How to Properly Sew on a Collar

illustration for post on sewing collar

Many knitters avoid sewing on a separate collar piece; instead it’s easier to make one by picking up stitches around the neckline. Depending on the project, a separate collar may be preferable. Even though I’ve made sewn-on collars over the years, I’m still confused when it comes to sewing them onto the neckline. Just one of those things, I guess. My confusion is in deciding which side of the collar and the garment should lie against each other when stitching. Inevitably I end up analyzing another garment with a collar to figure the placement out. I’m going to lay this conundrum to rest, by revealing how to properly sew on a collar.

The How-tos

Most separate collar pieces have a right side and a wrong side. Some are straight, and others incorporate shaping depending on the style, like a shawl collar. The base of any collar style has to fit around the neckline. Before sewing a collar in place, make sure to block it, as you would for the other garment pieces. 

Place the right side of the collar against the wrong side of the garment piece. When the collar is turned over after seaming, the right side of it is visible on the outside of the garment. Pin the center of the collar to center of back neckline, and each end of the collar in line with the neckline edges. Be careful not to stretch the neckline of the garment. If you have knit the collar to the correct measurements, the placement will be smooth and even.

Now it’s time to stitch the collar in place. There are two recommended methods of sewing it in place: overcasting (same as oversewing or whipstitch) or backstitch. My preference is to use an overcast stitch, which produces no added bulk and lies flat. However, it can look untidy if not worked properly.

Overcasting

Pin the pieces as described above. Thread a tapestry or blunt tipped needle with a length of yarn, and secure the yarn at right side edge of work (sewing from right to left). Insert the needle from back to front through the strands at the edges of the pieces. Repeat this step across, sewing the stitches evenly and close together. 

how to work overcast seam

Backstitch

This is a strong seam, but because it’s not worked at the edge of the fabric there is a seam allowance, so you want to sew as close as possible to the edge. The backstitch is not appropriate for pieces knit with heavy or bulky yarns.

Secure the yarn at the edge by taking the needle twice around the double layer of fabric. Bring the needle up two stitches (about 1/4in) ahead of the edge. Now insert the needle two stitches back, at the point where the thread emerged from previous stitch, and in one motion bring it up again two stitches ahead and pull the yarn through. Repeat this step, making sure to keep the stitches even and straight.

how to work backstitch in knitting

After writing these instructions, I should remember the steps for the next time I want to sew on a collar. Remember to sew your collar neatly in place, sit back and admire your work!