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How to Sew a Cowl Neck Top (pattern hack)

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I love sharing free sewing patterns and I’ve got a great twist on my Free Ladies Raglan Tunic Pattern to share with you today – how to sew a Cowl Neck Top with this free pattern!

How to Sew a Cowl Neck Top, free sewing patterns

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Sew a Cowl Neck Top

Yes!  Fall has officially arrived. (for a few days anyway, lol.)  Time to break out the jeans, boots, long sleeve tops and HOT coffee drinks. (I’m normally an iced coffee kind of girl.)

My favorite top of late?  This cowl neck top I made using my free raglan tunic pattern!  The red knit fabric is actually lightweight enough for 3 seasons and I have already worn it a couple of times over the last few weeks.

How to Sew a Cowl Neck Top, free sewing patterns

I really like how it turned out.  This is definitely a style of top that can be dressed up of down based on the fabric used.  

One thing to keep in mind when choosing the fabric – if the fabric is super lightweight, you might want to double layer the cowl, which will mean another 1/2 yard or so of fabric will be needed. 

I DID double layer the cowl in this red version.

The first one I sewed – I made a couple of mistakes on, (best fabric of course) but it was a medium weight sweater fabric and the cowl looked great single layered.  (It also has a higher neckline than what I was going for.)  

I really loved that pink sweater fabric and am sad I messed up that version.  Good news though, I’ve already tried it on my missy and there’s enough fabric to re-make it into a version for her.

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing fabric is to choose one that is similar on the front and back.  

Due to the nature of this top, you could see a bit of the back of the fabric in the folds of the cowl.  The two sides don’t need to be an exact match, but I considered using a french terry that was navy on one side and green on the other.  The final result would have looked wierd, I’m sure!

How to Sew a Cowl Neck Top, free sewing patterns

I’ve lost a bit of weight since originally sharing the tunic pattern.  (The pattern comes in a medium and large.)  I sewed the medium and felt it had a bit too much ease for what I’m wearing now and will be adding an additional size in xtra smal/small very soon.    

To reduce the ease in this red top, I took 1/4 inch off the sides of the front and back bodice pattern and sleeve pattern.

How to Sew a Cowl Neck Top, free sewing patterns

Surprise – you might even enjoy wearing this top off the shoulder!

How to sew an off the shoulder top, free sewing patterns

I definitely plan to make another one of these in black and will make it permanently off-the-shoulder.  

I’ve not decided how yet – I might reduce the length of the cowl or do a tiny gathering stitch along the sides to make the folds of the cowl stay perfectly in place.

Ready to learn how to add a cowl neck to any raglan style pattern you already have?


Tips for adding a cowl neck top to your pattern:

  • If using a lightweight fabric, consider double lining the cowl, the extra weight will make it hang better
  • seam allowance is 1/4 inch.
  • My top has a vented uneven hem, I will demonstrate how to get that look
  • To figure out your desired length for your top, measure yourself from the top of your bra line (under your arm) to your desired length. Add 3/4 inch  to that number for seam allowance and hem.

Products used and Recommended:

  1. My favorite fabric shop for knits:  Funkalicious Fabrics and Girl Charlee. My favorite shop for cottons and other fabrics: Fabric.com.
  2. My Sewing Machine: SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist, my coverstitch: Janome Cover Pro 1000cpx
  3. My Serger: Brother 1034D 3 or 4 Thread Serger or you can just use Pinking Shears
  4. Rotary Cutter
  5. Ball Point sewing needles
  6. I love my large ruler and large cutting mat, but you may prefer to start of with a smaller Cutting set
  7. Dritz Dual Purpose Marking Pen and Fray Check
  8. Wonder clips (I didn’t use these in the post, but they are just awesome!


Sewing Instructions:

How to Sew a Cowl Neck Top

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Materials needed

  • Your favorite Raglan Top Pattern (link to my free pattern here – keep in mind this pattern is designed to have a cuff added to the bottom and sleeves.  You’ll definitely want to add 2 inches to the sleeve and maybe the bottom too.)
  • 2 yards stretch knit or sweater fabric.
  • Basic Sewing supplies


Step one: Adjusting your pattern.

Are you a v-neck kind of girl or do you like more of a crew neck in your tops?

Like a crew neck? Trim 3/4 inch off the top of the pater for the front bodice, back bodice and sleeve.


Prefer a v-neck? Trim 3/4 off the patterns for the sleeve and back bodice and trim as shown below for the front bodice.


Step 2: Cut out bodice and sleeve pattern pieces.

Reminder: When cutting out the sleeve, fold fabric in half and cut 2 pieces at once OR you will need to flip pattern over if cutting seperately.  (This way you will cut the sleeves the right direction.)

Step 3: Assemble top.

Line up the sleeves with the front of the bodice, right sides together and sew along the edge of the sleeves.


Line the back bodice up with sleeve edges, right sides together and sew.

Fold sleeve edges over 1/2 inch, press and hem.  Use a double needle or zig zag stitch for best results.  (You can even do a blind hem if you have a serger – see that tutorial here.)


Line up the sleeves edges and sides of the bodice right sides together.  If creating a vented hem, mark the spot where to stop sewing.  Sew along edges with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, stopping at your mark and backstitch to secure the seam.


Hem the bottom of the shirt by pressing the hem up 1/2 inch and sew with a double needle or zig zag stitch.

Press the side vents over and stitch with a double needle or zig zag stitch.


Step 4: Measure and cut out cowl.

Measure along your neckline and add .25 inches to that number.


Fold fabric in half selvage to selvage.

Using the neckline measurement, cut out shape as shown below:


Step 5: Attach cowl.

Right sides together, sew the cowl together along the diagonal seam, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.


Turn the shirt and cowl, right side out.  Slip the shirt into the cowl.  The smallest side of the cowl is at the top and the seam of the cowl should be lined up with the center back of the bodice.

Sew along the top using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.


When the shirt is draped on the body, this seam should not show.


Hem the bottom of your cowl by folding the bottom over 1/4 inch, pressing and folding another 1/4 inch.  I recommend using a wide zig zag or double needle.

Hand tack the back of the cowl in place and you are done!


How to Sew a Cowl Neck Top, free sewing patterns

What do you think?  Would you wear a top like this?


As always, if you sew something from one of my tutorials or patterns I would love to see it!  Be sure to come back and share a photo on my facebook page or tag me on Instagram @scatteredmom, with #scatteredmompatterns!

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  1. This is wonderful! Couple of questions: What made you choose the 20″ depth of the cowl? Would, say, 10″ work as well you think? And the step right after inserting the shirt inside the double-fabric cowl: Are we sewing both edges of the “Neckline measusrement plus 1/4″ side” to the neck of the shirt at once? Or do we sew the outer edge and then turn and tack the other side by hand – like a facing, sort of? The section that says “Hem the bottom of your cowl by folding the bottom over 1/4 inch, pressing and folding another 1/4 inch.” completely confused me. Thanks for clarifying!

  2. Thank you!! Your instructions were perfect. Added the cowl piece to a dress and impressed my friends – won’t dare tell them how easy it was!

  3. If I am sewing a double layered cowl, does that mean my fabric piece will be 40″, then I fold it in half to 20″?
    I am very excited to try this.

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      I’m sure that there is more than one way to do it, but when I made mine double layered, I folded a large piece of fabric in half (along the top, which created the top edge of the pattern) and then folded it in the other direction (along the side where the photo indicates “fold”) to cut out the cowl fabric piece.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply!

  4. Sheila Robson says:

    I’m hoping to do this version for my daughter’s birthday, but a little confused. Does this mean that the cowl is twice the neckline measurement plus a bit, as it’s cut on a fold? Or am I being thick? If so, it has to be gathered into the neckline?

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      No, the side of the cowl that attaches to the neckline is the neckline measurement (plus seam allowance).

  5. Catherine A Friedman says:

    This has been so fun! I am almost finished with my first sewing project (this shirt) and I love it and I think I might have a new addiction.

    Thank you!

  6. Hi thanks for the tutorial. I’ve been looking for cowl neck DIY for weeks. Is there a way to modify the neck portion to have to be a cowl neck hoodie?

    Thank you

  7. DENISE BRIESE says:

    This is just what I was looking for! Thank you so much!

  8. Laura Krahn says:

    Love this! I’m going to have to make one (or two!) Congratulations on your weight loss! I’m on a journey to shed some poundage and a stretchy blouse like this will make a nice transitional piece. Love the color on you!

    1. Jamie Sanders says:

      Thank you! Unfortunately, that lost weight found its way home again,lol.

  9. Cheri Partridge says:

    It looks great and I love that it’s a dual duty shirt with the off the shoulder version. I just want to let you know that I too buy fabric from girl charlie & fabric.com but as of lately I’ve been buying ALL my fabric from “FABRIC MART” , they have been having such Great Sales on their fabric especially their knits. I’ve been buying rayon/Lycra and poly/Lycra for around $2.00 to $4.00 a yard and its Great quality, you’ll have to give them a try. I’m quite addicted to their site. Every day they have a new sale it’s great. Have a great day and I look forward to reading your blogs.

    1. I’ll have to check this one out.

  10. Jennifer Mead says:

    Thank you for the sewing pattern and instructions!! I’ve been waiting for the perfect inspiration to get back into garment sewing. This is it!! Thank you again!

  11. Maureen Gent says:

    This looks awesome and I can hardly wait to make it!

    1. Thanks, Maureen, I really like this one a lot! Now off to search for the perfect fabric for the next one, lol.