I finished it...but the neckline is yucky.

bayareafrancyMay 27, 2009

This is HARD!

Ok. I finished my "very easy" top. The neckline took an entire day of work. It was supposed to be finished with single fold tape.

1. I put it on once. It didn't "sit" right, and my stitches were crooked. Removed it.

2. I put it on again. The neckline still pooched/tilted outward. Removed it.

3. Noticed that my 2 removals made several teeny holes in the knit fabric.

4. Tried to redesign neck and make it lower so that I could hide the holes I made (by putting the tape over them. This made the neckline awful. So I had to remove the front and back yolk from the front and back bottom pieces, and recut new pieces, and redo the !@#$% gathers, and basically start all over.

5. Tried the bias tape one more time. Spent about 30 minutes wetting it, steaming it, pressing it, cooling it, etc. to make it the right curvy shape. Carefully applied it. The neckline STILL turned outward. ARRRRRRGHHHHHHH. Carefully, carefully removed tape.

6. Stared at the neckline and cursed. WHY did it always turn outward? Was it the tape? The shape? Thinking maybe the tape was the problem, I decided to finish it with a narrow hem instead.

7. The...narrow...hem...STILL...TURNED...OUTWARD!

8. Deep breath. Maybe the fabric was getting pulled too tightly. Maybe sewing around the entire neckline was pulling on it. I separated the front and back yolk, and finished the front and back necklines (with the narrow hem--not tape) separately. THEN I put the front and back together again. This made it lie a little flatter. But it still turned outward. And this construction method seemed to make it hang more like a boat neck than a crew neck. I don't like boat necks cause my bra straps sew.

So now I've got a reasonably cute top with a curling-outward-boat-neck-that-shows-my-bra-straps. !@#$%^&!

I really, really loved this shirt style. Here is a link to the pattern (I did the last one--style D): http://www.butterick.com/item/B5356.htm?search=5356&page=1

Everything else came out really well, including my ruffly, flouncy sleeves. But the neckline just utterly defeated me. I'm not sure I can wear it now. Maybe with another shirt under it. :-(

I have 2 more similar shirt patterns, but I"m dreading the necklines.


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I think it has something to do with the fabric itself. This is when you either......take your top with you to the store you got the fabric at and ask....or take same top to the store you got the machine from and ask about a better stitch setting for this fabric. Take a few pieces of the fabric scrap and at the sewing machine place have them show you approximately where to set your machine setting......I know they didn't have your model in so I would just ask what setting they would use so you can eliminate this problem....and fix it. I bet you are just too critical on yourself.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 4:48PM
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When you have a neckline that large the curves are going to be on the bias which is going to be easy to stretch out of shape as you sew. As soon as you cut out the back and front piece, stay stitch around the neckline at about a half inch being careful not to stretch the fabric. You may need to stay stitch your facings as well. After that, just follow the instructions as written.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 8:36PM
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After you stitched the tape onto the neckline, did you understitch it? That can make a very big difference.

Understitching is where you press the seam allowances and binding down neatly with the binding open and flat as it was when you stitched it on. This pressing helps set the stitches. Then fold the binding up away from the body as it will be when finished. Do not fold it in half over the seam allowances at this time, just get it neatly folded UP away from the gathered body fabric. Really press this down well--it could be a pain because you'll be using the edge or tip of your iron to avoid smashing the gathers down too much. When the fabric has cooled, fold the binding down over the body fabric again, then stitch on the seam allowances right next the seam stitching. This stitching helps reinforce the "straight-up-ness" of the seams which are ultimately supporting the bias binding when you fold it over.

You may want to grade the seams to reduce bulk after the binding is folded over. That simply means trimming the seam allowances a bit making one seam allowance shorter than the other.

Also clip the allowances to the curve can lie flat inside the binding.

If you already knew about understitching, please disregard my instructions. If you did not, I am sure it will help your neckline. I am not sure my explanation is clear enough to help you do it, though. LOL.

Good luck. That looks like a really cute top. I would love to see a picture of what you've done.


Here is a link that might be useful: How to understitch facings.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 2:40AM
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Thank you!!

I've never hear of understitching. I can try that next. After staring in the mirror at the shirt, I've decided I just can't wear it (except as pj's) in its current condition. I just cannot be tugging at the neck to cover my bra straps all day! No way!

The part of the understitching instructions that I'm not sure about: Apply binding, and then open the *entire* binding flat and press? When I aplied it the first time, only one crease was pressed open. Now I press the whole thing flat, and up away from the neck (as if the binding is an extension of the neck)? In this position, the binding is going upward, and the seam allowance is going downward (toward waist of shirt). Is that right?

I did some online google searching for phrases like, "why won't the !@#$% binding on my knit shirt lay flat?" but I couldn't find *exactly* that phrase anywhere. :-) However, I did find a few instructions that said the neckline will be very prone to stretching too wide, and so the binding should be SMALLER/TIGHTER than the neckline to pull it inward when worn. Hmmm. did the opposite. I tried to relax the binding as much as possible so that everything would lie flat when I was ironing it. So I wonder if this is a big part of the problem?

My new plan is to make binding out of the knit material (I found instructions online), both because it is stretchier than the Wright brand tape that I have access to. Also, I, um, think there was a moment when I threw all my pink binding in the garbage in a moment of rage. The garbage went out later than night, so it has gone to the landfill, and I don't want to go out and buy more.

So, I'll try to apply it more tightly, and then understitch it. (I did staystitch the neck in the very beginning.)

I'll have to take the shoulders apart again too, since I changed the neck by doing the front and back separately. So it will be an ordeal. I hope I can do it today. Of course, this may ruin the knit fabric, but the only other option is a jammie shirt with flouncy sleeves. I also promised my 5 year old we would start some jammies for him today. My 7 year old started his last night, which led to lots of high pitched whining of "that's not faaaaaaaair!" from my younger son.

And boy, is the laundry and general house mess piling up again! Mr. Magnolia isn't thrilled with the current state of my housekeeping...

Thanks again!!



    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 11:50AM
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I am SO sorry. I am not trying to confuse you. Yes, you recognized where my instructions are different than those shown at the link. I realized in the middle of the night that I had written my instructions for a variation of understitching meant to address your specific problem. I was happpy to find such a good visual at the site I linked to, so I forgot to mention that change.

What I described is different from the info at the link because I instructed you to fold the binding back--in this case the binding is playing the role of the facing--and the binding (aka facing) will NOT be included in the stitching.

Of course, you can do exactly as shown at that site for the traditional understitching method. The result would be a line of stitching on the outside/front of your binding very close to the seam that attaches it to the body.

One other thing you might want to consider is "ease." As you know, fabric is very unstable/stretchy, especially on the bias. You will learn to manipulate and fudge and make adjustments accordingly. You are probably aware that the pressure and friction of the presser foot stretches the top fabric a bit when stitching, so use that information. You want the binding to be stretched as little as possible in this case to reduce it's "floppiness." If it is bias binding it will already tend to be floppy. So, when you attach the binding to the neckline try stitching with the binding on the bottom. That is kind of a pain when the top layer will be the gathered fabric, but if you have 2 rows of gathering stitches, are careful not to stretch the binding as you pin it in place, use plenty of pins to hold the binding in place, AND take your time stitching to ensure your fabric is laying flat and being allowed to curve naturally near the foot, it will improve the finished product a lot.

And I meant to mention how smart you were to attach the binding to the front and back necklines separately. It is definitely one way to help avoid stretching and skewing that can occur on this kind of neckline finish sometimes.

This all sounds like a lot of trouble, but really, after you've done it successfully a couple times, much of it will come naturally and you'll be whipping those things out without a second thought. Really!

Have fun.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 3:18PM
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Okay. Now to really mess you up--if you are using a knit for the neckline binding, the rules change.

Knits are meant to spring back after stretching, unlike the bias on a woven fabric which just becomes "wonky" after being stretched. Sooooo, if you use a knit binding, you DO want to stretch it a bit as you apply it. AND you can do it in one piece, you do not need the front and back separated.

Measure the neckline as acurately as you can. There are several ways. One would be to lay the neckline flat and using your measuring tape standing up on edge, measure the neckline.

The circle, or loop, you create when you sew the ends of the knit binding strip together should be 1" shorter than the neck measurement. (Note: If you are using knit ribbing or very stretchy fabric, your binding may need to be as little as 2/3 of the size of the neck opening.) Cut the long length of the binding across the fabric, where the most stretch is.

Next, fold the binding loop in half lengthwise at the seam. Mark the other side, the halfway mark, with a pin. Now fold the other way to bring the pin to meet the seam and place pins at the 2 folded ends. Your loop is now marked into even quarters.

Match up the shoulder seams of your shirt and mark the center front and back, then match those 2 pins so you can mark the quarters, which will probably NOT be on the shoulder seams.

Okay. Now pin the knit binding to the shirt matching the pins. You should now have to stretch the binding a bit between each pin to pin it all down for stitching.

I hope that makes sense. I couldn't find a good illustration online. But I did find a page showing another way to do the application that will solve your problem completely if you do not have to have a standing bound finish, but just a nice, neat edge.

Here is a link that might be useful: Here is another option neck finish

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 5:39PM
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"Francy - I just cannot be tugging at the neck to cover my bra straps all day! No way!"

Francy, can you go bra-less? ; ) I don't think my suggestions are very helpful today... lol But just thought I'd say, 'hey'.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 8:05AM
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Tell you what Francy......post a picture wearing the top with the girls free and one of them encased......we could vote on which looks better. Well it was just a thought......

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 5:13PM
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(Have been working on a non-knit top alllllll weekend. So far, mostly good. More details coming soon.)


    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 12:00PM
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Since you keep having problems with the neckline, it makes me wonder if you have very square shoulders and need to make an adjustment to your pattern. Next time you are making a top, put it on before you add the facings and look at how the neck fits. If it doesn't fit right at this point you can adjust the shoulder seam until it does. If you shoulders are square, you may need to increase the shoulder seam at the inside (neckline side). If that makes it fit better, then make the same adjustment on your facing, if you pattern has facings. If you body is symetrical you can put it on wrong side out then the problem should be very visable.

Ask me how I know....well I made a bridesmaid dress for my DIL's sister, who was away in college and I only had measurements to go by and when she tried it on, I had a "too big" neckline to deal with and had to take it apart.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 9:51PM
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I'll definitely be adding on to the necklines (that is, making them smaller by adding fabric) in the future. I never thought I had narrow shoulders, but maybe I do, since the pattern necklines have all, so far, been too big. The Butterick tops have fit better than the Simplicity, but the neck is still a bit big.

I did a quickie top yoke with my latest shirt out of scraps to check the neck. I added 1/4" to the pattern, and it looked perfect. But I forgot that I would lose the 5/8 seam allowance after sewing, at which point it just made it over to the bra straps. Argh!

Also, I have to remember that I'm rather modest, and I like to cover up more neck area than most might.

Thanks for the advice!



    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:11PM
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