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Pattern Adjustments

TrishyBob | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Can someone please tell me the best way to adjust the back pattern piece when there is a tightness across the back about 3 to 4 inches below the bottom of the sleeve when the arms are pulled forward.  I have tried every adjustment I could find in my Vogue and Better Homes and Garden Sewing books and so far have wound up with the  back either to large or to tight and still have tightness in the same place. Also have trouble with the hemline sticking out in the back and side seams not straight.  I have tried many patterns and the best one for fit is a yoke back like in a shirt, but would like to have a good fitting jacket back without a yoke.


  1. jjgg | | #1

    do you have large shoulder blades?The reason the yoke style fits is because they usually incorporate a small dart in the seam where the yoke attaches to the lower back. The lower back is not a straight edge, but slightly curved down at the side seam, while the lower edge of the yoke is straight across.What you need is a shoulder dart in your patterns. I'm afraid I can't explain how to do that in this post, but, in a nutshell, you would slit the pattern in the shoulder area, about 4 inches or so down (half way to the bottom of the arm hole) then slash at 90* to bring it into the armhole, angle this section out so you have a dart take up in the shoulder area. You then need to true up the lines. This does not change the armhole length, nor the overall back, but gives you the ease in the shoulder blade area where you need it.

    1. TrishyBob | | #2

      Thanks for your help. My problem is not in the shoulder blade area but about 4 inches below the bottom of the arm hole. When I pull my arms forward, the back pulls below the arm holes and feels tight the entire width of the back. I have tried the standard adjustments shown in the sewing books (slashing pattern from shoulder to below the arm hole and that doesn't work, it doesn't put the fullness where it is needed, below the arm hole. I have also tried slashing from the bottom of the back pattern and pulling apart, forming diamond shape and that doesn't do anything except make the bottom larger. There has to be a way to add fullness to the area below the arm hole across the back to the other armhole without making the back at shoulders and hips to big. Any help would be appreciated.

      1. jjgg | | #3

        would it be possible to post a picture? How high (or low) are the armholes? Do you have any style that fits well? a princess line?

  2. Teaf5 | | #4

    It's very possible that your armholes are too low or deep, so that moving the arm is tugging the back forward with the sleeve.  There are a lot of good discussions about higher, shorter armscyes in the archives of this forum, particularly in the "conductor's jacket" thread.

    The lower armscyes on most commercial patterns create a lot of fitting problems and tend to work only for mannequins that never move their arms.  Raising the armscye at least two inches (and making the shoulder seam an inch shorter) can make a tremendous improvement in fit and comfort in any jacket or blouse.

    1. TrishyBob | | #5

      Thanks for your help.  I have  decided that the arm hole has to have something to do with this problem.  When adding fabric across the back, the back gets larger and out of proportion making it hang bad and look bad.  I will go to the Archives and see what I can find.  I don't know why armhole adjustments are not mentioned in patterns or in most sewing books.

      I have also run into this problem in store bought jackets and have one now that I will have to donate, since it is so tight across the back, it is uncomfortable.

      1. Cathie | | #6

        I have lots of discomfort with armholes, and consequently, also sleeves. The archives does have super info. (conductor's coat, etc). Also, Threads has an article you can print on-line, on armholes, and sleeve fit (both recent). In the latter, the author also talks about the fit of the back bodice, which is very helpful. I am always reading on pattern re-drafting, as RTW is horrendous on me, and although I love to sew, I really need more expertise, As you say, the usual sewing books do not have enough help. So, here is a good place to find some. Also, I collect older sewing and/or pattern making books, and was very interested in one where I read this: to lessen strain across the back bodice, add "crescents" into the armholes at the back. Trim back as needed. I am going to try this. Do you have a full bust? I think part of my trouble is the front bodice wasn't full enough, so was "stealing" from the back. We have to be eclectic, and try out different things, as we are all doing. Sharing really helps. As someone else said, the incorrectly placed armhole seam and /or shoulder seam restricts movement, and makes the garment appear too "small", whereas in reality the parts are in the wrong place. I am famous for making lovely garments, that look super on a hanger. Now, I really, really am motivated to learn about fitting. Good luck!!!!!!!

        1. TrishyBob | | #7

          Thanks for your help. After reading the response to my question, I am convinced that the problem is the armhold. I have tried adding fullness to the back and that doesn't really work. It makes the jacket/shirt out of proportion and hangs awful. I like the crescent idea and think I will try that soon. I am working on a pattern now trying to get it adjusted so that I can make a jacket.  To answer your question about the bust, mine is in pitiful shape. I had a mastectomy (single)  last year and that has really made fitting a problem. I will keep trying and thanks again.


          1. Cathie | | #8

            Thanks for the reply! Glad you like the crescent idea. Must try that soon myself. Re: masectomy, I do believe Sandra Betzina has a nice section on this in "Fast Fit". Or maybe do a search here. I am struggling away with fit, but, at least it is interesting, and a learning/sharing experience. Happy sewing!!!!!!!!!

          2. TrishyBob | | #12


            I took your advice and have a jacket with "crescent" armhole additions ready to stitch. This crescent makes sense, but will have to try it to be sure.  I went to Amazon to see about Betzini's book and after reading the reviews, decided to try someone else. Not knowing the expertise of some of the reviewers, it is hard to tell if they really know what they are commenting on. I don't mean that to be ugly or too critical, but a person who has never sewn  anything but pillow cases is not going to be an expert on fitting jackets.  Some of the reviews were good, but most were not, so I will go another direction.  I feel like such an idiot. About a 100 years ago, I went to a Lutterloh System Pattern making class, bought the manual, curves, etc. and never used them.  I don't remember anything about the class or how it went, but obviously I was not interested or I would have tried making patterns. Anyway, I remembered having some of the material and found it this weekend.  I am going to see if I can do something with the material. It looks a lot simplier than a book I bought recently and returned. It was a Rene Berg book on pattern making and for some reason  it was just beyond me.


          3. Cathie | | #13

            Thanks for the news. I have been fairly desperate re: fitting too. I have the Lutterloh System, which I got at a charity shop. And, you can see a video on-line which explains it. I could dig out my S. Betzina book, and check for you, but, the sewing room is in a rumpus at present - total re-haul. I live in a French province, and at library had found a basic sewing book by Renee Berg, in French. With good pattern re-drafting tips. If we do pattern re-drafting, rather than all from scratch, it is easier. This is a work in progress here. I also found out a little about Nancy Zieman and her "Pivot and Slide" method of pattern alteration. Since English book stores are not available here, I get books at charity shops, in French or English. Another good source is Linda Flint's blog. She must do a ton of pattern alterations, and explains how she does it, using pivot and slide, mixed with slash and spread. Now, her figure is her own unique shape, but, the techniques she describes can be used and modified. And you could try to get some of Nancy's books on fitting (she has a site). I have 4 garments I have been obsessing over, almost done, and want to finish (?), and graduate to cutting out things that work better for my body. Linda's blog:



          4. TrishyBob | | #14

            Hey Cathie:  Don't worry about looking anything up right now.  Sounds like you have a ton of work to do and you don't need anymore.  I have some things cut out that I need  to get stitched and when I finish those, I am going to try some pattern drafting. I want to learn that, but I need to get some things finished so that I can concentrate on the drafting. Once I get into the Lutt.System and find out what I can do, I will probably start looking for more books, etc. Right now I have about all I can handle. Thanks for your offer. I went to Linda's site and she has some good ideas to offer. Thanks for your help.


          5. Cathie | | #16

            It's no problem adding the info. Was thinking about it in bed. Can help others too, and it helps me clarrify. I dug up "Fast Fit', and she has section on masectomy, very good, and help for wide back, and wide back/narrow shoulders. I checked the index, though there would be more help in other sections, like when using multi-size patterns, etc. I also checked a list  I copied from Renne Bergh, on the differences between pattern companies.For example, Stil and Burda have wider backs. Probably New Look too, from my experience. Like that poster said, you can flat pattern measure to check, and add ease, then alter where necessary. I'm a real beginner here, but, sharing with others helps me visualize it all better, and cheers me up too, when I get too obsessive. Coffee helps too, having one now. Am going to review measuring in the Angelina book also! Happy sewing!!!!!!

          6. Cathie | | #17

            Hi ladies. We influence and motivate each other. I went and looked at the Angelina book (The Fitting Book Tome 2, Vol. 1). Previously I was fairly over my head with this, but, after the post about it, see it more clearly. There is an extensive section, at the beginning, about measuring. All sorts of convoluted measurements, but, worth it! There is even a way to find the otherwise obscure place for the armhole seam, and marking it with eye brow pencil (or similar), using a narrow elastic. Although seemingly "dry", this book has much needed info. Another bit caught my eye: How to find out about sleeve cap space needed!!!! And, for anyone brave enough to try the Lutterloh System, from Germany, where apparently ladies are curvier, there is a great blog by Katherine, who only uses this:


          7. Elizard | | #9

            Have you tried measuring the pattern and comparing it to your own measurements?
            What I mean is from shoulder point to shoulder point (over the back) and comparing that to the length from the shoulder point of the pattern to CB at the neck?
            And for measuring the back width it is important to keep your arms crossed in front of you, and then measure from the 'crease' where the arm and back join and then measure the distance from the line/measure across the back up the spine to the nape of the neck. This you then compare to the distance from the CB neck down CB and square your back width out. Ideally the back width should be at the sleeve inset point for the back.
            This is some info from a book by Angelina di Bello (about fitting)which I got for a Christmas present - it tells how to take the mesurements from yourself and the pattern and correct them. I've currently got to measuring the pattern.
            If you want me to explain further, or could give a bit more info on your problem I might be able to help.
            Sorry for the lengthy post,

          8. TrishyBob | | #10

            Elizard: Thanks for the info.  I have never thought or heard about pulling your arms forward to measure the distance between arm crease to arm crease to get back measurements. All my books refer to standing straight and measuring that way. However, it makes sense and I will try that.


            I have measured pattern pieces against my back width to determine width and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It depends on how a garment is made. I believe the problem lies in the arm hole and I am experimenting with some info that someone posted on adding "crescents" to the arm hole. I did that and tried on the pattern pinned together and it looked and felt OK. I will see when I get it stitched.


            I have this problem with most patterns I buy and also with store bought blouses and jackets.  I have a wide back and depending on how a garment to designed I may or may not have a problem. Jackets/shirts with yokes fit fine.


            Thanks for your help.



          9. Elizard | | #15

            Hi Pat,
            Glad I could help a bit.

          10. Cathie | | #11

            This last post is super helpful. I have been having fitting "nightmares", and have been a consequent sewing "slump". However, seeing my way out now. I  went and checked my Angelina di Bello book, "The Fitting Book", which I got at a charity shop, and felt was over my head. Narrowing things down a little, after the post, I looked at the diagrams for measuring, very clear, and think they could be a real help to others too. We are all too familiar with the basic measurements of waist, hips, bust, and maybe back waist, and know that does not "cut it" - we don't end up where we wish to be. This book can really help us out. (Angelina is thinking more of the "hard to fit" ladies).

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