Knit Necklines Part I: Adding a neckband to a tee

Along with hemming, I think finishing knit necklines might be one of the more difficult techniques to master when making clothes from knit fabrics. So I’ve made three different knit neckline finish tutorials for you! This one — adding a standard knit neckband — will be the first of the three. This happens to be the default way the neckband is finished in my Flashback Skinny Tee sewing pattern, though that pattern also includes a few other alternate neckline finishes as well. I think you’ll find that this will work for pretty much any knit tee with a round-ish neck hole (in other words, you would need to modify this for a v-neck or boatneck tee).

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I also want to say that my sample necklines in the photos are by no means perfect (see the ripples at the bottom portion of that neckband above??), so I’ll try to talk about what I could have improved as well…sometimes it’s good to show and talk about mistakes, right? That’s how we learn!! And actually, this tee looks totally fine when I wear it because it’s fitted, so the neckband ends up stretching out perfectly when it’s on my body.

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First, let’s make sure you’re ready to sew:

  • put a ballpoint or stretch needle in your machine
  • stitch length is set to a slightly longer straight stitch
  • I HIGHLY recommend stretch thread (be sure to read my post on stretch thead if you haven’t already!). If you can’t rustle up some stretch thread, set your machine to a long-ish narrow zig-zag stitch (so: stitch length somewhere between default and basting, stitch width close to 0) and use a standard polyester thread in your machine.

Start by sewing the tee together at the shoulder seams (I also went ahead and sewed the sleeves and side seams too, but you really only need to do the shoulders before you finish the neckline.

Step 1: Measure neckline and cut out neckband

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Measure around the neckline with a measuring tape. Now you’ll need to cut out a neckband that will be a bit shorter than that number, because we want the neckband to stretch a bit to fit the neck hole, otherwise it will look stretched out. My general rule of thumb is to cut the neckband about 2-3″ smaller than the neck hole circumference. As far as width, I usually cut it 1.75″-2″ wide.

This neckband is 1.75″ wide by 20″ long, because my neckline measured 22″ around. In retrospect, it could have been a little bit shorter and worked, because it was a super-stretchy knit and as you can see, the bottom of the neckband ended up being a little loose, hence the ripples. The thing is, there’s no SET RULE for how long to make a neckband, because it has a lot to do with how stretchy your knit is (I know, frustrating!!), but I find it helps to gently walk the neckband around the neck hole, stretching it slightly as you go, and see how long it needs to be that way.

VERY IMPORTANT: Cut the neckband so that the length of the neckband runs in the direction of most stretch, or from selvage to selvage. This direction of stretch is perpendicular to the grain. AHEM I messed up and cut this one out along the grain, which is another reason it looks a little weird at the bottom. Again, not trying to be nit-picky, just want you to learn from my mistakes!

Step 2: Sew the neckband ends together and press it in half

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Now sew the ends of your neckband together with a 1/4″ seam, then press that seam apart. Now fold the neckband in half along it’s entire length, so it’s a double layer, and press that fold to create a crease down the middle of the neckband.

Step 3: Attach the neckband to the tee

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Pin (or use Wonderclips, as I did in the photo here) the neckband through both layers to the RIGHT SIDE (outside) of the tee around the neck hole. The two raw edges of the neckband should be lined up with the edge of the neck hole, and you should stretch the neckband out around the neck hole as evenly as possible. Remember, your neckband should be shorter than your neck hole, so you want it to be evenly spread around the neck hole, but it won’t fit perfectly.

Hint: If your tee is a scoopneck, try to stretch it out a bit more at the curviest places (at the bottom, for instance), and less where the curves are less pronounced. If your neck hole is pretty much a perfect circle, you can fold the neckband in half to mark center front/back and the two side midpoints, then fold the neck hole in quarters and mark those, then match those points up and then stretch the neckband between them.

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Now sew the neckband to the neck hole with a 1/4″ seam. Remember that you’ll be sewing through THREE layers, the two neckband layers + the tee, so keep all edges even as you go. It’s also a good idea to stretch everything out just a little bit as you sew, so that the neckband matches up with the tee. I don’t recommend using a walking foot on your sewing machine for this, because it can make the stitches pretty tight, which will make it harder to pull the neckband over the head.

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Step 4: Press neckband away from neck hole and finish if desired

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The last step is always to press it. DO. IT!!! It will always look better once its pressed! I also took a double needle and sewed around the entire neckline seam, which has the advantage of finishing the inside as well with that nice zig-zag stitch from the bobbin. Topstitching with a single line of stitches also looks very nice.

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Voila! Beautiful neckband!!! Tune in next time for a bias-bound neckline!

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13 thoughts on “Knit Necklines Part I: Adding a neckband to a tee

  1. Thanks so much for this post! I’ve only tried this type of neckband on a knit tee once and it *sort of* worked but ended up kind gaping a little bit. From this tutorial, it sounds like I made the mistake of cutting the neckband to the same circumference as the neck opening instead of 2″ shorter. Now I know what to try for next time!

    PS. I really enjoyed your Kniterview series too!

    • yes, there’s definitely a “sweet-spot” for the length of the neckband, a bit shorter (but not too short) than the neckline is perfect!

      So glad you enjoyed the KNITerviews!! Thanks for your comment Eileen!

  2. Hi Rae, sometimes I will cut a length of fabric across the stretch, press in half lengthways and mark quarters, as a guide. Then, starting from the centre front, I walk my neckline around to centre back, stretching the ban slightly to the neckline, noting the quarter marks only as a guide. When I have done both sides, I then remove a couple of pins from the back (just to give me room) to sew the band together. Replace the pins and then attach my neck band to my shirt with a serger. It generally ends in a perfect neckline. I do this as every fabric has a slightly different stretch quality and the same length band does not always work. Just my way, thought I’d share :-)

  3. Hi: your tutorials have motivated me to try sewing with knits. I don’t remember when was the last time I did it. I sew about 6-7 things a year mainly costumes for my kids; I think I need to add me to the list. On another note I marvel at all that you do with little ones and now expecting. Amazing! Any tips on time management? (I think I’m falling short in this department). I’ll be ordering some stretch thread posted the other day. Great work thank you for all your tutorials.
    Ps. English is my second language please excuse any written mistakes;)

  4. This is super helpful and I’m have a super geeky question: doesn’t the neckband need to be cut such that the folded edge is shorter than the bottom? I’d think that the bottom edge would need to be the circumference of the neck hole but the top folded edge is a smaller circumference… Otherwise it would ripple up top. Or is it with cutting a couple of inches shorter to begin with take care of that?

    Thanks for these knit-erviews. Kids and I like in knits and I need to try and see more with them!

    • Yes, so the idea is that if you make the neckband short enough, both edges will stretch enough to prevent that “ripple,” even though the circumference of the top folded edge is indeed slightly smaller than the bottom one!

      :)

    • Hi Abby!

      Because I guess a lot at the neckline length, I like to be able to tear it out and start over again; for this reason I usually sew the neckband in with a machine, then later use the serger to finish the seam.

      But yes, a serger is a great way to go when attaching neckbands as the overlock stitch has plenty of stretch!!!

    • Hi Claire!

      Great question!! So if you use stretch thread, it won’t be an issue; but yes, definitely skip the topstitching if you’re using standard polyester thread!!

      :)

  5. Thank you for posting about necklines. That is one of things that prevents me from sewing knits.

    P.S. I now think I -NEED- a double needle. Here I thought I had to buy a coverstitch machine to get those beautiful two rows of sewing that look so professional.

  6. Thank you muchly, especially for the tip to stretch the band the most at the curviest part of the neckline! Also just want you to know that I love the instructions on the flashback tee. I refer to them when sewing any knit shirt.

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