Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Sign in or become an insider to access this story

Sign In

How to Alter Sewing Patterns for Better Fit

Subtle changes improve the fit and hang of every piece you sew
Threads, Issue #209 June/July 2020

Over several decades of making custom clothing, I’ve learned a lot about garment fitting. Many of my favorite techniques were taught by Roberta Carr and published in her book, Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing (Palmer/Pletsch, 1993). From her, I learned to make some small changes that better accommodate a body’s curves and help a garment hang smoothly over the figure.

These refinements don’t appear substantial on the pattern, but I have found that they make a difference in how a garment looks when worn. They’re easy to accomplish, even for a beginner, and I encourage you to try them. They can take your sewing up a level and give you more to be proud of when you wear your garments.

Add a curve to straight seams

Commercial patterns often default to straight seams, even where the body has a natural curve. You can change these lines into extremely subtle curves to better conform to your shape.

Back shoulder seam

The back of your shoulder is curved and can benefit from shaping there. Garments that don’t have a shoulder dart often fit awkwardly over the shoulder and back armhole.

To add ease, curve the back shoulder seam slightly. Raise the center by 1⁄8 inch, and curve it back to the original cutting line at each end. This lengthens the seamline; ease the excess to the front shoulder seamline.


A low-cut V-neckline may not lie smoothly over a full-busted figure. By reshaping the front neckline to add a shallow curve, you can add fabric over the fullest area of the bust. This new neckline shape reads as a straight line on the body.

At the level of the bust point, mark a point 1⁄8 inch out from the V-neckline edge. Redraw the neckline edge, blending from…

Start your 14-day FREE trial to access this story.

Start your FREE trial today and get instant access to this article plus access to all Threads Insider content.

Start Your Free Trial

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in


  1. user-7669417 | | #1

    so by adding a curve to the back shoulder seam would that replace an alteration such as 'forward thrust shoulder'?

  2. carolfresia | | #2

    That curved seam is to provide some shaping over the back shoulder, similar to what you'd achieve with a back shoulder dart. The added ease there might take some of the strain off the front shoulder for a forward shoulder, but you're better off doing an actual forward-shoulder adjustment to the bodice and sleeve cap as well.
    Carol Fresia, Threads Senior Technical Editor

  3. User avater
    [email protected] | | #3

    Great article, let’s see more of these kind of fitting tips.

  4. User avater
    canei | | #4

    Great tips! Been sewing for 40+ years, but can always use new tips and tricks! Thanks for sharing.

Log in or become a member to post a comment.

More From Threads

Discussion Forum

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All