Adding Gathers to Any Neckline

It is that delightful time between Christmas and New Year when I hardly know what time it is let alone the day of the week. During this time I like to get lost in a cozy project and try something fun. So today I'm sharing a little pattern "hack" - how to add gathers to any neckline. It's something I think looks so fancy on shirts but was surprised to find that it's actually very easy to do (even for my vacation-adled brain)!

Fabric: 2 yds sweater knit
Price: gift

To be honest, my main motivation for this hack was to look good on Zoom, something that has become oh-so-important in 2020. I wanted to sew up McCall's #7993, a dress pattern with fun pleated sleeves, but realized all the interest would be left off-camera. To add some more detail to the neckline, I decided to add gathers. Here's the basic instructions for altering the pattern: 

1. This adjustment can be done on both the front and back of a shirt, or just one or the other. It works on both knit and woven patterns that have a basic crew neck and a collar or neckband. For my adjustment, I started with the shirt front and measured the neckline.

2. I then cut a slash horizontally across the front of the shirt to the underarm and pivoted the top of the shirt up and away from the center front. I repeated this on the back pattern piece. 

3. I wanted my new neckline to be 5 inches longer than the original so I pivoted to that point and re-drew the neckline. You may want more or less gathers - experiment with your fabric to see what you like. And remember that adding 5 inches to the front pattern piece will create 10 inches of gathers across the entire front. 

To construct the top, I sewed a row of gathering stitches across the neckline and gathered the shirt until it fit the original dimensions of the pattern (this is why it's important to measure the neckline before you get started). I then attached my neckband to secure everything in place and sewed the rest of the shirt up as normal. 

I was a bit surprised that adding 5 inches to my pattern pieces (which is 20 inches total across the front and back) didn't actually create huge gathers. Of course, this is a very spongey sweater knit so maybe this is something that would be more dramatic on a woven cotton or something. It's fun to experiment and I'm actually glad it didn't add too much volume to this pattern.

In addition to the gathers, I also altered the pattern neckband to make it narrower (somewhere between the width of the large View B collar and the smaller View A neckband) and tapered it by sewing the back seam at an angle so that it sat flat against my body. The View B collar is designed to stand away from the body (very 60s in my opinion) but for this design I liked the flatter look. I also shortened the dress to a top so I could wear it as a sweater in my cold apartment. 

While Zoom viewers can now see my cool neckline, the star of this pattern is still those sleeves. They have a fun pleat detail that give nice volume and a look that is very current right now. I also find that the extra volume traps in more heat, which is always nice. 


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