A Tip or Two

I was asked to make a sleeveless cowl neck top. These are so very useful under jackets, a bit of a wardrobe staple really.

Pattern drafted like the silk one, a couple of posts back, but, obviously, using a different set of measurements. Here’s the block I started with.

The pattern drafted from it, I kept as a nett pattern , no seam allowances, and cut it with Icm allowed everywhere except the side seams, where I took 2.5 cms.

That’s a Black and Decker electric scissor tool sitting on the front bodice, with the grown on neck facing at the bottom of the photo. The weird looking pattern paper is from a roll of paper table covering, the weights are small bags of obsolete coins (Hail Almighty Euro!). I’ll get around to buying proper pattern weights when unmissable fabric stops running off with my cash.

That’s narrow masking tape round the back neck and armscyes. I’m not a huge fan of stay stitching. If the cut edge is going to stretch, it so often does so while I’m taking it to the machine and putting the stay stitch in. When the fabric is something like I’m using for this blouse – a loose weave cut on the bias, I like to put a line of tape in the seam allowance before lifting it from the table. If you use a narrow enough tape you can often leave it in place until the seams are done. This tip is especially useful when you have a V neckline angled on the bias or near bias. You can run your tape along and leave cutting the edge until  much later, using the tape to mark your cutting and stitching lines.

I’m using a very nice coarse woven but lightweight fabric, with a bit of surface interest given by the slight slub in some  threads. Its fairly transparent, and I wavered over to line or not, and decided to crack on with making it unlined and then decide. I think the fabric will have just enough drape on the bias to work as a cowl, but still look fresh pressed and businessy under a suit. 

This is how the facings line up. Centre back is to the left, cowl facing top right corner.  If you buy a pattern with a cowl neck, there are a few possible ways the cowl edge might be dealt with. This one, with a grown on facing coming from the shoulders is a common one. I could have taken the facing down to below the armscye , sometimes, especially on jersey patterns, the cowl will just be finished with a small hem. A fabric saving solution is to have a seam, often in a deep V shape, and set the cowl in that, so that the main body of the garment is cut on straight grain. Having a combined neck and armhole facing stops the facing poking out in wear and saves bulk on the shoulders.


The seam between the front armhole facing and the grown on neck facing is stitched, then pressed and understitched. Its the one marked with the triangle notch and straight notch on the pattern above. That’s the taped shoulder of the front and top of the armscye on the left of the photo. I understitched after this picture, catching the turnings to the armscye facing.

The shoulder seam of the garment is stitched, stopping exactly at the end of the stitching line and not running into the seam allowance,  and then pressed open. Back bodice is to the right in the photo below.

The shoulder seam of  the facings is stitched and pressed.

The back neck facing is stitched RS together with the back bodice neck. Here it is from the WS. Red dot is on the WS of the back bodice, green dot is on the WS of the front bodice with the grown on front facing, blue dot is on the WS of the back facing. The armscye facings are still free, but joined at the shoulder.

Neck facing is clipped and understitched.

Tip  When you need to get the machine needle right into a tight corner, and fasten the threads, instead of backstitching try reducing the stitch size at the point. A very small stitch will hold. It also  helps to keep the area firm when you have to cut right up to the stitching to get the corner to turn properly.

The neckline is now completely faced, but the armhole facings are free. Facings are turned to the WS, the back neck pressed the front neck left as a soft fold.

Then you roll up the side nearest to you, stopping just before the armscye on the further side. The facings are underneath.

Then the facing is pulled round and pinned at the shoulder, enclosing the roll of fabric.

The blue dots here are on the RS of the garment, the green dot is on the WS of the back facing and the red dot is on the WS of the front facing. The shoulder seam of the facing is on top in the middle with a pin through it. You can see the masking tape which is round the RS of the armscye peeping out under the facing. The facing gets stitched on like this and then clipped and understitched as far as possible each side. Then the roll of fabric is tugged out.

One side is complete, its RS up in the photo above, ready to be rolled up towards the other armscye, which is done in the same way.

Next, the side seams, stitching the facing side seams at the same pass, and pressing the facings down.I decided to line it after all, using a scrap of silk habotai.

Lining pattern, hastily traced off the main pattern, minus facings, looks like this.The logical way would have been to stitch the lining pieces to the facing pieces before the side seams were stitched, but it wasn’t too hard to put them in last.


About jay

I design and draft patterns
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5 Responses to A Tip or Two

  1. prttynpnk says:

    Adding my own lining to patterns with facings has always confused me- you’ve helped alot!


  2. Bukola says:

    So glad I read this,now I will use sticky tapes for edges that need to be secured before being lifted off the tables especially for light fabrics


  3. SewingElle says:

    These are fabulous tips. Thank you for posting so clearly!


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