The no-measure method for sewing a t-shirt neckline
When + why not to measure a knit neckband
I probably use this method the most. It works great for unusual t-shirt necklines and any time you don’t feel like calculating the *perfect* length neckband.
The thing is that sometimes neckband pieces in patterns are too long or more rarely too short for a given knit. Knits all have slightly different stretch percentages and recovery. When you put one knit + another, you might have to adjust things so that you get a knit neckband that sits nice and flat against your neck.
So this method is really about feel. And also no pinning. It’s too easy to overhandle knit fabrics and end up with stretched out necklines. When you limit your pins, your neckbands will get better! I’ll preach it til I’m blue in the face, this is why I’m a fan of sewing without pins. This is what I would try after you get comfortable with the neckband method.
Stitch a knit neckline without measuring
First, cut your neckband on the cross grain (stretch going around the neck). I usually cut mine 1 1/4″ wide X 13 or so inches on the fold (so 26″ total). This is usually way more than I need. In fact, cut it longer than you think you’ll need. The extra will give you wiggle room in case you’re dealing with a fussier knit.
Next, press the neckband in half the long ways.
After that, pin your neckband with only 1 pin a couple inches from either center back or a sleeve seam if you’re sewing a raglan tee.
Take your tee to the machine and start stitching from where you pinned. Stretch the neckband only while you stitch. Do this in sections, stretching a couple inches, sewing, stretching a couple more inches, sewing. I’m sewing here with my sewing machine + a stretch needle + a narrow zigzag stitch (0.5mm width, 2.5mm length). I often prefer to stitch this on a sewing machine vs. a serger with this method.
How much do you stretch? You want to feel a slight tug on the neckband. You’ll know if you stretched too much because there will be puckers on the neckband seam if you flip it to the right side. If the band stands away from the neckline, you didn’t stretch it enough. It’s not a bad idea to baste this first so you can see if you need to adjust anything. Better to pull out a basting stitch and try again than to have to unpick a serged seam!
Stop sewing a couple inches from where you started pinning.
Finishing the neck seam
At this point, bring the edges of your neckband together at the center back (or shoulder seam–wherever you started pinning). Cut both edges of the neckband 3/8″ past where that seamline is going to be.
Now unfold the neckband and sew the 2 short edges together with a 3/8″ seam allowance.
Finish sewing the last couple inches of the neckband to your t-shirt, stretching the neckband while you stitch just like before.
Press the t-shirt neckline seam towards the body of the t-shirt. Finish it off with a topstitch. I used a double needle for this one.
You can see this method in action on this video.
Wrapped seam finish for a t-shirt neckline
This wrapped seam finish is nice to use if you have a contrast knit that you want to show off or if you want a nice clean edge on the inside of your t-shirt. I used that for this lace applique t-shirt.
First, fold your neckband piece in half and press just like before. For this method, you only want to sew one of the shoulder seams before this step. Unfold your neckband and match the right side of the neckband to the wrong side of the t-shirt.
Stitch the neckband to the t-shirt, stretching the band slightly as you’re stitching. Press the raw edge towards the seam you just sewed.
To finish it, wrap the pressed edge around the sewn edge so that you cover the stitching. Sewing from the right side, stitch down the binding either with a narrow zigzag, double needle or coverstitch.
From there, sew the shoulder seam and the neckband seam in one step. Sew a couple extra stitches from the neckline edge to the neckband seam to tack down the neckband seam.
So there’s 4 different ways you can sew a t-shirt neckline. What’s your favorite one?
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