Yes, Virginia, I sewed this year: Sort-of self drafted turtleneck tops

Nothing like the end of year for some slapdash posting about the garments I made in 2020. To be honest, I didn’t sew or knit that much: between my concussion, other family member’s debilitating health concerns, a massive relapse and living in a society with people who value their desire for a monthly holiday over Disabled people’s right to live, my brain and body were in no state for any kind of demanding motor/mental task.

Two images of Siobhan sitting down wearing black and grey turtleneck tops.
Please enjoy my truly atrocious COVID self-haircut.

Anyway, I made a few things, including these tops. Like many others, this project was born of a need for a specific garment in my wardrobe: a long sleeved turtleneck top, semi-fitted, with the collar close enough to keep me warm, but loose enough to allow room to breathe. Particular, I know! I looked and looked for patterns but didn’t find any that fit the bill, so turned to a TNT (tried ‘n’ true) t shirt pattern for a base.

Woman wears a tee embellished
The original tee pattern, from the Ottobre Design blog. Not quite my style.
A line drawing of a short sleeve tee with open neckline and the words, tees & love, appliqued on front.
Original line drawing.

That pattern was Ottobre Spring/Summer 2/2017 #1. Statement t-shirt, originally a loose-fitting, open neck tee which I had previously altered to make a crew-neck merino tee. This time, I laid the pieces against my Named Paola Turtleneck Tee pattern (previously made in cotton/elastane and merino) and brought the neck width/depth out slightly for a looser collar. To draft the collar, I cut a piece just scant of the circumference of the neckline by 40cm high, to be folded down.

The sleeve was already a good fit, so I lengthened by following the side seams to be slightly longer than the Paola sleeve at the hem, with a 2cm hem allowance for sleeves and 2.5cm for hem.

Siobhan sits on her rollator with cane beside her, wearing a grey turtleneck long sleeve top, blue slim cut jeans and brown ankle boots.
I love my rollator! And cane!

I took advantage of the Spotlight 40% off fabric sale to buy some 220gsm cotton spandex fabric (95% cotton, 5% elastane), which was warm enough for winter but had enough drape for the collar to fall into shape. Sewing it up was easy enough and took very little time. That’s one of the fantastic things about sewing knits – a few hours later and you have a new garment! (Or a few hours spread over a week or two of sewing, in my case.)

Siobhan stands at her rollator with cane beside her, back facing camera. She wears a grey turtleneck long sleeve top, and blue slim cut jeans.

I loved the fit and feel of this top, but was ambivalent about the colour. Spotlight was out of black in this particular fabric, so I bought a dark grey marle. However, I had some leftovers of black knit from making leggings (yet to be blogged, if ever), so decided to use them to make another of these tops.

Siobhan sits on a garden bench, wearing a black turtleneck long sleeve top, black slim cut jeans and black ankle boots.

Now – this fabric was marketed as “performance knit”, 90% cotton, 10% elastane. I found it a little too thin for leggings, so assumed it would be perfect for a top. Yes and no.

Siobhan sits on a garden bench, wearing a black turtleneck long sleeve top, black slim cut jeans and black ankle boots.

The fabric is warm and stretchy, but far too thick at the collar for any kind of drape, so it just stands up there. I’m hoping it’s more 60s mod chic than direct from the Black Pepper catalogue.

An image from a Black Pepper catalogue. An older woman wears a black turtleneck tee, with a grey quilted zip up jacket.
Oh…..oh no.

So many years sewing and appropriate fabric choice still sometimes eludes me! (And don’t get me started on yarn choice.)

Siobhan sits on her rollator with cane beside her, wearing a grey turtleneck long sleeve top, blue slim cut jeans and brown ankle boots. She leans on the rollator and is smiling.

A flatly of a tall grey turtleneck collar attached to a long sleeve tee.
Being a basic tube 1:1 width of neckline, the collar attaches easily to the neckline. If you wanted something that drew in a little, you could make the collar 2/3 or 3/4 of the neckline width, depending on the stretch of your fabric.
A flatlay of the sleeve and body hem of a grey top. It is sewn with zigzag stitch.
After fighting with twin needles for many years, I’ve embraced the humble zigzag hem. So much easier and never comes undone! I sew over water soluble stabiliser to prevent rippling, though that quirk might be unique to my machine.

The details:
Pattern: Ottobre Spring/Summer 2/2017 #1. Statement t-shirt, altered
Pattern details: “Our T-shirt here has a slightly looser cut than usual, and its neckline and sleeve edges are finished with narrow ribbed binding.” Available from Ottobre Woman magazine, Spring/Summer 2/2017. Sizes 34-52.
Fabric: 1.5-2m x 148cm wide plain 220gsm cotton spandex fabric, dark marle, 95% cotton, 5% elastane; leftovers of 145cm wide Performance Cotton Lycra, black, 90% cotton, 10% elastane; both from Spotlight.
Other materials: Clear elastic to stabilise shoulders, from Aliexpress. Water soluble stabiliser for hems.
Mods: Size 42
– 6mm forward head adjustment, moved sleeve cap forward to match
– Brought neck in 3.6cm at shoulder and up 7.6cm front, 2.8cm back
– Drafted fold-over turtleneck collar, just scant of the circumference of the neckline and 40cm high
– Lengthened sleeve to full length by following existing side seams
– Added 1.5cm length to body

More reading:
Ottobre 2/2017 merino statement t-shirt
A very 70s outfit – Named Paola Turtleneck Tee and Ottobre 5/2016 #6 tweed skirt
Merino Paola Turtleneck Tee

Author: Siobhan S

30 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic disability advocate.

8 thoughts on “Yes, Virginia, I sewed this year: Sort-of self drafted turtleneck tops”

  1. You’ve still managed to do more sewing than me – congratulations! I’ve mainly been knitting, doomscrolling, or (for the last three months) working ridiculously long hours. I’m back unemployed, so I hope I can sew again.

    I made a few of those tops when I used to ski, but I used a soft invisible zip with a shorter neck; it is easier to get on, and works well if the day warms up.

    I hem using a bobbin hand-wound with woolly nylon, and normal thread in the needle, and I use stabiliser too if the sample stretches. I wind the woolly nylon with almost no tension, and I play around with the stitch length to see what stretches. Twin needles tunnel for almost everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really should get onto the woolly nylon bandwagon – I’m sure it would improve my twin needling. I’ve also had overlocking thread snap on leggings before, which I’m sure woolly nylon would resolve. But I just can’t seem to get my head around buying yet another set of thread!!


      1. I know, but woolly nylon isn’t the same – you usually don’t need an exact match (and as there are few colour options, you probably can’t get an exact match). Also, as it’s often not visible, you only need a colour that will blend – black, white, beige, light grey and dark grey will do most things, unless you need something like red or cobalt (which are available). Spotlight has patchy options at best, and my nearest one is the huge Bayswater store.

        Last Christmas – due to frustration when I couldn’t find a colour I needed – I bought one of every colour I thought I’d use of Maxi-Lock Stretch Thread from – and they contacted me to say that two I had picked looked identical, and would I like to swap one or delete from my order. Now that is service!

        You might find it useful to soften seams that are against your skin, particularly if you are sensitive. It also makes a nice rolled edge or lettuce hem, using either an overlocker or zigzagged edge with a sewing machine. I’ve also used it in the bobbin when I didn’t have an overlocker and was sewing leggings.

        Lastly, a tip – if you decide to use it in a needle, or have trouble threading it, dampen the end in glue and let dry. Makes a huge difference as that puffy thread can be very difficult to persuade through small holes.


  2. They’re both cute! I would never have even contemplated the neck area but I can see what you mean how different fabrics would really make a huge difference. They look to have a nice drape though. Well done! My sewing this year consisted of masks with scrap fabric. Each mask turning out completely differently due to the fabric. Ended up resorting to Amazon so if/when it doesn’t fit correctly I can blame someone else. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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