This post is an excerpt from a fitting article in Sewing Life Magazine 3.

What to do When the Neckline Feels Too High

Do you know the feeling when you put on a top, and it feels too tight on the front of your neck?

It’s very uncomfortable and feels almost suffocating.

 It’s most common in sweaters and tops with high necklines, such as crew-necks and boat-necks (Especially something like the Annika Dress or Top). But the feeling of a neckline that is pulling towards the back can happen with other types as well.

The problem can be caused by different body variations:

A very common one is the rounded upper back. The extra length needed for the rounded back pulls the neckline towards the back and creates the problem.

But it can also be because of a forward-tilted head (which sometimes, but certainly not always, exists at the same time as a rounded back), or rounded shoulders, that also adds more length to the back shoulder.

No matter the cause – the solution is the same:

The pattern must be altered to create more length to the back piece, moving the neck-line and the shoulder seams forward.

How to Determine How Much to Move the Seam:

Before you begin, you need to decide how much you need to alter – i.e., how much longer your back piece needs to be to place the neckline in the right spot.

It’s often about 1 cm (3/8”) but can also be more. You can determine the amount by folding down the neckline on your muslin and measure.

Fold down the neckline until it’s comfortable to wear, and pin so that you can measure how much you need to alter it

How to Make the Alterations on the Sewing Pattern

You’ll need the pattern pieces for the front, the back and the sleeve.

Here I am using the slit-neckline top from Sewing Life 3 as an example, but the technique works for any pattern, as long as you know where the shoulders are (and that’s usually pretty easy to establish…)

Altering the Front and Back Pieces:

The first point of action is to draw lines on the front and back, just under the shoulder.

The lines must be at equal distance from the shoulder and perpendicular to the grainline.
On the front piece, you then draw a second line, parallel to the first one. Place it with the distance you want to alter with – here it’s 1 cm (3/8”).

Altering the Front Piece:

To remove the excess length on the front piece, cut along the uppermost line and move the piece to the other line, overlapping the area you want to remove.


Altering the Back Piece:

On the back piece, you need to add length, so you cut along the line and spread the pieces the same distance (1 cm (3/8”) in this example).
Add pattern paper and tape in place, making sure the center-back is straight.
Re-draw the curves at the armscyes.

And that’s it for the front and back.

Altering the Sleeve Pattern Piece

  • On the sleeve pattern, draw a line, perpendicular to the grainline, with the same distance from the shoulder point as before.
    Cut along the line, from the sleeve cap towards the center of the sleeve, but do not cut through the center line (leave a small paper hinge).


  • Rotate the top part of the sleeve down at the front sleeve (the same amount as you altered the front and back), so that the sleeve cap becomes shorter at the front sleeve and longer at the back sleeve.


  • Insert pattern paper underneath and re-draw the curves.

And that’s it!

You are ready to cut the fabric for a new shirt, that will feel great on your neck!