I’m always looking for ways to add something extra to a basic t-shirt. My logic? A ruler + your favorite t-shirt pattern + a few minutes to make an add-on pattern piece is faster than a new pattern.
With that in mind, I’m showing you today how to add a drawstring cowl to a t-shirt.
You can use either a raglan t-shirt or a standard sleeve tee pattern. Either way, you’ll end up with a nice sporty tee that’s a little more interesting than a basic. And on a windy day or in times we’re living in, you can cinch up the cowl and cover your face.
Dig out that tee pattern and let’s do this!
Add a Drawstring Cowl to a T-shirt Pattern
*Note: some pictures and text from this tutorial were originally published in September 2015 for UpCraftClub. Since that tutorial is no longer available, I’ve updated it here with new, clearer directions.
T-shirt patterns you can use for this tutorial
As I mentioned, you can add on a drawstring cowl to really any t-shirt pattern. I’m using Jalie 3245 which is a good basic raglan tee. The blue version is with Hey June’s Union St. Tee which also works. The only thing to remember here is that you need a scoop or crew neck. A v-neck would require a little more finagling we won’t be bothering with today!
If you don’t have a favorite t-shirt pattern, here’s a list of options:
Raglan t-shirt patterns to try
- Easy-to-make raglan t-shirt pattern
- Jalie 3245
- Greenstyle Creations Centerfield raglan
- Hey June Lane Raglan
And if you want to make this for a child or a man, check out Raglan Tee Patterns for Everyone. If you do, you might want to adjust the final size of the cowl itself so that it’s proportional.
Standard t-shirt patterns to try
Make your cowl piece
First things first, you’ll need to make your cowl piece. You can measure and draw out the cowl right on your fabric, or you can make the pattern piece on paper.
I’m going the draw it on the fabric route, but you do what you like here.
First, get the neckband piece from your t-shirt pattern. Measure the length. Most neckband pieces for t-shirts are cut on the fold, and we’ll do the same thing here.
Next fold your fabric so that the stretch of your jersey goes around your neck. Use your ruler to mark off the length of the neckband. This length will be perpendicular to the fold.
Measure up 10″ perpendicular to one side of neckband length along the fold. The fold is the center front line.
On the other side mark up 8″. From the neckband edge to the top of that 8″ mark, make another line that flares out 1/2″ from that square edge. This will be the center back seam.
Use a curve to connect the top of the 10″ mark to the top edge of the flared mark you just made. This longer curved edge is the top of the cowl.
Now we need to clean this up a little.
Make another mark on the top curved edge 4″ from the short end. Draw a line parallel to the neckband length 2″ in from the short end. Draw a small curve the marking on the top curve with the end of this short straight line.
Cut your pieces
For the cowl, cut along the 8″ line, the neckband length, and the top curve. Cut 2 cowl pieces.
Also cut your t-shirt front, back, and sleeves. You won’t need the neckband piece because the drawstring cowl is taking its place!
In addition to this, cut a piece of contrast knit 1 1/2″ long by 2 1/2″ wide.
How to make the drawstring cowl
First, fold the cowl pieces right sides together. Sew the short ends of each cowl piece together with a 1/4″ seam allowance. I’m using my serger here. If you don’t have a serger, stitch the seam with a narrow zigzag (0.5 width, 2.5 length).
Be sure to mark the fold at the top and bottom with your fabric marker.
Add the buttonhole patch
To make the patch for the buttonholes, fuse your interfacing to the backside of the small contrast rectangle you cut.
Press back 1/4″ towards the wrong side. After that, fuse on a small piece of Steam a Seam tape to the pressed edges.
Peel off the paper backing and center the patch over the top of one of the cowl pieces. Match the center front marking on the cowl to the center of the patch. Fuse the patch in place with an iron and steam.
Stitch down the patch close to the edges with a narrow zigzag stitch.
Add two vertical buttonholes on either side of center front line. Cut open both buttonholes.
Stitch the cowl pieces together
Next line up the center back seams of the cowl pieces and the center fronts.
Sew the top edge of the cowl pieces together with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Press the seam towards the side without the buttonholes. Next, understitch the seam by stitching on the cowl inside close to the first stitching line.
Press the cowl edges. The cowl inside should now roll towards the inside and you should see no stitching from the buttonhole side of the cowl.
Baste the bottom edges of the cowl pieces together.
Sew the t-shirt
After this, sew up your t-shirt up to where you add the neckband. For specific raglan t-shirt construction, watch this video.
Add the drawstring cowl to the t-shirt
Divide the t-shirt neckline into quarters. Do this by bringing the center front mark to the center back. The edges of that will be the second set of quarter marks. You can mark the quarters with pins or a fabric marking pen.
Also quarter the cowl in the same way.
Matching right sides together, pin the cowl to the t-shirt, pinning at the quarter marks. See how the cowl is slightly smaller along the neck edge. We want that!
Keeping the cowl facing up, sew the cowl to the neckline with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Stretch the cowl slightly between each pin so that it matches the length of the neckline. Do not stretch the neckline, just the cowl. You might find it easier to first baste the cowl in place, then serge the seam to finish it off.
Make the drawstring and finish off your drawstring cowl tee
Make a casing for the drawstring by stitching a line around the top of the cowl 1″ away from the top edge of the cowl with a twin needle. I’m using my coverstitch here, stitching from the wrong side.
To make the drawstring, fold in the raw short ends of the bias tape. Press the pressed sides of the bias tape together down the middle. Stitch all around the drawstring with a straight stitch.
Use a drawstring threader to thread the drawstring through the casing. You could use a safety pin here, though this drawstring threader is one of those inexpensive tools that’s worth its weight in gold.
Make a few stitches along the center back seam just within the casing area to secure the drawstring inside of the casing. This way you won’t lose the drawstring in the wash!
Enjoy your new drawstring cowl tee.
Check out more ways to hack a raglan
How to make a sleeveless raglan
Raglans go sleeveless with a scarfy twist
How to sew a henley tee
Your basic raglan + a henley neckline
How to sew a raglan tee
Sew up this classic baseball style
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.