I’ve often been asked how long to cut ribbing for a neckline. The answer depends entirely on the style of the neckline and the weight and stretchiness of the fabric being used. A scoop neckline will require a smaller ratio than a jewel neck. A very stretchy fabric will require a shorter ribbing than a firmer fabric. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula! Instead, you must experiment a bit. Manufacturers do a lot of testing before sending a garment into production. Yet, most home sewers expect to get it right the first time every time – don’t we?
I will, based on the style and fabric, guestimate how long my ribbing needs to be and then baste it into the neckline (a good starting place is a 2:3 ratio for rib knit or stretchy fabric and a 3:4 ratio for less stretchy fabrics). It’s much easier to remove a little machine basting than a serged seam. The following photo may make you gasp but it’s actually spot on. Remember, each pass on the sewing machine or serger will further stretch this seam which will, in turn, stretch the folded edge and allow it to hug your body. Sewers are always so worried about stretching out a neckline when, in fact, I find that they are not stretching the sewing line enough. This will result in a ribbed edge that stands away from the body which is often mistaken for a stretched out neckline instead of what it actually is: a ribbing or binding that is too long.
Here is the same neckline after being sewn on the serger. As you can see, there is a great improvement already!
For a very neat, flat finish, I like to either coverstitch or twin-needle topstitch the ribbing seam – often straddling the seam with my needles. This last row of stitching further stretches the seamline giving me a very nice neckline finish. Unfortunately, I neglected to photograph this neckline after the serging and before I lettuced the edge – please forgive me for that oversight. By the time I realized it, it was too late.
Here is a close-up photo of the neckband: