TUTORIAL: A (nother) way to sew a neckband.

About a year ago, I was sewing up lots of knit tanks and tees for my kids and wasn’t pleased with the neckband process and outcomes.

Generally, there are two ways that a pattern will instruct you to go about the neckband. The first, is to cut your long neckband piece into an exact measurement suggested in the pattern.  You sew together the short ends to create a circle, then fold the piece in half, and then pin it all the way around the raw edge of the neck opening.  Then as you sew, you hope that it will look evenly stretched all the way around.  But if you’re like me, you get towards the end and have to stretch the neckband like hell because somewhere along the way, you didn’t line up quite right.  This method, if you’re good at it, looks great when it’s finished.  But, for me it always includes lots of bottom-lip biting, cursing, and seam ripping.  I just can’t get down with it.

So much depends on what type of knit you are using.  And since there are so many types of knits out there, this method can be tricky and is not really a one-size fits all… You really have to take in consideration how stretchy your neckband fabric is.

Here is photographic evidence of the only time I succeeded almost perfectly at the above method.  I was so happy that day.

Rowan Tee for Coco

The second popular way, is to attach the front and back of the shirt at only ONE of the shoulder seams.  Then, you cut your long neckband piece, fold it over, and begin sewing starting from the edge of one of the  (unsewn) shoulders, all the way around to the other end of the other (unsewn) shoulder.  Then, you simply put your shirt right sides together, and sew that shoulder seam together.  This is easy, but the finish is not usually nice looking.  It’s a cheater method, that comes out looking like you cheated.  I’m not too good for it- I do it a lot, but I usually regret it once all is said and done.  So I’m saying buh-bye to this method too.

Here are a couple of examples that the second method ends up looking like:


This is my Out & About Dress which I love, but hate that I finished the neckband this way.  I was straight-up lazy and I pay for it every time I wear my hair up and show everyone my one ugly shoulder seam. 


This is an unblogged raglan dress, but you can see what I mean, right?  It’s bulky.  Yuck.

So anyway, I played around one day by marrying these two methods, and came up with this method.  There is no math and no measuring involved here, ladies.  You’re welcome.  This way is perfect for those of us who enjoy a little spontaneity and freedom in our sewing, but also want our garments to look legit and professional.  Now, I’m SURE I didn’t invent this (in fact, if you’ve ever sewn binding to a quilt, you may have done it very similarly to this), but I haven’t found a tutorial out there, so if you know of a good tutorial or video reference out there for this, please link it up in the comments for all to see!

We’ll call this the Wing-it Method, k?  And like most methods, this gets easier with every neckband… it’s my fave.  Also, please excuse the terribly lit iPhone pics… I decided to snap photos of this last minute one day, but I hope can get the gist of this.

Step one:


You’ve sewn the front and back of your shirt together already, at both shoulder seams.  Now, you will cut your neckband length a couple of inches longer than suggested in your pattern, giving yourself some wiggle room to work with it.

You will sew/serge it on starting at one point on the back of your shirt (some like their neckband seam to be in the center, some prefer it closer to the shoulder. do whatever you like), leaving a decent sized “tail” of fabric.   Sew your neckband to the raw edge like normal, stretching the neckband piece nicely as you go (this takes some practice, getting it stretched evenly).  When you get a couple of inches away from where you started, STOP.  Leave a tail there too.

Here’s what it looks like on the inside:


Next, you’re going to use your best judgement, about how much of the neckband tails you’ll need to cut off.  We will be sewing the two open raw ends together and then folding the neckband back over and sewing it to the shirt.  So, you’ll just need to take a minute and decide what will work (hey, I said this is going to be spontaneous).

This method is all about FEELING!  You need to do what’s right for your shirt, and since stretch can vary from knit to knit, you need to remember that.

IMG_0825 So, go ahead and trim the tail, but keep in mind that we will be sewing them together with a 1/2″ seam.  So just take that all into account.


Okay, next you will open those two tails up and put them right sides together.


Sew those puppies with a 1/2″ seam.  Or whatever inch seam you want.  It’s your shirt.


Good.  Now below, you will see that I’ve got it almost finished.  Just need to sew that gap closed.


Just sew it as you normally would to close it up.




Looks clean and even, just like the first method we talked about.  But, you didn’t have to get angry at your shirt, yell at your kids for no reason, or even pull out the seam ripper.


AND…. scene.


12 thoughts on “TUTORIAL: A (nother) way to sew a neckband.

  1. Thank you thank you thank you! Knits have eluded me but I have the out and about dress pattern and really want to make it! Can’t wait to try this method. If you have other sewing with knits resources that worked for you I would love to know what they are.

  2. Oh you are spot on about the weaknesses of both of those methods! I never follow patterns for neckbands because they are always too short. Always. Even when I use nice ribbing. Then it causes my shirt to pucker. I like this method. Thanks for taking the time to write a tutorial for it! xx

  3. I sew lots of t-shirts and tank tops for me and for the kids, but the neckbands always drive me crazy. Looking forward to trying this method. Thanks!

  4. The old wing-it method. That about sums up a lot of things in my life. Your method looks a bit too clean and neat to be my type of wing-it. 😉
    Love the tutorial and the fabric and the cutie pie wearing it! Thanks!

  5. I’m totally with you on the neckband issue. I long ago abandoned technique #1 in favor of the sew one shoulder and then add the neckband method, with the same results that you describe.
    In honor of your clever new idea, I’m off to cut out a Plantain to give it a whirl . . .

  6. I don’t know why I’m just reading this now for the first time. You are hilarious. It totally will try this method if I ever sew again…

  7. Wow you just made knits for me. I’ve only sewn a handful of knit neckbands before. I tried this tonight on a hemlock tee and it was so much easier and intuitive than what I’ve tried before (method 1) and I got way better results. Thank you!

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