Monday, March 9, 2015

Watch the Neck Size on Your Patterns

My clothing construction class is starting a button-down collared shirt project.  I am emphasizing to students the importance of a collar and neckband that fit well and therefore frame the face attractively.  Below is a photo of good collar fit.  Even if you do not plan to wear the shirt with the top button closed, the neck should still fit this way.
Below is the pattern I plan to use.  What do you think of the collar fit on the model?  It is not flattering at all.  In addition to the looseness around the neck, the collar itself is large.  Compare the pattern collar width to the above photo and note the size differential.
To begin pattern alterations, I measure the neck of a shirt I like.  You can measure two ways so choose the method that is easier and more accurate.  For method 1, the shirt is placed on the form, the neck is buttoned, and a tape measure is wrapped around the neck edge.  I obtain a neck measurement of 15.5".
Below is method 2.  Lay the shirt flat and measure from center front to center front.  Again the measurement is 15.5".
Next I measure the collar itself.  The collar measures 2" from finished edge to neckband seam.
Now to correct my pattern tissue.  Lay the front (piece #2) and back (piece #7) patterns on the table.
Bodice Front is on left side, Bodice Back is on right side of photo
I am cutting a size 14 blouse but I will place a size 8 neck onto the blouse.

Lay tracing paper on top of the pattern tissue.  Trace the size 8 cutting lines onto the tracing paper.  Note that size 14 is the largest size on this particular pattern tissue.
Lay the traced size 8 neckline on the size 14 cutting lines, aligning the shoulder seam and the neck edge. The change is subtle: the center front neckline rises 3/8" and blends to nothing at the neck/shoulder edge.  There is no change to the shoulder seam nor the armhole. 
Repeat the step for the back neck.

To reduce the size of the collar, make a photocopy of the collar pattern piece.  Below you see a red pen line 3/4" above the outside edge of the collar.  This will be the new cutting line for the collar.  My collar now is 2" wide with a 5/8" seam allowance at the neck edge, and a 5/8" seam allowance along the outside edges.
If your neck is large, you can place a larger size collar on your garment as well.

If your pattern tissue does not have the size you need marked on it, try to "grade" the pattern yourself.  This is a relatively simple exercise in grading a pattern, so give it a try.  If you work off of a photocopy rather than the original pattern tissue, you can redo until you have it right.


  1. I am anxious to see the results. Thanks for your explanation of this technique.

  2. It's interesting how simple details can improve a garment dramatically. Fortunately changes to neckline size can be done by people at all sewing levels.

  3. Priceless info, I just made a couple of shirts where I thought the neckline was weird! This is the fix!

  4. It took a bad photo on the pattern jacket for me to discover this "fit opportunity." Let me know how your next shirt fits.