I see it every day in sewing groups; someone posts a beautiful shirt or dress that they’ve sewn, but the neckband just isn’t right. I know we’ve all been there – but I am here to tell you, once you know how to avoid the pitfalls of knit neckbands, you’ll be sewing them up left and right.
Truth: The first ten neckbands I attempted were sewn on backwards.
First let me explain how to sew on a neckband, and then I will troubleshoot common mistakes and how to fix them.
Firstly, remember that the amount of greatest stretch runs lengthwise- the longest part of the neckband. Secondly, some patterns call for a neckband fabric that has a greater amount of stretch than the fabric you sewed the rest of the garment from. I know we all like to make neckbands from the same fabric and lucky for us this can easily be done when you keep a few things in mind.
Generally speaking, neckbands should be cut to 80-85% of the length of the neckline it will be attached to. This allows the neckband to be attached with just a little bit of stretching as you stitch. If I have a fabric that has less than optimal stretch, I will cut a band that is 90-95% of the length and do a fitting before I attach it to the garment.
To do a fitting, I start pinning the unsewn neckband to the garment, stretching it just a bit as I go along until I have a good idea of how big the neckband should be. If you find that you have to really pull on the neckband in order to make it fit, it is too small and you should just stop and cut out a new one.
Once you’ve cut out the neckband and you are satisfied with the length, fold it on half lengthwise and press with an iron. It should fold in half nicely and want to stay that way. If it doesn’t want to press flat, make sure that you didn’t cut the piece with a sideways grain. If this is the problem, you’ll need to cut out a new one, paying attention to the grain lines.
After pressing, open it up and with right sides together, sew the open ends together forming your circle. Turn in right sides out again and fold it lengthwise. Then fold the circle flat and mark each half with a pin. Open it up and matching pins, mark the other ends so that you end with a neckband divided into fourths.
Do the same on your garment, dividing the neck opening into fourths. Here is an important tip that I learned the hard way:
The right side of the garment should be touching the right side of the neck band when you attach it. Otherwise you will sew your neckband on backwards!
Pin the neckband to the garment matching pins. As you sew or serge the neckband on, you will be gently stretching the neckband to fit between pin. I like to sew with the neckband on top and the garment fabric underneath so that I don’t get any wrinkles as I sew.
Ta-da! Perfect neckband!
If your neckband isn’t perfect, here are some fabulous illustrations to help you troubleshoot what went wrong.
If you have tug lines along the neckband that weren’t there before you sewed it on, then your neckband is probably too small and you stretched it too much as you sewed it on. Pick out the seam and cut a new longer neckband.
Sometimes you can have a wrinkle or a fold as you sew on your neckband and the bodice fabric will get caught and make a pleat or a tuck. It is possible, if you’re careful, to unpick the seam in that section and sew the neckband on flat, gently stretching it as you sew.
If your neckband gapes out and won’t lie flat, it is too big. Either you didn’t use the correct seam allowance as you sewed it on, or it is too long. You’ll have to pick out the seam and make it smaller.
If your neckband has weird wrinkles where it is folded, it was probably cut off grain or not folded properly before you attached it. Unpick the seam and cut out a new neckband.
Well, there you have it. With a little practice we can all be champion neck-band-makers. Go forth and post beautiful pictures of your work on social media!!!