Shark’s Teeth

Once upon a time, way back in 1990, Martha Pullen sent me a fragment of an antique petticoat and asked me to recreate the technique. Surprisingly, I had seen the technique several years before on an apron, and at that time I had examined it and figured out how it was done. So when I received that petticoat, I already knew how it was done! (Have I said before that I really enjoy the engineering part of sewing?!)

Well, I made one small pillow with this clipped-and-folded-and-stitched tuck technique, by hand, the way the original was done. And I realized that I had to find a way to do this by machine! So I did! I made garments with rows and rows and rows of these triangular tucks.

At the time, my children were very young. We lived near the original Bass Pro Shops, and sometimes, on rainy days, we would go to the store for fun. The kids could watch the fish in the huge aquarium and climb on the boats and in the tents. There were waterfalls and trees and even a stream running through the store. And there were taxidermied animals everywhere! One day, while I was in the midst of making those rows and rows and rows of white triangular tucks, we walked into Bass Pro, and there was…the Great White Shark, mouth open, with rows and rows and rows of white triangular teeth! And the name “Shark’s Teeth” was born!

This was my first article in Sew Beautiful, in the Summer 1991 issue.3a5a8a

I wanted more samples, so I made a dress for Annie and a shirt for David.


I was scheduled to teach for the first time at the Martha Pullen school in July 1991 . I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep and my stomach hurt. This magazine had come out just weeks before the school, and while the technique was too new to have been included in any of my classes, I did demos of this new technique at the Table Top Clinic evening event. I was swamped with some 350 students, plus many teachers and assistants and employees. I lost my voice that evening! Twenty-five years later, Shark’s Teeth remains popular, and I’m proud to have named it!

I’ve taught Shark’s Teeth so many times I could do it in my sleep! Now it’s included in my Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques Craftsy class. (Click here to take the class for just $24.99, a 50% discount!)resized 3a

Do you see the linen shirt-jacket on the dress form behind me? Well, I needed some updated samples, and more adult garments for class samples. This is my newest Shark’s Teeth garment.

I used the StyleArc Marley Woven Shirt pattern. This pattern is also available as a PDF on Etsy.


While I rarely wear boxy jackets myself, I knew this would be a good pattern to showcase some rows of Shark’s Teeth along the front opening.18

I used a rust-colored handkerchief linen that has been in my stash for a long time. I used a size 10 pattern, because that’s the size of the mannequin, but it’s too small for me, so bear that in mind when looking at the photos of me wearing it. I would need a size 12 or 14, and as with most StyleArc patterns, I would increase the biceps circumference. Otherwise, the shirt is great! Here it is worn open…


…and buttoned.034

You can see here that the dart points are too high – if I had been making this for myself, I would have lowered the darts, in addition to using the larger size.

Here’s the back – again, a shirt that’s too small for me. But it’s nice to see garments on a real person!50

One thing I really like about this pattern are the deep hems and slits at the side seams and at the cuffs.


The rest of the photos show details, but the color is waaaaay off – sorry! These are the slits and deep hems.


I used French seams for all the seams, so the inside is nicely finished.


Instead of hemming the fronts as indicated on the pattern, I made a facing the depth of the hem. If I had used a hem, the tucks, if folded under, would have been quite bulky. A facing eliminates that bulk. And I slip-stitched the front placket edges to the seamline of the innermost tuck.


The collar stand on this pattern was different than any I’ve done before, but it worked nicely.


All in all, a great pattern, and a time-tested technique!


17 thoughts on “Shark’s Teeth

  1. Sue, I am so thrilled to read that you are the one who developed (by machine) and named Shark’s Teeth. I had no idea you had this “claim to fame”. I remember assisting you when you were teaching a Shark’s Teeth ladies blouse at the Martha Pullen School, but I must have missed the introduction where you told the students the history behind the technique.
    You are so talented, and you are a great inspiration.
    Thank you for sharing all you do with those of us who love to sew!


  2. Susan, I absolutely love the look of your Shark’s Teeth and am so glad that you included it in your Craftsy class, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The shark’s teeth are decorative but give a more tailored look to a garment. I think that I will give them a try by using them on a linen purse but they would also be lovely on a pillow as well as a garment. I know that I will get compliments galore. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.


  3. Dear Susan, I remember being in your evening class in 1991. You taught so well. I went on to teach the basic technique with you credit for many years. I have always appreciated your talent and creativity!!! Love all your sharks tooth project I have seen in person and in publications!!


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  5. This is not a technique I have ever used, but the examples are so beautiful and I really love that blouse. I will try them on something, just as soon as I finish my current big project. I have a project in mind..a quilt in memory of my mom. As always, I deeply admire your lovely work, but I did not know you had given the name “sharks teeth” to this technique.


  6. Hi Susan, I found the image of your blouse/jacket on Pinterest, saved it, which led me to this post almost two years later. I had no idea you came up with the term “sharks teeth”. Thank you for clarifying, because I do believe in giving credit where it’s due. 🙂 I’ve never used this technique but am familiar with how it’s made – and am ready to give it a go. I write a sewing blog, and sometimes try to dig in where a design originated or evolved. I hope you don’t mind if I use your orange blouse image in a future post – with a link to here, of course. BTW, I do remember seeing your pillow years ago…..


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