I love a simple knit sewing project. Easy to sew, easy to fit, and often the most-worn pieces in my wardrobe. I’ve made close to twenty tees now, and I just love how quickly and easily they come together. The Jackson Tee is no exception. I can whip one up in just a few hours, and it’s one of the first pieces I reach for week after week.
Sewing a knit neck band is arguably the trickiest part of sewing most knit tops, but if this is a new technique for you, I think you will be surprised at how simple it actually is. It is definitely a skill that benefits from practice, but if you stick with it you will be amazed at how quickly your results improve. Today I’ll walk you through how to sew the neck band of the Jackson Tee, but these same techniques can be used for the Elliot Tee and Luna Tank too. All you need is a zig zag stitch, your fabric pieces, and a few rounds of practice!
Attaching a Knit Neck Band
First, we need to prepare the pattern pieces so we can attach the neck band. Sew the front and back shoulders together per the Jackson instructions, being careful not to stretch out the neckband (resist the urge to try the garment at this point).
With wrong sides together, fold the neck band in half lengthwise and press. This is called a pre-press and will make things easier a few steps later.
Unfold the pressed neckband. With right sides together, fold the neck band in half and sew or serge the shorter un-notched ends together using a ⅜” seam allowance. Press the seam open.
If you used a serger (like I have above), clip into the seam in the middle before pressing one half of the seam allowance to the right and the other half to the left. This will give you a flatter final seam.
Using your earlier pre-pressed lines as a guide, and with wrong sides together, fold the neck band in half lengthwise. Press again if needed.
Optional: Baste the raw edges of the neck band together using a medium zig-zag stitch close to the edge. This will make it easier to attach the band to the neck opening because you have fewer layers to worry about. It’s also helpful if you have a fabric piece prone to curling.
Now the neck band is ready to be pinned to the neckline. With right sides together, start pinning the neck band to the neckline. I like to do this with the front and back piece laying right side up, with the neck band sitting on top. Match the neck band seam line with the center back, and the neck band notches with the center front and shoulder seams.
You will notice that the neck opening is larger than the neck band. You will need to distribute the extra fabric evenly by stretching the neck band to fit the neckline.
In general, I have found that the less pins I use, the trickier it is to “catch” all the layers, but the more even the overall results are. With more pins, it’s easier to catch all the layers, but the harder it is to evenly distribute the stretch. My (personal) happy medium is eight pins—four for the marked notches and another four in between. Practice a few times to figure out what you like best!
With the neck band pinned, it’s time to sew! Take the pinned pieces to your sewing machine or serger (a serger is photographed here, but the instructions are the same for both). You can use the free arm of your sewing machine if you have one. I prefer to sew this step with the neck band on bottom and the bodice pieces on top, so I can keep the curved pieces of the neckline from shifting while I sew.
Using a 3/’8” seam allowance, start sewing or serging the pieces together. You will need to stretch the neck band slightly to fit the neck line as you sew, being careful not to over stretch it. You want to stretch it just to the point that it’s the same length as the neck line, without stretching out the neck line itself. Go slowly, removing pins as you sew and stretching the fabric until you reach the next pin.
Once the seam is sewn, double check that you caught all of the layers and don’t have any tucks or puckers. If you do, don’t worry—this happens all the time! Simply unpick that area and restitch.
Press the seam allowance towards the body, being mindful of the iron temperature (it is easy to scorch knit fabrics at this step). Use the end of your ironing board or a tailor’s ham (pictured here) to press nicely on the curve of the neck band. Use steam to even out any waviness and help it lay nicely.
If you are happy with the result, you can move on to the next step of your Jackson Tee!
Optional: you can topstitch around the neckline using a medium zig-zag stitch or twin needle. This will help secure the seam allowance on the wrong side, and gives the tee a nice finish. Click here to read our post about how to use a twin needle.
And you’re done! You’ve finished the trickiest bit of most knit patterns. As I mentioned earlier, practice goes a long way, and you may need to try it two or three times to get a good feel for the technique. If you have extra fabric, try cutting out a few extra pattern pieces to try it out before sewing the final garment (there’s no need to cut the entire bodice pieces, you can shorten them to just focus on the neckline).
We can’t wait to see your results! Happy sewing!