A buff is a tubular scarf that offers both warmth and protection. It’s very easy to sew and can be done on a regular sewing machine and a serger, and in this tutorial, I’ll show both versions.
Best fabrics for sewing a buff
Use a soft, lightweight knit fabric. It should stretch crosswise but have minimal lengthwise stretch for best result. A 100% cotton t-shirt fabric is an excellent choice. Wool knit is another great fabric pick for sewing a buff. Lycra fabrics can work too, but the seam might get stretched out if you are sewing the buff on a sewing machine.
To sew a buff you’ll need
- Soft knit fabric
- Sewing machine needles for stretch fabrics (knit ballpoint needle, see my guide for sewing machine needles for knits)
- Sewing machine thread
- A sewing machine or a serger
- An iron to press the seam
- Scissors or a rotary cutter (rotary cutter will make cutting straight lines easier.
Sizes for the buff pattern piece
Width: 40 cm (15 ¾”)
Height: 48 cm (19”)
Width: 46 cm (18”)
Height: 50 cm (19 ½”)
Width: 50 cm (19 ½”)
Height: 52 cm (20 ½”)
Preparing and cutting the pattern
Draft the pattern on a large piece of paper or simply measure the pattern straight on the fabric.
Place the pattern piece on a single layer of fabric. Make sure the greatest degree of fabric stretch is across the width of the pattern.
How to sew a buff with a sewing machine
1. Fold the fabric in the middle
The fold should be lengthwise, right sides facing, the wrong side up.
2. Sew the side seam of the buff
Use a narrow zigzag stitch, which means that you use a smaller stitch width compared to a regular zigzag, around 1.5 is usually a good setting. The seam allowance should be between 0.6-1 CM (1/4-3/8”).
If the fabric is stretching out and is getting too wavy, it means it has too much lengthwise stretch. If you still want to use a stretchy fabric, use regular water-soluble stick glue to join the fabric together before sewing. Another option is to use water-soluble double-sided tape (Wonder-Tape) (Amazon affiliate link).
3. Press the seam open
This step is not necessary but it will be much nicer to the skin if the seam is flat rather than bulky. Use low to medium heat depending on the fabric (wool or polyester low heat, cotton slightly warmer). Press carefully.
4. Stitch the seam down
Again this step is optional but it will make the seam is chafe-free and will not rub your skin. Pick a decorative sewing machine stitch or use a regular zigzag stitch, and sew over the seam from the right side. Check out this step-by-step photo tutorial on exactly how to sew this stitch on your sewing machine.
How to sew a buff with a serger
Using your flatlock seam on the serger (either the 2-thread or the 3-thread) you can create a buff that is pretty much rub-free. So if you have a serger, I highly recommend using a flatlock rather than a regular 3- or 4-thread overlock and in this tutorial, I’ll show you how.
How a flatlock serger seam works
You sew together the fabric, with the wrong sides facing, right side up.
Then you pull the fabric to the sides so that the seam opens up and lies flat.
The reverse side of the flatlock seam, which forms a set of ladders. You can also use this side outwards if you like.
1. Fold the fabric wrong sides facing, right side up
Yes, for a serger flatlock seam you’ll need to sew the seam together from the right side, with the wrong sides facing if you want to get the flatlock seam visible on the outer side of the buff. IF you prefer the ladder stitch on the outside, fold the fabric with right sides facing.
2. Set your serger up for a flatlock seam
Check your manual for the exact settings. For a really flat seam, chose the 2-thread rather than 3-thread flatlock seam. If you want to use use a 3-thread (more durable, check my 3-thread flatlock tutorial on how to make it lie flat).
3. Sew the flatlock seam
Make sure the serger knife just cuts a smidgen of the fabric. Align the fabric edges with the knife to make sewing straight easier. Start and finish with a long thread tail, as these will be attached inside the seam in the next step.
4. Pull the seam open
Now you’ll have a very flat, chafe-free seam that will feel soft and nice on your skin.
5. Secure the seam
Attach the loose ends with a hand sewing needle. Just sew a few stitches inside the flatlock seam and tie them together.
The finished buff
I hope you found this tutorial useful, it’s a very easy accessory to sew, and using the techniques shown here, you’ll buff will also be very kind to your skin.