Well what do you know? The sun was shining on Sunday (as it is today, hurrah!!) so I ducked out to get a few daylight shots of this new Linden…I’ll preface this post by warning you that I meander into alot of theorising and calculating the length of the perfect neckband based on the stretch percentage of the fabric you use. So if that is likely to make your eyes roll back in your head….look away now, lol!

I cut down a size this time round and went for view B. The fit across the upper bust, neckline and shoulders turned out way better. I haven’t quite fathomed why there is so much excess at the hem and under the bust. Although to be fair I haven’t given it a great deal of thought because I’m not overly bothered. I suspect it’s a combination of the need for an FBA and perhaps that the ponte that I used has more drape (and stretch, which I’ll come to in a bit!) than the recommended sweatshirt fabric. No matter. I still love it and it’s worn as soon as it comes out of the drier. (Also, the folds are nowhere near as exaggerated IRL. I think perhaps the photo being taken in full sun ramped up the shadow and contrast somewhat!)

So…the fabric! It’s this beauuuuutiful ponte from Dragonfly fabrics in the Bark colourway. Now on special so probably won’t be around for long!. So.Freakin.Soft. What’s more, I was really taken with the contrasting RS and WS of this fabric and decided to play with that on this make…

Construction was as per pattern instructions…except as I said, I reversed the fabric on the front and back pieces so the body contrasted with the sleeves…

Oh…and I added a split hem band similar to my Maya top here…

Regular readers will perhaps remember that I raised the neckline on my Linden pattern as it sat a little too wide on me. You can read the simple “how to” on that adjustment here. But of course, adjusting the width of the neckline means you need to cut a new neckband piece because the circumference of the neckline has changed. As luck would have it the width of the pattern piece for the neckline band is more or less the same as my 2″ wide roll of masking tape. And you know how I love a bit of a masking tape cheat, lol!

So….all that remained was for me to establish the new circumference of the neckline and cut a new neckband piece to fit. Up until this point I’ve always just cut a neckband approx 2″ smaller than the circumference of the neckline. To varying degrees of success. Sometimes that would work pretty well. Sometimes not. So I decided to delve a little into the maths of the perfect knit neckline. Somewhere, and for the life of me I can’t find that post no, (**update: it’s here! Thanks Gillian!) I read about a slightly different way of measuring the neckline for a knit….

Instead of measuring the circumference, you take the total measurement between those 3 points above….and cut the neckband to that size. This made good sense to me so I though I’d give it a go. To give you an idea, the neckline circumference was 61cm. Measuring between those 3 points gave me a measurement of 52.5cm. So a difference of 8.5cm which is a little over 3″ shorter than the actual neckline (I usually cut about 2″ shorter so I was optimistic that shortening the band by that extra inch would yield an improvement)…

So….with my trusty roll of masking tape I marked out a strip 52.5cm long on my fabric (plus a small serger SA)…

Joined it, folded it, then marked the centre and side points…

And lined those up with the corresponding CF/CB and shoulder points on my neckline. So you can see the theory in practice here. The band should stretch to fill in those gaps and therefore turn the neckline in, so it lays flat once sewn. Awesome.

Now, it actually yielded a pretty good neckline! It lays perfectly in the front, but is a teeny bit baggy in the back neckline. Meaning the neckband was probably, among other things, still slightly too long. But seriously it’s miniscule, and doesn’t really warrant the geek out I’m about to embark on. But sometimes I just fall down a geeky rabbit hole and need to get it straight in my head. So…..I started ruminating on how I needed to tweak my technique and play with the math to establish the correct length of the neckband. I think I made an error on 2 fronts….

Referring back to that picture of my neckline I’ve now marked in those 3 points as A, B, and C. Now, when I marked the alignment points on the neckline band I just defaulted to CB/CF and crucially, put my shoulder alignment marks **midway** between those two points. But , (and this is where I think I went wrong) the distance from shoulder point to shoulder point, is **different** across the back neckline (A to B), than it is at the front neckline (A to C to B). So actually it’s not an even distribution of the neckband around the neckline, but a proportional one….

So what I’m thinking I should have done (and I’d like to hear your thoughts on this peops), is measure from A to B, and mark my shoulder points along the back neckline according to that measurement. However, moving those points back will mean more neckband length needs to be absorbed into the front neckline. And well….that’s no good because at the moment it’s sitting perfectly. Gah! Which means, actually it’s still too long. Which brings me onto the dreaded stretch percentage…

I actually don’t think there is a hard and fast formula/rule that will work on every project I suspect it’s a combination of factors….and stretch percentage HAS to be factored in. So I needed to work that out in order to try and reverse calculate what my perfect neckband length should have been, with stretch percentage taken into account…

What you’re looking at here is my metre rule, laid flat on my cutting table and butted up against a wall so it won’t go anywhere. A folded band of my fabric bulldog clipped to the end of my ruler.

I take hold of the fabric with my thumbnail at the 10cm mark…

Then stretch it along the ruler until I feel it reaching the limits of it’s stretch capacity, and note the number my thumbnail reaches. 15 in this case.

So, to calculate stretch percentage it’s the second measurement (15) divided by the first (10) then minus 1. Which in this instance is 0.5. Which means this fabric has a stretch percentage of 50%.

Now, here’s my theory, that I intend to test out on my next neckline. And again, I’d love your thoughts on this. Using the “triangle measurement” method I cut my neckband at 52.5cm. (Apologies for flitting between metric and imperial peops!) The actual circumference of my neckline was 61 cm. Same calculation as above (61/52.5)-1= 0.16. So the neckband that I’m attaching is stretching by 16% to get round the circumference of the neckline. For a fabric with 50% stretch, that’s **less than half** the potential stretch available to me on this particular neckline. Now I **know,** from how the neckband turned out that it’s not **quite** stretching enough to lay completely flat all the way around. Which means I’m close, but not quite close enough.

So how about this….if I theorise/guestimate that I want to use **half** of the stretch percentage available to me, (to get a balance between stretching but not over stretching my neckband), then I would need this band to stretch by 25%….and therefore be 25% smaller than my neckline. So….if I take my original neckline circumference of 61cm and reduce that by 25% as follows 61 x 0.25 = 15.25 then 61 – 15.25 = 45.75cm.

So, if I had cut my neckline at 45.75 cm instead of 52.5cm….would it have laid flat all the way round? It’s a difference of 6″ to the neckline circumference so it sounds extreme. Hmm…not sure about that one. 6″ seems alot doesn’t it? 3″ shorter than I actually cut it. The finished neckline wasn’t THAT far wrong. Perhaps I should strike the middle ground between the 16% difference the “triangle method” gave me and the 25% figure and opt for a neckband 20% shorter than the neckband circumference. That would make my neckband 4.8″ shorter than my neckline. 1.8″ shorter than I actually cut it. That sounds more feasible to me. Knowing how the back neckline turned out that 1.8″ less in the neckband would probably have done it

In any case, I’m beginning to conclude that using the triangle method of measuring the neckline will get me in the right ball park; but that needs to be counter checked with the stretch percentage of the fabric I’m using. This COULD be the key to getting the right neckband ratio for any given project. (I don’t think it’s as simple as just cutting the neckband 3″ shorter than the neckline every time, when you take into account that some fabrics will need to stretch more in order to sit flat.) I’m leaning towards calculating the stretch percentage of the fabric, then **using somewhere between a third to a half of the stretch potential of the fabric**, (so basically 2/5) to calculate the neckband length, based on the neckline circumference. Clear as mud right, lol?!

What say you?? Does the above make sense? Are any of my calculations off? (I’m no maths genius, lol!) Do you have your own method??? Share away peops. Let’s geek out together!

I usually use the 75% rule, most of the time it works, but adding the stretch factor seems like a great idea, I will certainly try it! Thanks for the tip 🙂

Hi Louize! I love that you love a geek out too, lol! I think 75% is a good starting point. The variable is the fabric. I’m working on testing a formula. Watch this space!

Stretch percentage – I get it, finally – thank you! And I’m definitely trying the triangle measurement.

This subject has been troubling me ever since these soft knits became popular. I’ve used anywhere from 75% to 80% of the actual neckline measurement, measured on the stitching line depending on how soft and stretchy the fabric is, and it’s “memory”. Most of the time it’s ok. And I have to admit, I hate trying to stitch rip a neck band off a garment. The triangle idea is new to me, and bears experimentation. I’m also fascinated by your method of determining the maximum stretch factor, then using half. I have 3 tops I want to make soon, using soft ITY knits. A great place to experiment. Many thanks for this post.

Hi Yvette! I think 75% is a good starting point. The variable in this equation is how stretchy is the fabric? I’m working on testing a formula. Watch this space!

another variable is the “memory” of the knit. I enjoyed your post, and I’m enjoying the comments just as much, keep it up 🙂

True! Taking it one step at a time though ?

Oh how I love this post Portia! It is indeed a minefield and the stretch of the particular fabric MUST be taken into account as you worked out. I’ve also never come across the triangle method, but it looks like a RTW method and it seems to give a good starting point. The width of the neckband is important too although they never vary that much. I think I used to use a 65 -70% calculation (ie. Neck band cut 65-70% of neck measurement) but that was just for one fabric – cotton/lycra single jersey. I have a couple of patterns in development that use this neck finish so I’ll compare notes then!!

I’ve roped the teen into working out a formula which I am going to test out on my next few makes. I’ll keep you posted. Would be interested in your feedback!

This is of interest to me, but I’ve never been good at math, so I’ll let you all do the work. )

But 25% does seem like a lot, compared to your original 2 inches.

I recently put a jersey band on a dress neckline I’m making, a la Alabama Chanin. and it gaped terribly. So I re-applied it, pulling a little as I hand-stitched, and the fit was much improved. So you can see how much a novice I am in this regard. 🙂 Anything I can learn from you is most appreciated!

I think 75% is a good starting point. The variable is the fabric. I’m working on testing a formula. Watch this space!

Love your computations, as to why neckbands never seem to be exactly right. I also wonder if we analyze our RTW neckbands in this same way? Just a thought…

I love your post! I struggle with the same thing. I stopped using a simple 2″ less method because you are right, the stretch percentage needs to be accounted for. So I have been using 75%-85% of the neck length, but still it is not always right. Although it does work better. I usually guesstimate based on what fabric I am using. But I think calculating a stretch percentage would definitely help. I will pay attention to my findings as well when I will be making my tops 🙂

P.S. I love how you geek out on these things! So awesome to read 🙂

Hi Anya! I love that you love a geek out too, lol! I think 75% is a good starting point. The variable is the fabric. I’m working on testing a formula. Watch this space!

What a fun discussion! I use the triangle method, and blogged about it here ages ago: https://craftingarainbow.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/lazy-tips-for-sewing-knits-choosing-the-right-length/ I don’t know if you read my blog though, so you certainly might be remembering it form someone else! 😉

I feel like knit neckbands are somewhere that fingertip-knowledge really comes in handy. Don’t over think it, just trust your fingers to feel what’s right for that fabric! I always start by roughing laying the neckband in a triangle shape to gauge the right length, but depending on the fabric I’ll cut it a bit longer or shorter. It also matters how wide or narrow it is, because affects the stretch. So many factors to consider – which is why I chose not to over think it, because I success rate is pretty good without all that worry! But you’ve clearly enjoyed thinking about it mathematically, and I’ll be excited to read any new revelations you come up with! 🙂

Gillian! I think it was your post!Thanks so much for getting in touch! When I get back to the laptop I’ll amend it to credit you directly! I am indeed an “over thinker” on occasion. There’s definitely a split sewing personality in me because at other times I ignore all the “rules” and make it up as I go along ? I think I may have fallen too far down this particular geeky rabbit hole to turn back now though ?

I definitely have contemplated these same things! Instead of calculating a specific percentage, I’ve gone a more case by case method. I fold my shirt in half (so, fold at CB and CF so you’re looking at half of the neck opening) then take the neck binding (already pressed in half) and line it up so the folded edge of the binding is where it will be once sewn. Then I stretch, hold with a finger, stretch again, etc until I’ve gone from CB to CF. Then I cut my binding to 2x that length. I think of it as a circumference… the length around the neckline where the binding is attached is longer than the circumference of the folded edge of the binding. That inner circle is what needs to lay flat, so by doing it by feel, you will be able to get the right amount of stretch for any type of knit. Sorry if that makes no sense whatsoever… hard to explain briefly in words and no pictures!

Makes perfect sense ? it’s pretty much how I’ve approached it up until now. Then I had a geek out ?

Ditto! I’ve been remaking a HUGE stack of graphic t-shirts I’ve collected over the years (only men’s sizes are usually available) and use this method, too, since sometimes I use rib knit and others just t-shirt scraps. I pin the folded neckline and to my ironing board, then pin the folded band as it would be when finished, stretching the cut edge as needed to keep the folded edge flat and smooth. Cut and serge! 🙂

So far I have used the quarter method, maybe I should try the triangle?

I cut my binding 75% of the neckline circumference, mark CF and CB, and halfway in between those two. I do the same with the neck binding, and stretch as i sew it on.

Results are varying, actually, so maybe it is time for a change 😉

Yep. I hear ya. I use a similar method but it’s never been 100% reliable. Hence the geek out!!

Goodness! I am not good at reading maths, but I get where you are going. And I 100%agree about your point on not matching the sides on the ribbing with your shoulder points. Interestingly, I was making my son a tshirt this week, using the Titchy Threads Rowan tee. they have you mark 2 opposite points on the ribbing. You then match the seam on the ribbing with the shoulder seam on one the right shoulder, then match the opposite mark on the ribbing with a notch that is probably around an inch towards the CF from the left shoulder seam (it was for age 2, so you’d need to increase this exponentially). This gave a much more even distribution of the ribbing around the neckline. Which backs up what you were saying. I guess once (if!) you figure out your perfect ribbing length, you’d divide that by 2, and then measure that distance from one shoulder seam to get the “halfway” mark. Or measure from CB if you prefer to put your ribbing seam there (I don’t).

Thanks for writing this post. I’ve been getting rather frustrated with the whole neckbands thing. I used to do 75-80% but need a new method as it’s not reliable. I wish I could just ‘wing it’ as I have seen some folk do!

Test, test!

Thanks so much for your help lovely!!

Hey Portia – love this Linden and it looks like your comments are working 😀 Rosie xx

Brilliant. Thank you Rosie!

I always have baggy necks so this has been such an interesting read! I’m going to test out your calculations on my next t-shirt!

I can never seem to get the neckline right. Thanks for this. It gives me more to think about and hope that I can actually learn how to do it right.

This is what I forgot to do! I just finished a dress (I used fancy, lingerie elastic instead of banding) at the neck and arm holes but I didn’t mark out on the elastic where to match up shoulders and centre front 🙁 That’s so important otherwise you end up having to stretch too much in one place over another. Thank you for this post. Always so helpful with pictures and demonstrate. Do you have a favourite material to use for your bands?

I’ve always just used the same fabric as the shirt Kathleen. 🙂

I think you might add in the info from this video http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3839/video-a-neckline-binding-for-knits

Which i found very helpful in my last neckband application. Now how would you change it up for a v-neck?

Yeah, interesting! Thank you. I’ve not sewn a v neck before, but I would imagine, although the way you apply the band varies slightly, the principle is the same in terms of establishing the length of band needed. I’ll test that theory out at some point 🙂