A Better Paper Tape Dress Form: Part 3 – Taping the Outer Form

This is the third post in a five part tutorial for making a paper tape dress form that truly matches your measurements and body shape.

Part 1: Introduction and Materials List
Part 2: Preparation
Part 3: Taping the Outer Form
Part 4: Making the Final Form
Part 5: Marking the Form and Making a Cover

Now that you have your T-shirt made and you know how to use water-activated paper tape, let’s get started making your dress form!

First, get everything set up:

Get out a fine point permanent marker, a yard/meter stick or tape measure, large sharp scissors, and a ruler.

Cut a strip of poster board 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide that is long enough to go around the model’s waist with a little bit of overlap. If the model prefers wider waistbands, you can cut the strip to their preferred waistband width instead. Tape together strips of poster board with paper tape if you need a longer piece – just make sure final strip is straight.

Cut two strips of manila folder that are about a half inch (1 cm) narrower than your paper tape is. The strips should be as long as the model’s upper arm is wide (from front of arm to back of arm).

If you have a self-leveling laser level, set it up on a tripod or on something you can adjust to the model’s hip level. If you don’t have a laser level, you’ll need to use a permanent marker taped to a yard/meter stick to mark a level line around the lower edge of the dress form, held at the right level by a stack of books or something (see the picture near the end of this post). Get that setup figured out ahead of time so the model is not stuck in the paper tape while you set this up.

Get your tape ready. Hopefully you have pre-cut a bunch of pieces. Get out two bowls of water (unless you are right by a sink), and a plate to set your sponge on. One bowl is for dipping the sponge in, and the other is for rinsing the sticky glue off of the taper’s hands. You’ll also want some towels handy.

I’m going to demonstrate the taping process on my DIY half-scale dress form with arms that I designed, because it was way easier to get pictures this way. She is a very patient model, and stands still for hours without complaining.

The model should stand with their normal posture. Walking around the room a bit can help them feel less self conscious and remember what their usual posture actually is – it can be hard to stand with “normal posture” on command.

Cover the cups of the model’s bra with plastic wrap taped in place or Press’n Seal. Have the model put on the T-shirt inside out, with the seam allowances on the outside. If the model’s waist is small compared to their chest and shoulders and the shirt will not stretch enough at the waist to be put on, cut open the shirt at one or both sides of the waist. You can just cut off the seam allowance and stitches – there’s no need to pick out stitches.

Cut out holes to expose most of the breasts. This allows you to get better definition between the breasts. It looks funny, though, I  know.

Close up the slit at the center front neck with some paper tape. If you had to cut open the side seams at the waist, tape them closed with paper tape, too.

Wrap the strip of poster board around the model’s waist and tape the ends together with paper tape. This strip keeps the waistline from growing, which it tends to do with taped dress forms otherwise, so use it even if the model does not have a defined waist or does not plan to sew skirts or dresses with waist seams. The waistband should be at the natural waist, where the waistband of an elastic waist skirt would sit. Don’t try to force it to be level, just let it settle where it wants to go at the narrowest part of the body.

If the model has soft body tissue and you are getting more bulging than you would like above and below the waistband (bulges are hard to shape the paper tape around), remove the waistband and wrap some plastic wrap around the waist area underneath the T-shirt. Don’t wrap the plastic wrap tightly – you don’t want to distort the body shape too much. Using a wider paper waistband can help, too. Put the paper waistband back on over the T-shirt.

Locate the hip level – the place where the hip measurement is largest – and make a mark on the T-shirt at this level so you can measure from hip to floor.

Measure and record the following:

Heel height of the shoes the model is wearing (if any) _______
Hip to floor _______
Navel to floor ______
Lower edge of waistband to floor at center front _______
Lower edge of waistband to floor at center back _______

Here are some general taping tips:

  • It usually works better to apply tape diagonally rather than horizontally or vertically around the body.
  • You always want the tape to follow the contours of the body. If you have a piece of tape that is partially stuck down, and you realize that the tape is not going to lie flat, cut the rest of it off or cut a snip into it. Try not to scrunch or wrinkle the tape. You can also hold up a dry piece of tape to the body to see if it will fit a tricky area before you get it wet and stick it down.
  • Be careful not to distort the body shape by pulling the tape too tight, especially on soft areas of the body. Keep the tape as snug as you can make it without distorting the body shape.
  • Overlap the tape pieces as you put them on, especially on the first layer.

Cut and wet some long pieces of tape. Place the first piece centered right below the bust and wrap the ends around to the back so they cross over each other. Let the tape follow the contours of the body – don’t try to force it to wrap horizontally around the body. Add a second piece of tape over the first.

Fill in the back from underbust level up to the previous pieces of tape with horizontal pieces of tape.

Cut two long narrow pieces of tape. Place them from the underbust tape, between the breasts, and over the shoulders to the tape on the back, crossing over each other between the breasts. Define the area between the breasts as closely as possible. If long pieces of tape will not fit on the body as shown, use shorter pieces and overlap them.

Continue filling in the upper back, upper chest, and shoulders with tape but stay a little way away from the neckline, shoulder points, and armholes. Don’t tape the bust yet. Keep at least an inch (2.5 cm) away from the shoulder points for now.

Note: You may be tempted to extend the shoulders on the dress form to include the curve of the upper arm. If you do this, keep in mind that you will only be able to put garments that have a full length front or back closure onto the dress form, since the shoulders will be too wide to fit inside a top that pulls over the head. Also it is difficult to locate the shoulder points and armholes on a dress form after it has been removed from the body, which is why I suggest being careful about locating the shoulder points and armholes while you make the dress form.

You need to locate the shoulder points. Have the model raise and lower their arm slightly and feel for the dent between the bones of the body and those of the arm. Put your finger on a shoulder point and have the model raise and lower their arm again. Your finger should stay stationary if it is in the right spot, not move with the arm. Mark this spot with a marker.

To locate the correct position from the side, place a ruler on the shoulder and hold it level to find the highest point on the shoulder.

Make cross marks to mark the shoulder points on the T-shirt.

Cut two pieces of paper tape the same length as your manila folder strips (the ones you previously cut to be the width of the upper arm and a little narrower than your paper tape). Get the tape wet and stick it onto the manila paper, folding the tape over one edge.

Cut two pieces of tape a little longer than the manila folder strips, and stick the manila folder and tape pieces onto the longer tape as shown, with edge of the paper that has tape folded over it sticking out just past the edge of the longer piece of tape.

Have the model raise their arms just enough to slip these pieces right up to the top of their armpits. The paper edge should be as high as possible without being uncomfortable or painful when the model lowers their arms. Keep the top edge of the paper level with the floor. Stick down the tape, and hold it in place with more tape around the edges as needed.

Now you need to mark the armholes. Place a ruler under the arm and hold it level with the floor.  At about a third of the vertical distance between the shoulder point and the top edge of the ruler, mark a point on the T-shirt directly above the ruler.

Do this for both arms on both the front and back of the body.

Sketch in a smooth shape for both the front and back armholes, going through the shoulder points and the marks you just made. Note that if the model has narrow or broad shoulders, the armholes will angle in or out more and will look different than those on my mini dress form.

Tape carefully around the front and back armholes.

There are a couple of different options for the bust. You may want to simply tape around the edges of the bust as shown on the left (the right breast) in the picture below. After you remove the dress form from the model, you would close up the holes with a piece of cardboard and more paper tape. You would put a foam cup bra on the finished dress form and stuff it to get a smooth, soft bust with the correct measurements. This option would allow you to put different bras on the dress form, so clothing could be sized to fit a specific bra. It can also save time, especially if the model has a large bust. If you are not sure which option you want, tape the bust fully now – you always have the option to perform a double mastectomy on the dress form later.

To tape the bust completely, tape it using pieces of tape cut into a fringe, as shown below. Start taping the bust from the bottom up, with the cut edges of the fringe facing upward. This allows you to quickly cover the curves of the bust without using many small pieces of tape.

Place a narrow piece of tape around the body at hip level, then put some pieces on the front and back in an X, connecting them together at the side seams.

Fill in the rest of the waist and hip area, using diagonally placed pieces of tape. Tape a bit below the level you plan to cut off the dress form at.

Use a permanent marker to scribble all over the first layer of tape. This will help you cover the next layer evenly, so you don’t have to try to remember where you added the second layer. Try to angle the pieces on the second layer so they cross over the pieces on the first layer. (No, I haven’t forgotten about the neck – don’t tape it yet. The model will be less uncomfortable if you wait as long as possible to tape it.)

Tape a second layer of tape over the first layer. Add an extra layer around the armholes and around the bottom edge where you will be cutting off the dress form.

If you have done a good job taping, the dress form should feel firm enough to hold its shape after two layers. Tap on it and press on it in various places to see if it feels firm. If it is still fairly flexible, you may need to add a third layer of tape, or it might just need to dry some more. You can use a hair dryer to speed up drying. If only certain areas feel flexible, add another layer in those spots. Don’t add more layers than necessary, or you will have a hard time cutting off the dress form.

*Don’t skip this step – you can’t go back and do it after the dress form is cut off:  Use the measurements you took at the beginning to locate the hip, front and back waist, and navel. Use a permanent marker to mark the following on the dress form:

  • The shoulder points
  • Hip level
  • Navel location
  • Lower edge of waistband at center front
  • Lower edge of waistband at center back

Now we want to mark two level lines – one around the hip, and another below it where you want the lower edge of the dress form to be.

You can’t mark a level line measuring up from the floor with a yardstick, because the shape of the body prevents the yardstick from being able to touch the body when it is held vertically.

Here are two ways you can mark the level lines. A self-leveling laser level is the easiest method and will give you the best level line. Another option is to tape a marking pen to a yardstick and set it up so it is sticking out horizontally. The model needs to carefully rotate, maintaining their posture, while the helper marks the line. Make sure the model is not “helpfully” leaning toward the pen.

The lower level line needs to be very accurate, or the dress form will lean to one side and/or forward or backward. It’s hard to go back after the fact and try to figure out how the dress form should stand to reflect the model’s posture, so take the time to get it marked correctly now.

Finally, let’s tape around the neck. You can either tape only right up to the neckline, or tape all or part of the way up the neck. Be sure to ask the model which they prefer – some people really don’t like having their neck constricted. If you only plan on making an outer paper tape form instead of making another form inside it, only tape up to the neckline, or the neck will end up too large.

If you will only be taping up to the neckline, use a ball chain necklace cut to the right length to help establish the neckline (or if you don’t want to cut your chain, tie a single over hand knot in it at one side of the neck). Mark the neckline with marker, then tape three layers right up to the neckline. Use a hair dryer to dry the tape after each layer.

If you want to tape up the neck, tape the join between the neck and body with pieces of tape cut into a fringe like I showed for the bust, except apply the tape pieces with the fringe pointing downward this time. Tape two or three layers of tape around the neck, drying each layer with a hair dryer before applying the next layer.

Mark the line(s) where you want to cut the dress form to remove it. Make cross marks on the cutting lines so you can match the edges back up when you tape the cut edges together. You can either cut up the center back or up a back princess line and just below one shoulder from the armhole to the neck. The center back line is a little easier to cut, but you will have to bend the dress form more to get it off if you cut there. It’s easier for the model to get out of the dress form if you use the princess line cut, but it’s a little harder to tape the dress form back together along these lines. I’ve tried both cutting lines, and they both have their advantages and disadvantages, so I’m not sure which I like better.

You need to use large, sharp scissors to cut off the paper tape. When you cut, push your hand up under the dress form under where you are cutting to help make room for the scissors. Feel ahead of where you are cutting to make sure you don’t cut off the model’s undergarments. This gets a bit personal, but it’s better than stabbing the model or cutting off their bra or underwear, right? Tell the model to yell “Ow” immediately at the first hint of pain (now is not the time for them to be stoic), so you can stop cutting before you actually stab them. Cut slowly and carefully.

Start taping the cut edges together immediately after you take off the paper tape form. Don’t even sit there and admire it for a couple of minutes first, or the cut edges will harden into different shapes and will no longer fit together well (ask me how I know). Use a couple of layers of paper tape on the outside of the seam, and a single layer of paper tape on the inside of the seam.

Carefully trim the bottom of the dress form, cutting on the level line that you marked. Trim off excess fabric around the neck and armholes.

Here are a few pictures of my actual dress form being made:

If you want to use this outer shell as your dress form, which I don’t recommend, add several layers of paper tape to the inside of the form to strengthen it.

A much better idea is to create another paper tape form inside this one, which I will show you how to do in the next post, Part 4: Making the Final Form.



Posted in Patternmaking, Sewing

A Better Paper Tape Dress Form: Part 2 – Preparation

This is the second post in a five part tutorial for making a paper tape dress form that truly matches your measurements and body shape.

Part 1: Introduction and Materials List
Part 2: Preparation
Part 3: Taping the Outer Form
Part 4: Making the Final Form
Part 5: Marking the Form and Making a Cover

Making the T-shirt

Most people suggest either taping over a T-shirt or a plastic bag when making a tape dress form. I’ve tried both, and neither work well. A loose fitting T-shirt adds too much bulk and the fabric gets bunched up under the arms. A tight T-shirt can distort the body shape and causes the dress form to buckle after it is removed from the body. Plastic against the skin is very uncomfortable, and it makes me feel like I’m going to faint. Also, if you use plastic, you won’t have a layer of fabric as part of the dress form, so it won’t be as rigid and you will need to apply more layers of paper tape. You wouldn’t think a layer of knit fabric would make the dress form more rigid, but it really does.

The solution I came up with is to draft and sew a simple custom fit T-shirt from 100% cotton rib knit fabric. It fits closely under the arms, goes up the neck, and stretches easily to fit the body without compressing it. If you have some cotton/spandex knit fabric on hand, you can use that instead of rib knit fabric, but don’t use synthetic fabric or cotton/polyester blend fabric, because the paper tape will not stick to it well.

Here’s how to draft the T-shirt. I recommend you take the measurements in centimeters, not inches, to make the calculations easier.

Measurements to take:

_______ Neck circumference

_______ Neck length

_______ High bust. The high bust measurement is taken around the body just above the bust. For figures without a bust, substitute the chest measurement for the high bust.

_______ Bicep. Measure around the fullest part of the upper arm.

_______ Side neck to waist. Measure from the point where the shoulder seam meets the neckline straight down the back to the waistline.

_______ Waist

_______ Hip

_______ Waist to hip. Measure the vertical distance between the waist and hip.

_______ Hip to desired length of T-shirt. Measure vertically from the hip line down to where the bottom edge of the T-shirt will be. I suggest making the T-shirt at least mid thigh length.

Make the following calculations. If your measurements are in inches, make the following substitutions in the formulas below: 3/8″ for 1 cm, 3/4″ for 2 cm, 4″ for 10 cm.

A = [Bicep]÷2 + 2 cm =  _______

B = [Neck circumference]÷4 + 1 cm =  _______

C = [Neck length] =  _______

D = [High bust]÷4 =  _______

E = 10 cm

F = [Side neck to waist] = _______

G = [Waist]÷4 =  _______

H = [Waist to hip] = _______

I = [Hip]÷4 =  _______

The front and back will be cut from the same pattern piece.

Draw a long vertical line for the center front/center back line (or use the edge of your paper for this line).

Draw a line representing the shoulder slope. For shoulders with average slope, mark a point on the center line, then measure out 40 cm and down 16 cm to locate a second point. Draw a line through the two points. If the model has especially square or sloped shoulders you can hold up the paper to the model and sketch in the slope instead. It does not have to be exact.

Refer to the figure below for the following steps:

Draw a line parallel to the shoulder line that is a distance A below it.

For the neck, draw in a line parallel to the center line a distance B out from the center line.

Measure up from the side neck point a distance C and square off the top of the neck.

Measure out D to locate the underarm point.

From the underarm point, measure out E for the length of the sleeve, and square off the end of the sleeve. This is an arbitrary length – you can make the sleeve a little shorter if your fabric is not wide enough. Having the sleeve there just keeps the model warmer and keeps deodorant/sweat/hair out of the tape.

From the side neck point, measure down F to locate the waist line. Measure out G on the waist line and make a mark.

From the waistline measure down H to locate the hip line. Measure out I on the hip line and make a mark.

Draw a fairly straight line from the underarm point to the waist, then curve out to the hip.

Extend the pattern down straight below the hip line to the desired length.

Mark “cut on fold” on the center front/center back line, and cut out the pattern. 1 cm (3/8″) seam allowances are already included on the pattern, so you don’t need to add seam allowances. Cut 2 on fold, with the direction of greatest stretch of the fabric going around the body.

Cut a vertical slit down the center of the neck on one of the pieces of fabric. This will be the front.

Place the T-shirt front on the model’s body to locate the bust points and draw cross marks on the bust points. Remove the fabric from the body and cut on the marked lines. (If your model has a small bust or does not have a bust, skip this step.)

Using a serger or zig-zag stitch, stitch the T-shirt front to the back at the shoulder/neck seams, then the underarm/side seams, with 1 cm (3/8″) seam allowances. If you sew the seams with a zig-zag stitch, trim the seam allowance close to the stitching.


Using Water Activated Paper Tape

The person or persons who will be wetting and/or applying the paper tape should practice using it on inanimate objects before the actual dress form taping session. Cover a curved object such as a soda bottle with plastic wrap, apply two layers of tape to the object, overlapping each piece of tape, and let it dry. When the tape is dry, it should not bubble up or peel up on the edges. When the tape is removed from the object, it should hold its shape.

The first thing you need to think about is the humidity in the room you will be making the dress form in. If you live in a very dry climate, the tape will dry before you can apply it, so you need to raise the humidity, either by running a humidifier or doing the taping in a bathroom after the shower has been used.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

If the humidity is high, you will need to run a dehumidifier or air conditioner to lower the humidity so the tape will dry. You can also use a hair dryer to help the tape dry. If your climate is very humid, I’m not sure how well a paper tape dress form will hold up over time, so this method of making a dress form might not be the best option for you. If you use expanding foam on the inside, let the form dry completely in a dry room, then spray or paint on a moisture resistant sealer (such as Krylon Acrylic Spray*) after the tape is dry on the final form, it might be fine in a humid climate, though (I live in a pretty dry place, so I’m just guessing).

Making a paper tape dress form can take several hours, which can be tiring for everyone involved. To speed up the process, pre-cut a large pile of tape pieces, and if possible, have two helpers to do the taping and two people cutting and wetting tape. In my experience, it takes 3 to 4 hours to tape up the model with only one person doing everything, so you may be able to get the process done in an hour or so with more helpers.

The people doing the taping don’t need to know anything about sewing. Good attention to detail, the ability to follow directions, and a reasonable amount of dexterity are all that is required.

You will get the best results if you cut the tape lengthwise into narrower strips. Cut several long pieces, stack them up and cut them together, then cut them into shorter pieces. If your tape is more than 2 inches wide, cut it lengthwise to reduce the width of the tape. If you use pieces that are too wide, these areas tend to warp and ripple, don’t stay flat, and flex more. I think this is because the paper tape shrinks a little as it dries. Narrow pieces of tape are necessary if your model is small and/or has a lot of curves.

There are some tricks to using paper tape. If you don’t wet it correctly, the tape will not adhere properly, so the dress form will be too flexible and the tape will peel off. If you do not get the tape wet enough, the tape will not adhere well and it will peel off. If the tape is too wet, it may initially look like it adhered fine, but after it is dry it will bubble and peel up.

This really isn’t as hard as I’m making it sound, but I’m going into a lot of detail on this because this is all stuff that I wish I knew years ago when I first started using paper tape. Even if you don’t wet and apply the tape perfectly, you’ll still get a usable dress form. It just won’t be quite as firm and the tape will peel up around the edges, so don’t freak out and decide it’s too hard before you even start!

First, dunk a sponge in a bowl of water.

Place the sponge on a plate, then gently press on the sponge while holding the plate at an angle over the bowl to squeeze a little of the water out. You want your sponge almost saturated, but not quite. The sponge should not be sitting in a puddle of water on the plate. The exact amount of water you need in your sponge will vary depending on humidity – you’ll want your sponge a little wetter if the air is dry. You’ll have to experiment to get it just right. Re-wet your sponge every 15-30 minutes.

To wet a piece of tape that is smaller than the sponge, place it adhesive side down on the sponge and pat it down onto the sponge. Pick up the tape as soon as the whole piece is wet – don’t let the tape sit on the sponge too long.

To wet a long piece of tape, press one end onto the sponge, then pull the rest of the tape over the sponge while holding the tape down with your other hand. You’ll have to experiment to get the right speed and pressure. If you pull too slowly and press down hard on the tape, you’ll actually wipe the glue off of the tape. If you go too fast and/or don’t press firmly enough, you may miss getting some of the tape wet.

When you are applying tape, wet a piece of tape, set it aside, then wet another one. Now set aside the second piece of tape and apply the first one. Always wet another piece of tape before applying the one that has been sitting. Letting the tape sit for a few seconds gives the glue time to activate and get really sticky. The tape will stick better, peel up less, and create a more rigid form with fewer layers when you do this. Just make sure you don’t let the tape sit so long that the glue dries.

Preparing the Model

The model will be standing for hours, and won’t be able to use the bathroom during this time. There are a few things you can do to make them more comfortable.

First, the model can have a small drink of water and a snack, then lie down with their feet propped up for 30 minutes. This will help the kidneys process the extra fluid in the body much faster. Then they should use the bathroom right before you start taping.

The model should wear their usual undergarments, with only the custom made T-shirt over that. If she regularly wears both non-padded and padded bras, I suggest wearing the non-padded bra for making the dress form, since you can pad out the dress form to be larger later, but you can’t make it smaller. One thing you can do to accommodate different bras is to only tape around the edges of the breasts, leaving most of the breasts untaped. Close up the holes on the finished dress form with cardboard and more paper tape, then put a bra on the dress form and stuff it until you get the right shape and bust measurement. This way you can have one dress form, but still be able to fit a garment to a specific bra.

Shoes affect posture, so if the model regularly wears high heels and thinks she will be OK standing in them for hours, she should wear shoes with the heel height she wears most often. If the model is wearing shoes, note down which shoes they are wearing and measure the heel height. If the model opts to not wear shoes, they should wear warm socks.

The room should be quite warm. As the tape dries it will chill the model, so have a warm hat ready for when they get cold. I wished I had some leg warmers when I was being taped. A heater or heat lamp aimed at the model would be nice, too.

Standing on an antifatigue mat* or other cushioned mat will make the model more comfortable.

The model will start to feel uncomfortable when they are completely taped up and can’t take a full breath. Coughing,  laughing, or completely expelling the air from the lungs can help relieve the feeling of needing take a full breath.

The model needs to stand with their usual posture during the taping, but they can and should move their lower legs and feet whenever possible during the taping. The model can bend a leg at the knee, raising their foot behind them, rotate their ankles, and scrunch their toes. They should start doing this right away instead of waiting until they feel uncomfortable.

OK, now you are ready for Part 3 – Taping the Outer Form

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Posted in Patternmaking, Sewing

A Better Paper Tape Dress Form: Part 1 – Intro and Materials

This is the first post in a five part tutorial for making a paper tape dress form that truly matches your measurements and body shape.

Part 1: Introduction and Materials List
Part 2: Preparation
Part 3: Taping the Outer Form
Part 4: Making the Final Form
Part 5: Marking the Form and Making a Cover

Every few years I make a new custom dress form. I started out with duct tape forms, then upgraded to paper tape forms. Each time I make one I learn a bit more. The last paper tape dress form I made is the best one yet, and since I made a second dress form inside the initial outer paper tape mold, it matches my shape and measurements almost exactly.

Paper tape forms made with water activated kraft paper tape are inexpensive, and if you do it right, are a very accurate way to make a custom dress form.  It costs less to make a paper tape dress form than a plaster and poured foam form, plus you don’t have the mess of plaster and the worry of the foam expanding too much and cracking the form open. And it’s definitely less expensive than having a dress form made from a 3D body scan.

I’ve come to the conclusion that duct tape dress forms and paper tape dress forms made the traditional way are not very useful. The thickness of the tape and the T-shirt under it typically adds at least an inch, but often more, to the body measurements. The shape of the shoulder area changes, too. People say, oh, that’s OK that your dress form measures a little larger than you, because your garments need ease anyway.

The truth is that on a garment the ease at your bustline and hips is added at the side seams, not evenly all around the body as it is on a paper tape or duct tape dress form. So if you shape darts to fit the dress form, they will be too large, and you will get garments that poof out over the bust, bum, and tummy. I really hate how too-large darts look. They make me feel like I’m a little girl playing dress up in my mother’s clothes. If you only wear loose fitting garments, you might be OK with doing your fitting on a duct tape or traditional paper tape form, but it does not work for me. Even my knit T-shirts that fit me won’t fit on a dress form made this way.

I solved this problem by using my initial paper tape form as a mold to make another dress form inside. I put plastic tape on the inside of the outer form, oiled it lightly, put a couple of layers of paper tape on the inside, then used some expanding foam inside to keep it rigid. After I took off the outer form, I added a layer of paper tape on the outside of the final form so I wouldn’t have the sticky side of the paper tape exposed. Then I sewed a cover for the form. The final form is very lightweight, yet perfectly rigid. You have to add several layers of paper tape on the inside of a traditional paper tape form to keep it rigid anyway, so this really wasn’t that much more work than making a regular paper tape form.

I’m detailing how I created my dress form in a series of blog posts. This is going to be a long tutorial, so I’ve broken it into five parts.

Note that I describe the process for an adult female figure with a bust, but the same basic procedure works for men and other figures without a bust – except it’s easier because you have fewer curves to deal with. Just ignore all the steps regarding the bust if your model does not have a bust.

Also, it might seem weird that I’m calling the person the dress form is being made for a “model” but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate word. As far as I know, there is no word in the English language that means “the person being fitted.” It would be awkward to say “the person the dress form is being made for” frequently and I don’t want to use a made up word like fittee or wrapee because I find that annoying.

Materials List

Let’s start with the materials you will need. You may not need all of these things depending on the options you choose, and you will need a few additional things I don’t specifically list (sewing equipment, for example), so I suggest you read through the tutorial before deciding what you need to purchase.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

  • Water activated non-reinforced kraft paper tape*. A 600 foot roll should be more than enough to make a dress form for most people. If the model is large, you might want to get two rolls to be on the safe side. The tape comes in different widths. You might want to use 2 inch wide tape* used full width for a large or not very curvy person, or 2.5 inch* to 3 inch wide tape* cut in half lengthwise for a smaller/curvier person. If you have extra tape you can always use it to make a dress form for a friend or save it to make another dress form in a few years. You can also use it to seal up packages and as a less messy paper mache substitute in crafts. Note: Don’t use the kind of paper tape that is reinforced with fiberglass fibers – it won’t produce a rigid form.
  • Large kitchen sponge*
  • Dinner plate or other flat dish
  • Two bowls of water, if you are not doing your taping near a sink. One is to wet the sponge in, and one is for rinsing glue off of the taper’s hands.
  • Towels
  • Hair dryer
  • Plastic packaging tape* (preferably in a color other than clear)
  • Thin 100% cotton rib knit fabric* You’ll need enough to sew a mid-thigh length T-shirt from, so the amount needed will depend on the size of the model and the width of the fabric. You can use thin cotton/spandex blend knit fabric instead, but make sure the fabric is not pulled tight around the body, or it can cause the dress form to buckle after you remove it. Do not use synthetic or cotton/polyester blend fabric – the paper tape will not stick to it well.
  • Large sharp pair of scissors that you don’t mind using to cut paper. An old pair of dressmaking shears is a good choice. These angled shears* look like they would be good to use for cutting off the dress form (I haven’t tried them myself, though).
  • Fine point permanent marker*
  • Chain necklace to mark the neckline. I suggest using a ball chain necklace*.
  • Manila folder or similar card stock paper
  • Sheet of poster board. You can substitute a manila folder or thin paperboard such as from cereal boxes for the poster board.
  • Corrugated cardboard for closing up the holes in the dress form
  • Plastic wrap (cling film) and/or Glad Press’n Seal*
  • Yard stick or meter stick*
  • It is really helpful to have a self-leveling laser level*. My laser level is one of my favorite sewing tools – it’s great for marking hems, too.
  • Large gap expanding foam* (optional). I am fairly small, and I used an entire 20 ounce can. I would suggest having at least two cans on hand, more if the model is large. If you use foam you will also need disposable gloves, paper or plastic sheeting to protect your work area, and old clothes to wear while you use it. If you don’t want to use expanding foam, you can just add several more layers of paper tape on the inside of the dress form to strengthen it.
  • If you want to pad out a bra to create the bust shape instead of taping the bust with paper tape, you will need a foam cup bra that fits the model.
  • Something to use for a stand. You can make a stand, just set your dress form on a table, or purchase something like an IV pole*.

Up Next: Part 2 – Preparation

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Posted in Patternmaking, Sewing

Sewing Podcasts

I’ve recently become a podcast-aholic. Previously I’d listen to an occasional sewing related podcast episode when a blogger I follow would mention it, but I didn’t subscribe to any podcasts.  It just seemed like too much of a hassle to find the podcasts, and I wasn’t all that interested. Also, I have satellite internet so I have to watch my data usage.

Then along came the Love to Sew podcast. After seeing it mentioned a couple of times on blogs, I listened to one episode, then that night during my free data usage hours I downloaded the rest of the episodes. Ever since I’ve been hooked and eagerly anticipating Tuesdays when the latest episode comes out.

It was getting to be a long wait from Tuesday to Tuesday, so I started looking for other sewing related podcasts to keep me occupied while I waited for the next Love to Sew episode, and I found quite a few.

I’d been downloading podcast episodes on my computer and copying them over to my iPod nano, which took a few minutes for each episode, so when I started listening to more podcasts, I had to switch to using a podcast app on my phone to keep track of them. I realized that my internet data usage is still in the free zone early in the morning when my husband gets up to go to work, so I turned off automatic updating in my podcast app and I download new episodes manually first thing in the morning.

If you are new to podcasts, there are different ways to listen to them. Usually podcasters will have a link on their website that you can use to play an episode, so you can just click on that if you only want to listen to an occasional episode.

If you want to listen to a lot of podcasts, you’ll want to either subscribe to them in iTunes or use a podcast app on your smartphone or tablet, such as the Podcast app for iPhones, Stitcher, or various other apps. I’ve been using Stitcher, which I like pretty well. I also used the iPhone Podcast app to get the earliest episodes of Maker Style, since those episodes are not on Stitcher. Here’s a beginner’s guide to podcasts if you want more help.

I like to listen to podcasts when I’m doing housework or while sewing something simple. Folding laundry or washing dishes becomes a lot more interesting, and if I have a lot of seam ripping to do, listening to a podcast while I do it makes it a lot less painful!

Listening to podcasts has opened up a whole new world for me. I’ve gotten behind-the-scenes info on bloggers and indie patternmakers I follow, gotten sewing advice, and discovered new-to-me bloggers and websites (how did I not know about The Fold Line?!). I feel more connected to the sewing community even though I’m sewing by myself.

Here are the sewing related podcasts I’ve been listening to. Some of the podcasts in the list don’t have any recent episodes, but if you haven’t listened to them before, there’s still lots to listen to there.


Clothes Making Mavens

Crafty Planner Podcast

Elise Gets Crafty

Love to Sew

Maker Style

Modern Sewciety

Seamwork Radio

Sewing Out Loud

Sewing Together

Thread Cult

Threads Magazine Podcast: “Sewing With Threads”

While She Naps

allgrownupnow’s podcast

Update: Here are a couple of new ones:

Stitcher’s Brew

Making Podcast

What about you? Do you listen to podcasts? Do you have any podcast recommendations (sewing/craft related or otherwise)?

Posted in Sewing

Bra Update

When sewing bloggers post about the pretty new bra they just sewed, I always wonder if the bra actually fits, if it’s comfortable, and if they are actually still wearing it months or years later.

So here’s an update on the bras I made a couple of years ago. Those bras no longer fit, but I wore the smallest three up until recently anyway. In fact, after all that work sewing 20+ bras in a row, the final bras I made only fit me for a few weeks. On the whole, my weight is usually stable, but somehow I decided to sew bras during one of the few times in my life my weight was fluctuating. First I gained weight, and then I changed my diet and lost weight. I kept wearing the bras I made even though they were too large because I was too tired of sewing bras to work on revising my bra pattern yet again, and they still fit better and were more comfortable than anything I could buy.

I recently decided my weight had been stable for long enough that I could face working on my bra pattern again. I realized I’d been holding back on sewing everything else I wanted to because I was afraid the garments wouldn’t fit right after I finally had a correctly fitting bra. So I really needed to make some bras. I’m highly motivated to maintain my current weight, because I really don’t want to have to adjust my bra pattern again for a long time!

This time adjusting my bra pattern was much easier. I put on my bra that was too large, marked a new wire line for the smaller wires I need now, carefully pinned out the extra fabric in the cups, and adjusted the pattern to match. Sizing down is definitely the way to go. It’s hard to see how much larger you need to make a cup that is too small, but pinning out extra on a too large cup is not too difficult.

Then I made a bra muslin. I was shocked – it only needed a few small tweaks to fit perfectly! It’s almost like I actually know what I’m doing. Which I would hope would be the case after sewing so many bras.

The second bra was wearable, but the fabric stretched out as I wore it, so I added a lining and an extra support piece to the bottom of the lower cup on the next versions. By the fourth bra I had a bra I was happy with, so I made a couple more. Unfortunately, these bras only fit me well for half of each month, so I made a second slightly larger “PMS” version of my bra pattern and sewed a couple more bras in that size.

Since every different fabric affects the fit of a bra, I decided to make things easy and just make a bunch of boring white bras.

However, after sewing a few white bras I started to get really tired of all of that white, so I made one bra using a scrap of yellow polka dot fabric, and I dyed another one red. The problem with dyeing is it’s a hassle and the colors bleed in the wash.

I absolutely cannot stand to hand wash bras, so I put them in my front loading washer on the delicate cycle, and it seems a waste to run the washer just for one bra. With my last batch of bras I washed my red bras with the white ones and let the white ones turn pink, which I don’t really want to do this time. Maybe I’ll pick one white bra to wash with the red one, so I’ll just have one that turns pink.

I do like the polka dots. The lower cups and sides of the cups are made from cotton shirting, so I have lots of fabric options for that part of the bra. Maybe I can find some more polka dot cotton shirting with colored dots on a white background. Then I could have a little bit of color, but I wouldn’t have to worry about it bleeding in the wash. Stripes might be fun, too. I kept telling myself I was perfectly happy with white bras – I just wanted some bras that fit! However, in keeping with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as soon as I had a few white bras that fit, I started wanting some pretty ones, too.

Since my bra pattern is now fairly complicated and takes a while to sew, I was wondering if I could simplify my pattern if I made the cups out of duoplex, which does not need a lining. I had been avoiding duoplex because heavy-duty polyester fabric just did not sound appealing. I bought some duoplex, adjusted my pattern, and sewed up another version. The cups on this bra came out a bit pointy, almost like a bullet bra, and um, you can really tell when I get cold.

I could work on the duoplex version of the pattern to get a better shape, but I’m not going to, because I don’t like wearing duoplex. It feels cold and clammy sometimes and too warm other times. It feels like wearing plastic (which it is). It also generates static electricity. It’s hard to pinpoint why I don’t like wearing polyester, but I feel slightly on edge and out of sorts all day when I wear it. I can see why people like duoplex for making bras, though. It’s really sturdy and supportive, it has just a little stretch for comfort, and it is easy to sew. I’ll wear this bra occasionally, when I’m behind on laundry, but it’s definitely not my favorite.

I make the upper portion of my bra cups out of nylon tricot, but this doesn’t bother me like duoplex does. It probably helps that it’s a smaller piece of synthetic fabric, not the whole cup. Also, nylon breathes better and is softer than polyester.

The key to comfortable underwires for me is to topstitch a second set of channeling on the outside of the bra and put the wires in the outer channeling. That way the wires don’t dig into my ribs.

Here’s an inside view. With the lining, it looks almost as nice as the outside.

Close up of the channeling on the outside:

It took me a while to figure out which fabric and notions I like for bra making. Unfortunately the supplies I like come from several different online shops, so I end up paying a lot in shipping costs. I’m not sure whether I should stock up on more supplies now while items are still available, or wait in case I want to make a different type of bra next time.

I should at least stock up on 5/8″ band elastic from Bravo Bella, because this is absolutely the only type of band elastic that works for me. 1/2″ band elastic is too narrow. I’ve tried several different kinds, but they all cut into me at first and then stretch out over a couple of hours so I lose support. I’m baffled as to how anyone can make bras with it. All of the 3/4″ elastic I tried was so firm that when it was under any tension at all I had difficulty taking a full breath and got sore intercostal muscles. I imagine firm 3/4″ elastic is good for larger band sizes, but it doesn’t work for me. The 5/8″ elastic from Bravo Bella has a high enough spandex content to be comfortable and hold its shape for a whole day and the width is just right.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Here are the supplies I used:

  • Lower cup, cup sides, and bridge: Mercerized cotton poplin left over from my husband’s white shirt
  • Cup lining and underside of straps: Cotton lawn*
  • Upper cup on both outer cup and lining, and outer straps: 40 denier nylon tricot. Needs to be pre-shrunk.
  • Back band fabric: Power net from Porcelynne. Sadly, no longer available. This is the best power net I’ve ever had – it’s thin, but provides good support.
  • Interfacing for straps: Pellon EK130 Easy-Knit*
  • Underarm elastic: 3/8″ elastic from Bravo Bella
  • Band elastic: 5/8″ elastic from Bravo Bella
  • Neckline elastic: 3/8″ elastic from BiasBespoke on Etsy (it’s listed as 1/2″ but the actual elastic width excluding picots is 3/8″). The neckline elastic is not under much tension, so I find pretty much any elastic works there. I just used this elastic because I had some and it’s pretty.
  • Strap elastic: PE 580 3/4″ strap elastic from Sew Sassy. This is very high quality strapping elastic.
  • Strap inner padding: I used Moisture Wicking Diamond Knit (I have it in white, which appears to be no longer available). If I run out of this, I’ll probably use 1/16″ bra foam instead.
  • Strap sliders: 3/4″ Nylon covered metal sliders. I got these from a couple of different places (I think Sew Sassy and Porcelynne), and the quality was the same. I use a second set of sliders instead of rings to connect the elastic strapping to the non-stretch straps. I think in the future I’ll get silver colored sliders so I won’t have to dye them and can use them on any color bra.
  • Bridge stabilizer: I used silk organza on some of the bras and nylon sheer cup lining on the others. They both work equally well.
  • Channeling: CH909 – White Flat Bra Channeling from Sew Sassy. I like this better than any other channeling I’ve purchased, but it needs to be preshrunk really well before using it (I learned that the hard way).
  • Underwires: Flex-Lite underwires from Bravo Bella or Sew Sassy. The sizes are labeled differently on the two sites. Add 6 to the Sew Sassy Flex-Lite size to get the BravoBella size.
  • Hook and eye closures: I like these high quality three-hook sets from Porcelynn on Etsy

I’m happy with my current me-made bras, but I thought it would be nice to also have a foam cup bra for occasions when I want a smoother look. I know you can buy pre-made foam cups and cover them with stretchy fabric, but I imagine I would have to buy several different sizes of cups to find the right size, and they are not cheap. Plus I just don’t want to have to start over and learn how to make a different type of bra fit me. It finally occurred to me that since I can make a bra from scratch, I could probably alter a ready-to-wear bra to fit me, too.

I looked for a full frame bra with a foam cup. Full frame bras are kind of hard to find. Most ready-to-wear bras are partial band bras. The flexible wires I use do not work in partial band bras and the band just doesn’t stay in place as well on that type of bra, so I did not want a partial band bra. I thought I’d try ordering a bra online, so I’d at least have a larger selection to choose from. I can never find both the style and size I want in a store, so I didn’t see how purchasing online could be any worse. Plus many sellers offer free returns.

Calculating my bra size from my measurements puts me in a 32D, but I know from experience a size 32 band is way too tight, so going up a band size and down a cup size would put me in the sister size 34C. However I also know from past experience that 34C bra cups are too small for me. So I thought I’d try size 34D. I’m one of those people whose measurements don’t put me in the right size. Not that there is a ready-to-wear size that fits me.

The first bra I tried was the Hanes Ultimate T-Shirt Soft Foam Light Lift Bra*. When I first tried it on, the wires were significantly too narrow, and I did not fill out the upper part of the cups. I took out the wires and replaced them with ones that fit me. These wider wires pushed the sides of the cup outward, making the upper part of the back band too long. Rather than doing a complex alteration and taking the bra apart, I decided to just sew a dart in the band. When I put on the altered bra, the wires fit, but the cup volume was now a little too small, since the cup was pulled into a wider shape with the wider wires. The wires did not touch my chest in the center, and they poked into me on the sides. I cut some wide plush elastic and hand sewed it in place on the inside to pad the ends of the wires and cover the lump caused by the dart. This bra is now wearable, even though the fit is not perfect and it’s not as comfortable as the bras I sewed. I can wear the Hanes bra for a full day without experiencing pain, so I’m calling it a success.

I thought since the cups on the 34D were too small after changing the wire size, I would try a 34DD, but the Hanes bra was not available in that size, so I bought a size 34DD Bali One Smooth U Ultra Light Embroidered Frame Underwire Bra*. When I tried on this bra, to my utter astonishment and delight, the underwires were the perfect size. The band fit, too. However, the cups were much too large.

The cups on this bra are made from 1/16″ foam that is an even thickness and is easy to sew through. I pinned out a 1″ wide dart in each cup to see about how much I needed to take out. Then I took apart the bra, cut off 1/2″ all the way around the wireline edge of the cups, and sewed everything back together.

This alteration was almost as much work as sewing an entire bra. The bra now fits and is reasonably comfortable. I don’t really care for the shape of the cups, though. They flatten my breasts and push them out to the sides like a minimizer bra does. I don’t think that this shape is just because I altered the cups, since it looks like the same thing is happening on the model in the product photos. I’m calling this bra a success, too. I wear it more often than the Hanes bra, but less often than the bras I made.

Although I’m not officially entering, my bras fit in well with the SMYLY (Sewing Makes You Love Yourself) challenge currently going on. After making this batch of bras, for the first time in my life, I have a drawer full of supportive bras that fit. It was a ton of work to get to this point, and I’m proud of myself for finally getting this done.

Being able to wear an underwire bra is a big deal to me. I’ve always wanted the support of underwires and been jealous of other women who could wear them, but I’ve never been able to find an underwire bra that fits, so I’ve always resorted to wearing poorly fitting non-wired bras. The bands on non-wired bras always cut into me painfully on the sides, so I’ve found that a correctly fitting underwire bra is actually more comfortable than a non-wired bra. My underwire bras are just as comfortable at the end of the day as when I put them on in the morning. Yay!

The underwires take the weight of my bust off of my shoulders, so I feel so much lighter and my posture is better. Plus it no longer bothers me that I’m getting older and saggier, because when I put on one of my bras, I feel young and perky again. I look down at my chest and I’m like, “Hello, girls, nice to see you back up where you used to be!” It’s amazing how wearing a comfortable, supportive bra improves my whole outlook on life.

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. They are links to the US Amazon site. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Posted in Bra-making, Sewing

More DIY Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper

After making a double-sided tracing cloth using washable crayons, I decided to try making single sided tracing paper as well, since commercially available wax-free paper just doesn’t mark well, and professional waxed tracing paper is expensive and makes permanent marks on fabric.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

My initial idea was to just color on paper with washable crayons, but that seemed like too much work, so the first thing I tried was melting and diluting Crayola washable crayons* and painting the mixture onto the paper side of plastic-backed freezer paper*. Painting on melted crayon didn’t work well at all. I got thick clumps of crayon, the paper rippled, and the crayon ended up flaking off in the too thick areas.

So I went back to the idea of coloring on freezer paper with washable crayons. This worked great! Can you get any simpler than that? It wasn’t nearly as messy as trying to paint on melted crayon, and was actually faster when you count clean-up time. It took me about 10 minutes to color in a 9″ by 18″ piece of paper. You have to press firmly while coloring to get complete coverage, so my arm got a little tired (especially since I was already worn out from shoveling snow), but it was totally worth it.

You can actually use any kind of paper, by the way. I used freezer paper because I happened to have some and I thought the plastic backing would make it last longer without tearing. You can also put plastic box sealing tape on the back of any tracing paper to keep it from ripping.

My tracing paper makes excellent marks on both paper and fabric.

I tried the yellow tracing paper on dark colored fabric. The marks are a little harder to see on dark fabric, but still visible. And the marks don’t brush off!

So far the marks seem to wash out fine, but if you try this yourself, I’d recommend doing your own tests before you use it anywhere the marks might end up showing on the right side of a garment. Ironing might also set in the marks – I haven’t tested that yet, since I usually only use tracing paper for marking the stitching lines on muslins and for tracing patterns onto paper.

I have two sides of me that are constantly at odds. On the one hand, I want to have the best tool for every job, but on the other hand I also like to be frugal and make do with what I have or can get cheaply. Since I have a limited sewing budget, I end up doing some of each when it comes to sewing notions and tools.

In this case, I think my tracing paper is a win for both sides of me. It was inexpensive, I made it myself, and it works well. In fact, since I used washable crayons, the marks wash out of fabric, which makes it even more versatile than waxed tracing paper! Also a plus is that I can make it in many colors.

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. They are links to the US Amazon site. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Posted in Patternmaking, Sewing

3-Step Zig-Zag Disc for Singer Slant Machines

I’ve made 3D printed 3-step and 2-step zig-zag discs for vintage Singer sewing machines that take the top hat style fashion discs. The only multi-step zig-zag stitch these machines come with is a 4-step zig-zag, which in my opinion is useless.

A 4-step zig-zag? What were they thinking? Those stitches are tiny. That’s way too many small stitches to put in elastic or knit fabric. I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to use a 4-step zig-zag stitch. I use a 3-step zig-zag all the time, and occasionally I thought a 2-step zig-zag stitch would be nice, but not a 4-step zig-zag.

I love my Singer 411G, but it really needed a 3-step zig-zag stitch. I made a 3-step zig-zag disc a few months ago, but it wasn’t quite right, so I fixed the design for this version. I decided I might as well make a 2-step zig-zag disc while I was at it.

I’ve made the 3-step zig-zag disc and 2-step zig-zag disc available for purchase in my Shapeways shop. If you are not sure if your vintage Singer sewing machine takes this style of discs, take a look at this Singer disc comparison chart. My discs are type “B” in that chart.

I chose “White Strong & Flexible” nylon for the material, since it seemed like the best option in terms of print resolution and price. I’ve had my first version of the disc for about six months, and it’s held up fine, but I don’t know yet how these 3D printed parts will hold up long term. 3D printing technology is still evolving rapidly, so I’m hoping that by the time my discs wear out, there will be a better material available.

The print resolution is not high enough to get perfectly consistent results, so the two holes in the disc may be a little too small on some discs. The holes can easily be sanded larger, though. You can use a small round file or rolled up pieces of sandpaper to slightly enlarge the holes. The disc should sit snugly on the sewing machine, but it shouldn’t be so tight it is difficult to remove.


Posted in Vintage Sewing Machines

Girl’s Jalie Jeans – A Happy Accident

A lot of my recent sewing projects have been for my kids. Jeans and t-shirts, mostly. I can’t believe the lengths I will go to to avoid clothes shopping. I would so much rather be doing selfish sewing, but then my kids need clothes and I end up sewing them.

I do have a good reason for sewing jeans for my kids, though. They both inherited my round rear end, and I don’t want them to end up with the posture problems I have have had from wearing poorly fitting clothes.

I am convinced that growing up wearing poorly fitting jeans is one of the major reasons I have such a bad swayback. I’ve always had a generous, round rear end, so ready-to-wear pants are always too tight across the seat, with lots of extra room at the back waist, but pulled tight at the front waist. I realized that I tilt my pelvis to relieve the tightness across the front of the pants at the waist, which resulted in my swayback. I remember standing like this at a very young age and having my mother tell me to stand straight. I just couldn’t do it, though.

One day I was thinking about how my mother has a similarly shaped bum, but she has better posture. I realized that the reason she doesn’t have a swayback is probably because, despite being a tomboy, she grew up wearing dresses! She wasn’t allowed to wear jeans to school until some time in high school. It’s too bad I didn’t like wearing dresses as a child – maybe I would have better posture now.

I just made two pairs of Jalie stretch jeans (#2908) for my daughter. I love the incredible size range Jalie has on their patterns. Jalie patterns are so good when you are sewing for growing children. I made a pair of these jeans for my daughter just a few months ago, then already had to go a size up for the ones I just made. Also Jalie doesn’t skip those tween sizes that are hard to find in big 4 patterns.

I learned the hard way that even kids need to have their clothes fitted. I made a muslin before I made my daughter’s first pair of jeans, and had to let out the waist at the sides and take in the back yoke. It is so much easier to make alterations on someone else! Usually I’m struggling to fit myself.

I also made the waistband narrower and changed the leg style – instead of flares, I made them straight from the knee down.

When I was sewing on the front pockets on one of the pairs of jeans late at night, I accidentally swapped the left and right pocket backing pieces and sewed them in wrong side out. I had serged the pocket edges before I noticed, and I didn’t feel like unpicking them, so I asked my daughter if she was OK with the flowered pocket lining fabric facing outward. She was, so I decided to pretend I’d done it on purpose.

Do you know what she just told me? This pair is her favorite pair of jeans! I’ll have to make some more jeans with contrasting pocket backings – on purpose this time.

Posted in Sewing

How to Get Knit Neckband Ribbing the Perfect Length Every Time

I’ve tried various methods for calculating the length of knit neckbands. I did not get good results with the methods I used. First I looked for neckband calculations online, and then when I realized different people gave different advice, I started looking in patternmaking books, and found . . . the same varying advice. I hate trying to unpick a serged seam in knit fabrics, especially around a curved neckline, so I really wanted to get my neckbands right the first time.

The methods for calculating neckband lengths that I found online and in books are just approximations, and they don’t work for the full range of band widths and neckline lengths, but the other problem is that each fabric needs a different band length to account for how much it stays stretched out after you pull the garment over your head. This recovery factor varies a lot from fabric to fabric.

As home sewers, it’s difficult to find a rib knit fabric that matches or coordinates with the main garment fabric, so we usually make knit neckbands from the same fabric as the rest of the garment. Rib knits, which have a lot of stretch and require very little force to stretch, are the perfect fabric for knit neckbands, but you can get pretty good results with less than ideal fabric if you stick to using narrower neckband widths (the less stretch your fabric has, the narrower the neckband has be to get it to lie flat). Knit fabrics with a spandex content, even ribbing, are also not ideal fabrics for neckbands, so stick to narrower neckbands when using spandex fabric, too. When you are using less than ideal fabric for a neckband you really need to get it exactly the right length.

I dusted off the corner of my brain that holds my high school algebra, geometry, and trigonometry and I figured out how to get knit neckbands the right length every time, for any fabric, and any neckband width or neckline length. The neckband length also needs to be adjusted for your particular fabric, though. You should always make your own neckband pattern rather than using the one that came with a pattern. Who knows what the patternmaker did to draft it anyway.

If you just cringed when I mentioned algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, don’t worry, you can actually figure out the perfect length for your knit neckband without doing any math at all! First I’ll show you the “no math” method, then I’ll show you how you can measure and calculate the perfect neckband length. Finally, since I’m going so far as to state that all of the published patternmaking and sewing books I’ve read are wrong on this subject, I’ll use some math to prove why.

Neckband Width

Before you can figure out the length you should cut your neckband, you need to decide on a finished width. The amount of stretch and the recovery factor of your fabric will affect how wide you can make the ribbing and still have it lie flat around the neck.

To get an idea of how your fabric behaves, cut a strip of your fabric that has a width of twice the desired neckband width plus two seam allowances (I recommend using 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowances around the neckline), with the direction of greatest stretch along the length of the strip. Pull on the ends of the fabric strip to stretch it out a bit, fold it in half lengthwise with wrong sides together, and press.

On your ironing board, bend the fabric into a curve that approximates the shape of a quarter of your neckline and see if it will lie flat with a single pin holding it in place at each end. If it won’t lie flat, choose a narrower band width, use different fabric for the neckband, or live with the fact that your neckband will probably ripple along the edge and pucker at the seamline.

If you use a narrower neckband than your pattern was designed for, you may want to add the width removed from the neckband to the neckline so the finished neck opening does not end up larger.

Here I cut a 1 3/4″ (4.4 cm) wide strip of cotton jersey. With 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowances, the finished neckband width would be 5/8″ (1.6 cm). This fabric will not lie flat when cut this wide.

However, when I cut a 1 1/4″ (3.2 cm) wide strip of the same fabric, for a 3/8″ (1 cm) finished neckband width, it bends smoothly around the neckline curve.

I describe the methods below in a lot of detail, so they are not really as time consuming or complicated as I make them look. Figuring out the perfect neckband length definitely takes less time than unpicking a neckband that was the wrong length!

Neckband Length Method 1: The “No Math” Method

If your pattern includes seam allowances, draw in the stitching lines on the shoulder seams and around the neckline. You will want to work with half patterns, so if your patterns include both left and right sides together, draw in the center front and center back lines.

Note: If your pattern has a seam allowance of more than 3/8″ (1 cm) around the neckline, you need to reduce the seam allowance to be able to sew on the neckband correctly, especially if your fabric does not have a lot of stretch. A 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowance is best, especially if you will be sewing the seam with a serger. On some sewing machines it can be difficult to sew a 1/4″ seam, so you can use a  3/8″ (1 cm) seam allowance if you have to, but trim the seam allowances to 1/4″ (6 mm) after sewing.

Align the front and back pattern pieces at the shoulder stitching line and tape them together. Place another piece of paper under the neck area of the pattern and hold it in place with a couple of pieces of tape.

Extend the center front and center back lines up a bit. From the neckline stitching line, measure out the width of the finished neckband and draw in a line where the finished neckband edge will be. Do this as accurately as possible. When drawing or measuring a curve, if you are even slightly off, it will affect the length of the line quite a bit.

Cut out a rectangular piece of paper that is a little longer than the length of the neckline and has a width of twice the finished neckband width plus two seam allowances (the same seam allowance as you used around the neckline). Make sure you square off one end, then on that end draw in the seam allowance you want to use to sew the ends of the ribbing together. This rectangular strip is going to become the neckband pattern.

Fold your rectangular strip in half lengthwise. Place it on edge along the line you drew for the finished neckband edge, lining up the stitching line you drew at one end with the center front line.

Walk the rectangular strip all of the way around the line for the finished neckband edge until you get to the center back line. Make a mark on the neckband pattern where it crosses the center back line.

Fold the neckband pattern at the mark you just made on the neckband where it met the center back line. Trim off the excess length on the end that sticks out (or add on a strip of paper if you cut your pattern too short).

Fold the short folded edge up to the stitching line (not the end of the pattern) to quarter mark the pattern. Clearly mark the quarter marks on the pattern.

In the next step you will transfer the quarter mark to the neckline. I do this because it is nearly impossible to accurately find quarter marks on a curved neckline in knit fabric by folding it – even if you try not to stretch the fabric, the curved neckline stretches differently on different sections because of the fabric grain.

Unfold the neckband pattern, but leave it folded lengthwise. Line up the stitching line at the end of the pattern with the center front line again. Walk the pattern around the finished neckband edge line until you get to the first quarter mark. Make a mark at this location on the neckband line, then extend the mark out into the actual pattern seam allowance. When you cut out your fabric, mark this quarter mark on your fabric. Since your seam allowance is narrow, use a marking tool such as marker or chalk to mark this notch on the fabric rather than clipping the fabric with scissors.

On the finished garment, you want the neckband ribbing fabric to be either in a relaxed state or slightly stretched around the inner folded edge of the neckband. When you stretch out knit fabric, such as when you pull a top over your head, it usually stays stretched out a bit. Every fabric is different, so it doesn’t make sense to guess what the recovery factor is. To account for poor recovery, when you cut out your neckband, cut out a rectangle of fabric a little bigger than your neckband pattern, pre-stretch it, then let it relax again before cutting out the neckband from the pattern. Don’t stretch the fabric as hard as you can – just think about how much it’s likely to get stretched when the garment is being pulled over the head, and stretch it that much or a little more.

Clearly mark your pattern piece so you don’t forget to pre-stretch the fabric for the neckband.

If you are going to be cutting out many garments from the same fabric, you may want to adjust the neckband pattern so you don’t have to pre-stretch your fabric. That will require a little bit of measuring and math, and I’ll discuss how to do that at the end of Method 2.

You will also need to check that your neckband can easily stretch enough to sew onto the neckline, and that the neckband will stretch enough to fit over the wearer’s head. This is especially important to check in children’s garments. If your fabric neckband does not have enough stretch, either try making a narrower neckband and re-calculating the length (it will be longer), or use different fabric with more stretch for the neckband. If the neckband didn’t fit over the wearer’s head and neither of the above was enough to fix the problem, you could also draw the entire neckline larger and make a new neckband pattern.

You can also use this method to make a band pattern for armholes. Place the shoulder seam stitching lines together, extend the side seams along the stitching lines, and draw in the stitching line around the armhole. Measure out the desired band width from the armhole stitching line and draw in the line for the finished edge of the band. The length of that curved line will be the length of your pattern (then add seam allowances). Place quarter marks on the armhole, if desired. You will need to pre-stretch your fabric before cutting it from the pattern as for a neckband.

You can also use a similar method to find the length of a V-neck neckband. Draw in the shape of the finished edge of the neckband and measure the length, then copy the shape at the point of the V onto your neckband pattern.

Neckband Length Method 2: The Measuring and Calculating Method

With this method, you don’t have to draw in the finished neckband edge. Instead, you measure the length of the neckline at the stitching line and the angle between the center front and center back lines, then do some math. As long as you don’t make an error in your measurements or calculations, this method is just as accurate, or even more accurate, than the previous method. It is not a rough approximation – you are actually getting the right answer, as crazy as it seems. I’ll go through how I derived the formula later in the post for those who are interested.

This calculation method only works for rounded necklines, not V-necks or square necklines, or any other shape that comes to a sharp point. The rounded neckline can be any shape or size, though. The neckline needs to meet the center front and center back lines at a right angle (which all rounded necklines should).

The first couple of steps are the same as with Method 1: If your pattern includes seam allowances, draw in the stitching lines on the shoulder seams and around the neckline. You will want to work with half patterns, so if your patterns include both left and right sides together, draw in the center front and center back lines.

Note: If your pattern has a seam allowance of more than 3/8″ (1 cm) around the neckline, you need to reduce the seam allowance to be able to sew on the neckband correctly, especially if your fabric does not have a lot of stretch. A 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowance is best, especially if you will be sewing the seam with a serger. On some sewing machines it can be difficult to sew a 1/4″ seam, so you can use a  3/8″ (1 cm) seam allowance if you have to, but trim the seam allowances to 1/4″ (6 mm) after sewing.

Align the front and back pattern pieces at the shoulder stitching line and tape them together.

Use your favorite curve measuring method to measure the length of the neckline seamline from center front to center back. We’ll call this measurement N. Try to get an accurate measurement – don’t do something awful like try to measure it with a flexible ruler.

Divide the length N by 2. From center front, measure this distance along the neckline stitching line and make a notch. This will be a quarter mark, which you will mark on your fabric with a marking tool when you cut out your fabric.

Place straight edges along the center front and center back lines, placing them so they cross each other. Hold them in place with weights. If you prefer, you can tape another piece of paper under the pattern and draw in the extended center front and center back lines instead.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Use a protractor to measure the angle between the center front and center back lines. We’ll call this angle A. You want to measure the interior angle – the smaller one that is closest to the pattern. I prefer to use a 360° protractor*, since when measuring for a armhole band, the angle is greater than 180° (I’ll show you how to calculate armhole bands in a bit, too).

If you don’t have a protractor and want to try out this method right away, you can print out one of these printable protractors. If you print out the 360° protractor, cut out half of the small circle in the center so that you can align the center mark.

In the formula below,

N = The distance you measured around the neckline stitching line from center front to center back (which is half the total neckline length, since you measured a pattern for only one side of the body)

A = The angle you measured between the center front and center back lines, measured in degrees.

W = The desired finished width of the neckband

The full unadjusted length of the neckband pattern = (2 × N) − (0.0349 × W × A)

The first time you do this, I suggest checking your answer by also using Method 1. Your answers should be within a millimeter or so if you measured accurately. Slight differences are likely due to rounding and measuring errors, but larger ones probably mean you made a math error. If the two lengths differ by more than 3 mm (1/8″), check your measurements and calculations.

Now all you need to do is adjust for poor fabric recovery, then add seam allowances.

If you will only be using the pattern once with each particular fabric, you can simply label your pattern to indicate that you should pre-stretch your fabric before cutting out the neckband, as described in Method 1.

Here is how you can adjust the neckband pattern so your fabric does not need to be pre-stretched, which you may want to do if you will be using the pattern multiple times with the same fabric, or if your fabric is delicate and becomes distorted when you stretch it. You would also make this adjustment if you are making a pattern to sell, in which case you will have to estimate the recovery factor.

Fold your ribbing fabric a bit away from the cut edge, with the direction of greatest stretch running along the fold. Place two pins near the fold 10 cm apart.

Stretch the fabric just a little more than you think it will be stretched when the wearer puts on the garment. Let go of the fabric and let it relax. Measure the new distance between the pins in centimeters, to the nearest millimeter. We’ll call this measurement D.

To calculate the recovery factor (let’s call that R), divide the unstretched length by the length after stretching:

R = 10 cm ÷ D

To adjust the length of your pattern for poor fabric recovery, multiply the previously calculated neckband length by R.

To get the final length of the pattern piece, add two seam allowances to the length. The final width will be twice the finished neckband width plus two seam allowances (the same seam allowance that you used around the neckline).

You will also need to check that your neckband can easily stretch enough to sew onto the neckline, and that the neckband will stretch enough to fit over the wearer’s head. This is especially important to check in children’s garments. If your fabric neckband does not have enough stretch, either try making a narrower neckband and re-calculating the length (it will be longer), or use different fabric with more stretch for the neckband. If the neckband didn’t fit over the wearer’s head and neither of the above was enough to fix the problem, you could also draw the entire neckline larger and make a new neckband pattern.

Method 2A: Calculating Ribbing Length for an Armhole Band

The only real difference when calculating the length of an armhole band is that you are working with the full length around the armhole instead of half of the neckline.

Note that this mathematical method will only work if your armhole curves meet the side seams at right angles. They may not on some garments. In that case use Method 1 instead, and treat the underarm point as you would a V-neckline, sewing the band ends together at an angle to match the garment shape.

Mark the stitching lines around the armhole and on the side seams of the garment. Tape the front and back pieces together at the shoulder stitching lines.

Measure the distance around the armhole along the stitching line, making sure you start and stop at the side seam stitching lines (don’t include any seam allowances in the measurement). We’ll call this length around the armhole L.

Place straight edges along the stitching lines of the side seams, extending them until they intersect. Alternatively, you can put paper under the pattern and draw in these lines. The point where the lines intersect might end up inside the pattern, which is not a problem.

Measure the larger angle formed by the side seam lines (the angle closest to the pattern). We’ll call this angle B.

In the formula below,

L = The distance you measured around the armhole stitching line.

B = The angle you measured between the side seam stitching lines, measured in degrees (it should be greater than 180°).

W = The finished width of the armhole band.

The length of the armhole band pattern = L − (0.0175 × W × B)

Now adjust the length for fabric recovery, add seam allowances, etc. just like you did for a neckband.


The Math Behind it All

Here’s how I came up with that mysterious formula for calculating the neckband length. I assumed that with the garment laid out flat, the neckband fabric should be it’s natural length (neither stretched nor rippled) at the finished folded edge. (The additional adjustments for the fabric recovery factor are done as a separate step after this length is calculated.) The other edge of the neckband will stretch to fit the neckline seam. So what I really need to find is the length of the finished neckband inner edge.

Let’s start with a simplified case and represent the stitching line and the finished neckband edge with two circles. The outer circle, with a radius R and a circumference N, represents the neckline stitching line. The inner circle, with radius r and circumference n, represents the finished neckband edge. The distance between the edges of the two circles is w, which represents the finished neckband width.

I’m going to write down a few known equations to relate the different variables labeled on the circles.

R = r + w

N = 2πR

n = 2πr

I can use algebra to re-arrange a couple of those equations to get

r = R − w

R = N/(2π)

What I want to find is n in terms of N and w.

Doing some substitutions and simplifications:

n = 2πr = 2π(R − w) = 2πR − 2πw

Substituting N/(2π) for R,

n = 2πR − 2πw = 2π(N/(2π)) − 2πw = N − 2πw

Now I have what I wanted:  n = N − 2πw

However, necklines or armholes are not full circles. Let’s say they are arcs – fractional parts of circles. In the figure below, N1 is the outer arc length, n1 is the inner arc length, w is the distance between them, and A is an angle measured in degrees.

So now,

A/360° = N1/N = n1/n

n1 = An/360°

N1 = AN/360°

so N = 360°N1/A

Substitute N − 2πw for n, simplify,

n1 = An/360° = A(N − 2πw)/360° = AN/360° − 2πwA/360° = AN/360° − (π/180°)wA

then substitute 360°N1/A for N:

n1 = AN/360° − (π/180°)wA = A(360°N1/A)/360° − (π/180°)wA = N1 − (π/180°)wA

If we calculate the decimal approximation of the equation to three significant digits, we get

n1 = N1 − (π/180°)wA ≅ N1 − (0.0175)wA

When we are calculating the arm band length, this is the equation we use. We know the width w and we measure the arc length N1 and the angle A.

When we are calculating the neckband length, we know the width w and we measure the arc length N1 and the angle A. However, in this case since we are measuring half the pattern, what we really want to find is 2n1 so we multiply both sides of the equation by 2 and get

2n1 = 2N1 − 2(π/180°)wA = 2N1 − (π/90°)wA ≅ 2N1 − (0.0349)wA

Now you probably are waving your hand in the air and saying, “But wait, Leila, my neckline and armhole shapes are not perfect arcs! How good of an approximation is that, really?”

It’s either an exact answer or a very close approximation. I’m not a mathematician, and I never learned about this in school, so I can’t tell you for sure. I checked it with the Inkscape drawing program I have, which is not as exact as a CAD program, and when I compare measured lengths to calculated lengths for various curved shapes, I get very close to the same answer.

To see why this formula works for shapes other than circles, let’s start with a circle, cut it in half, and insert four line segments of equal length between them to stretch the circles out into oval shapes. N is now the perimeter of the outer shape, and n is the perimeter of the inner shape.

Because the line segments that were added to the inner and outer shapes are the same length, the perimeter of the inner shape can still be calculated with the formula n = N − 2πw.

We can keep splitting apart the circles and adding more pairs of equal length line segments to get all sorts of rounded shapes. Since the length added to the outer shape still equals the length added to the inner shape, we can still use the same formula to calculate the difference in the length of the perimeters.

If we keep making the line segments smaller and smaller, and inserting more of them, eventually it all blends together into one smooth shape. If you have access to a CAD program, you can draw various rounded shapes, offset them a specified distance, measure the perimeter of the inner and outer shapes, and verify that the formula still holds true. You can even have concave curve portions – the length lost going around the inner curves is balanced out by the extra length on the convex portions. You just can’t have a sharp bend anywhere. As you start to get tight curves that are close to a sharp point, the results are less perfect, but the same equation is still a close approximation even for these shapes. It’s kind of mind blowing that such a simple formula can work for complex shapes.

This fact has other applications in sewing, such as when you are adjusting a pattern to be used with thicker fabric.


What everyone else is saying

I don’t really blame sewing bloggers or home sewers who have passed on bad advice about calculating neckband length, because they had to have gotten their information from somewhere, right? And often bloggers add a little apologetic, “Well, this seems to work most of the time,” comment at the end of their posts about calculating neckband length, so they at least hint that the method they are showing you does not work perfectly (unlike patternmaking books, which just say “use this formula”). After using various methods for calculating neckband length I found online and not having success with them, I pulled out all of the sewing and patternmaking books I could get my hands on. Sadly, these books give the same advice as I found online. I guess that’s not surprising – these books and others like them are where the information is originating from. Here’s what I found from a few different sources:

The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers: Juniors, Misses and Women* by Lori A. Knowles. Multiply the finished neckline length by 0.75 to get the neckband length.

Patternmaking for Fashion Design* by Helen Joseph Armstrong. She basically says to use trial and error to find the correct neckband length, which I guess I can’t really say is wrong, but it is a waste of time.

Patternmaking with Stretch Knit Fabrics* by Julie Cole. Measure the length of the neck seamline then reduce this by 1/7 to get the neckband length. There is a footnote indicating that Designing and Patternmaking for Stretch Fabrics* by Keith Richardson was the source for this formula.

Sew Knits with Confidence* by Nancy Zieman. Make the ribbing length 3/4 of the neckline seamline measurement.

Sewing with Knits* by Connie Long. Here is the exact quote from the book: “To cut the ribbing length, measure the neck opening along the stitching line. Divide this measurement by two-thirds, and add two seam allowances.” In case your math skills are as rusty as Connie’s, I’ll remind you that “divide by 2/3” means the same as “multiply by 3/2”. So technically what the author is telling you is to make the ribbing 150% of the neckline length. I’m 100% sure she actually meant to tell you to “multiply this measurement by two-thirds”. It could have just been a typo. Maybe.

Pattern Making for Kids’ Clothes* by Carla Hegeman Crim. Make the ribbing length “about 3/4 the size of the neckline”.

Craftsy Class: Sewing Knits That Fit with Dyanne Marte. She says to make the neckline banding three inches shorter than the neckline length, and to always make the neckline banding a half inch finished width or wider. Quote: “You should always work with at least a half inch and up for banding because if it’s too thin what’s going to end up happening is that it’s going to roll over because it’s not going to have enough of a control.” (FYI – I have a t-shirt I made with a 1/4″ (6 mm) wide neckband, and it lies perfectly flat. Maybe she was having problems with narrow bands because she’s making them the wrong length. She was also discussing using bands on sleeves and in place of shirt hems, though, and yes, those bands should be wider, but narrow neckbands are fine if you cut them exactly the right length.)

The methods listed above are approximations, and will not always give you the right answer. The percentage reductions listed above vary from 67% to 86%, which is quite a wide range. If you want accurate results, you can’t make the neckband a percentage of the neckline length or reduce it by a fixed amount to get the right length for a neckband. Mathematically it just doesn’t work. Rib knits are pretty forgiving, so you will probably get OK results most of the time even if you use one of these estimates. However, if you are using neckband fabric with less stretch, you will need to use one of the methods I described. Also, if your neckline is especially long or short, or if your ribbing width is narrower or wider than typical, your neckband length can be way off using the percentage calculations.

I was curious where these percentage calculations most other people reference came from. I guessed that maybe they work for certain combinations of common neckline lengths, neckline widths, and fabric recovery factors.

Cutting the neckband to 75% of the neckline length is mentioned frequently. I put together a table using my calculations to see what neckline lengths, band widths, and recovery factors might result in a neckband measuring 75% of the neckline length. I adjusted the recovery factor until I got some results near 75%:

Neckband length as a percent of neckline length
(Assuming angle A = 150°, and recovery factor R = 0.8)

Neckband width (cm)
  0.5 1 1.3 1.5 2 2.5
Neckline length (cm) 50 78% 76% 75% 74% 72% 70%
52 78% 76% 75% 74% 72% 70%
54 78% 76% 75% 74% 72% 70%
56 78% 76% 75% 74% 73% 71%
58 78% 76% 75% 75% 73% 71%
60 78% 77% 75% 75% 73% 71%
62 78% 77% 76% 75% 73% 72%
64 78% 77% 76% 75% 73% 72%
66 78% 77% 76% 75% 74% 72%
68 78% 77% 76% 75% 74% 72%
70 79% 77% 76% 76% 74% 73%
72 79% 77% 76% 76% 74% 73%
74 79% 77% 76% 76% 74% 73%
76 79% 77% 76% 76% 74% 73%
78 79% 77% 77% 76% 75% 73%
80 79% 77% 77% 76% 75% 73%
82 79% 77% 77% 76% 75% 74%
84 79% 78% 77% 76% 75% 74%
86 79% 78% 77% 76% 75% 74%
88 79% 78% 77% 76% 75% 74%
90 79% 78% 77% 77% 75% 74%
92 79% 78% 77% 77% 75% 74%
94 79% 78% 77% 77% 76% 74%
96 79% 78% 77% 77% 76% 75%
98 79% 78% 77% 77% 76% 75%
100 79% 78% 77% 77% 76% 75%

When I made the major assumption of setting the recovery factor to 0.8 for these calculations, the 1.3 cm (1/2″) neckline bindings are close to 75% of the neckline length. If you are using a rib knit, I can see how most of the time you could get away with making your band 75% of the neckline length. HOWEVER, keep in mind in this chart I was assuming R = 0.8, and in reality it will vary widely from fabric to fabric. If I change the recovery factor to something else, the percentages no longer fall in this range.

Look what happens when I change the recovery factor to 0.9. Now 75% is not a good estimate to use for any of the common neckband width/neckline length combinations:

Neckband width (cm)
  0.5 1 1.3 1.5 2 2.5
Neckline length (cm) 50 88% 85% 84% 83% 81% 78%
52 88% 85% 84% 83% 81% 79%
54 88% 86% 84% 83% 81% 79%
56 88% 86% 85% 84% 82% 79%
58 88% 86% 85% 84% 82% 80%
60 88% 86% 85% 84% 82% 80%
62 88% 86% 85% 84% 82% 80%
64 88% 86% 85% 84% 83% 81%
66 88% 86% 85% 85% 83% 81%
68 88% 87% 85% 85% 83% 81%
70 88% 87% 86% 85% 83% 82%
72 88% 87% 86% 85% 83% 82%
74 88% 87% 86% 85% 84% 82%
76 88% 87% 86% 85% 84% 82%
78 88% 87% 86% 85% 84% 82%
80 89% 87% 86% 86% 84% 83%
82 89% 87% 86% 86% 84% 83%
84 89% 87% 86% 86% 84% 83%
86 89% 87% 86% 86% 85% 83%
88 89% 87% 87% 86% 85% 83%
90 89% 87% 87% 86% 85% 83%
92 89% 87% 87% 86% 85% 84%
94 89% 87% 87% 86% 85% 84%
96 89% 88% 87% 86% 85% 84%
98 89% 88% 87% 86% 85% 84%
100 89% 88% 87% 86% 85% 84%

As for the 3″ (7.6 cm) that Dyanne Marte said to reduce your neckband? To get even some of the numbers to come out close, I had to set the recovery factor to 0.92. The numbers in the chart change drastically with slight changes in the value of the recovery factor R, and the fixed amount only comes close to working for a small number of neckband width/neckline length combinations. I would say subtracting a fixed amount from the neckline length is never a good strategy for calculating the neckband length. Come to think of it, on the example t-shirt Dyanne Marte showed in her Craftsy class, the neckband looked really loose and ripply. Note that the numbers in the chart below are in centimeters.

Neckline length minus neckband length
(Assuming angle A = 150°, and recovery factor R = 0.92)

Neckband width (cm)
  0.5 1 1.3 1.5 2 2.5
Neckline length (cm) 50 5.2 6.4 7.1 7.6 8.8 10.0
52 5.4 6.6 7.3 7.8 9.0 10.2
54 5.5 6.7 7.5 7.9 9.1 10.3
56 5.7 6.9 7.6 8.1 9.3 10.5
58 5.8 7.0 7.8 8.3 9.5 10.7
60 6.0 7.2 7.9 8.4 9.6 10.8
62 6.2 7.4 8.1 8.6 9.8 11.0
64 6.3 7.5 8.3 8.7 9.9 11.1
66 6.5 7.7 8.4 8.9 10.1 11.3
68 6.6 7.8 8.6 9.1 10.3 11.5
70 6.8 8.0 8.7 9.2 10.4 11.6
72 7.0 8.2 8.9 9.4 10.6 11.8
74 7.1 8.3 9.1 9.5 10.7 11.9
76 7.3 8.5 9.2 9.7 10.9 12.1
78 7.4 8.6 9.4 9.9 11.1 12.3
80 7.6 8.8 9.5 10.0 11.2 12.4
82 7.8 9.0 9.7 10.2 11.4 12.6
84 7.9 9.1 9.9 10.3 11.5 12.7
86 8.1 9.3 10.0 10.5 11.7 12.9
88 8.2 9.4 10.2 10.7 11.9 13.1
90 8.4 9.6 10.3 10.8 12.0 13.2
92 8.6 9.8 10.5 11.0 12.2 13.4
94 8.7 9.9 10.7 11.1 12.3 13.5
96 8.9 10.1 10.8 11.3 12.5 13.7
98 9.0 10.2 11.0 11.5 12.7 13.9
100 9.2 10.4 11.1 11.6 12.8 14.0

I had to make a lot of assumptions when I made the charts above – don’t try to use them for calculating your own neckbands! I made the charts to show you why using an approximate formula will not work well in general.

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. They are links to the US Amazon site. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).



Posted in Patternmaking

Labor Day Sale

All of the half scale dress form patterns in my Etsy and Craftsy shops are 20% off from August 31 through September 4!


Posted in Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing
Follow Grow Your Own Clothes on WordPress.com
follow us in feedly

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.