A cowl neckline consists of folds of fabric that fall from the neck creating a draping effect in the front of your bodice. With this neckline you do not need an additional scarf as it gives a scarf like appearance.
You find this style popularly stitched in knit fabrics, but you can use any fabric to sew this style as long as the fabric is drapey.
Other than those soft draping darling folds this necklines make in satin gowns, I love this style especially in the back of dresses. When using this neckline in the back it is usually combined with a boat neck. Checkout the different styles of cowl neck fashion.
How to make COWL TOP pattern
The pattern below is to make a medium cowl neck top. You can adapt it to sew this neckline to the back also.
Method 1 Easy Cowl top
Step 1 Cut out the back pattern
Cut this on a folded fabric as per the picture below. It has a boxy shape ; if you are skinny you can look good in this shape but not many are. So slightly shape the waist as in the picture below.Do so for the front pattern as well.
Step 2 Cut out the front pattern
Step 3 Bind the necklines
You will need to cut out bias stripes of fabric to bind the necklines of both the front and back pattern. Check out the post on making bias tape. I stitched the bias tape right sides together to the neckline edge. Then understitched the seam allowance and bias tape together and then turned the bias tape to the back and whip stitched it.
Step 4 Sew the shoulder seams
Keep the front and back patterns rightsides together aligning the outer sleeve hems and at the shoulder seams. You will find that the top edge is not the same size but that is how the cowl is formed. Align the shoulder seams from the outer edge – and then stitch together.
Press the seam allowance open. Finish the seam edges
Step 5 Bind the Sleeve Hem
Sleeve hem is marked 9 inches down from the shoulder seam. Open up the bodice and bind the 18 inches on either side of the shoulder seam. Turn the binding to the back and whipstitch in place
Step 6 Sew the side seams
Step 7 Sew the hem
I did a baby hem . This is just a hem where you turn the hem once 1/4 inch and stitch along the fold and then after trimming the extra edge, turn again and stitch. This gives a very narrow hem suitable for a curved hem.
Method 2. Drafting a cowl neck from basic bodice block
What do you need to make a cowl neck top
Fabric – 1.5 -2 meters if cutting with the straight grain. About 2.5 times that of a wide fabric, if cutting on bias grain
Naturally woven cloth does not drape very well . It is better to use synthetic materials like rayon, chiffon, Georgette etc for this top.
Basic top pattern -To make a cowl neck you have to make the simple top pattern on paper. This pattern is altered to a cowl neck.
I always keep a copy of the basic top pattern in my cupboard. So that when inspiration strikes to make a pattern, it is available, rather than start from the scratch.
Trace this onto another paper to copy it. Keep the original back in the cupboard.
Cut out the new pattern ( Make sure a v neck is drawn ). This pattern will be altered to make the new cowl neckline.
Pattern paper – Draw parallel lines along the edges marking the center seam and shoulder line
Main things to consider before making the pattern for the cowl neck top/ tunic
- V neck – Remember to draw a v neck on the basic blouse pattern
- Drapes – You will have to decide on how many drapes you want for the cowl neck – This pattern gives a medium cowl neck
- Fabric – It is better to get very drapey fabrics for this style like knit, satin, georgette, chiffon, crepe etc. Heavy fabrics, stiff fabrics are completely out of the scope of this pattern.
- Bias grain – The front bodice of this top is cut on the bias grain of the fabric. With the first method you can also try to make it in the straight grain ; You need a very drapey fabric for that. But it is definitely doable. But with the second method you need more fabric and definitely should cut on the bias grain
- The back bodice of this top is the same as that of the basic bodice piece, which goes without saying. It is only the front bodice that we will be altering to accommodate the cowl neck, unless you want the cowl in the back.
STEP 1. Take your Front Bodice pattern. Back bodice pattern is the same. No need to alter it. Check out this tutorial for the top pattern, or alternatively you can make a pattern from an old top of yours. You need a paper pattern.
STEP 2. Make the markings as per the diagram below on to the front bodice pattern you have. Cut through the lines from the center seam line points 2, 4 & 6. Stop when you have 2 cm to the shoulder and armhole seam line. Just enough for the whole thing to stay together.
STEP 3. Keep this slit pattern on a big pattern paper.
STEP 4. Spread the drapes as per the diagram below.Make sure that center fold line of the pattern is aligned with the side edge of the new paper. Arrange the cut pieces so that the top piece is parallel to the top edge.The neckline changes now. There is no neckline as much to tell the truth. It has become a straight line now.
STEP 5. You will have to redraw the pattern now, outlining the pattern you have made.
This is the front bodice pattern for your cowl top. You can cut it keeping it on the bias as shown earlier or keep it on the straight grain ( which maybe a little risky depending on the stretchiness and drapiness of the fabric you have chosen)
Method 2. Marking directly to fabric – easiest way of making the cowl neck top
This is the easiest way to make a cowl top, as it does not involve making a paper pattern. In this method you keep your basic blouse pattern on the fabric and mark directly on to the fabric.
Keep the front bodice pattern on to the bias folded fabric, ensuring that atleast 12 inch fabric is available above the shoulder line. Keep the center fold lines aligned.
Arrange the fabric above the shoulder line so that it forms folds or cowl along the neckline. The fabric under the pattern should be moved from the center fold line a little to the front, starting from the waistline.
Ensure that armhole and shoulder line doesnot have any folds.
The sides and armholes are marked with your marking tool on to the fabric now.
Sewing the cowl neck top
After you have made the pattern it is a breeze to sew the top.
Finish the neck edges of the front pattern and the back pattern. The front cowl and the back neck edge can be turned under and hand stitched.
Join the shoulder seams together.
Then you can finish the armhole edges with binding or turning under.
Join the side seams .
Then hem the bottom edge. The top is ready.
Some style inspirations.
Updated on October 18, 2022 by Sarina Tariq