How to Sew Knit Neckbands, Sleeves and Hems

Welcome to the sixteenth lesson in the Beginner’s Guide to Sewing Knit Apparel! Download the ebook for free!

In this lesson, we’re going to be covering how to sew a few things that many new knit sewists have a hard time with. Namely, neckbands, sleeves, and hems.

These three items are asked about over and over again in the many sewing groups I’m a part of on Facebook. Which is totally understandable because without a good visual they can be tricky your first time or two. I can literally see in my mind’s eye myself trying to attach my first sleeves and I was so confused.

“But this curve goes this way and that curve goes the complete opposite direction!”

What the waht?? But if any of these are making you crazy, have no fear! You can totally do this.

How to Sew Neckbands

Sewing neckbands is less of a trick of technique and more of a trick of precision. Making sure that your three pieces of fabric (the folded over neckband and shirt neckline) are flush with one another, is really the only thing necessary to making a neckband even. Watch the video below for the complete tutorial:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO9zb1xbeLs]


Editor’s Note: What to try out these techniques? Put it to use on our Adrianne Sweater sewing pattern!


How to Modify Your Neckline

I am very picky about my necklines. I really only like three different styles at very specific heights. Yes I know…I’m a neckline snob. But that’s the super awesome part about sewing your own clothes! You can make your necklines (or anything else) exactly how you want.

This is covered in the video above, but if you didn’t catch it, you’re going to go about it like this. First, you’re going to cut the neckline on your front bodice piece however you want it.

After you have constructed the main shirt pieces (the front and back bodice pieces and sleeves), you’re going to measure around the neckline of your shirt with a fabric tape measure. Then you are going to take that length and calculate 85% of it using this formula:

Length of Neckline x 0.85 + Seam Allowance = Neckband Length

From this point you’re going to grab your neckband fabric and cut it like so:

Sleeves

Attaching your sleeves is really only going to confuse you the first time or two you do it. If you’ve cut your first shirt pattern out you probably laid out your sleeve next to your armscye and thought “How the heck do I sew these two pieces together?”.

Once again, it just takes a little visualization. Check out this video to see exactly how to do it:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wik1GzZzrIw]

NOTE: There’s lots of pinning going on here. Please be so careful not to serge over your pins! Hitting a pin can break your serger knife.

Hemming

Hemming is a pretty straightforward process:

If you’ll be hemming with a sewing machine, start by either serging your raw edge or finishing the edge with a zigzag stitch. Then, you’ll be checking your pattern to see how thick you’ll want your hem to be. Next, you’ll fold over the bottom of your garment and press, press, press!

As you press along, you’ll be pinning your hem down as frequently as you feel comfortable with. With looser knits you’ll need to pin more frequently because they won’t hold the crease as well as the more heavy-weight, stable knits.

Then you’ll just be turning your garment right side out and top stitching with a good stretch stitch on your sewing or coverstitch machine.

TIPS FROM THE PROS:

Remember that pressing and ironing are two very different things!  Whether you’re sewing with knit or woven, make sure you’re actually pressing the garment and not moving it back and forth as you would when ironing.  Ironing can distort and stretch out your fabric and that’s never a good thing.

Also, my favorite secret hemming tool is a metal hem press gauge from Dritz.  I got mine at my local Joanns (save your coupon!)  It comes marked with measurements on all sides to help you turn up your hems the perfect amount.

– Adrianna Appl, Hey June Handmade Patterns

Specific to Curved Hems

Curved hems are known for driving people bonkers because their curve makes it harder to keep even. Check out my video demonstrating how to get a perfect curved hem every time.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0stB4tj4P8]

Troubleshooting Common Hemming Issues

With some looser and lighter knits, you may find your sewing machine trying to munch up your fabric. In this case, I would highly recommend doing one of three things.

A Walking Foot

My favorite option is to get yourself a walking foot. I talk about walking feet a ton in our fifth lesson, What is a Walking Foot and How to Use One. If you haven’t seen that lesson, suffice it to say that a walking foot will help move your fabric along over the sewing plate without it getting sucked under.

Tissue Paper

Another option is to just start your hem by sewing over a small piece of tissue paper at the beginning. Usually, you’re most at risk of a fabric-munching at the beginning of your stitches. So a piece of tissue paper a few inches long underneath your first stitches will help stabilize it until your machine gains some traction.

Hemming Tape

The last option I recommend is wash-away hemming tape. Wash-away hemming tape is ironed inside the fold of your hem and then washes away in the washing machine (with warm enough water). The benefits of hemming tape are that you really do get a beautifully even hem, and it stabilizes your knit fabric so that it doesn’t get sucked under.

The reason why I’m not a fan of hemming tape is because it’s more time ironing it onto my hem and in some cases, it doesn’t wash away completely and can leave the hem of my garment stiff. It’s also another added cost to my sewing projects which I’m not that big of a fan of.

But there are tons of ladies that swear by it and use it for every single project so just try it out if you think you could use it and see how you like it 🙂

Now that you’re ready to sew, let’s dive into the crazy addictive and fabulous world of PDF sewing patterns by heading into our next lesson, How to Find Your Size in PDF Sewing Patterns.

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How to Sew the Perfect Neckbands, Sleeves and Hems

6 thoughts on “How to Sew Knit Neckbands, Sleeves and Hems”

  1. Hi, Jess, thanks for the tips! Where would I find the iron-on wash-away hemming tape? have you used a certain brand?

  2. Does the formula (85% of neckline length) for the neckline that you presented in the video work for any neckline even children sizes ?

  3. I tried your neckline tutorial today. Great directions.
    I completely changed up a neckline and it worked really well. I’ll be using this technique more often.
    Thanks.

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