The great thing about sewing is that we are all designers and we are all able to get clothes that fit us well and make us look and feel even better – and we can do that by just changing the neckline.

But yet many people just sew up the patterns straight out of the envelope (or printer, as may be the case) with out enjoying the possibilities for individual fitting. Some may not do it, because they don’t know how.

SO I thought I would do a series on fitting and altering different kinds of t-shirt.

While there are many ways to fit garment and almost as many books instructing how to, most of them merely talk about fitting woven fabric garments. And while I’m a big fan of tissue fitting, it just will not work with a pattern with no or even negative ease. So here is my tried and true way of fitting t-shirts.

This is not really about fit – but about altering a pattern by changing the neckline to be what you want it to.

The boatneck tee I made with the pattern after changing the neckline

The boatneck tee I made with the pattern after changing the neckline

A lot of people have asked me for a kimono shirt with a different neckline than the boatneck. But since it’s such an easy alteration (and the pattern is still free), I thought I’d show you how to do it your self instead. It’s really easy. All you have to do, is to make sure that the front and back shoulder lines match up.

On the pictures, I’m showing you how to alter the neckline on the Birgitte Basic Tee (I wanted to copy a boat neckline for a Breton Styled t-shirt).

What you need for changing the neckline:

  • A t-shirt pattern, preferably one already fitted for you.
  • Pattern tracing paper
  • Pencil and/or marker
  • T-shirt you want to copy the neckline of – or, indeed, a pattern you wish to copy.
  • Paper scissors

And here’s how to:

First trace your pattern front and back onto tracing paper. I don’t want to change the fit, so I just copy it by tracing on top of the pattern lines, and I’ve already included seam allowances on the pattern. Put a note on each pattern piece – what pattern, size, alterations already done. Don’t cut the new pattern yet.

Changing the neckline

1 ) “Original” pattern pieces, 2 ) Tracing, 3 ) Traced



Fold the t-shirt you want to copy in half so that the centre front is folded. Align the shoulder seams and pin at shoulder and centre front.

Changing the neckline the original

The neckline of the t-shirt I want to copy. Front is folded in half and pinned


Place the folded t-shirt on top of the pattern. You want to align the centre front of the t-shirt with the one on the pattern, and get the shoulder seam of the t-shirt to touch somewhere on the shoulder seam of the pattern (or where the shoulder seam would be if it was longer – if you are making a crew neck, for instance). If you like, you could fold in the ribbing or binding of the  t-shirt, but for me, I want to make a visible 1 cm ribbing, so I’ll just let the  ribbing be the guide of my 1 cm seam allowance for the neckline.

copying the neckline

Place the t-shirt on top of the traced pattern. Align the centre fronts and let the shoulder seams meet. Not like I did in the picture, where I let the shoulder seam meet the line of the seam allowance..


Take your pencil and sketch the new neckline on your front piece. Then draw it so it has a nice curve.

Sketch the neckline

Now sketch and permanently draw the neckline on the pattern. I’ve marked both neckline and seam allowances


Now it’s time to work on the back piece. What we want is to make sure that the shoulder length of the new back piece matches the shoulder length of the new front piece.

I place the back piece on top of the front piece, making sure to align the outside shoulder point. I pin the pieces together there, then slide the back piece (note that my shoulder line is very steep – that’s because I’ve altered for a major round shoulder!) so that the back shoulder line follows the front shoulder line. Then I mark on the back piece, where the front shoulder line stops.

Draw the neckline on the back piece



Now I sketch and draw the back neckline – and I am ready to cut out the pattern and place it on fabric!

changing the neckline final steps -

Draw the back neckline, cut the pattern pieces and you’re done!



P.S. If you don’t have a t-shirt with the neckline you want, it’s perfectly okay to draw one yourself – just make sure those shoulder lines match!

The finished t-shirt after changing the neckline

The finished t-shirt after changing the neckline