Sunday, 30 November 2014

Drafting the Banded Cowl

As promised, here are the drafting instructions for the banded cowl neckline on this dress:

The dress is made from a knit fabric, and as such these instructions are suitable to knit /stretch fabrics (not wovens).

For the sake of explaining the way this cowl works, here are some particularly dorky photos for your amusement:

There was just no way I could even pretend to make that look hot.

But it does illustrate how the cowl works. It is a long tube, with the front longer than the back.
Here it is laid out flat.
Despite the back neckline being higher, the cowl is almost level front and back.
This is with centre front on the left, and centre back on the right.

We can make this neckline to go on a standard t-shirt pattern (see how to copy your favourite shirt here) , or t-shirt dress pattern (exactly as for this tank dress, but with a t-shirt rather than a tank used at the top), which is what I did here. I also included full length sleeves (instructions for creating full length sleeves from short sleeves here). You can use any regular t-shirt or t-shirt dress pattern to do this. Just choose a style with a regular round neckline rather than a boat or v-neckline.

Basic T-shirt dress
Basic standard t-shirt.
To prepare your existing shirt pattern, you need to draw in the neckline. Because the cowl is going to add extra fabric bulk, it will bring the neckline up quite a bit. So you need the neckline on your original shirt to be on the deeper side. I find it helps to use my existing t-shirt to measure how much lower I want that to be, and then transfer that to the pattern. Draw that on your pattern like this.
Old line crossed out, new line drawn in underneath.
Your pattern may or may not have darts for the bust (mine does, but it isn't necessary). Make sure the new line creates a right angle where it meets the midline. I only needed to alter the front of my pattern.

From there, you measure the neckline you have created on the stitching line. That means whatever seam allowance your pattern states, you measure that far in from the edge.  Measure front and back, not including the shoulder seam allowances. We are working on the half pattern, so we only need the half measurements. (Shown in red here)
Add those measurements together, and that's your neckline measurement.

Moving on to creating the actual cowl.
The cowl has 2 lines of symmetry, one of which will be on the fold of the fabric, and the other will be created by working on a folded piece of paper. I am working on brown paper, and I fold a length down like so.

Enter diagrams:
From here, mark in the depth for front and back. I mark the front right on the edge of the paper. My front depth was 25cm, and my back depth was 22cm (Roughly 10" and 8 1/2"). I marked that further out along the paper.
I also made sure I included my seam allowances. I work in metric, and I pretty much always use 1cm. You can use any seam allowance you're comfortable with. So if you use 5/8" most of the time, chuck that on, under the first set of lines.
 The next step is to create the curve, and mark in the length. Place the tape measure along the paper in a curve which joins the front level to the back level like this.
 Mark the length. I worked out this length by the length of the neckline on the shirt pattern (in my case 34.5 cm) minus about 2.5cm (1"). I did that so the neckline would sit firmly around the neck without being too tight. Different fabrics will behave differently. If in doubt, you can baste it together in the construction stage, and if it's too loose take it in at the back.
 Here is a photograph. The diagram is exaggerated compared to the actual curve. I place the tape measure so that it measures the required distance. I need to mark where the tape ends, and then sketch in that curve.
 I also draw in a perpendicular line. That line will be the centre back seam.
 Once I have that, I can cut it out through both layers, and unfold.

 The wide end is the centre front, and it needs to be placed on the fold when cutting out.
  The center back is stitched like this:
 Seam pressed outwards.
 And then fold the seam on the inside, creating a shaped band like this.
The seam is the centre back, and the longest part (on the left in this photo) is the centre front.

From this point, it is inserted into the shirt just like a regular ribbed neckline. I also topstitched over the seam with a zigzag stitch. The rest of the dress or t-shirt is put together like a regular t-shirt. Check out flat method construction.
And there you have it! Go forth and winterise your t-shirt patterns.


  1. So how do you know that the front depth is 2.5" more than the back? How did you measure this?

    1. Hi Caroline,
      I kind of eyeballed it. But if you wanted to measure, if you were to put the front t-shirt pattern piece on top of the back pattern piece, the neckline on the front is going to be much lower than the back. You want the front of the cowl to be slightly, but not too much lower than the back of the cowl - like pictures where I'm not wearing it. So measure the difference and subtract about 2cm. Make the front that much longer than the back. Does that help?

    2. Absolutely! I did a scrunchy neck (not super drapey but I love it) using your tutorial. I ended up doing 2 1/4" offset for my shirt and it worked great. Thank you!!! I am already mulling cowl necks on many more things.

    3. Brilliant! Glad it was useful to someone. :) Do you blog your makes?