Fitting the Gapping Neckline


In fitting when you scale a pattern to fit the proportion of your body, it may happen that you have a gapping neckline. Actually, it is very common. This is caused by needing a wider length between the breasts, but not needing that width in the narrower upper torso from the shoulder to the apex area.


A gaping neckline can easily be removed by pinning out excess during the sample garment fitting. It is imperative that you create a muslin fit sample and refine this prior to cutting out of the fashion fabric. Contrary to many home sewing methods using tissue paper, a fit sample is a professional tool for achieving the perfect fit, and it saves time because you knock out all your fitting up front. Then, when you assemble the final garment you can sew start to finish seamlessly.  Take a tip from the pros, everyone I personally know that is a professional skilled fitter will create a fit sample.


To do this, once you have a pattern that fits your upper body you will sew a fit sample from muslin. Try it on and pin out a wedge vertically down the CF that gradually tapers and blends into the waist or slightly above or below depending on the amount. Larger amounts take a longer length to transition. Shorter amounts may not need to blend as far down in the pattern. Although you have pinned out a dart, you do NOT sew the wedge on the final garment unless you want a visible dart as a design detail.  Pinning is just marking what you will be removing. If there is a seam down the CF you can simply contour  the seam to remove the gap.


Mark both sides of the wedge where your pins are located and make sure you have the original CF line marked. Take the fit sample apart and with a ruler draw a new CF line connecting your markings. Eliminate the wedge shape by cutting it away. If the garment is cut on the fold no seam allowance is needed. If not cut on the fold then add seam allowance or overlap for button closures etc… Voila! The garment is now narrower at the neckline removing the gap and transitions nicely into the waist.


Students often at this point will ask me about the grain. Our initial inclination will be to react and with red flags waving note that the grain is now messed up to which I reply “but is it???? (LONG PA– USE for deep thought which I love to do in live classes) To which I am then able to pose this fitting factoid:


“Every pattern is off the straight of grain somewhere. Yes there is straight of grain and it is important, but since you are taking a flat piece of fabric and making it fit around the 3D body, some areas will be not on the straight of grain, or on the bias, etc… This is OK!”


I feel we get very literal to the point that a lot of sewers hit a brick wall when needing to customize an alteration or sewing technique. I am here to give you permission to find a Real Sewing.


In the case of patterns not cut on the fold, prior to adjusting the pattern you can draw a parallel line over toward the center of the pattern piece to use instead of the original CF grain line. When a pattern is cut on the Center Front Fold you can absolutely use your new center front line as the straight of grain. Because you removed a wedge it does look like it runs at an angle, but it is indeed a straight line and will run vertically straight up and down the CF creating a straight of the grain reference point. There will be some shifting of grain in other areas of the pattern, but as we just learned no pattern is 100% on grain the entire space of a pattern. Our focus for straight of grain is to have that run straight down the CF of that body (unless for design reasons you change it) The A Ha Moment!


Someone might still be wrapping their head around this, and my final example is actually how I learned to do this adjustment over 25 years ago when working in a tailors shop, and also how I know it works in the reverse in custom sewing.



When altering a ready to wear garment with a gapping neckline the goal is to pull the neckline closer to the body. Since you are not sewing the garment from scratch your options include: making a dart, tuck or seam line down the CF in order to remove the excess. To mark this you simply pin vertically down the CF to determine how much you need to remove. As you pin, if you watch the garment on the body the only area that moves or changes is the area being pinned. No other area on the garment is affected proving that the grain of the overall garment does not change when you modify the CF.



In alterations you are limited in solutions or how the final garment will look because the garment is already sewn, but when sewing and designing for yourself you can remove the gapping neckline and still have a seamless look at the CF of your creation.
Voila the Joy of Sewing!

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  • Elaine Earnshaw

    24.05.2016 at 03:12

    Thank you for the above information about gapping necklines. When I first saw the dart down CF I too was immediately worried about the grain line being off. You certainly explained it very clearly and put any concerns I had at rest. Thanks again for teaching me something new..

    • joi

      24.05.2016 at 14:16

      Thanks Elaine, I tell you this works like a charm. I remember the very first time I Did this. I was 15 and working in a tailors shop cutting an ugly 80’s style dress from one of those large floraly printed cottons. I had fitted a pattern to a client and needed to take in the center front neckline. I thought I would just cut a wedge from the CF of the pattern. The CF edge was straight so not knowing better I just put that on the fabric as my new CF straight of grain. It totally worked. On the other side of this and after studying pattern making and years of experience I know the how and why of why it works. Its a practical solution that makes our sewing so much easier. I am glad I could share. I am hoping to do a FB live covering this topic soon so stay tuned.

  • Kathryn Piazza

    26.06.2016 at 19:04

    This explanation was clear and thorough.Thank you for graciously sharing your expertise.

    • joi

      10.07.2016 at 23:22

      Thank you so much. I am glad this was able to help you.

  • Barb Fritz

    27.09.2016 at 22:23


    Thanks for this post. I tend to have this fitting issue frequently; I’m currently taking your fitting class on Craftsy. Do you stock fabrics in your workroom to make up your muslins for each of your projects? If so, do you stock several kinds of fabrics (actual muslins, jerseys, interlocks) so you can have the right kind of fabric on hand? Many of the muslin fabrics I find have too much stiffness / body to use as test garments for knits.
    Thank you!

    • joi

      03.10.2016 at 18:21

      Hi Barb!!! Thanks for taking my Craftsy class and please ask questions in class if you need anything. I Do indeed stock some fabrics for creating muslin fit samples. I keep bolts of muslin of course, but I have others too. You can prewash your actual muslin fabric if you want a softer feel. They often have a finish on them so that would help.

  • Lynda Blyth

    01.10.2016 at 02:14

    Thanks heaps for this tutorial. I have both your Craftsy classes but haven’t watched yet and I’ll be ordering a book this week. I just made my first adult dress and had to take 6cm from the CF front and back (yay that I sewed a muslin first) but still had a gap of 2cm in the back so sewed a dart which didn’t look too bad as it’s navy cord and just an around-the-house-and-garden a-line dress. I was pondering if I could do what you described but wasn’t sure, now thanks to you I know I can. I might make another muslin to try the adjustment before I cut out the linen I purchased. Thanks again for generously sharing your expertise :))

    • joi

      03.10.2016 at 18:20

      Thanks so much! Yes keep at it. Fitting does take a few tries to develop confident skills but I really believe anyone can and I am here to help you too. As an instructor who is really passionate about helping others achieve real results I am always sad when people don’t ask questions. so thank you so much and stay tuned for lots of big exciting things . .

  • Kati

    12.02.2017 at 16:50

    This is the best post I have read on this topic! Thank you!
    I have been trying to make a simple sheath dress from a pretty expensive fabric for my brother’s wedding and have so far made four muslins, two for a Vogue designer pattern and one for a Butterick one and one where I used Sure Fit Design to draft my own (which was still not quite right). Then I remembered that I bought your Craftsy Classes a while back (but was daunted by it a little, I’m a begginer) and just purchased your book yesterday and now going to try to enlist my husband to help with taking my measurements (only have three weeks till the wedding). Oh, could not resist your fit pattern, it looks sooooo nice! I’m really hoping that I will be able to figure things out… I have had terrible gaping issues at the back and front neck with the commercial patterns and lots and lots of bunching at the mid to lower back region (I’m kind of a straight up and down 36.5-29-35.5), with SFD the gaping neck and back was eliminated, but there is still bunching at the back and the sides are not quite right. I think your method might be the answer to my prayers. :-)
    Anyway, could I use your method to eliminate the gaping at the back and front of my sheath dress. They are only made of three pieces. Do I just angle it slightly when I cut it out? Somebody on Youtube mentioned it that it should taper all the way down to the hem to nothing like a long dart, however, I’m not sure that I need all that taking out from top to bottom.
    If I’m ever over in the US again I would love to take one of your classes! You are so full of knowledge.
    Thank you!

    • joi

      16.02.2017 at 21:09

      Thanks so much Kati. You can absolutely use my method to eliminate the gaping neck. Your best friend will be the fit sample as some refinements in fitting are necessary in the muslin fitting. So don’t be afraid to adjust a fitting sample. I would actually just pin that excess out with the muslin on my body. You need a straight line down the center front so you do need to taper down, but usually to the waist is fine. If you wanted to add a seam down the CF it is not necessary, but you could add that to a sheath and no one would question that you have a seam there either. Yes if you are in the US sometime come take one of my classes we would love to have you.

  • Deirdre Sanders

    03.09.2017 at 17:14

    Hi! This is exactly the problem I am having, and I am delighted to find an answer. I can see how the new straight CF becomes the GOF, but what about the shift to the shoulders and the armsythe? The armsythe raises at least a 1/2 when I make this adjustment, and creates a problem under the arm. Any thoughts?

    • joi

      05.10.2017 at 15:08

      I have this discussion a lot. We have to remember that not all areas on any given pattern are 100% on grain. It is totally ok that an area if off grain. The center front is the key area for straight of grain and how the garment will hang so that is a focal point, and if you need to take in a garment in that area, than you need to take it in. It should not cause any issues in the arm. If for some reason it is raising you can cut it back down. I always always always do a fit sample so you can polish the arm hole at that point, but I have never run into any issue doing this. You can do this with confidence.

  • Jessica

    04.12.2017 at 14:48

    Hi Joi

    Can you use this method for back neck gaping. I just made a top and have over 3 inches of gaping around the back neckline and I can’t go down a size because I’m already in the smallest size. I have this issue with nearly every bodice I make and in RTW. I dread clothes shopping and I’m hopeing sewing won’t become the same.


    • joi

      04.12.2017 at 22:17

      Yes you can apply this to the back gapping neck and actually I find there is more contouring to the back so don’t hesitate to add a CB seam so you can perfectly shape the CB. I rarely do cut on the fold for the back because I like the control of the seam and rarely does anyone need excess in the back of the pattern anywhere.

      • Jessica

        27.12.2017 at 13:44

        Hi Joi. I created a centre back seam and got rid of the back neck gaping but now the shoulder seams are riding up the sides of my neck. Do you know what might be causing this? Thanks

        • joi

          07.02.2018 at 22:04

          Make a fitting sample and mark in your neckline to match your neck curve. It should like they are just too long

  • Namita barnes

    25.01.2018 at 19:05


    Thanks for this post! I just wondered but as you are pivoting the bodice pattern piece inwards to reduce the neck gape you will be pushing the side seam outwards so the top would be wider than it should. Hope that made sense! So should I just take in the side seams to readjust the pattern?

    • joi

      07.02.2018 at 22:05

      Great question. When you pivot the piece inward you are not cutting and slashing the bodice making it wider. You are eliminating a wedge at the top and blending into the bottom of the pattern.

  • Reidun

    06.02.2018 at 12:14

    I am so happy to have found this post! I always need to make the neckline in patterns smaller, and every other method includes a lot of work changing wailst darts an what not, instead of just changing the CF / grainline. I will adopt your method from this moment on. Thank you!

    • joi

      07.02.2018 at 22:07

      Wonderful! It really is very simple, straightforward and works like a charm!

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