Lazy Tips for Sewing Knits: Finding the right length for a knit neckband!

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Lazy Tips for Sewing Knits was one of my first blog series, and still one of my favourite! A lot of the slapdash-but-fucntional tips I recommended in 2013 are still my favourites today, so I thought I’d update the posts with a new format, including video!

You can find my whole list of Lazy Tips in the header above, including some tips for fixing knits if they don’t turn out right the first time. (Because we’ve all been there, right?) Today we are starting with one of my favourites: how to find the right length for a jersey neckband!

Here’s a link to my original text version, if you prefer, including this handy diagram:

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Now, shall we see how this works in video? 

(Yes, the quality is rough, my hand is shaky… this was just a fun idea on the fly! If you like video tips though, I’ll try to do better next time. And maybe I won’t wear my ancient pink polkadot bathrobe while I film!) 

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And here is the finished top: Another Cashmerette Cedar top with added sleeves! In this rayon knit, the whole thing turned out at least a size larger than it did in the poly rayon blend I used last time. I also added 1″ in length, which was probably not necessary!

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I’d love to hear your strategies for sewing knit neckbands – there are lots of methods, and I think the trick is finding one you like and practicing! This is the method I use on any knit project you’ve ever seen me blog – and when in doubt, I do have a post on how to save your project if the neckband goes horribly wrong!)


21 thoughts on “Lazy Tips for Sewing Knits: Finding the right length for a knit neckband!

  1. I definitely needed this. I never really quite understood how people came up with the right length so I’ve really just shyed away altogether. But I will try this on a knit sweater I’m working on right now!

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  2. The methods for finding neckband length found in pattern making and sewing books vary a lot – they usually say to measure the neckline, then make the neckband length a percentage of this – anywhere from 67% to 90%! Sometimes they even say to reduce the length of the neckband by a fixed amount. Being the engineering type, this all-over-the-place advice drove me nuts.

    I reasoned my way through the problem, and came up with a couple of methods to get the perfect neckband length the first time, every time. One method involves some measuring and a math equation, and the other is a more hands-on graphical approach, but they both give you the same results. These methods will give you the right answer for any neckband width and any size neckline, using any knit fabric.

    For anyone who wants to try my non-lazy methods, here’s my blog post on how to do it:
    https://growyourownclothes.com/2017/09/14/how-to-get-knit-neckband-ribbing-the-perfect-length-every-time/

    After figuring my methods out, I realized that making the neckband a percentage of the neckline length will never work, except by accident. Reducing the neckband by a fixed amount is an even worse strategy. For typical neckband widths (1/2″ or so finished width) on medium sized necklines (not a close fitting crew neck or a deep scoop), while using an average non-spandex rib knit fabric for the neckband, making the neckband 67% of the neckline length works pretty well. However, vary any one of these factors, and your neckband will need to be cut to a different length.

    I haven’t tried your method, but I suspect you will get the best results with this method only for specific neckband widths and neckline shapes/sizes. It probably won’t work well for narrow or wide neckbands, for example.

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    1. Hi Leila! We share a name! (Leila is my middle name, after my grandmother.) I enjoyed reading your post and seeing how you tackle the issue! You might be right that my method words best for a specific width of band – although i do go a bit wider for my husband, or narrower for children’s clothes, and it all seems to work out ok! I think ultimately a lot of it is just experience , and knowing by feel when something is going to work or isn’t!

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  3. I just sew it on before sewing one of the side seams, stretching as I go, and then cut off the rest – it’s taken some practice to get the amount of stretch for the band right, but it’s the same method I use for sewing underwear/bra elastics, so I’ve got some practice now! It seems to work, at least

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    1. I’ve tried that method, and I like it… right up until I have to sew the shoulder seam closed and perfectly match the edges of the bands! Do you have any tips for that?

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      1. I always start from the neck edge when I’m sewing the shoulder seam, which means the more visible edge of the band lines up. If I’ve been consistent with my band cutting and seam allowance, that makes the inner edge of the band line up. If it doesn’t, well, this was the lazy tips edition! I am ok with the other edge of the band not lining up perfectly all the time, because I’m never going to see it and most likely nor is anyone else. (Of course, this depends how big the discrepancy is!)

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  4. I always measure the inside of the neckband (not the neckline on the shirt – the inside of where the finished neckband will be) and take off 10%. This way any width of neckband can work!

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    1. I’ll try that sometime! Do you measure precisely with a tape, or just lay you strip of fabric down and roughly cut it to size?

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  5. The method that always works for me: ignore the pattern pieces, measure the length of the neckline, cut that length in the binding then sew together with a 1cm or so seam allowance. Not precise but it doesn’t have to be – the binding lies flat and is stretchy enough to get over an oversized baby / toddler head (tried and tested!)

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    1. Glad to hear it works!! Does it work on adult sized clothing too, or is the 1cm seam allowance best on kid’s sized necklines? (I struggle with kid necklines – I’m never sure how big to make a neckline for my nieces!!)

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      1. Hi Gillian! I use this method for all clothing, kid and adult. For kids I tend to use ribbing as well for additional stretch factor given the head / body proportions. I love the Brindille and Twig patterns, the size of the neckline has never failed me and no additional closures are required. Not sure how old your niece is but they have a free tee pattern if you wanted to try it out

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    1. I hope you enjoy sewing with knits! They are so forgiving, and once your find the type of knit you love to sew, it’s all fun and games! (I hate sewing cotton lycra, for example, because it rolls at the edge… but other people love it because it’s stable!)

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