Add a Cowl Neckline for Instant Drama

A cowl is a fold or set of folds that can be placed anywhere when sewing a garment. Although you might think of cowls as belonging on a bodice front, they can really be added anywhere, including a bodice back, sleeves, or even to the sides of skirts or pants. Cowls can range from the very subtle with a gentle fall to a deep, dramatic and plunging silhouette.

Cowl Knit Dress, Craftsy PatternCowl Knit Dress via Craftsy Member Deby Coles

You can make a cowl from either woven or knit fabric. If you choose to use a woven, be sure to cut out the pattern piece with the cowl on the true bias so that it drapes properly. Adding a lining can also help the cowl folds to hang correctly. Soft, drapey knit fabrics make beautiful cowl tops, and can be cut on the straight of grain when you’re sewing with knits. And don’t forget that cowls can also be added to the back of garments, where they make an especially dramatic statement.

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How to make a cowl neckline

Cowl necklines are both feminine and flattering to many different body styles, and are relatively easy element to add to an existing pattern for a simple top. If you already have a T-shirt or basic shell pattern that fits well, you are halfway there!

Step 1:

Trace off a fresh copy of a T shirt or basic bodice pattern that fits you correctly, or use an existing pattern that you are willing to cut up.

New necklinedrawn - Pattern

Step 2:

Decide where you want the cowl to fall on your body. Draw a new curve to the depth you want the new neckline, maybe someplace between 3″ – 5″ below your collarbones. Measure down the center front on your pattern and mark this spot, and then draw the new neckline curve connecting the shoulder point to desired cowl drape point.

Pattern Piece - Slash lines drawn

Step 3:

Draw two slash lines on the front of your pattern piece from the shoulder seam to center front.

Slash lines cut on Pattern Piece

Step 4:

Cut along the slash lines from the center front up to, but not through, the stitching line. Create a “hinge” by also snipping from the cutting line nearly to the stitching line.

Pattern taped to tissue

Step 5:

Place a fresh piece of tissue paper under your pattern piece, and draw a vertical line for center front. Tape your bodice front down to the new tissue, aligning the lower center fronts.

Step 6:

Spread the pattern equally along the cutting lines, adding between 8″ – 10″ total length to the pattern piece. Tape the spread pattern pieces to the tissue underneath.

Cowl Line and Facing Line Drawn

Step 7:

Draw a straight line from the shoulder point at the neck edge to center front, perpendicular to the center front line. This is the “cowl line.”

Cowl Line and Facing Line Drawn

Step 8:

Draw another line parallel to and 2″ above the cowl line. This is the facing line.

Cowl folded on neckline to cut shoulder

Step 9:

Cut on the facing line, and then fold the pattern on the cowl line. True the armhole and the shoulder edge of the pattern. You may also need to true the side seam, the center front, and possibly even the hem edge of your top.

Cowl facing cut

Sewing tips for a front cowl

You can proceed with making your cowl top according to your original pattern, with these additions:

Step 1:

Bind or finish the back neck edge as desired before attaching the front and back.

Step 2:

Pin the back shoulder to the front shoulder, and then the front facing around the back neckline and stitch. This will catch the facing in the shoulder seam.

Step 3:

Sometimes you may need to add a weight to keep the folds of a cowl hanging correctly. In that case, you can just sew a small pocket to the cowl facing and add a small weight.

So that’s wasn’t too hard, was it? Experiment with adding cowls to your garments, and soon enough you will determine the depth, drape, and fullness that you like.

Have you ever altered a pattern to add a cowl neckline? What was the hardest part for you?

17 Comments

Nikki Watson

I’m making the scoop-neck t-shirt from the Sewing with Knits class and used these instructions to modify it into a cowl-neck.

Rather than insert a cowl weight, I wanted to attach the cowl to a lining layer, so I cut out the full pattern as directed, but then followed the steps above and then cut out a cowl front-piece, leaving me with two differently-shaped front pieces instead of one.

As planned, I attached the edge of the facing to the scoop of the original front neck piece (the lining layer). From there, I basted the shoulders, armholes and side seams of the two “fronts” together and pretended the two were one piece after that! I also attached the back half of the back/neck facing before sewing the shoulders together, and was extra careful about maintaining a neat & tidy inside shoulder seam, so it wouldn’t be seen when worn.

I’ve tried it on and it looks fantastic! It’s just about done, I just need to swap in my double needle and hem the sleeves and bottom. The only thing I’d change next time is to make it a bit racier and lower the neckline – it is a cowl-necked top, after all! To do this, I think I need to add more length to the cowl facing (I only had enough fabric for one inch instead of two) and make the scoop of the inside “front” a little deeper to pull it down and into place. Even as it is, I love it and will definitely make more!

Reply
Nikki Watson

I’m making the scoop-neck t-shirt from the Sewing with Knits class and used these instructions to modify it into a cowl-neck.

Rather than insert a cowl weight, I wanted to attach the cowl to a lining layer, so I cut out the full pattern as directed, but then followed the steps above and then cut out a cowl front-piece, leaving me with two differently-shaped front pieces instead of one.

As planned, I attached the edge of the facing to the scoop of the original front neck piece (the lining layer). From there, I basted the shoulders, armholes and side seams of the two “fronts” together and pretended the two were one piece after that! I also attached the back half of the back/neck facing before sewing the shoulders together, and was extra careful about maintaining a neat & tidy inside shoulder seam, so it wouldn’t be seen when worn.

I’ve tried it on and it looks fantastic! It’s just about done, I just need to swap in my double needle and hem the sleeves and bottom. The only thing I’d change next time is to make it a bit racier and lower the neckline – it is a cowl-necked top, after all! To do this, I think I need to add more length to the cowl facing (I only had enough fabric for one inch instead of two) and make the scoop of the inside “front” a little deeper to pull it down and into place. Even as it is, I love it and will definitely make more!

Reply
Claudette

This uses such advanced language that it’s useless for the average newbie who only knows how to interpret patterns but doesn’t know the lingo :(

Reply
patience akinmolayan

Wow! The duo slash lines from the centre top opened my understanding! I just got the idea behind the Cowl neck. Thanks so much. Will

Reply
joslin knight

joslin june 4 2015 your cowl neckline was very easys to follow

Reply
sheila

Have been sewing for many many years just happen to look at your patt for a cowl neck to recomend a vidio to a friend, very nice images, very simple, concise ,details very clear. .

thank on behalf of my friend and many more I think ;

Reply
folasade

im tring the cowlneck for the first time this has been helpful.but adding weight to d facing is a bit confusing.tanks..

Reply
Nagaveni N. Nayak

I have tried cowl pattern , but it was really difficult to get more folds. I had got only 2-3!!

Reply
Ogunkoya motunrayo esther

I think for me that i did nt understand the pattern language am getting it difficult

Reply
Ogunkoya motunrayo esther

Pls i need someone who can teach me pattern and drafting online

Reply
Maureen

Hi Esther, I bouth the online lessons of Suzy Furrer by Craftsy, I have been sewing for over 40 years and even so I learned a lot on pattern drafting , the lessons are very pleasant and very easy to learn and to understand. I wish you all the succes abouth your choice, and hope that my repliek was any help. Kindly regards, Maureen ( Belgium)

Reply
sandra sofolabo

It is grate to known that I can now cut cowl neck perfectly with d heip of ur pattern. Thanks a lot.pls I want to now how to cut a Bustier Pattern. Thanks

Reply
blessing Effiom Okon

I love the pattern aspect I really enjoy it I think I will try it
you are good

Reply
sumith walpola

very informative

i m really impressed

thanx
Sumith.

Reply
patience oyenuga

I love your pattern illustration on cowl neck can u pls write out how many inches one can use

Reply

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