Monday, 6 July 2015

A tutorial: planning out and sewing a neckband

Over the weekend, I drafted a top and, with no pattern or sewing instructions, was left pondering how long the neck band should be and exactly how I should install it. I've sewn on neck bands in tops that have a central opening before, but never a loop neckband on a boatneck t-shirt. But freakily, this turned out perfectly, so I thought I might write up what I did (sorry, no step photos as I only thought to tutorialise this afterwards).

  • Sew the shoulder seams together. 
  • Lay the top out flat with the neckline sitting as smoothly as possible.
  • Using a soft tape measure standing up on its side, measure around the neck (on the fabric, rather than the paper pattern pieces as jersey can stretch or slip around a bit while cutting), being careful not to stretch the jersey as you do to avoid getting an inaccurate measurement. Mine was 22" Cut the fabric for the neckband an inch smaller than this measurement so that it can stretch to fit perfectly with no neck gape, so mine was cut at 21". I didn't actually add any seam allowance on as my material is really stretchy and I was only using a small seam allowance, so in reality, my band was 1.5" smaller than my top's neck. You may want to adapt this to your own preferences.
  • To get the width of the band, decide how wide you want the finished neckband to be - mine is 3/8". Then decide how much of a seam allowance you want - again, mine is 3/8". Add these two figures together. That gives me 6/8". Now double this measurement (as your neckband has two sides to it). This means my neckband needed to be cut 1.5" wide x 22". 
  • Lay the fabric down and see which direction has the most stretch. Cut the neckband along the maximos stretchios direction of the fabric. 
  • Fold the band in half along the length, wrong sides together, and press with an iron.
  • Always use a ball-point needle for sewing knits. 
  • With right sides together, sew the two short ends of the neckband together to make a loop.
  • On the neck line of my top, I marked the centre front and centre back and both sides to get four perfectly even quarters. The sides aren't necessarily in line with the shoulder seam, as the back and front pieces won't always have a neck that measures an identical length on these two halves - worth keeping in mind as the four quarters need to be even.
  • On my loop, I marked the centre (directly opposite the join) and then placed the centre and join together, to find out where to make the other two marks to give four even quarters. 
  • Next, placing fabrics right side to right side and aligning raw edges, pin the join on the loop to the centre back of the top, and then pin, lining up markings at the other three points.
  • Now stretch the neck band perfectly evenly between the four points and pin in place. 
  • I used an overlocker to sew the band to the top, but a sewing machine with a stretch stitch or zig-zag stitch would be fine. 
  • I then pressed the seam allowance toward the top (away from the neck band) and understitched it in place to avoid it flipping up. This is the line of stitches you can see just beneath my neckband. 
  • Optional: sew a band of self-fabric or ribbon across the inside back of the neck to cover the join in the neck band on the inside of the garment. 

I used Prym Wonder Tape to temporarily stick my other seams together before sewing the rest of the top (it washes away afterwards). This stabilises the knit fabric, dispenses with the need for pins and stops hems from resembling the wavy edge of a lettuce leaf. It's amazing stuff. I only discovered it last year when someone on Instagram mentioned it to me and it's revolutionised things for me! 

The slub jersey fabric is all kinds of amazing. It's really fine, very drapey, but somehow not completely unstable. It looks like it's going to be outrageously transparent when it's just a piece of fabric, but once it's sewn together, it doesn't look that way at all (although it's definitely not bottom-weight fabric). This top cost me just £7.50 to make. Or it would have done if I hadn't won a £25 gift voucher to spend at The Village Haberdashery and spent part of it on this fabric! If you tag anything you make with #tvhhaul on Instagram, you'll automatically be entered into a drawer each month. I'd completely forgotten I'd done this, so when Annie emailed me with my voucher there was much joyful spending and no dignified saving; my fabric arrived the next day. 

Finally, I think I stumbled across Abby Glassenberg's blog, While She Naps, a few years ago and ever since have admired Abby's well-researched posts that cover everything from how much fabric designers get paid (and how poorly many are treated in terms of funding quilt market), how craft book publishers are diversifying and possibly upsetting their authors in the process, or discussing the way gender often seems to define how a sewists work is perceived in our industry. Abby has a knack of turning ideas that only rumble at the peripheries of my thinking, and delivering them as fully-formed observations that drop, crystallised, into my lap, giving substance to something that I later recognise as having made me feel a certain way, but which hadn't progressed to being thought through at any deeper level. In short, I really love her fearless blogging voice; she tackles the things that others in our industry shy away from talking about and has a refreshingly direct approach.

So, being something of a fangirl, I'm delighted to be featured in Abby's (less controversial!) 'The Pattern that Changed My Life' series, where she asks people about a pattern that's been pivotal in their journey as a sewist. I didn't even have to think twice about my choice, although I could easily have picked one related to dressmaking and one to quilting as they feel such different disciplines. Do go over and read if you have a few minutes to spare.

Wishing you a lovely week,
Florence x


  1. Lovely top, so classically stylish. Thanks for the tutorial, and also for introducing me to Abby's blog :)

  2. Love the top! Thanks for taking the time to share your methods

  3. Love love love the top! Thanks for the tutorial! Did you use a pattern for that top? If so, may I ask what it was? Many thanks! :)

    1. I'm so sorry, Charlotte. It's my own pattern, so you just have the neckband for now!

  4. I've been reading for awhile but commenting for the first time. Your blog is such a standout to me - you are so thoughtful and articulate and so very entertaining. It's such a joy to read! A quick question - I'm new to the world of garment sewing (brand new overlocker!) - when you understitched the neckband (is that the same as topstitching? edgestitching?), did you use a straight stitch or some sort of stretch stitch? thanks!

    1. That's so kind of you to say that, Kate - thank you.

      Understitching is one of those things that seems slightly pointless because it's a hidden detail, but it makes all the difference to how professional your garment looks in terms of finish. In this case, maybe I should have said 'top-stitched' though, as I sewed through the outer, top layer of fabric along with the seam allowance. This holds everything in place and gives a neat finish that prevents 'roll' and serves the same purpose as understitching, where the most common use is again to prevent fabric from rolling out of place. Most commonly, you'd understitch a seam allowance to a facing or similar and wouldn't have any stitching visible on the top of the garment - I've just made a dress where I did this, so I'll try and remember to show that when I post about it. And yes, I just used a straight stitch for top-stitching on the grounds that anything else would have looked ugly! x

  5. This is lovely! Perfect stitching and everything--I wish my improvised finishings turned out this great. :)

  6. Hi, this is beautiful top and stylish design, the tutorials is really helpful for us. Thanks for share with us wonderful information. I am also trying to this method for making top.

  7. Everything you make is just lovely, and this top is not exception! And your fit is spot on ~ the shoulder seam is perfection (so many people don't know where it should be, I've decided.)
    (I have started joining my neck bindings the same way I join my fabric strips for quilt bindings. There is then no bulk at the center back :-)
    I read that post of Abby's (along with all the other posts in the series :-) so ~ which quilting book was a game changer for you??

    Happy stitching ~ Tracy


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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