Monday, July 28, 2014

Tutorial: reducing the cowl neckline on the Myrtle dress

After exposing my bra to my friend (and most likely many others) while wearing my original Myrtle top out for drinks the other night, I decided to reduce the depth of the cowl for my second Myrtle.  If you are less well-endowed than the C cup Colette designs for, this might be a good adjustment for you, too!  After learning how to draft a cowl neck top in my patternmaking class, I know that this hack isn't precisely an "undoing" of the drafting process that creates the cowl; however, for small reductions in the deepness of the draped neckline, this works really well!

  • tracing paper (or other large format paper, such as the backside of wrapping paper)
  • pencil
  • long straight edge or quilting ruler
  • Myrtle pattern
Start by folding Piece A (Front Bodice) in half along the dotted line.  We're going to manipulate half of the pattern and then mirror the final product at the end to recreate the doubled-front of the Myrtle dress.
On your tracing paper, draw a long straight line (I drew mine in red).  This is center front.  Position your folded bodice front along this straight line and trace the original pattern.  Then, set your original pattern aside.  My traced pattern is in green, below.
For my top, I reduced the cowl by removing a wedge from the center front equal to about 2" at the widest (at the upper neckline) tapering to 0 at the waist.  This may be too much for some people, so a muslin is your friend here!  To remove this wedge, position a straight edge ruler at an angle, 1" in from the center front at the upper neckline, angled to 0 at the waist.  Draw the line (mine is in blue).

Since this is on the fold, removing a 1" wedge equals 2" on the final garment.  Next, cut along the newly drawn line (this is the new center front) and the rest of the traced bodice.  (Image not shown, but trust me, I cut out the bodice :)
Now, fold another length of tracing paper twice as long as the bodice length + a few inches extra. Position your traced+cut bodice with the upper neckline at the folded end of the paper (it doesn't have to be on the fold, just near) and the center front right along the edge.  Tape the bodice to the tracing paper and trace the pattern yet again (I did it in black this time).    
Position your straight edge ruler such that it is exactly perpendicular to the edge of the paper (parallel to the fold) and just touching the shoulder point closest to the neck.  Draw a new line connecting the shoulder point to the center front. (You may want to cross out the previous neckline line to avoid confusion.)  This new line represents the "dotted line" on the original pattern piece A.  

Now, refold your long piece of tracing paper so that the fold exactly matches your new neckline. 
Before: New neckline is perpendicular to the fold of the tracing paper as in previous image.
After: Repositioned the fold of the paper to match the new neckline.
Finally, cut around your traced bodice leaving the folded edge uncut.  
Now when you open the folded tracing paper, you should have a lovely mirror image of your bodice, just like pattern piece A! 
Comparing the pieces side-by-side, you can see that the revised version (on the right) is slightly longer and narrower at the shoulders than the original.  This will raise the neckline and reduce the amount of fabric that drapes at the center front.  

Hope this helps and contact me if you have any questions!


  1. Thanks for this! I'm definitely saving it for later. Cowls haven't come across my table much yet, but I have a feeling my irrational dislike for them will end very soon :)

  2. I cannot wait to try this! Thanks for the very clear pictures and descriptions. I was trying to take out the wedge just at the top instead of going all the way down to the waist. Thanks tons.

  3. I had to squeeze in one last Myrtle so I could try out this tutorial. It worked great and was easy to follow. Thanks!