Tutorial: Add a Drawstring Cowl to a T-Shirt Sewing Pattern


With fall (hopefully) coming soon here in North America, I start dreaming of big cozy sweaters with giant necklines to battle the chill of the wind.  Cowl necks are a great option because they're like a scarf built into your top.  And it's easy to add a drawstring to any t-shirt pattern.  There are lots of different variations of a cowl neck, some large and fluid and drapey, and others tall and enveloping.  This tutorial will help you make more of the latter variety with an added drawstring for a nice sporty look.  How much your cowl drapes depends on your fabric choice.  Make it up in a technical jersey for a fun running top, or choose a sweater knit for something warmer.


The version I made up in a soft drapey poly blend jersey from Cali Fabrics.  When I finished the top, I blockprinted it using a pinking shear stamp I carved last year and a brown fabric ink pad.



  • Union St. Tee with scoopneck variation or your favorite scoop neck t-shirt pattern
  • French curve
  • 30" wide brown kraft paper or something similar for patternmaking
  • measuring tape (optional)
  • pen and washable marker
  • pattern weights and paper scissors
  • large 2 two-part eyelets with setting tools (like in this kit)
  • scrap of fusible interfacing
  • hammer

Make the cowl pattern piece:

  1. On the front and the back piece of your pattern, mark the seam lines (1/4" on Union St Tee) along the neckline and the shoulder.unioncowlseamlines
  2. Using the French curve or the measuring tape, measure from CF to the intersection of the shoulder seam.  Slide the ruler along the curve and mark off intervals if you can't measure the curve in one piece.unioncowlmeasureRepeat for the back piece.  Add both measurements together.  Note:  If the measurement total is less than 12 1/2", you might find it difficult to pull the top over your head.  You can either use a more stretchy fabric for the cowl (like rib knit) or draw a deeper neckline with the French curve like this:unioncowldeeperAdd a seam allowance above the new neckline, then cut off the excess and proceed to step 3.
  3. Math time!  Take the measurement from step 2 and multiply it by 0.9.  This will be half the length of your fold line for the cowl.
  4. Cut a piece of brown kraft paper that is about 10" by the 30" width of the roll.  In the bottom middle of the paper, draw a horizontal line the length of the measurement in step 3.unioncowlline1
  5. Draw a vertical line perpendicular to the horizontal line extending up 8" in the center of the paper.  This is your Center Front (CF) line.unioncowlline2
  6. Draw another vertical line perpendicular to the horizontal line extending up 6" on the other side of the horizontal line.  This is the Center Back (CB) seam.unioncowlline3
  7. Use the French curve to connect the top of the CF line to the top of the CB line.  Adjust the curve so that the measurement along the curve is equal to your measurement from step 3.  It's okay if the curve is 1/8" longer, but you don't want it to be much longer.unioncowldrawcurve
  8. Fold the paper in half along the CF line, and cover it with pattern weights.  Cut along the bottom, CB line and curve through both layers of paper.  Now you have the full sized cowl pattern piece.unioncowlcut
  9. Mark the horizontal line "fold" and write "cut 1 on fold" somewhere on the pattern piece.unioncowlfullpiece


  1. Cut out your pattern, substituting the cowl piece for the neck binding.  You'll also need to cut a piece of fabric 1" wide by 48" long for a drawstring.
  2. Make a small clip at CF on the non-folded edge of the cowl.  Also mark CF on the folded edge with a washable marker.
  3. On either side of the CF fold marking, make a small dot with the washable marker 1/2" away and 1/2" up away from the fold.
  4. Construct your t-shirt per the directions entirely, but omit binding the neck.
  5. Keeping the two cut edges of the cowl together, lightly press the cowl along the fold line with your iron.
  6. Open up the cowl with the wrong side up.  Take a scrap of interfacing and fuse it so that it covers the two dots you made in step 2.
  7. On the right side of the cowl, make a tiny snip on each dot.  The fabric will stretch when you add the eyelets, so be conservative with the snip.  It's easier to snip a little more than to rescue a hole that's too big.
  8. Push the smaller side of an eyelet into the snip, stretching the fabric around the eyelet from the wrong side.  Place the larger second piece over the eyelet on the wrong side.  Use the setter in the kit to keep the pieces of the eyelet in place as you hammer it to set.  Repeat for the other eyelet.
  9. Keeping wrong sides together, sew the CB seam of the cowl.
  10. Bring the CB seam to meet the CF snips, then mark halfway between each mark.
  11. Make quarter marks (or snips) at CB, CF and halfway between each of those points on the neckline of the tee.
  12. Fold the cowl along the pressed fold.  Baste the raw edges of the cowl together if you like.  Pin the cowl to the neckline at the quarter marks so that the eyelets face the right side of the neckline.
  13. The circumference of the cowl should be slightly smaller than the neckline.  This will help it lay flat.  If the cowl is the same length or longer than the neckline, take out the pins and resew the CB seam at a deeper seam allowance.  Then, mark new quarter marks between CB and CF on each side.
  14. Keeping the cowl facing up, sew the cowl to the neckline.  Stretch the cowl slightly between each pin so that it matches the length of the neckline.  Do not stretch the neckline, just the cowl.
  15. Make a casing for the drawstring by stitching a line around the top of the cowl 1" away from the fold.
  16. Fold the raw edges of the drawstring piece over each other and press.  Stitch down the length of the drawstring.  Use a safety pin or a drawstring threader to thread the drawstring through the casing.  Adjust the drawstring inside the casing until the ends are even, then knot each end.
  17. Make a few stitches along the CB seam just within the casing area to secure the drawstring inside of the casing.

Enjoy your new sporty tee!  I for one am going to love wearing mine to Saturday soccer games this fall.

You can find me on my blog, and also on InstagramTwitter, and my Facebook page.  I'd love to see what kind of cowls you add to your t-shirts!  You can grab the Union St. Tee and tag @UpCraftClub on Instagram to show off your work. #unionsttee

September 10, 2015 by UpCraft Club
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