Sewers & seamsters of MetaFilter, please lend me your eyes (and advice)
March 18, 2017 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Here is a dress that I own and like, but the neckline is too prim for my taste. THIS

If I made a two-inch or so vertical cut from the top of the front of the neckline and folded and sewed the resulting flaps back, I imagine I would have a nice v-neck resulting. Would that be correct?
The fabric is a stretchy blend of mostly cotton and rayon. I would do the sewing by hand; I don't own a sewing machine. What's the worst that could happen? Would YOU do this?
posted by BostonTerrier to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Link doesn't work for me.
posted by Night_owl at 3:21 PM on March 18

Darn it, the actual dress has sold out, so I can't find a "live" photo of it.

Well, here's a similar dress with the same neckline.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:38 PM on March 18

If your dress is the same kind of fabric, I wouldn't attempt it but would take the dress to a tailor. Stretchy fabrics are very difficult to work with for an inexperienced sewer and I think you would not be at all happy with the result. I'm not sure you will be able to get the effect you want at all but definitely wouldnt attempt it myself. I am an experienced quilter and have made a number of clothing pieces for myself; I avoid stretchy fabrics in all my sewing.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:45 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]

So, a couple few things.

That neckline appears to be bound with a strip of fabric, so if you cut it open and push it back, it's going to be lumpy with that bulk under it. You could take off the binding but then you'll have to figure out how to transition between the bound and unbound parts of the neckline.

V-necks are not the easiest thing to finish really well. They are often faced or bound to avoid having the point of the V tear or develop holes in the knit. You won't have the fabric to do that with.

I have done that you are suggesting to things like conference t-shirts where the point is to be part of the group and I am only going to be wearing the thing for a day, but if I were doing it to an actual garment that I cared about past tomorrow, I would plan to rework the whole neckline and rebind it.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:50 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

Two words: Sacrificial Garment

What I would do is head to the thrift store to find something similar to learn on. Then, the worst that could happen is you'd be out $3 and a few hours coming to the conclusion that v-necks can be rather...intermediate? You'll find that sewing necklines with ribbing/binding requires a certain amount of stretching of the fabric and strategic pinning for it to lay flat. As others have said, getting the V part to lay flat is not easy. The fabric will try to pull in different ways and you might end up with wrinkles where you least want them. Sacrificial Garment, stat!
posted by oxisos at 5:09 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]

For the reasons jacquilynne cited above, a V-neck is not the easiest solution. Cutting and binding a lower curved neckline is still not easy per se, but it's probably easier than a V-neck. Here's a great guide & tutorial on knit binding. You can do it by hand, though you'll have to be extra careful not to stretch the neckline out while sewing. Stretching the neckline can do two bad things: it can make it permanently misshapen, and for some knit fabrics, it can cause runs and laddering (like what you see on ripped nylons). Practicing on a Sacrificial Garment is an EXCELLENT idea for figuring out whether you want to risk your dress!

A word of caution: I see that the second example dress you posted has a back pleat that falls directly from the back neckline. If your dress has that particular detail, or any other gathering, pleating, or similar details anywhere around the neckline, then I would NOT try any modification. In this case, messing with the neckline will almost certainly mess with the fit of your dress in a way that would be very difficult for a beginner to solve.

So, if your dress doesn't have any complicating neckline details and if you want to try cutting yourself a curved neckline instead of a V-neck, then try this (on your Sacrificial Garment first, of course). Here's what you'll need:
- A long strip of knit fabric to use for the binding. This could be from purchased knit fabric or from an old t-shirt. You can follow the "clean finish binding" instructions the link above to hide this fabric inside the neckline, but glimpses of it will still occasionally be visible, so make sure the color works with the dress (either contrast or coordinating).
- Not strictly necessary, but it'll make the job infinitely easier: Wonder Tape. It's basically doublesided tape that washes away. This stuff is magical and way easier than pins, especially when working with knits and double-especially when hand-sewing knits. You'll use it instead of pins to secure your binding to the neckline before you start sewing. It will also help prevent the neckline from stretching out while you sew it.

First step is to figure out where you want the new neckline. Put the dress on in front of a mirror and see where you want the neckline to come down to. Then mark about 3/8 or 1/2 inch up from that point (to account for the fabric that will get folded under when you attach the binding). Then draw your new curve and cut the excess fabric away. I think it helps to fold the front in half (the fold should be straight down the center front of the shirt) and cut through both layers from the fold up to the collar, to make sure the two halves of your neckline are symmetrical. Then use a seam ripper to pull the remainder of the binding off the back of the neck. From this point on, you'll need to be very careful not to stretch the neckline out, so don't try it on again until after you've started to sew the binding on.

From there, follow the instructions in the binding guide to finish your neckline. Use the Wonder Tape to attach your binding to the neckline instead of pins -- don't use little pieces, just use one long continuous strip for maximum stability. Again, you'll probably want to use the "clean finish binding" instructions.
posted by ourobouros at 6:16 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]

Oof, I'm a fairly experienced sewer and I wouldn't attempt it. Your cut-and-fold idea is guaranteed to be a disaster as the knit will stretch and probably unravel at the point of the V, making a ladder down the front, plus the binding will resist a smooth fold, making the neckline lumpy and wobbly.

Cutting a deeper curve at the neckline is probably your only hope, but binding the neckline will be challenging, probably best left to a professional dressmaker or a friend who is very handy with a serger.

If you still feel brave, definitely practice on a cheap garment from the thrift store.
posted by Quietgal at 7:23 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

Playing around with the url, it looks like this is the dress?
posted by taz at 2:03 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]

^ Yes; that is the dress, taz. Thanks for digging that up.

Responders, I'm going to leave this neckline alone. I'm the kind of sewer who reaches for the staple gun to rescue a falling hem; e.g.; no sewer at all. I guess this is what scarves and interesting necklaces are for. Thanks for posting your advice, all.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:32 AM on March 19

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