How to Alter Sewing Patterns for Better FitSubtle changes improve the fit and hang of every piece you sew
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…