How to Narrow Pattern Necklines

Patterns usually have a way to shorten the length of the hem, the arms or legs, but never does a pattern have a way to alter the neckline. For some people, this can cause a real problem since trying to alter it yourself can sometimes leave the shoulder seam much too wide. The wide shoulder seam can, in turn, make the entire design look out of whack.

If you purchase an outfit that has too wide of a neckline, you always have the option of wearing another shirt underneath, but if you want to sew your own designs, and have them fit to perfection, forget the shirt underneath and adjust the pattern instead.

For those that sew it’s easy to become accustomed to allowing the pattern designers to figure out the adjustment details on homemade outfits. But adjusting the neckline doesn’t have to be intimidating.

To begin, use a piece of white paper – butcher paper is great – and slide it under the pattern, then tape in place. An inch or so is usually enough to eliminate the “too wide” neckline, for most people. Cut the shoulder seam an inch longer, in the area by the neck, on each side. If you think you need more than an inch on each side of the neckline, cut slightly longer.

Locate the center of the pattern’s original neckline. Draw a line from one shoulder edge, by the neck, down to the center point, then arc around to the opposite side. You can trim this up after removing the pattern pieces, if needed.

To take away the look of the shoulder seam being too long, trim an inch or so off of each shoulder, by the armhole. Start by cutting an inch into the regular shoulder seam, then angle down to the original armhole area. Make sure that if you take the garment in an inch on each side of the neckline, you also take the same amount off of each shoulder. If you’re using facings, make sure to do the adjustments on them as well.

It’s important when you hand-draw the new neckline that you follow through with the general curve of the original. So, as you cut the fabric an inch wider on each side of the neckline, you’ll get closer and closer to the original neckline, until at the bottom of the neckline, you’ll meet up with the original markings.

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