Sewing Tips + Techniques: Rounded Necklines for Knits

SEP 9, 2014

Sometimes hemming knit fabric garments can be a little fussy, but Spoonflower crew member Teri is here to show you how to finish off your knit tops beautifully with a simple rounded neckline. Armed with this technique, you’ll be sewing knit necklines, armholes and hemlines with ease! Choose which knit fabric works best for your project, and you’ll be ready to get started. 

Teri showing off her perfect neckline knit tank top
Print operator Teri showing off her perfect neckline on that knit tank top

Teri: Knit fabrics are my favorite to sew and wear, yet all too often my sewing friends say they are intimidated by knits. Creating a clean, beautiful neckline on a knit top can be super easy and quick. Start with your favorite pattern for a knit top and a lovely knit fabric, like Performance Piqué. I chose this adorable print, Como se llama? by Happygoluckycreations, so the sweet llamas can cheer you on.

   Pin the neckband in four even sections
Using your knit top sewing pattern of choice, sew the shoulder seams, then carefully trim away the seam allowance around the neckline. Mark the neckline into 4 equal parts using pins. The llamas are happy because you are doing a great job!

To achieve a smooth neckline that does not ripple or gape open, the binding needs to be slightly smaller than the neckline. A tiny bit of stretching will keep the binding flat and close to the body. Don’t be frightened; we’re going to do a little math now.

Measure the neckline opening and multiply by .90, then add ½ inch for seam allowances. For example, the neckline of my pattern is 28 inches.

28 x .9 = 25.2 (I rounded that to 25, for the sake of simplicity)

25 + .5 = 25.5 (for the length of the binding)

Figuring out the width is a lot easier because the llamas and I have already figured that out for you. Cut the binding 1.5 inches wide. Sew the two short ends together, using a ¼ inch seam allowance.

Mark the binding into 4 equal parts using pins. With right sides together, pin the binding to the neckline, matching the quarter marks.

Remember, the binding is a little bit smaller than the neckline opening, so it won’t match up evenly.

Sew the neckband to your shirt

My zig zag stitch was set to 3 for length and 3.5 for width. Stitch the binding to the neckline with a ¼ inch seam allowance, gently stretching the binding to fit the neckline as you sew.

sew your neckband

Don’t worry if it looks a little wavy. We will fix that in a few minutes. This sleepy little llama certainly is not concerned about a little ripple in the stitching.

Pin your binding in place

Press the binding up, towards the zig zag stitching. I like to use a piece of plain cotton fabric over the knit fabric as a pressing cloth when using steam, just in case the iron decides to spit out too much water.

Now, wrap the binding over the seam allowance and to the inside. Pin the binding in place, making sure that the binding fully overlaps the zig zag stitching on the inside.

stitch in the ditch
It’s time to “stitch in the ditch”

From the right side, “stitch in the ditch” (in the existing seam line) between the body of the shirt and the binding. It takes a bit of concentration to keep the needle in the right place. This gets much easier with practice.

The last step is to press the neckline with a good shot of steam to eliminate any waviness from the stretching and stitching. The llamas are so proud of you for making such a beautiful neckline!

This technique is not just for necklines. It is a great way to finish armholes and even hems on knits. I hope this technique will make sewing with knits more fun and less fussy. Share links to your favorite sewing with knits tips + techniques with us in the comments below!

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  • Joanne P. Lattrell

    Hi, I have a few ready to wear shirts I would like to lower the neckline on. Any suggestions on what I can use for binding?

  • Letitia Single

    I have saved this method on my “Tried and True”, board on Pintrest. No fail, always good results. Thks!

  • The finished product looks great. Did you turn the edge under on the inside before you stitched in the ditch? It doesn’t look like it from the picture.

    • Hi Jeannie,
      Since you’re working with a knit fabric that won’t fray, it is not necessary to turn under the raw edge before stitching in place! I hope that helps, but if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask. – Meredith

  • I’m confused. The first sewing picture is a serger, looks just like my Brother 1034D. You’re not doing a zig zag. Then in the next picture, there’s a straight stitch showing, which wouldn’t have been from the serger OR a zig zag. I don’t see a zig zag stitch anywhere. The last picture showing stitching ON the binding, not in the ditch.
    Do we follow the text or the pictures?

  • Lovely, a simple zigzag is every bit as good as using a twin needle. This is my preferred binding method and I’ve tried a lot of them.

  • Or use a stretch stitch (or serge if possible). I’d also point out that there’s a specific foot for stitching in the ditch that comes with a lot of newer machines. It has a blade like piece that goes ahead of the needle to keep it in the ditch, but check your needle position to make sure the needle lands where you think it will. Oh, and great fabric, happygoluckycreations!

  • maybe you should consider using a twin needle so that the stretch fabric can work with the stitch. if you use af single needle stitch the stictch will brake when you stretch the fabric..