In search of the perfect cowl neck

I’ve always really liked cowl necklines. Years ago I had a fabulous Vivienne Westwood red wool jersey dress which had a very large and drapey cowl neck. The moths destroyed the dress years ago and the style is no longer available in the shops, but I’m always on the lookout for something similar. Here’s a picture of it from when it was available on Net-a-porter.

Since I started sewing I’ve naturally tried a few times to make things with cowl necks, always with an eye to eventually replacing the red dress. However I haven’t had a huge amount of success. My first few attempts at cowl necked knit tops ended up in the scraps bag. The cowls always turn out much too skimpy.

I had some success with Vogue 8413 which is designed for wovens. The cowl is on the bias which makes it drape nicely.

This weekend I’ve been making up Vogue 8634 which is a cowl neck knit top. All the reviews of it on Pattern Review have raved about it, and the envelope art looks great so I thought I’d try it out.

Iit’s OK but I’m not 100% convinced. I had a lot of trouble getting the cowl to lie nicely. I spent most of this afternoon fiddling with it and taking pictures. This is about the best I’ve achieved (apologies for the blurriness).

The thing I’ve found that helped the most was to press the seam allowances of the cowl the wrong way. The instructions say to sew the cowl neck to the sweater and then ‘press the seam allowances towards the top’. The top of what, I wondered? Eventually I noticed that the instructions consistently use ‘top’ to mean the body of the garment, so that it probably meant to press the seam allowances downwards. However this produced a garment which looked all wrong. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me that the seam was the cause of the problem, just that the cowl didn’t seem to lie in the right place and I kept wanting to fiddle with it.

Eventually I worked out that I kept trying to pull the cowl down to cover the seam and it wasn’t long enough to do that and stay put. The seam looked wrong because pressing the seam allowances down produces extra body on the garment side of the seam, and therefore the cowl looks as it it’s too small for the garment. Pressing the seam allowances the other way made things look a whole lot better. I think it is wearable now.

Hopefully I’ll have better pictures of the finished sweater next time round. I don’t think I’ve found the perfect cowl neck pattern yet but this is progress.

2 thoughts on “In search of the perfect cowl neck

  1. If you can get your hands on KnipMode Jan 2011 sweater 15 is a large cowl neck. Perhaps you could add to the length to create a dress with the look you want.

  2. I really like a cowl neck, too. I don’t think they should hang too tidily anyway. You know, they should just sort of…be.

    Yours looks great!

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