I admit – I’m a sucker for a good bow-neck blouse. There’s just something about them that makes me feel happy. And when you throw a knit fabric into the mix, you’ve got something good going on.

Back in 2013 I made this top, inspired by Jalie 2921 but made from my Sewaholic Renfrew pattern. It was pretty simple but given that I decided to make another one I thought I’d show you how I did it. I’ve written this like an instruction sheet but I just want to state: this is how I did it, and is not necessarily the only/best way.

October 2013 – blog post here for more photos

You need the following supplies

T-shirt pattern. Any pattern will do, so long as you’re happy with the fit. You’ll need it to have a v-neck, so if yours only comes with a rounded neck variation you’ll need to re-draw the neckline to be a V.

Fabric – choose a fabric that you’d usually make a t-shirt from, like a cotton or rayon jersey, or a merino (which is what I used). The drape of your fabric will influence how the bow comes out – drapey and floppy vs structured. In terms of how much you’ll need, my fabric was about the length of my body (because it was wide, I could fit the front, back and sleeves side by side).

Something to stabilise the shoulders with – either elastic or a knit interfacing, or a strip of woven selvage (if you’re using a woven, make sure it’s pre-washed so it doesn’t shrink up! Don’t ask me how I know…)

I love merino but DANG this piece was massively off-grain! That was the overhang at the top after I lined up the actual grain, disregarding the selvage edges

Step One: First you’ll want to work out how long and wide you want the tie. I did this by laying a measuring tape around my neck and loosely tying a bow and noting the ideal length – for me it was about 160cm all up. Half this measurement (80cm) and add 1cm seam allowance. Also decide on the finished width, times by two (because it’s folded in half) and add 2cm total seam allowance. My finished tie is 4.5cm wide, an arbitrary number chosen because of fabric constraints.

Step Two: Lay all your pattern pieces on the fabric, placing the back piece on the fold. The front piece will end up with a center front seam so you’ll need to add a seam allowance – you can create a separate pattern piece but I tend to just mark it with chalk.

My merino was relatively wide so I was able to fit everything in one row. The empty space on the bottom right will be cut into the collar/bow/thing. I didn’t make a pattern piece for it but measured to make sure I had enough room.

Step Three: Cut out all the pieces and mark all your notches. Also mark the center back at the neckline. After cutting out the main pieces, I lined up my extra fabric (note I’m cutting the length of the tie along the grainline). I did this just with my ruler, a chalk pencil, and my rotary cutter (which I’m finally loving, 3+ years after I actually bought it). The fabric here is folded still but I just used the top layer because it was long enough.

Please take note at this stage: my cutting board it what happens when you store it weirdly. This happened when we put all our stuff in storage for 3 months and I think it was stored vertically, leaning up against something. It still works (just) but I’ll need to replace it pretty soon as it’s not very good when I want to cut narrow strips of things like silk organza!

Step Four: Start constructing the t-shirt! At this stage I’ve interfaced and sewn the shoulder seams and stay stitched around the entire neckline (optional). Leave the sleeves, side seams, and center front seam for later.

Step Five: Sew two short ends of the tie together. I used an overlocker for the entire top except for the hems and the first pass along the tie, so to reduce bulk I snip into the seam half way and press to each side. If you’re using a standard machine (you can use a straight stitch here) just press the seams open.

Step Six: Pin and stitch one edge of the tie to the neckline, matching up the center backs (the fold in my back piece in the picture below is not the center). Do as I say, not as I did: put the right side of the neck tie to the right side of the top.

Step Seven: Push the tie up, away from the top. Then is the tricky part:

You need to roll the front and back pieces up so you can pull the seam you’ve just sewn over the bulk of the top, and match it up with the unsewn long edge of the tie – this is similar to the burrito method of sewing a shirt yoke. Do this for the entire length of the tie, pinning as you go – be careful not to twist the fabric (it might be worth marking some notches along the length right after you cut it out, so you can match them now) and make sure you don’t catch the top itself with the pins – I sort of roll the pinned seam between my fingers, making sure there’s only three layers of fabric (or two layers at either end)

Step Eight: Sew this seam, again making sure you’re not catching the shirt in the seam. Leave a 1-2″ piece open at one end so you can flip it all right way out.  Make sure you also sew the short ends of the ties – you can either do these square, or at a 45 degree angle like I did.

This is what it looks like after sewing this seam! Like a big sausage.

Sew with the previous seam’s stitching on top, so you don’t end up with this! I had to unpick that section of the seam and hand sew it together

Step Nine: Pull the shirt right-side-out through the hole you left earlier. Be firm but gentle – there might be a few bits that catch but you should never have to tug (if it’s hard to pull out, check to make sure you haven’t caught any fabric in the seam). You should now have a beautifully tidy neck tie with the seams enclosed.

Step Ten: Sew up the rest of the top! I use the following order

– Press the hems of the sleeves and body then pin (I find it easier to press here when it’s all flat). I’ve also started using a wash-out spray adhesive for most of the hem, leaving the edges that will be caught in the side seams.

– Attach the sleeves to the top in the flat, matching your notches

– Sew the side seams, making sure to match the under arm seams

– Sew the center front seam, going as close to the bow as you can. You don’t need to leave a gap like I did on my original version

– Stitch the sleeve and bottom hems

And you’re done!

What do you think, will you try this out?

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