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 . .

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