How To Sew a Classic T-shirt Neckband

comments (30) September 3rd, 2008     

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CalPatch cal patch, contributor
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This lovely neckband is easy to sew.
Start with a unfinished neckline.
Carefully measure the circumference with a tape measure.
This lovely neckband is easy to sew.

This lovely neckband is easy to sew.

Photo: Cal Patch
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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.

t-shirt Get more T-shirt projects:

• Transform Your T-shirt into a Tunic
• How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan
How to Crochet a Rug out of T-Shirts

How to Make a Headband from an Old T-Shirt

Factory-made tees have neckbands (or sometimes bindings) made from dyed-to-match fine rib. Since it is nearly 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.

Here is the unfinished neckline of a knit top.

  The unfinished neckline as you begin.

1. Using a tape measure, determine the circumference of the neckline. Mine is 17 inches around.

  Carefully measure the circumference with a tape measure.

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 percent. 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. Once you have determined your neckband length and the width, cut out the neckband piece.

2. With right sides together, seam the neckband's short ends together to create a neckband loop. You can use a straight stitch for this.

  Seam the short ends of the band together.

3. With wrong sides together, fold the neckband loop lengthwise along the center of the band.

  Fold the band in half lengthwise.

Pin and stitch the edges together using a narrow zigzag. (I used a 2mm by 2 mm zigzag.)

  Stitch the raw edges together with an overedge zigzag.

This step is optional, but it makes the following step much easier, so I recommend doing it for your first time or two.

4. Pin the neckband to the shirt in preparation for sewing. First mark some key points to match up. Begin by placing a pin at the seam of the neckband; this will match up with one T-shirt shoulder seam. Find the other shoulder point of your neckband by looking at the shirt neckline, then mimic the shape with your band.

  Mimic the shape of your neckline with the band to determine the second shoulder point. (The first is at the seam.)

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.

  On the band, mark the two shoulder points, center front and center back with pins. On the shirt, mark center front and center back with a disappearing-ink marker.

Then pin the band to the shirt, matching tat the four marked points. Be sure to pin 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.

  Pin the band to the shirt, matching the four marked points, then filling in with pins in between.

Don't worry if the band seems smaller than the shirt, causing it to pucker; this is what you want.

5. Machine-stitch around the neckline, using either a straight stretch stitch or a wider-but-short zigzag (I used 5 mm by 2 mm zigzag). You'll need to stretch the band as you sew so that it fits the shirt smoothly.

  Stretch the band as you seam it onto the shirt.
  This is the neck seam before you flip the band up.

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 may 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.

  The finished shirt looks even better on a body.
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posted in: sportswear, tshirt, neckband

Comments (30)

Veronica48 writes: Love your instructions , so clear. I do have one little question., which is does the band you cut out go diagonally, with the grain or across selvage to Selvage?
Posted: 3:24 pm on September 4th
RhondaS1954 writes: Easy to follow tutorial and the pictures were very clear. Some of us learn by actually seeing the steps and not by just reading them. Thank you so much.
Posted: 10:21 am on August 8th
justpassingthru writes: When calculating the length of the neckband, I do the subtraction first. The neckband is 15% smaller than the neck opening. 100% - 15% = 85%. So the neckband should be 85% of the neck opening. Simply multiply the neck opening by .85 and you have your neckband length. In this case, 17 x .85 = 14.45, rounded up to 14.5 inch, plus your seam allowance. (By the way, this also works during sales, when you get a certain % off, first subtract that % from 100, then multiply times the full price to get your sale price.) And sew on.
Posted: 11:13 pm on December 1st
berean99 writes: Thank you so much for this tutorial! It does make it look easy. I am so glad I found this. Thanks again!
Posted: 6:35 pm on October 9th
matti07 writes: I like this tutorial a lot. Am I safe in guessing that the neckband can be sewn by serger in place of the zig-zag stitch?
Posted: 8:04 pm on September 30th
Tricia73 writes: I just had to register on this site so I could thank you for this tutorial! I was restyling a t-shirt for my sister-in-law, and cut too far into the neckline to just turn the edge over and sew it. I thought the shirt was ruined! Then I came across your method, and using a strip of fabric I had cut from the bottom of the shirt, I was able to finish the neckline. The shirt looks great! I'm going to do it this way from now on! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Posted: 5:02 pm on August 10th
Best_Organizer writes: Lovely collection of clothes.. i really loved it… :) Shop for great home storage supplies at
Posted: 7:31 am on April 9th
TshirtDesigns writes: I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! Make your own t-shirt designs at
Posted: 5:59 am on November 28th
QueenJoanna writes: You just saved a botched shirt from being buried in the bottom of my sewing basket for the rest of its sad little life! Thanks!
Posted: 12:23 pm on October 2nd
flyingcats writes: This makes it so much easier and simple!!! thankyou
Posted: 11:03 pm on July 5th
pharmd94 writes: How do you add a woven cloth neck to a t-shirt so it will lay flat?
Posted: 1:53 pm on June 4th
claireamanda writes: Hi,
Great tutorial! I have made a ton of neckbands for t-shirts and this works great when the neckline is a crew or close to the neck. I have done a tutorial about doing the same but without measuring b/c a lower neckline has several different curves (radius). A crew neck is almost a perfect circle. Also the standard 15% reduction does not always work well because there are so many different "stretchiness" for knits. I usually do self fabric neckbands because of how difficult it is to match ribbing and the limited supply of ribbing at a local fabric store. My tutorial is on Burda Style. It is called how to do a neckband without measuring or something like that.
Posted: 8:32 am on May 27th
user-1131771 writes: Exellent,highly impressed
Posted: 1:19 pm on May 19th
ellumi writes: Thank you so much for this tutorial—super clear instructions and your photos really helped a lot!
I'm a complete newbie when it comes to sewing, and I've been trying to make necklines work for a few times with no success at all... I decided to try this and it worked perfectly! And it was so easy! Definitely gives me confidence to take on new projects now :)
Posted: 3:06 pm on February 18th
SewsamIa writes: I have been looking for this for some time. Thanks for the tutorial.
Posted: 7:30 pm on February 17th
BLynneKelly writes: Thank you so much! I took a sewing class yesterday to learn how to sew with knits and of course nobody came close to finishing our T shirts... I would never have finished it without your help. I love knowing there are generous people like you out there, so willing to give their time and energy to help us beginners. I can't wait to make more! THANK YOU!
Posted: 4:48 pm on October 10th
ravishahi writes: Which machines can be used for sewing t-shirts...any particular company name...
Posted: 4:39 pm on May 16th
Sherlli writes: I loved these directions, they are so clear and easy to follow. Can anybody tell me why my neckbands always want to flip forward instead of lying flat?
Posted: 12:49 am on February 12th
bektravels writes: Great advice! I've never done a ribbed neckband before and with your instructions my neckband looks like one you'd see on a tee in the shops... Thank you!!
Posted: 10:31 pm on January 29th
Kitty2082 writes: Wow! Thank you soooo much for posting this! I have been slowly teaching myself to sew and I have been looking all over the web for a way to do this w/o using ribbing. I just tried it and it worked! Your tutorial and pics made it very easy for me to figure out. Thank you!! :D
Posted: 9:17 pm on February 11th
Revette writes: I have only been sewing about a month. I found this one of the most helpful tutorials on doing a t-shirt neck, thank you so much for taking so much time on the illustrations. I would like to make one constructive suggestion. The way I see it, someone NEEDING this tutorial must be fairly new, like myself. As crazy as it may sound, it would be very helpful in the illustration to have a right and wrong side of the material used (so its different colors or easily seen) to know when making the neck, to sew the two right sides together. I'm sure you SAY this in the instructions, but you'd be surprised at how very helpful it is to see because any project I've done a neck for so far (all TWO of them lol)have not been all the same color, so it would make a big difference to me, as I'm sure it would other new sewers. Thanks again for your help.
Posted: 12:55 am on January 13th
AuroraPoison writes: Does anyone know how to sew a split neckline?
Posted: 9:29 pm on August 20th
AuroraPoison writes: Does anyone know how to sew a split neckline?
Posted: 9:29 pm on August 20th
lucyann writes: Your instructions are excellent!
Posted: 11:06 am on June 26th
pjinnc writes: Lights went on when I read this. Going to give this a try. Thanks for showing your work 1-2-3.
Posted: 5:22 pm on March 11th
SarahDoyle writes: What a wonderful tutorial. This is so professional looking and much better than just the little fold-over hems that many use.

Sarah Doyle blog
Posted: 7:42 am on February 17th
NancySews writes: Wonderful article. Thanks for sharing. I'll use this technique soon.
Posted: 12:47 pm on September 20th
wtb writes: Thanks for this article. I have made pjs for my grandsons, but the knitted neckbands always seem to be a mite big. I just follow the pattern directions instead of measuring their necks. Now my pjs will look neater.
Posted: 4:36 pm on September 12th
sassysewer writes: That does look easy! I have been thinking of making up a batch of toddler tees to send to a Chinese orphanage but was stumped about where to find the narrow ribbing. Thanks for showing this technique. I have a ton of tee fabric which can now turn out great and for a good cause! Yippee!
Posted: 2:51 pm on September 9th
emhlt writes: wow! you make it look so easy. easy enough in fact that i'm gonna make me a t-shirt!
Posted: 6:37 pm on September 3rd
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