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Dream Tee: Adding a Cowl

As I was scrolling though my sewing groups and internet searches looking for ideas to spruce up my fall wardrobe I was drawn to tops with cowls. They just look so cozy and perfect for my breezy fall morning walks to the bus stop. I knew right away that I wanted to add a cowl to my next Dream Tee, it is my favorite shirt pattern at the moment (but I don't see that changing any time soon). It is relaxed, but not so much that it's baggy and is very flattering on every body. Plus, it's a super quick sew, which is always an added bonus.

Image is a collage of two pictures. Both are images of a white woman with long brown hair. She is wearing blue jeans and a long sleeved cowl neck dolman in pink waffle knit with white and black stripes. In the first image she is smiling and the cowl is draped nicely, in the second picture she is holding the cowl up to cover her nose.
Having fun in my new cowl neck Dream Tee!

Getting Started

I used the scoop neck option for my cowl, but you can adjust the neckline to suit your needs. Jan has a great post on that: you can find it here. Cut out all of your pieces minus the neckband, you need to measure your neckline later to determine what length you need for the cowl. It is important to note that I did not need any additional yardage for my cowl, but you may depending on fabric (fussy cutting), options, and size.

Image is of a pink with white and black stripes waffle knit shirt that is in the final stages of construction. It needs the sleeves hemmed and a cowl added.
Ready to add my cowl and hem!

I sewed my top using the tutorial, but changed the order: I skipped the neckband and attached the cowl after sewing the sleeves. For me it is easier to attach the cowl at the end because it reduces weight and bulk while constructing the rest of my top.

Next I needed measure my neckline neckline and decide how to cut my cowl pieces. After a little pondering I decided to do a two-piece cowl with a shorter back piece. I wanted the seams of the cowl to line up with the shoulder seams; this helps reduce bulk and gives better drape, which is very beneficial for heavier knits.

Measuring for the Cowl

This picture contains two images of the same shirt, one smaller stacked on top of the other. The larger picture shows the shirt folded in half so the center front and center back make a fold. Wonder clips hold the edges together and a soft tape rests above the shirt. The smaller image shows the shirt laid flat with pins at the quarter points and shoulder seams.
Measuring and quartering the neckline.

Generally cowls are not shorter than the neckline so I needed to measure it instead of using the neckband pattern piece. To do this I folded my top in half, matching the shoulder seams and placing a few wonder clips along the length to hold the edges together.

Next I took my soft tape and measured from fold to fold, gently straightening the curve without stretching the neckline, I doubled that measurement to get the total neckline length. After that I measured from the center back to the shoulder seam and doubled that. I subtracted the back length from the total length to get the front. The final thing I needed to do before cutting my cowl pieces was to add my seam allowance. I used the same 1/4" seam allowance for my cowls so I needed to add 1/2" to each of my two lengths because there are two seams.

Note: now is a good time to mark your quarter points since your top is already folded in half.


First measurement of 15" doubled gives a total neckline length of 30"

Back measurement of 5" doubled is 10"

Front measurement is found by subtracting 10 from 30, which is equal to 20"

Adding seam allowance gives a back cowl length of 10.5" and front length of 20.5"

Cowl Height

There is no perfect cowl height. A quick internet search tells me that they're generally 8-12" tall. However tall you decide to make your cowl remember: double that height and add your seam allowance twice because the cowl is folded over before being sewn in. Because I was stripe matching I used the stripes on my fabric and cut as tall as I could: 17", which gives me an 8.25" cowl.

This image shows the cut pieces of the cowl stacked on top of each other, ready to be pinned. The larger piece is laid down first, right side up; the smaller piece is right side down on top of it.
The front and back cowl pieces stacked and ready for sewing.

Sewing the Cowl

Put your cowl pieces right sides together, pin or clip the side seams and sew together. I find it easier to lay the front piece down right side up, then place the back piece on top of it. Next fold your cowl in half wrong sides together, aligning raw edges and mark your quarter points. I also like to pin my seams together so they don't file or shift.

This image shows the shirt inside out with quarter points and shoulder seams pinned. The cowl is laid on top of the shirt with quarter points and seams pinned as well.
Ready to place the cowl inside the neckline and sew on.

Turn your Dream Tee inside out, slip the cowl into the shirt, then pin at the quarter points and seams. Tip: have the shoulder seams turned the opposite direction of the cowl seams to reduce bulk when sewing. Sew cowl on, turn right side out, then press and topstitch if desired. I prefer topstitching because it keeps the seam from flipping up with the weight of the cowl. If you haven't already, hem your top and you're done! I cannot wait to see everyone's cowls!

Alternate Cowls

There are many ways to cut cowls, the diagram below shows several. While this method worked best for me, that doesn't mean it will for everyone and that's ok. For all of these options you will want your cowl length to be 100% of your neckline plus seam allowance.

This diagram shows 5 different ways to cut cowls. These options are described in the text.
Different ways to cut cowls.

Option 1: The option shown in this blog.

Option 2: This shows two identical pieces. For this you divide the neckline length by 2 and add your seam allowances.

Option 3: One long piece, the seam will be centered on at the back. The length needed is the neckline plus seam allowances. This option may require extra yardage.

Options 4 and 5: These options allow for a slightly fuller cowl or to use a little less length, about 90% of the neckline. Option 4 has curved edges at the side seams, option 5 angles out to a point at the side seams.

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