Collar Love

Ben's Suit, PRW Season 7

I’m a big fan of flat patterning.  Not that I don’t like draping, there’s a place for that, but when you see a REALLY well fit garment you just know the pattern maker has a bit of flat patterning under their belt.

When I watch Project Runway one of the things that makes me cringe are the folks who’ve never made a pair of pants, or a jacket, and who feel a major competition would be a good time to try it.

That happened this week and I felt Ben’s pain.  But it was absurd to think that a jacket or pair of pants are so easy to create out of thin air with no sloper or tailoring experience.

It seemed that Ben tried to make his garments entirely by draping, which is the quicker and – at first glance – less frightening route. But without a good bit of pattern drafting, his tailored pieces were a bit of a train wreck. 

The "Tighty Whitey" Pants

Michael Kors said it best when he compared the pants to wearing one’s underwear outside of the pants.

In knit design, draping is a bit more difficult.  Sometimes I have been known to use a yard or two of machine knit ribbing from the fabric store to see if an idea I have for shaping will work out.

But mostly I rely on my flat patterning chops to chart out the increases and decreases to create the shape I’m looking for.

If you’re creating a shaped garment and you don’t have a sense that taking “a bit out here” will affect how “this bit lays over there”, you could end up in hot water very quickly.  And you could have a LOT of ripping out.

But – here’s another secret – designing IS more ripping out than knitting.  It just is.  And a butt-load of swatching (that’s the technical term.)

Collars from

One of the more fun things to pattern are collars.  They’re usually pretty small, they have interesting curves and shaping, and their influence on a finished design can be dramatic.

Here is a menu of collars by

Although I don’t use this software, I do like to use these images for inspiration. I’m sure it’s a fine application, I just don’t personally use it.

I learned much of what I know about pattern making back in college, working in the costume shop and using the book Pattern Making by the Flat Pattern Method by Norma Hollen.  My copy cost $20 back then – now it’s $116.  Ouch.

Gripsholm Collar Shape

Right now I’m working on a piece for History on Two Needles (HoTN) called the Gripsholm Jacket.  It’s worn by a woman, but the piece has a definite masculine feel, especially the collar shaping.

Theoretically I knew what I needed to do.  I needed to make a rectangle with a curved top above it.

Here's the collar, flat (collapsed curve)

The lapel tops nest in the corners, and the curve at the top creates the rise at the back of the collar.

But mentally it was a challenge.  It took several tries before I just accepted that I KNEW what had to be done – and I did it!

The shape was not intuitive, it’s an odd alchemy that makes this bizzarre mushroom fold into a lovely collar, but there it is!

Here’s how the collar ended up looking, and the bonus is that the shaping (for the knitter) is relatively uncomplicated.

Well, I hope it is!  It’s easy to lose perspective!

The Collar From The Back