Sewing a ribbed neckline is challenging. The pattern piece never seems to be the right size, which in turn causes your neckline to either float away from your body or pucker like mad. I have a simple, stretch-as-you-go technique that results in a perfect neckline (almost) every time!
Two main factors dictate the length of your ribbing: the elasticity of the ribbing fabric, and the width of the ribbing. The wider the ribbing, the more you need to stretch it so it will lay flush against your body.
Ribbing pattern pieces are generally based on a mathematical formula, with the pattern piece approximately ¾ of the length of the neckline seam. However, this formula never seems to result in the correct length for me, so I let the fabric tell me what length it wants to be. Here is how I determine the length of a ribbed neckline and sew it:
Cut the ribbing the same width as the pattern piece, and approximately two inches longer than the pattern piece.
Fold the ribbing wrong-sides-together along the long edge and press.
Mark the center of the ribbing and the center front of the garment.
Pin the ribbing to the garment at the center-front spot, right-sides-together.
Gently stretch the ribbing along the neckline, pinning perpendicular to the edge every inch. If your ribbing is more than 1 ½” wide (after folding), stretch it more firmly. Your body gets smaller closer to the neck, so the ribbing needs to be even smaller when it is farther from the neckline.
Leave a three-inch gap at the back of the neckline, letting the leftover lengths of ribbing hang freely.
Starting at one edge of the gap, baste the ribbing in place with a long straight-stich. Stop at the other edge of the gap.
Slip the neckline over your head and look in a mirror to make sure the ribbing is hugging your décolletage (and smile at yourself for using a sophisticated French word!). If it doesn’t look good, you can easily rip the stitches and re-sew, stretching the ribbing more or less, depending on what you learned when you tried it on.
When the ribbing looks good, you can gently stretch the ends at the back of the neck, and sew them right-sides together. Trim the seam allowance, press it open, and continue sewing the ribbing on the rest of the neckline.
Try it on one last time to double check the fit. Then, you can sew over the basting stitches with regular stitches.
Press the ribbing away from the neck, and top stitch in place from the right side of the garment. Ta da! You’ve done it!
If you’re more of a visual learner, you can check out my ‘How to Sew a Ribbed Neckband‘ video.