Thursday, March 15, 2012

T-Shirt Series: Neckband #1 Ribbing

We'll ultimately be showing 3 different methods to finish your neck opening.  This first one is probably the most common and what you normally think of when talking tees: Ribbing made from either the same fabric as the shirt itself or a contrast piece.

Tiffany and I think that the one thing on a t-shirt that will make or break your project is the neckband.  The biggest beef we have about neckbands is making sure they lie flat against your body when you are wearing the shirt.  Nothing screams "homemade" (in a bad way) more than a neckband that looks like it is standing straight up or sticking out. 

Here is an example of what I am talking about:

This is NOT what you want your neckband to do.

This shows the original difference in lengths on the neckband piece and the neck opening
for what I used in the above picture.  It is a difference of about 1 1/2 inches. 

Below is what it looks like once I took the neckband off, and took in another inch on the neckband seam and then re-attached it.
So MUCH better-- see how it lies flat against my body
This is what you are aiming for.
Once you have your neckband looking nice you can add the topstitching.
On this shirt I used size 2,5 double needle.

So, how do we get there.

Let's give you a general rule about ribbing neckbands.
The stretchier the fabric used, the greater the difference
between the neck opening and the attached band.

For Example:
Using actual ribbing fabric you would probably make the neckband anywhere from 2-1/2 to 3 inches smaller than the neck opening.
For moderate stretch knits maybe only 1-1/2 to 2 inches. 

Honestly, I start with around 1-1/2 inches smaller in diameter than the neck opening and then adjust from there.
  • For the neckband on this turquoise shirt I cut a 1-1/2" wide strip.
  • Seam it into a continuous circle the size needed for the neckband (approx. 2-1/2 inches smaller than neck opening for this shirt).
  • Then fold it in half, matching raw edges, and attach it w/ a 3/8" seam.  Pin as much or as little as you need.  And ONLY stretch the band as much as you need to get it to the size of the neck opening.  Do NOT stretch the shirt itself if you can help it.
  • That leaves you with about 1/2" wide ribbing neckband, which is a really nice finished size for the neckband.
I just need to say that I went browsing at the Land's End outlet a week or so ago to check out their detailing on some items.  When it comes to topstitching just about anything goes. 
  • Topstitch using either the 2,5 or 4,0 twin needle. 
  • Topstitch the neckband down on the shirt like the picture above. 
  • Straddle the seam with your twin needle so that one line of stitching is on the shirt and one line on the neckband. 
  • Use only a single topstitch.  I would only use this if the neck opening of your shirt isn't one where you need to stretch it open to get it over your head.
  • You can also leave it and do nothing.
Look at some t-shirts next time you're in the store and you can see what little details they are using on the neck openings.  Mostly it is some variation with a twin needle.

 Then when your neckband is finished you can try some embellishments if you want.
I made mine with rows of ruffles down the front.
  The picture above on the left shows how the topstitching looks with the ruffles sewn in with the neckband and not just added and topstitched free on the front of the shirt like the turquoise option on the right.  I'm not sure if I have a preference for one option over the other.  It does seem a little trickier to work with the neckband when you add the ruffles into that neck seam.  I think it just depends on what you prefer.

Although I am pretty sure I pre-washed this fabric (a thrifted knit sheet), here is what the shirt ruffles on the turquoise version look like post wash/dry for the first time.

I might have placed them closer together had I known this is what would've happened. 
Oh well, it still works and I'm certainly not removing them and reattaching them.

Ruffle Details:
  • Cut 1-1/2" wide strips of fabric (I don't think it particularly matters which way the stretch goes on the decorative strips).
  • Fold over each end about 1/4 inch (unless you are incorporating the neck end into the neckband itself and then just do it on one end) and run a gather stitch.
  • We did 5 strips and varied the lengths.
  • Gather as much or as little as you want and then after pinning them in place sew them down right over top of the gather stitch.
Here is another great tutorial for embellishing the front of your t-shirt.
Zig-zag ruffles from Tea Rose Home

My oldest daughter wanted her shirt to have this look. 
Doing it exactly like the tutorial does require that your fabric look exactly the same on both sides.   

On this turquoise piece there was a definite front and back so we had to cut smaller pieces to gather then overlap them to get the same type look.

We also had to check the placement of some of the ruffles before sewing it down.  Once or twice the ruffle ended at a weird spot and we moved it around some.  She was so funny the day she wore this shirt to school for the first time.  A couple of the HS girls recognized this look from Pinterest and commented it to her. They were impressed we had made it. That made her happy!

Next time:
Neckbands made by binding the edge.


  1. Ah!! My latest knit longsleeve wants me to thank you for explaining... It's looking forward to get out of the closet and actually be worn! (I on the other hand am not looking forward to try and get the double stitched twin needle neckband off again)

    1. To pick off a double needle topstitch I find it easiest to pull the back thread. Usually you can pull it like you would a gather stitch and just keep pulling it right out.

    2. Thanks Renae! I did and wear it with pleasure ever since!
      There's another one on my sewing table right now (re-visiting! LOL)

  2. That's really good hint.
    One doubt, in case we are sewing other kind of fabric like mousseline for example, how can we better finish with the meckband?

  3. Thx for the neck length tip, lifesaver. Already made my first two t shirts and they came out surprisingly well except the .......neck. Wah, wah, wahhhh.



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