How To Sew a Classic T-Shirt Neckbandcomments (24) September 3rd, 2008
If you've ever made a T-shirt, you may have been stumped when the time came to finish the neck. A regular double-turned hem, like we do on most edges, just doesn't work on a curved knit neckline. Here's how to make a classic T-shirt neckband using your trusty home sewing machine.
Factory-made tees have neckbands (or sometimes bindings) made from dyed-to-match fine rib. Since it is near impossible to find matching rib in the retail fabric market, we are going to use the same jersey the shirt is made from. This technique works best if the jersey has some spandex in it, but it will work on all-cotton as well. Let's get started!
Step 1: Here we have the unfinished neckline of a knit top.
Take your tape measure and determine the circumference of the neckline. Mine is 17 inches around.
Now, we need to make the neckband a little shorter than the full neckline, so that it will lie flat, so we're going to reduce the measurement by 15%. Multiply the circumference by .15, (for me that came to about 2.5 inches) and subtract this number from the original neckline. That gave me 14.5 inches, and I'm going to add another .5 inch for seam allowance (that's .25 inch on each end). So 15 inches is the length I'm cutting for my neckband piece. To determine the width, I need 2x[desired neckband width]+.5 inch for seam allowance. I want a .75-inch band, so that comes to 2 inches. Now that you've figured out the length and the width, you can cut out your neckband piece.
Step 2: Take your neckband and, with right sides together, seam the two short ends together. You can use a plain old straight stitch for this.
Step 3: Now your neckband is a loop. With wrong sides together, fold it lengthwise along the center of the band.
Pin and stitch the edges together using a narrow zigzag (I used 2mm by 2mm).
This step is optional, but it makes the following step much easier, so I definitely recommend doing it for your first time or two.
Step 4: Next, we can pin the neckband to the shirt in preparation for sewing. But first we need to mark some key points to match up. Begin by placing a pin at the seam of the neckband; this will match up with one of your shoulder seams. Find the other shoulder point of your neckband by looking at the shirt neckline, then mimic the shape with your band.
We have to guesstimate a bit here because the front neckline is longer than the back. Place a pin at the folded point that you determined to be the opposite shoulder, and don't stress about it too much! Then find the center front and center back by folding the band in half, matching the shoulder points. This will give you the centers of the front and back sections of the band, and you can mark these with pins, too. Also mark the center front and center back on the shirt neckline, with a disappearing-ink marker or pins.
Then you can go ahead and pin the band to the shirt, matching them up at the four marked points. You'll be pinning the band to the right side of the shirt, with the raw (zigzagged) edges together. Place at least one more pin between each of the original four, stretching the band as you pin.
Don't worry if the band seems quite a bit smaller than the shirt, causing it to pucker; this is actually what you want! You'll see...
Step 5: Ready for the big finish? Head to your machine and stitch around the neckline, using either a straight stretch stitch (say that five times fast!) or a wider-but-short (I used 5mm by 2mm) zigzag. You'll need to stretch the band as you sew so that it fits the shirt smoothly.
Take it one section at a time, and keep checking that the shirt is not pleating underneath the band as you sew. If you use the straight stretch stitch, you might want to zigzag the layers together after, to keep them flat. If you have a serger, you can do this all in one step. Once the band is sewn in place, give it a quick press with your iron. There may be a little puckering when it's lying flat, but when you try it on, you won't believe how professional it looks!