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Drafting Basics 1 - Online Course

Drafting Part IV - Necklines ,Facings and the Sleeveless Armscye

Continued from here, originally published here. To me, necklines are the unsung heroes in drafting and clothing design. A neckline is a very simple thing to change up, and each modification can very dramatically, or subtly, create a whole new look to the same dress/blouse pattern. As I said, a neckline is a very easy thing to change. You just draw a new style line, literally. Following from the sloper draft shown by LiEr in the early posts, your basic bodice block has a round-neck, or jewel, neckline. You can change this to any number of different necklines by the end of this tutorial, I think! But before we talk about how to change a neckline, I need to explain to you about facings. A neckline facing is a piece of fabric that is sewn to neckline edge in order to retain the shape and to create a neat finish at the neckline. There are other ways to finish the neckline edge, like binding and overlocking (as a decorative element also). But to me, using a facing guarantees a very clean finish and neckline shape. The following set of instructions is a fast and easy way to make a facing using the original pattern.

How to make a facing 

1. On the front bodice pattern, draw a line, following the shape of the neckline, about 1.5" to 2" wide of the original neckline.
2. Do the same on the back bodice.

3. There you have your facing pattern. Trace onto another piece of paper and cut out the facing.
4. Before cutting out the facing from fabric, add a seam allowance on the neckline and shoulder seams exactly the same amount as on the bodice neckline and bodice shoulder seams. There is no need to add a seam allowance to the bottom of the facing. Just serge or overlock with a zig-zag stitch to contain the raw edge there.
5. When making up the facing, attach the Front and Back facing pieces at the shoulder seams first, before attaching the facing to the bodice neckline. 

6. If you intend the dress/blouse to be sleeveless, then you should bring the shoulder point in by about ⅜" (before making the facing). Redraw the armscye.*
*Note- you need to bring in the shoulder point to accommodate a sleeveless blouse/dress so that the garment hangs properly on your shoulders. Have you ever tried to hang a sleeveless dress or blouse on a hanger that doesn't stick out far enough beyond the armholes? The dress or blouse tends to slide off the hanger on one side doesn't it? This is because there isn't enough width on the hanger to properly balance the weight of the garment pulling down from the hanger. This very same principle applies when wearing a garment that is even just slightly too wide for your shoulders. The garment will pull down more on one shoulder than the other. Theoretically, a custom-drafted shoulder width on your sloper shouldn't be too wide, but based on the hanger principle, your true shoulder width (between the two shoulder points) isn't wide enough to balance the weight of the garment hanging from your shoulders. Since you can't increase your shoulder width without going for extensive surgery, it only makes sense that you should therefore reduce the shoulder length on the garment itself. This problem doesn't occur in a sleeved garment because the sleeves themselves act as balancing counter-weights, pulling the garment down from both shoulder points as well as from the lengths of the shoulders. So why don't we just draft the sleeved sloper with an already-reduced shoulder length, you ask? We don't because then the garment will look obviously too narrow across the upper chest, with sleeves that will look like it is straining over the ball of your shoulders and also pulling the fabric horizontally in both directions across the upper chest.

7. You then incorporate an armscye facing with the neck facing to create a single facing which will accommodate both the sleeveless armscye and the neckline.
8. Do the same for the back.

9. Add seam allowances (SA) to the facings as described above. Also add SA to the armscye as well. Now let's move on to drafting various necklines. 


1. On the front sloper, mark a point about 1" up from the shoulder point on the shoulder seam.

2. From this point, draw a gentle curve to meet with the CF point of the neckline.

3. On the back bodice, mark a point about 1" up from the shoulder point on the shoulder seam. Then mark a point 1" (or less or more, depending on your design) down from the jewel neckline on the CB. Connect the 2 points with a gentle curve.
4. Make the facing for the front (and back), following the line of the boat neck. Remember to double up at CF for the front and make 2 separate pieces for the back. Add the SA to the facings.
5. If you intend the dress/blouse to be sleeveless, then you should bring the shoulder point in by about ⅜" (before making the facing).
6. From this point, draw a smooth curve to a point about two-thirds of the way down, on the armscye. Do the same for the back.

7. Make a single facing for the neckline and armscye.


1. On the front sloper, mark a point about 1.5" down from the bottom of the neckline at the centre front (CF).

2. Next, measure and mark a point ⅜"-½" down from the side neck point.
3. Connect the 2 points.
Note: if you skip step 2, you might end up with a line that cuts across the original jewel line... ...creating a very tight fit at that point around the neck, and make a mess of the fit on the upper torso. So please move the side neck point (step 2) when drafting a v-neck. You can reduce the distance to ¼" at a time if you prefer.

4. Cut out the new neckline. 5. Draw in the facing.
6. The back neckline can remain as a jewel neckline or you can make a V-neck similar to the front, or with a longer/shorter depth at centre back (CB). Make the back facing in the same way but in 2 pieces to accommodate a CB opening. 


 1. Move the shoulder point inwards by ⅜" and redraw the armscye.

2. From the new shoulder point, mark a point 1" (or less/more depending on your design) up on the shoulder seam.
3. Mark a point 2" (or less/more) from the bottom of the jewel neckline on the CF. Draw a reference line across the bodice from this point.
4. From the point marked in step 2, you can either draw a vertical line (A) straight down or an angled one (B) to meet with the reference line. The angle of the line depends on your own taste/preference/design.

5. Curve out the corner created.

6. Make a facing by drawing a horizontal line straight across the front bodice, about 2 inches below the bottom of the armscye.
7. Repeat all steps for the back. You can increase or decrease the back neckline depth according to preference. Do you see a duplicatable sequence emerging? You can really create a LOT of different necklines quickly and with very little fuss. To me, the facings are the key. Yes, binding the raw edges work, but you won't get a sharp, clean finish if you want more interesting shapes to your neckline. Like these, for example:

So go forth... etc, etc,... ok? LiEr has also included a few tips about neckline fitting which are indeed very useful. I tend to rip everything apart and start over but I don't recommend being OCD to get it right. It's quite misery-making sometimes. 

 Here's LiEr

A small sewing tip: There are times when, despite your best efforts to stay-stitch unfaced necklines (eee, I disprefer), understitch facings, or otherwise stabilize your necklines, you might find that your necklines gape a little. This could be the result of several factors including but not limited to
  • original sloper draft was too roomy in the upper chest
  • neckline was cut too low and/or too wide for your particular body shape/degree of endowment
  • too much messing about with the neckline prior to facing it
  • general bad luck, poor room fengshui or someone hexed your sewing space
There are many ways to cure this, including burning the garment and starting over and taking in the shoulder seams (but this means possibly adjusting many other places as well, like darts, armscye, waist etc). If the gape in the neckline is small, a quick fix is pintucks. I've used this with a recent scoop neckline that ended up needing to be taken in by 1/2". It was not a lot, but too much to be left unchanged. So instead of making a huge 1/4' wide dart in the middle and sticking a hideous applique over it, I split it into 4 evenly-spaced pintucks and made a design of it. I'll show a photo of it at some point in some post to come!


  1. Caitlin -- thank you for this wonderful tutorial on transforming a sleeved blouse to a sleeveless one. I realize now how vague my question was -- it was really for set-in sleeves, but I think I can figure it out from this (I hope -- as someone else also commented, I find that I am sort of pattern- bound, and I am trying to change that since I've been sewing a lot recently). I'm sorry it took so long for me to get back to you, but I was having sign-in problems, which I've solved (I think).

  2. Thank you! I'm beginning to be interested in sewing simple garments for my daughter, and venturing away from the knit world, into woven materials. This tute will be so helpful! Thanks for posting!!

  3. Thanks for sharing this most informative tutorial. I hope to create a boat neck tank top.

  4. Thank you for your very clear instructions. I wish I had read this yesterday before tackling a boat necked dress pattern that used tape for the finish. I was so disheartened I KNEW there had to be a way to create a facing and found you!

  5. Thank you for this tutorial. One question. When I sew a vee interface to the bodice front, how can I avoid a pucker or pleat?

    1. Hi Toby,

      To avoid a pucker at the vee point, you'll need to snip the fabric as closely as possible to the stitch point.

      Here is an excellent tutorial on the matter: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/how-to-sew-v-necklines-with-facings/

  6. I wish I would have read this before I threw my new Bernina in the pond. Now I gotta by a new one. Oh well, love and learn ...John in Veracr


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