Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who can't stand any sort of tightness around my neck. I usually buy scoop neck ladies tees, but sometimes I find a shirt with an amusing design that's only available in the standard crew neck style.
I could just cut the collar out and be done with it, but that leads to stretched out shirts with a shortened lifespan. In the case of freebie shirts that I wear whilst slobbing around the house, I just cut.
For those shirts that I really like and want to be able to wear to work, I have to do a bit of sewing.
These instructions assume that you have some sewing experience. I'm much better at demonstrating a technique than writing it out. If you notice an egregious omission, let me know and I'll update/clarify.
Step 1: Materials
You'll need the following:
- A crew-neck shirt worth the effort
- Sewing needle and straight pins
- Bias tape in a color to match or coordinate with the shirt's color or design.
- Sewing thread of a color to match the bias tape.
- Iron and ironing board.
- Sewing Machine (Optional)
Bias tape can be found in fabric stores and most craft stores that have a sewing section. It comes in a variety of colors and widths. I usually stick with a fairly narrow tape (as pictured) in solid colors to match the shirt or some element of the design. Wide bias tape tends to stand up a bit, lending a sort of mod-60's aesthetic...I keep meaning to put a wide band on my Star Trek: TOS insignia tee.
If you want to get fancy, you can make bias tape using a patterned fabric or use ribbon or even layer cloth and lace or rick-rack.
Step 2: Positioning and Basting the Tape
Open out the bias tape and fold about 1/2 of an inch of the end to the inside of the tape (see picture). Press with the iron. Folding over the end of the tape will create a tidy finish where the tape joins up in the back.
Figure out about how much larger you want the neck to be. (This takes some practice. Try it on a sacrificial shirt first.) I usually like about 1 1/2 inches down from the original neckline.
Mark the desired distance on the center-back of the shirt with a pin, chalk or pencil depending on how you like to mark up.
At the center-back of the shirt, pin the bias tape with the inside facing out. Line up the edge of the tape with the mark and pin down.
Pin the tape around the collar, keeping a consistent distance between the edge of the original collar and the bias tape.
Baste the tape to the shirt using either a needle & thread or sewing machine. The stitching should be done about halfway between the edge of the tape and the first fold line. (Again, see picture.)
When you return to the center back, overlap the folded-over start of the tape by about 1/2 inch and cut the bias tape.
Step 3: Trimming and Sewing
Using sharp scissors, trim the original collar of the shirt shirt off even to the edge of the bias tape.
Fold the tape over the cut edge and press, make sure the tape folds around and fully encases the cut edge. Then stitch it down. The stitching should be close to the bottom edge of the new collar and go through the bias tape on both sides.
It's best to start at the center-back and work your way around.
Step 4: Finishing
Take extra care where the bias tape overlaps in the back to ensure that no raw edges poke out. You may wish to add a few tacking stitches from the inside, but if the turn-under and overlap are sufficient, that will be optional.
Press once more to set in the stitches and you're done!