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adjusted shoulder seam and sleeve

blingy | Posted in Fitting on

Hi all, I have been reading a lot of the fitting tips here lately and I ran across a discussion about moving the shoulder seams of a blouse to help make the back armhole longer than the front.  If I understand correctly what I read before, this will also help with that feeling of a blouse slipping backward.  What I didn’t read was IF you add .5 to the back shoulder and remove .5 from the front, keeping the size of the armhole the same, do you put the top mark of the sleeve cap at this adjusted seam or do you put the sleeve in the original position?  Everything I have made so far slids back on me, my neck is the only thing that keeps garments from sliding right off my back so I thought this would be a good solution but I don’t know what to do with the sleeves.  Funny, RTW doesn’t do this, only the stuff I make.  Any comments?  Thanks!


  1. Teaf5 | | #1

    If you move the shoulder seam forward, you'll need to relocate the center of the sleeve cap back so that it's hanging straight from your shoulder bone. Otherwise, to right itself on your arm, the sleeve will pull the shirt back even worse.The recent article on fitting tshirts on the Threads home page mentions making sure that the back armhole is longer than the front one. By moving the shoulder seam forward as you've done, you haven't made the total armscye any longer, which might why your shirts pull back. Have you tried slashing the pattern across the upper back, spreading it by .5 inch and lengthing the back armholes that way? Although this might require adding to the sleeve cap, too, I've found that there's usually too much ease in the sleeve caps originally, and this adjustment solves two problems at once.

    1. User avater
      blingy | | #2

      Thanks Teaf5 for the info.  I have not thought of slashing the back pattern piece but I will give it a try.  The blouse I finished last night using the shifting of the shoulder seam method feels very nice so I think I am on to something when it comes to the back armhole.  And after spending hours basting, removing and re-basting the sleeves I figured out that of course the sleeve still needs to be positioned at the top of the armhole or else the sleeve hangs off-grain.  Duh!  Live and learn.  Again, Thanks!

      1. Josefly | | #3

        In the online article by Marcy Tilton that Teaf5 mentions (on fitting t-shirts) she has drawings that illustrated moving the shoulder line forward (lengthening the back shoulder 1/4 inch, shortening the front shoulder 1/4 inch), and re-drawing the top point of the sleeve 1/2 inch toward the front. Just a suggestion, but a look at that article might clear things up.

  2. DONNAKAYE | | #4

    I know I'm the odd man out here, but I'll go anyway.

    All commercial patterns fall back off my shoulders.  Moving the shoulder seam forward does not resolve the problem -- for me.  I wish it did; it would simplify things a whole lot.  The only solution that I've ever found for my fitting problem is to take the tuck down center front until the shoulder seam moves into proper position, then adjusting the front neckline and side seams (i.e., bust, waist, hips, if necessary).  This keeps the entire armhole intact, with no alterations necessary for the sleeve.  Sometimes, if the commercial pattern is just shy of falling off, I'll opt for pushing the center clip of the sleeve cap back by about 1/4 to 1/2".  This pulls the shoulder seam forward a tiny bit and is all right if it's not a real bad fall backwards.

    Signed, the lonesome voice in the wilderness!

  3. jjgg | | #5

    All this does (shifting the back armhole and then the front) is adjust the location of the shoulder seam. It does NOTHING for fitting. If you have rounded or forward shoulders, then you may need to move the shoulder seam, but you have to ADD to the back, not just relocate the seam.It seams (pun intended) that the issue of shirts pulling backwards is a common problem with commercial patterns (it happens to me too), and this just goes along with the very poor pattern drafting of commercial patterns, and the use of a very erect posture for the fit model. Real human people (us home sewers) are not shaped like runway models.What is most likely needed is more length in the back - at the shoulders and neck area. If yo have someone who can help try this experiment and you will see what I am talking about. have someone hold a tape measure at the big bone at the back of your neck, and at the waistline (center back) now, stand very erect (you remember the "shoulders back, stomach in"). See what the measurement is. Now, slouch forward - exaggerate the posture so you are like a stooped old lady. The measurement will increase by way over one inch. This is not at the shodler seam, it's at the center back. So, my point is that length is needed at the center back, the neck line needs to be raised.NOw, do the same experiment at center front. Stand erect and then slouch forward mimicking the same two postures, when slouched, your front length will get shorter.Commercial pattern pieces are very balanced- the front and backs are the same length and width (well not exactly as the front neck edge is lower that the back), you may need a back that is significantly longer then the front.The same applies to the width of a pattern. If you have a narrow back but large boobs, the back pattern piece will need to be much narrower than the front to go from side seam to side seam, but the front, in order to get across those big bobs, (I'm not implying here that YOU have big boobs, I'm just throwing this out as an example of 'unbalanced' pattern pieces) The front piece will need to be much wider.Hope this sheds some light on this issueOh, and I think I posted this once before on this subject. The only reason to make the back armhole longer than the front is if your body needs it to be longer.

    Edited 8/30/2007 9:00 pm ET by jjgg

    1. cat42 | | #6

      For the most part, your suggestions are very good. But I must disagree with you that shifting the shoulder seam forward does nothing for fit. As another poster pointed out, if you shift shoulder seam forward, you will need to adjust the sleeve, or the sleeve will pull the bodice backward in order to hang straight on the arm. So, obviously, moving the shoulder seam forward affects sleeve fit. It could also affect collar fit, depending on the design of the collar.I also believe that, for most people, the depth of the back armhole needs to be longer than the depth of the front armhole. Also the actual length (along the seamline) for the back armhole needs to be longer than for the front. This is because the arm sits forward on the body.I'm the one who started the earlier post on this, and got a lot of good responses. I then experimented and here's what I learned that works well for me (NOTE: DonnaKaye's response of what works for her may also be appropriate--making the front narrower across in the armhole area). In addition to text below, I'm also attaching diagrams (in one pdf file).1. First I correct for my own body's quirks that can affect shoulder fit and cause the bodice to slide backward:1a. My head sits forward, which creates a slight roundness high on my back, in the area of that protruding bone at the base of the neck. To correct for this problem, I slice across the pattern about 1 inch below the back neck, from CB to a pivot point at the armhole seam. Then I raise the top part of the back about 1/4 - 3/8 inch at center, pivoting at armhole. 1b. I also have forward shoulder, meaning that the shoulder seam is positioned correctly at the neck (under my ear), but is forward at the armhole. This correction is made by shifting some of the front armhole to the back armhole. I need to shift it forward about 1/2 inch, so I draw a new shoulder seam on the back, from the existing intersection of shoulder & neckline seams, to the armhole, so that it is 1/2 inch away at the armhole (toward the front). If there is a shoulder dart, I first fold out the dart, draw the new shoulder seam, then unfold the dart and correct the dart legs as necessary.Then I draw a new shoulder seam on the front, from the existing intersection of shoulder & neckline seams, to the armhole, so that it is 1/2 inch away at the armhole, down the armhole (sloping down).2. Then I measure armhole depth of the adjusted pattern: I draw two horizontal lines on both front and back, perpendicular to grain, the first under the armhole, through the point where armhole seam meets side seam; and the second where the armhole seam meets the shoulder seam at the top. Then I measure the vertical distance (parallel to grain line) between the two horizontal lines. The back should be about 1" longer than the front, for me. If it is less than that, I need to adjust.At this point it gets tricky, because there are 2 ways to add the length. One is by moving the shoulder seam forward (adding to back and taking away from front), or by slashing across back and spreading (can use same slash I used for the forward head adjustment in step 1a). These two methods are NOT equivalent, and which to use depends on the fit in the front. Either using a muslin or by pinning the tissues together at shoulder and sideseam, I examine the fit. If there is too much length in the front, I shift the shoulder seam forward. If the front length is good, then, while wearing the pinned tissue, I reach forward with both arms. If the pinned tissue shifts backward to allow that reach, that's a sure sign extra length is needed in the back (by slicing across the back). sometimes both are needed (shift half the amount forward at shoulder, and add the other half by slicing across back).3. Now the sleeve needs to be adjusted. This has been discussed elsewhere in Gatherings, and in Threads magazine. There are several ways to do it: --simply move the shoulder point forward by the adjusted amount. This can cause pull lines on the sleeve cap, which will require further adjustment.--leave sleeve as it is and simply rotate it in the armhole seam, so that the shoulder point aligns with the new shoulder seam postilion (this means underarm seam will not line up with sideseam, which is not good aesthetically)--redraw the sleeve cap curves using string and pins (see the Fashion Incubator website: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/sleeve_drafting_tutorial.html). This method gives the best sleeve fit, and can actually improve on an ill-drawn sleeve cap: The curve of the sleeve cap on the back should be gentle and mostly on bias. The curve on the front cap should be steep, and closer to vertical, for the best fit and ease of movement.Cat

    2. DONNAKAYE | | #8

      This has been a very interesting thread to follow.  Let me mention something that Bishop Method teaches, for what it's worth.

      One of the great things about Bishop Method, and one the magical things that Edna Bryte Bishop did for home sewers, is that it teaches absolute truisms in pattern design and construction, in other words, what comprises a good basic pattern.  And one of those teachings -- Bishop teachers out there, correct me if I'm wrong or my brain has gone to mush -- is that one of the features of a good master pattern is that the front and back armholes are the same depth.  Now, this is not to say that alterations would not be required; of course they would.  But Edna Bryte Bishop disagreed with the notion that the back armhole depth of a good basic pattern should be longer than the front.  This teaching is not something that has not been tried and tested over and over and over again.  She taught that this almost always created more problems than it solved.  Commercial pattern bodices have consistently been the proof of this.

      Just thought I'd throw that two cents in.

      Y'all may have stumbled upon the Sandra Betzina/Vogue Patterns disaster, wherein Vogue altered the design of her pants pattern for the Today's Fit without her knowledge.  This is a perfect example of the pattern companies (sorry, Vogue!) thinking they know more than the home sewer.  I think we get the idea that the "big boys" somehow know more secrets of good pattern design and construction than we do.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reality is that we as  home sewers are in the trenches struggling with poor pattern design absolutely every time we open up a commercial pattern.  The independent pattern companies are attempting to change that trend, and I applaud them for that.  It's about time we have something else to choose from.

      Every pattern that we buy should contain good basic design features.  Good example?  The pants patterns.  Bishop teachers learned through the years (from hands-on fitting of thousands of home sewers) that a good basic pants pattern is straight of grain on the center back seam and has a front inseam slightly longer than back.  Now, again, this doesn't mean that alterations are not necessary.  No one is a perfect fit for any pattern, and if they are, they're just downright lucky (it doesn't take any particular fitting skill for that lucky individual to construct a well-fitting garment), but Bishop Method teaches (or taught), what am I supposed to look for in any pattern, as a starting point, to eliminate my fitting frustration?

      Well, back to your chat!

  4. cat42 | | #7

    Have you ever compared RTW with your patterns, to find out what is different?Regarding how to position the sleeve, see the post I made earlier in this thread, in response to 7243.6.Basically, something has to change regarding the sleeve. For me, I think the best method is to redraw the sleeve cap following the method described on the Fashion Incubator site (http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/sleeve_drafting_tutorial.html). A bit tedious, but the best method. And you can learn something about sleeve cap shape in the bargain!I don't think it works too well to simply move the shoulder dot forward on the sleeve, as it causes pull lines in the sleeve cap. The method described in Fit For Real People suggests simply rotating sleeve as it is, in the armhole so that the shoulder dot matches up with the new shoulder position. But this causes the sleeve underarm seam not to align with the bodice side seam.

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