocktail cuffs, also known as James Bond cuffs? It wasn't exactly hard to realize this site might be useful. On the post devoted to 2-Button Turnback Cuffs, the author presents an image of what a turnback cuff ought to look like when unfolded, which I used in my redesign.

More than that, though, the post gets into details about interfacing and folding and how corners curl -- I think I have a better grasp of what the cuff is supposed to actually do. Well, other than look nice.

So here's my new pattern for the turnback cuff, complete with measurements, now that I'm less deceived about it's purpose and design:

design for a james bond cocktail turnback cuff

Since I never wear suits and I'm not a man, I prefer looser cuffs on my shirts (if they were tight-fitting I think they'd be about 5" in circumference, which is just awkward) so when this is buttoned it should be about 6 1/2" all around, and about 2 1/2" long. The dashes in the middle are the fold line, and I included the other measurements for easy adjustment.

Oh, and since I've left this shirt alone for so long, here's some proof that I am actually working on it:

A close up of the stripes which you can't make out at first:

Time to head once more unto the breach, now.


  1. Okay this is the coolest blog! You have to post a reading list sometime. I love the tutorial -of sorts- on the turned-back cuff. And I so agree with you about tight cuffs. I tried to make turned-back cuffs once and I almost died. Actually the whole button-down shirt experience was too much.

    1. Thank you! :) And yeah, the whole collar-buttonholes-cuffs routine is kind of harrowing, but I find the satisfaction's worth it -- I don't wear dresses, so sewing a blouse or jacket is the only way I get to use fancy sewing techniques.

      (By the way, by reading list did you mean my blurb about Larkin?)