Neckband 101- making the perfect knit neckband every time

Let’s talk about knit, t-shirt style neckbands.  When making your neckband, remember all knits are not created equal, and Stretch matters!  You want a nice knit with at least 50% horizontal and at least 25% vertical stretch with great recovery!  Rib knit is popular for neckbands, you will see this on almost every store bought shirt.  Here I’m using cotton lycra knit.  I find cotton lycra is more readily available in a more vast selections of colors.  It is also super soft and sews up beautifully.

Most patterns you use will have some sort of neckband measurement or template for you.  I like to skip this all together and calculate my own.  I know, !MATH!, ugh…  Everyone’s favorite thing, right?  I promise you, I will make it as painless as possible, and you will love the results.  Let’s get started.

Once you have your shoulder seams sewn measure the neckband all the way around.  Now, for that pesky math.  Take your number and multiply that by 0.85 (or 85%), the result will be the length of your neck band.  Here is what mine looks like:
Neck opening     X     0.85   =  (( Your neck band length ))
25″  X    0.85  =  21.25″
So, my neckband for this shirt will be 21.25″ long.  I always cut the neck band by 1.75″ wide.  So, I will be cutting a band 21.25″  x  1.75″.

Now that we have the math out of the way, lets get to the sewing! This is a video tutorial I made for my learn to sew series. I find it helpful to watch as well as have pictures to go by.

Picture and written tutorial:


Once you have your neckband cut, sew the short ends together and then fold in half lengthwise closing the seam on the inside of the fold.  Pin the seam closed.  Now, match up the raw edges until you find the middle, pin it.  After you pin the middle, match it up to the seam.  The folded ends will be your  quarter marks, pin them.  Now to quarter your neck opening.  With the shirt inside out, using one of your shoulder seams match up the neck opening until you have found the middle, pin it.  Now match that pin with the shoulder seam you started with.  Straighten out the neck opening on both sides of the pins and you will find the quarter marks, pin them.

My blue lines are the seams, the red lines are the quarter marks.

Place your neckband inside the neck opening, matching up your pins.  Be sure to match up your shoulder seam with the seam of the neckband. (Doing this will make it look more professional, and less home made.)  If you need to indicate the back of the shirt, you can take a small piece of your neckband knit and fold it up like a tag and place it in the center back of your neck opening.  You will be sewing this into your seam.
The blue line is my shoulder and neck band seam.  The red lines are my quarter marks

I am going to serge the neckband on now.  I always place my neck band on the bottom of my neck opening while I sew.

The blue line is my neck opening and the red is my neckband.
If you don’t have a serger, you can use a zig zag or stretch (looks like a lightning bolt on your settings) stitch set to the widest stitch length.

You will stretch your neckband to fit the opening from quarter mark to quarter mark, removing the pins as you go.  It is important to NOT stretch your neck opening, only your neckband.
The blue line is my neck opening and the red is my neck band.

Once it is all sewn together, turn it right side out. Check out my seam alignment!  Pretty sweet, huh?  That is what I call a hidden seam.  It looks very professional, and shows that you cared enough to take the time to match up your seams.  Really you are doing the same amount of work, with little extra effort, and the result is so much nicer.


Now, your neckband is all done! …  But not really .  You can leave it like this, and it will be fine, but to really finish this off nicely, you’ll want to top stitch the neckband down.

Here I have top stitched the neckband down.  This will keep it laying flat and again, give it that “I cared”, “professional” finish.  Plus it is more comfortable to wear.  I love a coverstitch machine for top stitching, but that is not realistic for most home sewists or seamstresses.  Instead you can substitute the coverstitch for a twin needle.  This will give you a very similar, and very polished finished neck line.


You can find more information for sewing with knits here.

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  1. Yes, I agree…thank you for the effort to explain. I have been looking for the neck circumference to band length ratio for awhile now. Not all patterns come with a band but totally agree they look much better than just a simple seam.

    • I’m glad I could help. <3 I always put the band calculation information in each of my patterns. I find it very helpful information to have. I never understood why it was kept secrete by other pattern companies. I always recommend measuring your neck opening and calculating your own band, even if the band length is included in the pattern. It is very easy to cut the neck lines slight off, and that will make a difference in the way your neckband fits.

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