Altering a cowl neck sweater top by creating opening under semi-attached belt

Whenever an opening is created in a garment that is already a finished piece, the extra fabric to cover the raw edges and/or openings  has to come from somewhere.  The trick is figuring out where!

Look over what you want to alter, and figure out if you can give up some length, and get the fabric you need from the hem.

You can also use new  fabric that was not part of the garment, although matching shades exactly is a lot trickier than you’d think.

Using a contrasting accent fabric is another way to go.

If you don’t need much, say you’re  just putting in an invisible zipper, and what you’re altering has some room to its fit, its possible you can give up the width going around you, and gradually taper and create a seam for the zipper.

A cowl neck can be a very good candidate to be altered, because in most cases, the neck part of the garment is made with a lot of fabric.

The following example uses a sweater  that I have, which  was an internet purchase.  This company (Patti Boutik) has designs that tend to appeal to me, and on Amazon are often prime eligible, but, its been very hit or miss with quality and fit.

So, when I ordered this cowl neck sweater   a couple of years ago, I thought it was going to be tunic length, or at least close to that in the back.  It wasn’t. And it shrunk–and it pilled right away.

But I still liked it.  The color was exactly what I was wanting, and I found I could live with it being a top instead of a tunic.  (The pilling part was, and is,  particularly unfortunate though.)

It practically begged to be used in this alteration example.

I planned to use the fabric taken from the width of the  cowl for creating  a semi-attached fabric belt to cover the opening I would be cutting into the front of the top.

Here’s how the sweater looked before altering it:




I’ve already marked where my g-tube hits when wearing it. That is what the dot is.

Look at how much fabric comprises the cowl neck!  I decided I could give up 3.5″ of it, and have it still look okay.  That width was really cutting it close as far as being sufficient to cover the opening for tube feeding, but I didn’t want use more and possibly  sacrifice the flattering style of the neck.



To create an opening in the front, I went with a circular cutout.  A circle will not degrade the structural integrity and fit nearly as much as a rectangular cutout will.

I used woven fusible Pellon interfacing to stabilize the fabric before cutting it.   And, I  made the  interfacing circle a larger diameter than the opening that would be cut in the top.


woven fusible interfacing


steam pressed on inside of top, centering on the dot I’d marked earlier.


Access opening cut. (make

Access opening cut out



Opening machine stitched for stability

Opening machine stitched for stability

To line the belt, I used some fine textured fabric that is so soft to the touch!  It is  silk modal rayon blend, and the color is neutral.

I opted to fuse it  to the belt before stitching the edges.



both layers of fabric use for belt fused together


Stitching around all four edges of the belt piece with a simple greek key stitch pattern.

I put on the sweater (the hole was now cut out in its front) and I marked with a washable marker pen exactly where it should attached to the sweater.

One side of the belt  would be stitched to the sweater at the side seam (and also stitched across the front part ways to help keep it in place.

The belt would open and close with KAM snaps at the other side seam.


the red dots you see will wash out. I put them there for marking placement. (Yes I know my thumbnail looks hideous. I keep planning to get a manicure…)


Unsnapped from the side for mealtime

Finished alteration is shown below. 

This method worked out okay.  I’m not totally happy with it, but that is due mostly to my anatomy.  I have a short torso, and my peg tube is located  high on my abdomen.  So when I make an opening, there is very little room to work with between my tube and bustline.

If I move certain ways, the opening in this sweater peeps out over the top of the belt covering it.  Its not enough of a problem to justify making the opening smaller, but it still keeps me from considering this alteration a smashing success.


The gap at top of opening continued to be visible when I wore the top, and I ultimately decided it was better to put a snap at top, rather than make the inner circle smaller by adding another layer of fabric.  I didn’t want a smaller opening, for one.  And, it was just fraught with potential problems as far as how it would look, and the not knowing until after it was done.

The snap idea turned out terrific.  I’m very pleased with this top now.  It looks nice the entire time it is on with no pulling, or obvious attention to how it was adapted.

I did use a clear snap, just because I have them, but, it would have been fine to use the same tan snaps I used for belt.  Photos are below.