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Princess seam problems

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user-987476 | Posted in Fitting on

I’m in the process of altering a jacket pattern that has the armhole type of princess seams, using Nancy Zieman’s “Pivot & Slide” method. (I’m pretty short & full-busted.) It all seemed to be going well, until I made a practice garment. Now I have a problem. The back of the jacket looks all “bagged out”, or you might describe it as “puffy”, at the princess seam. After the alteration I ended up with a very pronounced curve to that seam. I was wondering if I had maybe stretched it out, but I think I eased it as well as possible. I had this same problem before with another princess-seamed pattern, and I never did solve it…I just put it in storage. Despite the fact that I’ve built up quite a sewing library, I can’t find anything that really addresses this problem. In fact, most information on princess seams deals with the bust fitting (which makes sense). (there aren’t even any pictures of backs.) Anyway, I was thinking of pinching the fullness out, but I’m have concerns about not removing too much ease & causing it to be too fitted. Even though I’m an experienced sewer, I managed to pretty much avoid princess seams for years. If anyone has any suggestions for me & would be very grateful!

Replies

  1. HeartFire | | #1

    Rosanne,

    just what are you trying to change in the back of the garment? the princess seam at the curve portion should not have any easing in it, the curve part is more 'decorative so to speak as the fitting portion is all done on the straight leg of it where the long waist dart would be. the curve should start at the top tip of where that dart was and is essentially just a pleasing curve towards the armhole, you may angle it to meet a seam in a 2 piece sleeve. There should be no "ease" in the lower portion of the seam either. If you have really pokey shoulder blades then you could incorporate a tiny bit of ease into the seam. even in the front over the bust there is usually no more than 1/4 inch of ease. the fullness of the bust cup is from the curve of the side front pattern piece.

    Hope this helps

    Judy

    1. User avater
      user-987476 | | #3

      Thanks, Judy so much for taking the time to try & help me. You asked what I'm trying to change in the back of the garment...basically I'm just trying to enlarge the pattern & get a good fit.  According to the instructions in Nancy Zieman's "Fitting Finesse" book, I should be taking a size 8 pattern & enlarging it to fit my 39" bust.  According to my measurements, I would normally use a size 16, or even 18. Quite a stretch, I know,  but her premise is that it's easier to enlarge the bust, waist & hips, than it is to alter the neck & shoulders. I have to admit that the neck & shoulders & arms did fit wonderfully!  Getting back to my jacket, though...I have to say that the back pattern pieces are very curvy, there aren't any straight parts, not even when you examine the original, unaltered pattern (Vogue #9587). The seam joining the side back with the center back is very curved, probably even more so because of the enlargements. You said "the princess seam at the curve shouldn't have any easing in it", but Sandra Betzina said in "Power Sewing" pg. 97, that they must be eased together and she said"" this is no easy task: Not only is one piece larger than the other, but  you must ease two opposite curves together, an "in curve" and an "out curve"."" So, I did follow her instructions carefully on how to ease it as well as I could, but perhaps I still managed to stretch it out. I thought that maybe this was a fitting problem & that's why I was looking for input. I'm going to go back & try a couple of other things.  I've photocopied everything I could about princess seams & put it in one folder, but it's at times like this that you realize that there could be more out there. This is my first time using the "Gatherings" forum, & I have to say that I really appreciate being able to be in touch with other sewers like this! Even if I don't find a solution, I am grateful for the interest shown & the opportunity to talk things over with you creative people!

      Thanks,

      Rosanne

      1. HeartFire | | #5

        Rosanne,

        I tried to look up the pattern online, but couldn't find it, I'll check it out next time I'm at a store, but, with a princess or any curved seam, you are sewing a concave to a convex curve and there will be ripples (ease?) along the seam allowance when the two pieces are placed right sides together, but actually on the sewing line itself there really shouldn't be any ease IN THE BACK, there is some over the bust, when these pieces are drafted, the back is a flat piece, the curve is drawn and cut apart (and then seam allowances added) but if you put them back together again, seam line to seam line the two lengths should be exactly the same. that being said, there could be some in your pattern as a design issue, I'll try to take a look at it tomorrow, but I have a boy scout function to deal with all day!

        Also, to try and change a pattern form a sz 8 to a 16 is quite a bit of change, and I havent done that, I also don't have the books you refer to so I can't check what they said, but in my pattern drafting class in school the back was always a flat curve with no ease.

        Judy

  2. mem1 | | #2

    Rosanne, It is a mistake to sew princess seams as you would other seams as part of it is on the cross and will stretch out of shape. I have found the following method works very well and especially if you are using a check fabric.  Mark the seam lines with a a tacked line of stitches, then turn under the outer panel seam allowance and place it on the marked seam line on the center piece  . Pin these in place with the pins perpendicular to the seam ease in the fabric to match the notches(I mark these with a row of tacking perpendicular to the seam ),you will end up with lots of pins in the curved part of the seam. . Then when you are happy with the seam use a needle and thread and slip stitch the two together from the right side .When completed take the pins out and open up the seam on the inside . You will see a row of little stitches perpendicular to the seam, use the machine to stitch through these .meld the stitches and then press the seam open and use a taylors ham if you have one over the chest or shouder blade part of the seam. If you dont have a ham a small cushion will do.Blast the fabric with steam and then let it dry while draped over the ham.this helps give the fabric shape over the bust and the shoulder blade.

    I love making princess garments especially in wool and the amount of work involved in this method makes it worth the effort.  Good luck

    1. User avater
      user-987476 | | #4

      Dear Mem-Thanks very much for your help. I though your directions sounded very similar to the directions I was following from Sandra Betzina's "Power Sewing" book (pg. 97) on sewing curved seams. You include even more details, and I admit, it does sound like added effort, but I do like the look of a beautifully done seam, no matter what it takes, so that may have to be the way to go. I printed out your message & I'm including it in my file on "princess seams". I thought I was being ultra careful not to stretch out the seam, being aware of it being on the cross, so I kept thinking that I was having some sort of problem resulting from the big alterations that I made on the pattern. I hope that I'll eventually succeed, because I love princess seams & I keep reading that they're supposed to be flattering to big-busted gals like me!

      By the way, what did you mean when you wrote, "use the machine to meld the stitches"? That's an unfamiliar term to me.

      Thanks again for your time & trouble,

      Rosanne

      1. FitnessNut | | #6

        "Melding" the stitches is to press them flat before clipping (if necessary) and pressing open. What this does is hard to describe, but it sort of "melts" the stitching into the fabric so it doesn't sit on top of the fabric surface. Try it with a scrap. After pressing flat, if you run your fingertip along the stitching it doesn't seem to be on top, but rather a part of the fabric. This is an essential first step to pressing professional looking seams.

        You've received good advice here about the princess seams...there is not usually any ease in the curved portion of the back seam, only in the front, around the bust area. The seamlines should be the same length, but often it doesn't appear that way because the seam allowances are not (due to the convex and concave seams). It is really easy to stretch things on the bias, so be careful!

        1. User avater
          user-987476 | | #7

          hmmmm...I guess I've done that but never realized that it was called melding! Thanks, Sandy! and Judy, too!

          Since writing the previous messages, I've gone back & played with my pattern pieces, and I see that it's true...the seam lines of the center back piece & the side back piece are the same length, so they should fit together without having to ease them.

          1. HeartFire | | #8

            Rosanne,

            have you had any luck with your jacket? I was re-reading your first message and the problem may be in the shape of the side back piece if you enlarged that, it may be shaped wrong giving you some of the bagging in that area

            Judy

          2. User avater
            user-987476 | | #10

            Hi Judy!

            Well, I'm working on it! I've been doing a bit of research & I'm making some changes to the pattern. What I didn't say before was that this was a project I was working on 6 months ago & after the the problem with the back came up I put it aside for a "little while". In the meantime I've gained some weight & I knew I was going to have to make some adjustments for that anyway.  I wanted to have this back bagging thing figured out so I could straighten everything at once. I also have a problem with the front hemline raising up due to my large bust, & I've decided that I'd like the jacket to be longer than the pattern style calls for, too! I'm going to wait & see what effect (if any) these changes have on the back fitting problem first, before I change it.

            I think you might be right about the curving of the back seam, although from the looks of it, it compares pretty well to the original pattern.  However, when I took a tuck in the seam in the first muslin, it looked better.

            I'll let you know how things turn out!

            Thanks,

            Rosanne

          3. MaryAnnD | | #11

            Rosanne, I didn't read every post in this thread, but there is another resource to look in that I didn't see mentioned.  Check out chapter 17 in Palmer/Pletsch's "Fit for Real People."  There are several pages on fitting the princess seam starting at about page 149.... I have the page number memorized as I never try to adjust my princess seams without the book open right in front of me.  I've had great success using their method for large and small full bust adjustments.

            Mary Ann Duff

          4. SewNancy | | #12

            Absolutely the best fitting directions out there.  I have narrow shoulders, large bust  straight back and rounded shoulders!  This is the only place that actually showed me how to deal with these and put it together.  The other thing that really  helped was to make a duct tape dummy.  It is much easier to work on a mannequin than yourself. 

            Nancy

          5. User avater
            user-987476 | | #14

            Thanks,  I do have that book, & I agree it's great. I'm still getting familiar with it, though.

            Rosanne

          6. mem1 | | #15

            this book IS VERY GOOD and well worth getting.

            If your fabric is woll possibly the bagging could be fixed with a shot of steam to shrink it back a bit if its due to the bias grain issue???

      2. mem1 | | #13

        Hello, I have just read about your very curvey seams and am even more convinced that sewing them in the normal way would be mistake t. The way I describe means that it is much easer to deal with the difference in length of the pieces. Melding is ironing the stitching before you open out the seam flat.  regards marianne

  3. EileenB5 | | #9

    Rosanne

    I have the same issue, but you can't add the ease evenly all the way around.  I measure my back and front separately and thn adjust from there. Unlike a skirt where the ease can add all the way around, a jacket has sleeves and so separates the from the back. If you put too much ease in the back you get bagging while the front can still be tight!  The same is true on a skirt, it may fit the circumference but the seams are more toward the front than the back.  I often cut my patterns from two sizes.  I make the back a 10 and then cut a 14 for the front and then alter that if I still need to.  For the sleeves I split the difference and use a 12!  :>)

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