Cowl-Neck Tee from a Shell Pattern

For the top I just made, I used Stretch and Sew 350, a shell, as my starting point. I didn’t want a dart in my very drapey, soft fabric, so I started by rotating the side dart to the center front of the pattern. Then, I followed the instructions on this Threads Magazine page (you may need to be a member to see these instructions), to create a drape-front neckline with a 20-inch drop. I love cowl/drape necklines because they hit a great sew/style balance for me. They look a little fancy (style) and no one can see it if the stitching finishing the front neckline isn’t perfect (sew).

I think it’s hilarious that the pattern piece for a cowl neck top resembles a symmetrical Minnesota.

I ignored the darts on the back pattern piece. I think, if I were planning on tucking in the top, this would have been fine, but I don’t ever do that, so the back was too blousy for my taste. My sample sew also revealed that the waist was a bit low on me. I don’t normally have to adjust Stretch and Sew patterns for waist length, but maybe the drape of this fabric type caused the fabric to fall more than usual.

The shoulder seams aren’t actually this long – I didn’t finish the armscye hems.

I lowered the neckline a bit more, shortened the waist by 1 inch, took out the back darts by removing their width at the side seam, and added a short sleeve from Stretch and Sew 1500.

Yes, I know I could have started with the dress pattern, and just shortened it. But, in my defense, the box where the shell pattern lives is easier for me to reach in my sewing room. It’s ironic that I decided I wanted sleeves at the last minute, since one of the appealing features of the shell pattern is that there are no facings on the armscyes. They’re just turned and sitched.

One warning: If your fabric is very stretchy and soft, you made need to stabilize your hems. Even when using a cover stitch, some fabrics just need a little support. I take this stabilizer and cut it into 1-inch strips. I don’t iron it on, I just hold it in place as I stitch. My trusty hemostats make it easy to remove any lingering pieces of paper later.

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