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How to Create a Draped Cowl Neckline

A deep cowl at the back neckline transforms a basic tank into a party-ready top.
A deep cowl at the back neckline transforms a basic tank into a party-ready top.

A deep cowl at the back neckline transforms a basic tank into a party-ready top.

Photo: Jack Deutsch

Alter the Pattern
Using the slash-and-spread method, extend the pattern's neckline and add drape for a cowl.

1 From the pattern's center front, draw three arcs. End the two uppermost arcs at the shoulder seam and the lower arc about two thirds down the armscye. The exact position isn't critical, but each arc must intersect the center-front line at a 90-degree angle.
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View this knit top in 360-degrees

2 Cut along all three arcs from center front to, but not through, the seamlines. Also, snip from the cutting line to the seamline, leaving a hinge at the seamline. Back the pattern with a large sheet of tissue or pattern paper.


3 Draw a vertical line from the centerfront neckline edge upward and about 8 inches long. Anchor the pattern's bottom center-front corner to the tissue with a pin or piece of transparent tape.


4 Spread the pattern along the three slash lines. Spread the sections equally, swinging the neck point away from center front, until the distance between the neck point and the extended center-front line equals the cowl length established in step 3. (For more voluminous, longer cowls, swing the entire pattern away from center front as you spread the slashed lines.) Tape the spread pattern to the backing tissue.

TIP: ADD A COWL WEIGHT. Keep cowls hanging gracefully and prevent them from flipping inside out by sewing a fabric pocket for a drapery weight and attaching it to the cowl facing's center on the garment's interior.

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Comments (14)

Ciyaa Ciyaa writes: Nice & beautifully made. I’m so impressed with the back neckline pattern!!
Posted: 4:07 am on June 21st

Evmart Evmart writes: I am trying to create low cowl for the back of a wedding gown for my daughter. the pattern is pretty much backless, so the back bodice is very narrow. She wants the cowl to sit at the back waist (about 18" from her neck bone. I'm not quite sure how much of an arc I need. Any pointers would be appreciated.
Posted: 4:44 pm on January 28th

CarolFresia CarolFresia writes: Hi, Karen74. In step 7, the illustration is showing the "after" view--after the pattern has been trued, and I think this is where your confusion lies. If you follow the instructions through step 6, you'll have a pattern that's got jagged edges where the cut-and-spread sections extend beyond the center front line, and the shoulder and armscye seams won't have smooth curves, either. All you need to do is use a ruler (straight or curved, depending on the line you're drawing), and redraw those edges to make them either straight (for the center front), or smoothly curved (for the shoulder and armscye). After this, your pattern should look pretty much like the one shown in step 7.

Be sure to fold down the cowl facing on the fold line before doing this, so the facing shape matches the cowl portion exactly.

I hope this helps! We'd love to see your top when it's completed--I encourage you to post a photo in our gallery.
Carol Fresia
Posted: 12:53 pm on June 16th

Karen74 Karen74 writes: Hi, I think I've done everything correctly, but I'm struggling with step 7. I don't understand what I need to do to true the seams. Can anyone help please.
Posted: 7:17 am on June 16th

SewInBrighton SewInBrighton writes: Great tutorial! I'm running a Design Your Own Dress course soon and wanted to see if could find a simple way of explaining how to do a cowl.
Much appreciated.
Kat, Sew In Brighton sewing school
Posted: 3:51 pm on April 30th

LizG73 LizG73 writes: I have vogue pattern V1218 and rather than have the neckline featured, I want to add a cowl to it. This is my first dress I have made and have never sewed a cowl... Any suggestions on best way to approach this?
Posted: 2:02 pm on June 29th

AnnaRae AnnaRae writes: Why not cut the resulting pattern on the bias? It would probably hang more beautifully. If you did, can I assume you must cut both front and back on the bias even if the back did not have the cowl neckline.

Also where would you put lingere guards? It seems they would be visible from shoulder seams across the front (or back) to prevent slipping off the shoulder.
Posted: 1:45 pm on November 21st

Helen_in_Toronto Helen_in_Toronto writes: Hi: Thanks very much. I think these instructions are great. I intend to try this. This kind of neckline falls beautifully if you use a lightweight, fairly thin knit fabric.

Posted: 12:58 pm on November 21st

ASiverson ASiverson writes: Where does one view the 360 view? And I think the drape on this cowl is fabulous. Thank you so very much!
Posted: 9:16 am on November 20th

user-2880813 user-2880813 writes: REALLY Really fabulous fabulous

Posted: 2:13 am on November 20th

Lorea Lorea writes: Cowl necklines are much more beautiful cut on the bias.

Posted: 9:17 pm on November 19th

Polarpal Polarpal writes: After looking at the 360 deg. view of this top, I am disappointed. The back drapes beautifully. The front does not and there is an annoying horizontal 'drag' or 'pull' line at the bust level.
Posted: 9:02 pm on November 19th

Isa19 Isa19 writes: Hi,

great, thank you. But I don´t understand.. when I see the 360degree photo, it is a cowl on the front, too.

Where can I see the Tutorial for the front?
Thank you.
Posted: 8:47 pm on November 19th

user-1109870 user-1109870 writes: Wow! Just when I needed this tutorial for a wedding dress I was making!,
Posted: 5:59 pm on November 19th

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