Why my Collar is Sticking Out like Bird Wings: Notching the collar seam

Previously I have posted a pattern review of McCalls 5754 Poncho/Cape and said that I had plans to make another in wool.  I cut the project out and then it lay in my UFO sewing basket until December.  Originally I had planned to have it done in time for fall and I am annoyed with myself that it won’t be appropriate until next fall, but better late than never.

Once upon a time I had the original photo I showed my foster sister, of the collar sticking out, but it must have been inadvertently deleted during all of the Christmas picture-taking.

So I sewed it up and then found something else to be annoyed about.  The collar stuck out like wings from my neckline.  Thankful to live in the post-modern era with deluxe technology I snapped a pic with my digital camera to show my foster sister.  (This really beats dragging the offending garment back and forth for her to see. Because I was raised by my great-aunt and uncle, my foster sister is much older than myself and also happens to be an excellent seamstress who had stopped sewing around the time I began.  I thought for sure she would have a fix-it.)

Expecting consolation, I show her the image on the digital. 

“Your collar is too tight,” she says flatly.

Not exactly feeling validated, I begin to make my case. 

“It can’t be too tight.  It is a plus-size.  The neckline is actually a bit too large for me.  I NOTCHED!”

“Your collar is too tight.  Get into it and loosen your collar.”

I begin to wail piteously, “But I have already bagged and closed up the lining.  I notched!  Well, it went kind of straight-like at that part of the collar and I didn’t notch a lot there.  But I’ve already bagged and closed up the lining!”

My sister looks me blandly in the eye and says, “Uh huh, get into it and loosen the collar.  It’s too tight.”

So much for a fellow sewist’s sympathy.    How could she be right?  What a bummer thing to have to rip back part of the lining.  Aarrgh!  I mean I notched.  How many notches did this thing feel entitled to?

Apparently a lot.

Over the next few weeks I kept looking at the cape on the mannequin and wishing the solution lay elsewhere, but after some thought  decided she had to be right.  I ripped out my hemstitched lining opening, turned the cape inside out, and notched the collar again.  The collar and facing are both woolen.  That made for a thick seam in the front area where the cape closes.  I notched one side every inch, and then staggered my notches for the other side.  It worked.  The collar now falls as it should.

This is what I mean by staggering the notches on the collar raw edge.

Thick fabric means a thick seam, which means more notching than you might normally do. My advice is to check out the lay of the collar before closing the lining.

The collar now lays against my shoulder as it should. It turns out I made the fix more tedious in my imagination than it was in reality. It took only about 15 minutes.

Next Post: Thursday, January 20, 2011:Starting on my Spring Sewing Resolution


Altering a Shawl Collar Using Vogue 8605

Recently I have made three renditions of Vogue 8605: a practice muslin, a wearable muslin and a fleece jacket.  The pattern itself I have already reviewed, but I wanted to go over the one alteration that I foresee most sewers making on this pattern.

The collar is very large on this pattern and like many plus size women, it is my waist that is enlarged, not the back of my neck.  This is a common alteration for me and for many other sewers as customizing the pattern here is very easy. 

But if you make a change to the back center seam, remember to carry that over to the back of the shawl collar.  If you are new to sewing shawl collars you are in danger of slashing back on the wrong seamline.

I took out material and I can’t imagine too many people adding to this particular patterns neckline as it is already a very generous cut.  Here is an illustration of what I did.

Not exactly drawn to scale but here is what the back and front pieces look like.

The alterations are marked in red. It is easy to forget to decrease the front pattern also and then you have excess fabric when you go to sew together the two necklines.

To finish, I’ll go ahead and show you all three jackets, from practice to finished.  I kept progressively cutting back on both the back neck seam and the curve of the collar.  The practice muslin is made in very drapey terry and shows that you could get away with sweater fabric for this pattern.  Left alone the collar will have folds and the jacket will have a lot of flow if that is what you are going for.

Vogue 8605 practice muslin:The collar extended beyond my shoulders when it was fully pulled out.

The second rendition, what started out as my wearable muslin and then transformed was made in a heftier double knit.  It has a vintage swing coat feel.  And believe it or not I lopped 1 1/2 inches off the collar outer curve and it is still a large collar.

Vogue 8605 Wearable Muslin:Made of double knit poly it hangs more like a vintage swing coat.

My final one, made in grey fleece looks more like a cape when I wear it.  I lengthened the hem and cut another 1 1/2 inches off the collar curve.  It took only four hours to make this one.  I had some practice but this isn’t a fussy design so you come out with a finished project very quickly.

Vogue 8605 in Fleece. When wearing it hangs like a cape but with more structure. The collar is significantly cut back.

I admit I was very infautated for awhile but now I am off of this pattern.  I promise no more posts about this one.  Now I am working on McCalls 5764 a poncho, something I’ve always felt was too loosey-goosey and unstructured for me to wear, but after the practice muslin I am reconsidering!

Next Post: 2 September 2010; McCalls 5764 Poncho:Pattern Review

Sewing Snit:The Back Neckline Sticks Out Way Far From My Neck

Apparently sewing projects are like thawing frozen food-wait too long to use and you have a stinky situation.

Several weeks ago I cut out this t-shirt pattern, Kwik Sew  3242, and then left it in the basket waiting until I began sewing a skirt in the same bright pink color so I didn’t have to rethread my serger for just one project.  (I know-lazy!  I tell myself it doesn’t really take that long to change up serger thread, but still I resist.)

Well, either the sewing machine I am using on loan, since mine needs repair,

is stretching the necklines as it sews,

As you can see, it's from awhile back. It is a workhorse of a machine and I am grateful for the loan, yet it has its quirks and I am beginning to greatly admire home sewers who in the past managed to be precisionists using these old machines.


and I am a bit skeptical here,

but it could be that the weave of those edges like necklines and armholes that end up as bias edges when you cut them, that the threads now loosened from their moorings, begin to relax away from each other.  That is how we get fringe right?


 Either way the end result is that I have narrowed this neckline in back and front several times and it is AlWAYS too large on the finished piece.

I have made tees before and I could not imagine that I could be bested by this simple little thing.  Hence I persisted in now what appears to be folly.  After two fitting muslins, several paper pattern alterations, and already testy because my topstitching was off, I tried on my finished top and I got this:

What did I do?  First, I explored the most sensible avenue. I complained to my husband. 

He would have been more sympathetic had he understood what the hell I was carrying on about.

Anger unappeased I grabbed a pair of shears and did it!  I slashed a giant dart down the back of the shirt taking out a good three inches at top. 

When that shorter dart left a bulge between my shoulders blade I continued the dart all the way to my waistline.

And you know what?  That shirt now fits

And the back dart is barely noticeable.  It looks like a back seam and most viewers will not notice that the seam does not continue down the full length.

The finished tee. I gathered the front neckline though that isn't part of the pattern.

The fit is now the best it has ever been and the top will hold up for this spring and summer wearing.  Sometimes it pays to just get a little mad.

Next Post: Tuesday, May 4, 2010: Summer Tops-Sewing Challenges

Finding Your Natural Waistline

Yes – you do have one!

Amazing to think of but some of us have lost our waists.  And the usual culprits of sloth and overeating cannot be blamed. After years of low-rise, low-cut, booty-hugging jeans some of us have forgotten, or if you are young enough, never learned, the true location of our natural waist.  I have sometimes asked young women to show me their waists and they will invariably point to their navels!  When I demure they vehemently insist that is their waist.  That’s where their pants fall isn’t it?

No!  Where you pants fall may or may not be your waist. 

Pictured here is the waistline of a pair of pants.  Clearly the waistband is not at the natural waist.

Nothing wrong with that.   Why bother to even find the thing you ask?

Because a fashion designer can put a waistline any where they want.  And lately they have all been drawing the fashionable waistlines upwards of the navel, at the natural waistline.    


After a decade of flat fronts and peasant tops, designers, department stores, and pattern makers are doing an  about face and offering up the shirtwaist dress, belted at the natural waist, showing off our womanly hourglass forms.  


So in order to sew or shop these designs we are going to have to find our waists.  Though I know some may be consterned by this graphic illustration of the female form, it is for educational purposes only.  With only one quick glance can you tell me where this woman’s natural waist is? 

Can you find the locations of this woman's natural waist?

Here is the solution for you to check your answer.

Depending on age and figure type locating this on oneself can be a bit trickier.  The natural waist is the smallest point on the torso above the navel, and for most, under the rib cage. (A very short-waisted person can have her waist skim the bottom edge of her ribs.)

How to Find Your Own Waist.  

If You Ever Lost It That Is.

  • Stand up straight.
  • Look in mirror and see if its apparent.  For some of us, that’s pretty much it.
  • If you are still unsure take your measuring tape and draw it around you, pulling down and crosswise.  It should stop at the smallest point.

Now you are ready to sew up those new waist-enhancing designs.  In an upcoming post we will look at some pattern offerings for the latest in shirtwaist dresses.  But for the next two posts we are going to return to looking at all of the options for getting a nice sleeve placket in a dressy blouse.

Next Post: Returning to how to get a nice sleeve placket on dressy blouses –  What Not To Do: The Faced Placket; Thursday, March 11, 2010