Mis-proportioned cowl-neck top

Pink cowl-neck top - collar detail

Today I have a moderately successful project to share with you – a good idea in theory, but unfortunately met with poor execution.  I think my “dissertation brain” is starting to throw off my sewing, as I’ve been diving head first into projects lately without my usual level of prior thought, research, etc.  I can’t help but be reminded of the old adage, “measure twice, cut once.”  Lately I feel like I haven’t been doing any measuring at all, just cutting with abandon!

Here was my plan for this project, a simple knit top for summer:

  • Start with my modified Renfrew pattern
  • Add mini sleeve bands that I drafted last summer
  • Draft a drapey cowl-neck
  • Omit the hem band and add a shirttail hem instead

I thought this combo would make a fun little summer top to pair with skirts and shorts, but instead I wound up with a wrinkly and ill-proportioned mess!

Pink cowl-neck top - finished

Compared to the vision I had for this top, I think there are two main problems:

  • The cowl is not nearly as large or drapey as I wanted.
  • The top is too long and too narrow in the hips, resulting in wrinkles galore at the midsection.

The first issue resulted from my complete lack of research on how to draft a cowl-neck top.  I just took a guess and forged ahead – what a dope!  The second issue has been present in my modified Renfrew for a long time, and I really need to fix it already.  The odd proportions at the hip became more apparent (to me anyway; you may have been glaring at it all along!) when I got rid of the hem band.  The top is just too narrow in the hips and doesn’t hang properly.  At least it’s an easy fix to the pattern.  (Note that the original pattern is drafted correctly, but I had removed a lot of the side seam shaping to alter the pear-shaped pattern for my no-hips body.)Pink cowl-neck top - back

The back view doesn’t look too bad aside from the pooling at the waist, but the side view is just plain WEIRD!  (By the way, that’s the wind blowing out my skirt in the photos below, oops!)Pink cowl-neck top - side

The bottom of the top should be hanging nicely instead of bunching up at the hips.  A little more ease here will also even out the front and back hems, which are cut to the same length but bunch up due to the lack of width.

There are some things that I like about this top, including the bright pink color and fabric (more Laguna jersey), the sleeve bands, and even the too-short cowl-neck.  Although I was aiming for more drape, I actually do like the look of the more modest cowl.  I have more Laguna jersey set aside for Round 2 of this experiment, so hopefully a better top is on the horizon.
Pink cowl-neck top - pattern modification

If you’re curious, here’s how I drafted the cowl.  I rotated the top of the front pattern piece away from the center front (to the right in this case) at an arbitrary horizontal line.  That’s right, I just cut wherever looked right, haha!  *Smacks head.*   You can see the original V-neckline in pencil, then a diagonal line where I extended the original CF straight upward, and finally the new vertical line (the new CF edge of the pattern) after the rotation was complete.  How much did I rotate?  Who knows – maybe 2 inches?  I was really throwing caution to the wind here!

Now, what I should have done, and probably will do for next time, is something like what’s outlined in this Threads article.  This just goes to show that if you want good results, you have to put the work in.  Do as I say, not as I do.  🙂

To draft the shirttail hem, I used a flexible curve that I’ve had since my college drafting days (engineering, not fashion).  It looks similar to this flexible ruler from the Jo-Ann Fabrics website.Pink cowl-neck top - back view with collar outstretched

Here’s what the top looks like from the back.  You can see the cowl-neck (underneath) extending higher than the back neckline.Pink cowl-neck top - hem detail

And here’s a close-up of the hem.  I used a simple zig-zag stitch to finish both the hem and the neckline, including the cowl.  I tried using my twin needle, but I was getting a lot of tunneling and just didn’t have the patience to troubleshoot.  The zig-zag worked really well, nearly enclosing the raw edge and not stretching out the fabric during sewing.  I don’t mind the look of the zig-zag stitching, so that was an easy solution!Pink cowl-neck top - frontThe harsh sunlight in this photo really shows off the wrinkles – argh!  I’m sure I’ll wear this top anyway, since my coworkers won’t notice or care about pooling fabric around my waist, but I’ll almost definitely shorten the hem by 2-3 inches.

[By the way, I’m wearing this top with my recently-completed chevron skirt.  I think the pink, yellow, and white make such a cheerful color combination for summer!]

Have any of you experienced “dissertation brain” or something similar (I’ve heard pregnancy brain is the worst!) that messed around with your sewing judgment?  Please tell me it will pass!

30 thoughts on “Mis-proportioned cowl-neck top

  1. The shirt not being executed with your customary planning doesn’t hide the fact that the color is sensational on you. 🙂


  2. Oh, I’ve been a victim of pregnancy brain and I’m not convinced it ever really goes away! I hope your dissertation brain eventually clears up. I agree this is a great color for you and I think the top half of it looks great. I think you’ll easily get the look you want on your second try. I am in the midst of a pattern hack right now and I’ve hit a step I just can’t figure out regarding how to work the lining. I am trying to do some research before I proceed but I’m getting impatient and may just throw caution to the wind!


    • Thanks Teri! I wound up chopping off about 3 inches from the hem, and now I think the top is actually too short, LOL! At least it was a quick project so not a huge loss. Adding a lining is always a bit tricky – good luck! Looking forward to seeing the results on your blog.


  3. I think I’m in the midst of menopause brain right now and I’m just trying not to fret about it too much; I mean, there isn’t much I can do to make it better and fretting’s likely to just make it worse! I was so surprised the other day when I actually remembered an actor’s name instead of doing the usual, “you know, that guy that was in that movie with the other guy . . . .”

    Anyway, I really like the cowl neck you’ve got here and I kind of wonder if a bigger one wouldn’t be really annoying–I’m guessing it would flop around and get in your way. As for the wrinkles, I think shortening the length is a good idea, but what about adding side slits? Or wearing the top tucked in?


    • Hahaha, I know the feeling. Sometimes there is so little energy left that the brain gets short changed. 🙂 Good call about a bigger cowl being cumbersome, especially in this fabric which isn’t particularly drapey. I still want to learn how to draft one properly though. I tried tucking this top into the skirt but it just looked weird – my frame is too long and rectangular to pull off that look, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yup the colours definitely you and I live it with you chevron skirt! i think you’re right to shorten it, I should imagine it’ll hang loads better.
    My pregnancy brain still lingers, 13 years on! 😃


  5. Preggers brain is closely followed by breastfeeding brain, then toddler tetchiness. Things improve when they start school & return with a vengeance around adolescence, which is colliding with menopausal moments and thesis thoughts in my case.

    Colour is superb, side slits would help, as would tucking it in.


    • Side slits are a great idea – thanks! Good luck with your teenagers and thesis. I can’t imagine tacking these both at once and am sending you strength. 🙂


  6. I agree with the others, the color is lovely. I hope you have enough fabric left to make something you will enjoy more. I wanted to mention I love when you add photos of your pattern pieces. It really helps to understand your thought and hacking process. I see a lot of knits and don’t use the twin needle much. I think zigzag or triple zigzag (my preferred) creates a better, more robust finish. I have had the twin needle hems frequently fail on my husband’s t-shirts.


    • Thanks Naia! And I’m glad you find the pattern photos helpful. I like to tackle sewing from more of a technical standpoint as opposed to fashion, so I think it’s fun to talk about the construction details. Is it true that you’re not supposed to backstitch with a twin needle? I think I read that once and always worry that my ends are going to come undone after a bunch of washes…


  7. The color is very flattering and springy (is that a word?) especially with the gorgeous skirt! So impressed with how you can take a V-neck pattern and make it a cowl! STH mentioned menopause brain….yep, it’s a doozy.


    • Haha, all this talk about menopause brain gives me something to look forward to, LOL. 🙂 Thanks for your kinds words about the top. Once I drafted my own sloper (heavily relying on instructions from a book), I learned a lot about basic pattern manipulation. I’m still a beginner at drafting, but it’s fun to play around and experiment!


      • Hope we didn’t scare you too much with the menopause comments. In my former employment, all of the women in support staff were nearing menopause at the same time. Felt sorry (ha! not really) for all the men we worked with. They tiptoed around a lot.
        But can I ask (and this will show you just how new I am to all this) exactly what is a sloper?


        • Hahaha!! I feel bad for those poor guys too. 🙂

          A sloper, also known as a block or fitting shell, is basically a close fitting garment that is supposed to act as your “second skin.” You draft the patterns from scratch based on your exact body measurements, and once you perfect the fit, you can use the patterns as a base for an unlimited number of different styles! I’m no expert in pattern drafting, but I got a good book and just followed the directions. You can check out my sloper here:

          Start Googling around for it, and you’ll find a ton of great resources!


  8. my knowledge in patternmaking is not sufficient to give you a proper advice but from what i see from the pictures I think if you shorten it it will look better, what about a more drapy fabric? wouldn’t the cowl neck hang better?
    love the chevron skirt by the way!!!


    • Thanks Aida! I totally agree – I think a bigger cowl would be better in a fabric with more drape, maybe a slinky rayon knit or something. This was a fun experiment though. I often learn better by making mistakes and seeing the results. I did wind up shortening this top by about 3 inches, and although the wrinkles around the waist were greatly reduced, I think the top is a little too short now! Figures. 🙂


  9. As others have said the colour is lovely and the cowl looks fine – if you shorten it then that will help with wrinkles at the hip. I prefer a shorter top with skirts and a longer looser fit with jeans. Sometimes you just can’t be bothered with making a muslin and fiddling with fit so it’s good to plunge in!



    • Haha, exactly! Thanks Louise. I tend to wear my skirts a few inches below my natural waist, so I often still need the length in a top… but this one was just way too long. Live and learn – this is what I get for just diving in. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I too, love a good deep cowl and made the exact same error on one I drafted – and I was looking at a drafting manual! And I wasn’t even working on a dissertation! Ah well. Your top still looks great. I think it would partner really nicely with your Moss skirts, too.


  11. I have to say, I like the shallower cowl! That’s just the sort of neckline I’ve been looking for in a tee. Looks like I’ll have to do a bit of drafting…


  12. Thanks for the info on the sloper……….I will need extra coffee to get going on that one, but it could be a great help as I get more active here with my projects. Next one coming soon (have lots going on these days, and some very anticipated guests!)


    • Thanks Claire. 🙂 Yes, I was definitely aiming for a deeper cowl and learned a drafting lesson on this project. A few others suggested a knit with more drape too, which I think would work out nicely. So much for all my spontaneous experimentation!


  13. When my brain isn’t working I have to step away from sewing – especially when there are scissors involved. I just don’t trust myself.
    I really like the cowl on this top, although I agree with you about the hip section.
    Although, no-one is going to point at jeer at if you wear this as it is 🙂


    • So true! A tired brain is never good for sewing. I’ve been so distracted with work lately and have been making so many sewing mistakes – it’s ridiculous! I’m looking forward to tackling a big project when my schedule (and brain) calm down in the fall

      Liked by 1 person

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