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Dear Maddie: How To Draft A Turtleneck Pattern


Dear Maddie: Hi I’m working on sewing a costume and I need to make a turtleneck neckline. Any tips on how to do so? -Andrea

Andrea: Before I get into how I would draft a turtleneck pattern for your costume, I’m going to make the assumption that it’s made of a knit, lycra, or some other kind of stretch material. I made this assumption because I if it was a woven, I wouldn’t consider it a turtleneck – I’d consider it a collar. Collars also have an opening at the front, whereas a turtleneck does not, it goes all the way around, or encircles, the neck. This is an important assumption to make for both making the pattern and constructing it.


First, measure the front and back neckline. Be sure to measure along the curve of the neck and that your measurement does not include seam allowances.


Using pencil (always work in pencil!) and paper (IKEA and Home Depot sell rolls of paper that I use for pattern making), draft the turtleneck pattern by drawing a rectangle. The length of the rectangle will equal two times the sum of the front and back neck widths minus 1/2 and the height will equal two times the desired height of the turtleneck plus 1/2.  So, if my front neck measured 3 1/2″ and my back neck measure 3″, this would be the equation for the length of my rectangle: 2(3 1/2 + 3) – 1/2. The reason why the sum of the front and back neck measurement was doubled was because the when I measured the front and back neck (hypothetically), I only measured half of the neck. Also, the reason why I suggest to subtract 1/2 was to “undercut” the turtleneck. When I worked in tech, a common problem with bands – hem bands, sleeve bands, neckbands – was that they were stretched while sewing and wouldn’t “grab onto the body” like bands are supposed to. Think about a t-shirt with a band at the bottom – the band is a little bit tighter and it hugs the body just slightly more than the shirt, right? I’m doing the same thing for the turtleneck – by undercutting it just slightly, the turtleneck will hug the neck rather than flop around. Be sure not to undercut the length more than 1/2.” If you do, it will be too short and will cause puckering at the neckline when it is sewn. But, if you’re intention is to create a slouchy looking turtleneck, then don’t undercut the pattern.

The reason why I double the desired height of the turtleneck was because it is folded back when worn. I suggest to also add 1/2″ to this measurement – 1/4″ for the roll and 1/4″ so that the neck seam is covered.

After, add seam allowances where necessary and sew to neckline. If you have a serger/overlock machine, I suggest to use it to attach the turtleneck to the bodice. And remember, you’re going to have to stretch the turtleneck just slightly so that it fits the circumference of the neck.

Now, this is just my suggestion. If you have a rebuttal, an additional tips, or just a plain ole comment, please don’t hesitate to speak up. In pattern making and sewing, there is no such thing as one right answer.

*if you have a pattern making or sewing question you would like to ask me, email Maddie964@aol.com. I consider all the questions I receive, regardless of how stupid or hard you think they are*

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  1. Reply


    What a great tutorial! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  2. Reply


    Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  3. Reply


    This is a great tutorial! One thing I might add, and this would depend on the fabric being used, but for lighter fabrics, you might want to actually draft the turtle neck four times the desired height (plus that 1/2 inch!). This way you could sew the ends together, then fold in half length-wise before attaching to the neck opening. This would eliminate the need for finishing the top edge of the collar and would give it some body so that it would still stand nicely. I guess this is basically a mini cowl! I hope this is helpful.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Great tip, Molly. Thank you!

  4. Reply

    Megan meggipeg

    I was really interested to read about the paper you use for pattern making. Your links are very helpful for a good, cheap source of paper. I have been looking for something similar, but transparent (plastic or paper), to trace patterns such as those in Burdastyle magazine. Do you have any good ideas for this? Thanks so much, Megan

  5. Reply

    Parker Gabriel

    What impressed me favorably about the tutorial posted here was that MEN could construct turtle-necked shirts using it too.

  6. Reply


    Hi there, not sure how old this post is but I use stiff interfacing for tracing patterns. Just from the fabric shop.

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