Do you ever feel like your handmade clothes are just missing that certain something that higher-end, ready-to-wear clothes always have? Maybe I'm the only emotional dresser, but for me, it's oftentimes little Anthropologie-esque details that determine whether or not a handmade garment makes it into regular rotation. I've been making a ton of tees from the Union St. Tee pattern by Hey June Handmade. (I'll dedicate an entire post on the pattern soon along with actual modeled shots, but alas, my 45", almost-40-weeks-pregnant waistline does not currently agree with these!) Some people might think I'm crazy for making tees in the first place - I mean, I can go buy them at Old Navy for $6 apiece and be done, right? Maybe I *am* crazy, but there's just something about the process of sewing simple garments - but making them look really professional - that I find extremely satisfying.
Before sewing these shirts, I'd noticed that RTW tees often have the back neckline seam covered with either velvet ribbon, knit fabric or twill tape. I hadn't given it much thought since the serged edge has never bothered the back of my neck. (I assumed the reason it was done was to prevent scratchiness.)
But lately, I've been sewing assembly-line style quite regularly, and when sewing knits, this means choosing one neutral serger thread color for several pieces and only switching the far-left needle thread to match (and therefore prevent show-through when the garment is stretched. In other words, when I serged this blue tee, the far left needle was threaded with matching, blue thread, and the other needle and two loopers contained the cream that you see below. Something about that cream-colored thread poking out at the neck was bothering me, so I wanted to do something about it.
Enter this simple method of using twill tape to cover the neckline seam.
First, gather your materials:
- T-shirt with completed neckline
- 3/8" - 1/2" Twill tape - my pieces measure 11" long, but this will depend on the size of your tee
- Thread to match your twill tape
- A bobbin of thread to match your tee
- Wash-Away Wonder Tape
Measure from one shoulder seam to the other on the inside of your tee. Add 1" to that measurement, and cut your twill tape in this length. (Mine measured about 10", so I cut my tape to 11"). Obviously, your tee will not be crumpled up like mine is above. You will to move the front of the neckline out of the way to measure from shoulder seam to shoulder seam.
If you haven't already, press the serged (or stitched) seam allowance to the shirt (away from the neckline edge).
Apply Wash-Away Wonder Tape to the back side of the twill tape.
Fold one end of the twill tape under about 1/2" or less.
Starting at one shoulder seam, apply the twill tape to the neckline. Do your best to center it right on top of the serging.
When you get to the other shoulder, cut it about 1/2" beyond the shoulder seam. Fold it under so it's flush with the shoulder seam. (I don't like to sew over the shoulder seams as that's often asking for trouble with so many layers of things going on.) (And yes, I know this is the same shoulder as shown in the previous photo. Use your imagination.)
If desired, you can add a size tag or a decorative twill tape tag, too! Just use a little more Wonder Tape to anchor it in the center of your neckline. I wanted to keep these tees simple, so I didn't go through with this today. Many of my other garments do have similar tags though.
This is how it should look!
It's time to sew! I like to use a walking foot since the sides of the presser foot are on different things and thicknesses. It helps me prevent getting hung up at the beginning/end of the stitching, too. This is totally optional though. I also like to lengthen my stitch length to whatever I used for the neckline topstitching. Again, totally optional (and you may have opted to NOT topstitch - that's cool, too).
Make sure to use a bobbin with thread that matches your tee since it will show on the outside, and use a color that matches your twill tape on top.
Backstitching at the beginning, very slowly and carefully sew along one of the edges of the twill tape. Backstitch a stitch or two at the end, too. Repeat for the other edge of the twill tape.
The one trade off of applying the tape to your neckline is that you will have a couple extra lines of exposed stitching on the back neckline of your shirt. With practice, you can get it to look a lot more perfect than mine does above.
Oooooooh la la, pretty, right?!
Give the back neckline a final press to work out any puckering.
If you are doing several tees at once, don't forget to change the bobbin thread between each one, or you will end up with something that looks like the above. I was too lazy to unpick this. But hey, my lines of stitching look better than the ones on the blue shirt! Not all is lost.
Another assembly-line sewing tip: Wind all the bobbins you need to do all the tees at once. You can leave the top thread the same and just switch out the bobbins! Easy.
Isn't looking at these necklines so much nicer than seeing a bunch of poorly-matched serger or zigzag stitches?! I love opening my closet door or dresser drawer to see these. It makes me feel like I'm shopping at an expensive boutique.
I purchased all my twill tapes at Fabric Depot's retail store here in Portland. Here are a few places you can find twill tape like mine online:
You can also do your own search for "printed twill tape" to see what you can find. :)