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August 2008
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Changing The Neckline On Commercial Patterns

I am convinced that the more “valuable” we seamstresses can be to our customers, the more work they will have us do, as well as being a “walking / talking” advertisement for us as they tell their friends, relatives and co-workers about the work we do and the services we offer.

In an earlier post, we talked about being able to change one basic sleeve pattern into a variety of sleeve styles, all using just ONE basic commercial pattern that the customer has brought us.  This post has brought us a number of emails thanking us for giving seamstresses the heads up on this super service.

Today, we’re going to go a step further and show you how to change a basic neckline from a commercial pattern into a variety of neckline styles.  What this is all going to boil down to is that you would be able to do a “poster” showing the variety of necklines that you can make for your customer – all from one pattern.  Hang the poster in your customer waiting area, right beside the poster showing the various sleeve styles you can make, all from the same basic sleeve pattern.  Let the customers know that you will now be able to save them a ton of money by not having to buy so many patterns – you can “change” that basic pattern into so many styles, they’ll have a complete wardrobe from just the one pattern.


On the above drawing you can see the “basic round neck”, which we are about to change.   The dashed lines on the pattern below indicate your basic round neck pattern, with changes to make the square neck.  The individual steps in changing your basic pattern are as follows:

STEP 1:  On the front neckline, measure over along the shoulder line 1 5/8″.  From this shoulder-neckline point, draw a vertical line that is parallel to the armhole as shown.

STEP 2:  Measure down 1 3/8″ along the center front line.  From this point draw a horizontal line to meet the vertical neck line drawn down from the shoulder.  The new vertical and horizontal lines form the square neck.

STEP 3:  At the shoulder edge of the back neckline, measure along the shoulder line 1 5/8″.  Remember here that whatever change you make to the FRONT shoulder line, you have to make the same change to the BACK shoulder line in order for the front and back bodice pieces to fit together when sewing.

STEP 4:  At the center back of the neckline measure down 5/8″ and draw in the new neckline curve as shown.

Because you have made a new neckline, you will need to add  5/8″ seam allowance to the area that you’ve just changed.  The rest of the pattern, of course, already has seam allowance on it.  (NOTE:  if the pattern you’re using says “1/4″ seam allowance added”, then you’ll need to make the new neckline seam allowance 1/4″ as well, so all the seam allowances are consistent).

When you change the neckline of a pattern, you obviously won’t have proper facing pieces in the pattern envelope to make the facings.  The following illustration shows how to lay out the bodice in order to cut out the new blouse / top and the facings for the new neckline.

The above illustration shows how to lay the pattern on the fabric (this will also be given in your pattern envelope).  The reason we’re showing it here is to let you see the areas left after the bodice pieces are cut out — the facings will be cut from the remaining material.

In the above drawing the printed area indicates fabric and the black shaded area indicates the areas where the front and back bodice have been cut from the fabric.  The front and back bodices are the bodices previously cut out of the fabric, and positioned on the remnants to indicate how to cut out facings for the new front and back neck.  Be sure to put the center front neck on the fold and the back neck along the selvage edge, as was done with the bodices.  After cutting the neckline and down 2 3/8″ along the shoulder line, flip the bodice and fabric over and cut the neck facing 2 3/8″ wide, as shown in dotted lines. (The 6 you see is the number used if your pattern also has centimeter measurements in it).

You can see how easy it is to change the basic blouse/dress neckline into a completely different style.  If you would like to learn how to make EIGHT different necklines from that ONE basic pattern, we invite you to check out the neckline changing classes that are available at    There are two neckline classes available – one for the regular S-XL size ranges, and the Full Figure class for those who are 1X – 8X size ranges in the “Plus Size” category on the site.

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Pattern Maker, Instructor & Author


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