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help in shortening shoulder

fabricholic | Posted in Fitting on

I have a problem. I made a blouse and thought that the shoulders and neck were too big, even though I took off 1/2″ on shoulders. Every where else fit good. Now, I want to make a short sleeve top. I held the pattern front to me and it looks like I need to trim the shoulders 2″. That is a lot, but I thought I would try Nancy Zeiman’s pivot and slide method. It just doesn’t work. The top of the pattern is way down on the original. I thought o.k., I’ll just chop off 2″ and have it meet in the middle of the armscye, but what will that do to the sleeve when I try to insert sleeves? I don’t know how to change the top of a sleeve. Any ideas? I am in desperate need of a top and pant pattern that will fit me. I need new clothes that will fit, badly. I don’t think I will have much problem with the pants pattern. I’m pretty good at altering pants patterns. Maybe I shouldn’t say that until I do it.



  1. janlorraine | | #1

    You really need to make yourself a fitting pattern that will help you alter any commercial pattern so that it fits you perfectly. This involves a bit of work, but is well worth it in the end. If you can't make a paper tape dress form (which I highly recommend), at least make a saran wrap pattern. You can find the instructions here: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/cgi-bin/mt/3.33/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=2&search=saran+wrap
    You will notice once you have your fitting pattern that the commercial patterns all have inches of excess in the shoulder and armhole areas. Ignore this and stick with what will fit you. The excess ease that the commercial pattern companies put in is a work-around to make a pattern fit any number of people. They end up fitting no one. Trust me on this; I have learned this the hard way and now I know. Good luck. Jan

    1. fabricholic | | #2

      This makes me feel a little better. I thought I had very narrow shoulders, instead of just narrow. I see on the site that she also talks about swayback, which is not really sway back, but big behind, like me. This will take not only a lot of work, but a lot of time. I really want to make something, badly for myself. I might just try taking off the two inches like I said and swing it for adjusting the top of the sleeves to fit, for now. I don't have a sewing buddy to help and hubby wouldn't last as long as it takes to make a saran wrap pattern. I want to thank you for helping me. I just don't know how to get it done.Thanks,

      1. janlorraine | | #4

        If you can't get your husband to help you do this, try enlisting a friend. This goes really fast; I just did it for someone and I don't think it took more than 20 minutes. After I had the saran wrap around her, I went over it with cellophane packing tape to hold everything together. It is important to mark the bust points, shoulder lines, waist and shoulderblades before you cut it off. You will not be sorry you took the trouble to do this -- making a garment that does not fit perfectly is a waste of time and effort.

        1. fabricholic | | #6

          Amen, to that. When I get through with this, will it be like a sloper or a dress form? I could get my daughter to help for 20 minutes. She will tease me about this forever, though. She loves to pick at me.Marcy

  2. Josefly | | #3

    >>>"The top of the pattern is way down on the original."

    I'm having trouble visualizing what you mean by this.

    I thought maybe I could help you a little with the sleeve changes - I recently had to make some changes with armscye and sleeve in fitting a dress for my daughter. I used Nancy Zieman's pivot method. I may not be able to help at all, but I'm at least curious about what is happening with your pattern. What if you take a tuck in the pattern in the center of the shoulder seam, the tuck amounting to 2 inches? that would bring the shoulder point in. You would true the shoulder seam. You may have to then pivot from the corrected shoulder point to get to the correct bust measurement, but the armscye would remain the same. Does this sound like what you've already tried?

    1. fabricholic | | #5

      No, I took it off the end of shoulder, but this sounds good. Now, where would I pivot from after this? I will draw something to show you what I was trying to do.Marcy

    2. fabricholic | | #7

      I hope I can the picture of pattern to upload. The pointer is pointed where the pattern falls down below the original outline of pattern. The next picture, the pointer is pointing to where I just angled toward the 2" mark on shoulder from the half way point of the armscye. Maybe you can help me figure out where to go from here. I like the idea of taking to inches out of middle of shoulder.Thanks,

      1. Josefly | | #8

        Thanks, Marcy, those are great photos and I can see now what you're talking about. I do think what janlorraine has advised you to do is a good idea - I need to do that for myself. If you still want to make a muslin with the pattern you have, though, I think what you will need to do depends on how the rest of the pattern fits. You mentioned you're familiar with Nancy Zieman's pivot method, so, assuming the armscye and sleeve, bust ease and bust depth of the pattern suit your measurements, you could do the following. Trace completely around the original pattern piece. Then, If just cutting off the shoulder by 2 inches, the way you've already drawn it, seems to match your shoulder slope, then I think you could start from that point. But if not, you may want to take the tuck afore mentioned, so that you narrow the shoulder while maintaining the original pattern's "drop" from neck to shoulder point. If you do the tuck, draw a vertical line parallel to the grainline in the center of the shoulder seam, and fold out a 1-inch wide tuck (taking up the two inches), and then draw a new "trued" shoulder seam from the neck seam to armscye. That will be your new shoulder seam - that you will trace onto your new pattern. Then, to draw the armscye, you use the shoulder point to pivot, that is, the point where the shoulder SEAM and armscye/sleeve SEAM intersect. Match that point on the original pattern with your new pattern, and pivot the original pattern out until the underarm/side seam lines up as closely as possible with the underarm/side seam you originally traced. Then trace the armscye. ( Then you use another pivot point, the one where the side seam and armscye/sleeve seams intersect, to re-trace the side seam, pivoting back in to maintain the original waist size.) What you will have done is keep the same armscye shape, so the sleeve will fit. Is this at all clear? Don't hesitate to ask for clarification.Excuse me if this is more than you want/need to know. I had to do these adjustments, and it worked out for me, but I don't consider myself an expert, so if there are errors here in what I've suggested, I hope someone will point them out. I don't have the Zieman book in hand to reference. I'll be eager to hear what works for you. Joan

        1. fabricholic | | #9

          Yes, this helps greatly. I do have Nancy's book, but she never takes off more than about 3/4". You explained this very well. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me.Marcy

          1. Josefly | | #10

            You have a point about the amount to be taken off. I certainly would make a muslin first. Good luck.

          2. fabricholic | | #11

            Thanks, I will.Marcy

      2. HeartFire2 | | #13

        when doing something like this, you want to make sure you are not lengthening the armscye. with your pivot method you have added significant length to the armscye of that piece.

        1. fabricholic | | #15

          Aha, that is what I was afraid of, ruining the shape of the sleeve and I definately don't need a huge armscye. I will try taking it out in the middle of the shoulder by pinching it. Thanks.

        2. Josefly | | #16

          HeartFire, I'm not sure I understand. I know you're responding to Fabricholic, but since I described the pivot method from the shoulder point, I'm curious. Are you referring to her drawings, or to the pivot method from the shoulder point, which doesn't increase the length of the armscye?

          1. HeartFire2 | | #17

            I was referring to her drawings, I'm not real familiar with the pivot method, I've heard (read) several people talk about it. It's Nancy Zeiman? I'll have to look it up

  3. solosmocker | | #12

    Did you purchase your pattern according to the directions in Ziemans book? She uses a measurement of the crease at the top of your armpit and measures to the other side. This then is correlated to the proper pattern size. Starting with a narrower pattern and doing a full bust alteration with her pivot and slide method should help. But then again you may be doing that already. Hope this helps.

    Edit: Sorry, Marcy, I just duplicated my advice in the other thread. Hope this gets worked out for you so you can start sewing for yourself and be happy with the fit. You have gotten some great advice here. Many of us did not have the internet in the earlier segment of our learning curve and learned a lot thru trial and error and over a long period of time. It is so wonderful to have this resource, isn't it?

    Edited 3/11/2007 10:52 pm ET by solosmocker

    1. fabricholic | | #14

      Yes, it is. Before I gained so much, it was a lot easier to sew for myself. I would just take the 1/2" off the shoulders. I forgot about her saying to buy pattern by that measurement. I will have to see how this collates to my pattern. Thanks.Marcy

  4. sewingkmulkey | | #18


    I'm wondering if you are sewing with the proper sized pattern.  If you are full busted you should use your high bust measurement when selecting a size instead of the actual bust measurement.  I have this fitting problem and always get a better fit in the shoulders, neck and upper chest area if I choose my pattern size by my high bust measurement.  Of course I then have to do a FBA. 

    Sorry if you already know this but thought I'd offer this as a possible solution to your narrow shoulders.




    1. fabricholic | | #19

      I'm going to do this. I have the other size on another pattern envelope of the same number and I will see how much better it works. Thank you.

      1. Josefly | | #20

        After seeing your photos in the other thread "Is the pattern too big?", it does appear that the neck and chest width are involved too, and the changes are more involved than just shoulder length, so I concur with other posters about using a different size pattern. It seems overwhelming sometimes, but I encourage you to keep going. I'm trying to do the same with a pants pattern.By the way, in fitting my daughter, using Nancy Zieman's method of measuring from arm-crease to arm-crease across the chest, the size we ended up with was one size larger than suggested by that fitting method, same as another poster on this thread said.

        1. fabricholic | | #21

          I just told MaryMary that I measured and it is 15 1/2" which makes it a size 20, the same size I was using. I do think I need a smaller pattern above the chest. I will try the 18 for neck and shoulders, I suppose. Can't do anything too complicated until I'm off on Saturday, though. Thanks to everyone for all their suggestions. You guys are the best!!!Marcy

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