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Conversational Threads

shoulder and armscye fitting

cat42 | Posted in Fitting on

I recently read an article in a sewing magazine about how to spot and correct pattern drafting errors in commercial patterns (and now I can’t remember the details and can’t find the article). The part that interested me had to do with front and back armhole depth measured vertically from shoulder to base of armhole. It said that the back depth should be longer (can’t recall if 0.5 or 1 inch longer) than the front depth, to keep the garment from sliding backward on the shoulders.

I have a pattern that slides back, and when I measure the armhole, the front and back depth are the same. So I’m thinking I should add to the back length in the armhole area. I remember the article said to add the length at the shoulder, but this will also add to the distance around the back neck, so that I’ll have to add to the collar, as well as the back slope of the sleeve to match the added length. But I don’t want a bigger back neck. How would I avoid that, while still solving the armhole problem?

Can anyone tell me what the correct adjustment should be? Also, did anyone else see the article? I think it would have been in Threads or Sew News, in 2006 before October. Or perhaps late 2005. I’ve checked out the article on pattern drafting erros in volume 125 of Threads, and that is not the same article as the one I’m interested in.


  1. User avater
    Becky-book | | #1

    Good morning Cat!

    I am working out sleeve and armscye issues too.

    Try adding your 1/2 inch just at the arm edge and angle your new shoulder seam to zero change at the neck edge.  I need to do this because of forward shoulder points!

    Hope this helps,


    PS I'll look through my Threads later today for that article.

  2. Cathie | | #2

    Great you wrote this. I am looking into the same issue at present, and went thru some of my printed info (from computer) this a.m. Barbara Emodi and Barbara Weiland have written on this, and , also Threads article, Not Your Ordinary T Shirt, by Marcy Tilton, goes into the necessary pattern changes. The last article you can down load. About the other 2, I do not have super handy, but, if you can't find, ask me and I will check. What you want is shoulder depth, and also probably forward shoulder alteration. Then some change to sleeve. Good luck.

    1. cat42 | | #3

      I have most back issues of Threads, so if you know the volume numbers of the articles you mention, that would help me locate them.
      Thanks for the help!

      1. Cathie | | #6

        Sounds very good. You can get the Tilton article on-line (Threads). I pulled out the other 2 articles. One is "Fit for You", by Barbara Weiland, which is most likely from Sew News archives. This should help, all about armscyes (and sleeves). The other one is not as specificly on that, but could be very helpful, "Stop! Are You Sure That Pattern Will Work?", by Barbara Emodi. I think Threads archives. About the 3 articles I mentioned, I got free on-line, from archives. I am dealing with this at present, in a T shirt. Even though the Tilton article is on T's, she goes a lot into fit, and this is very well explained, and could help a lot of people. Barbara Emodi and Barbara Weiland have other similar articles, to be sure. I think B. Emodi wrote one for Threads recently, but I did not see it, as I do not get the mag. Good luck. Keep us posted!!!!








        Edited 6/27/2007 8:41 pm ET by Cathie

        1. cat42 | | #7

          Thank you for searching out these articles! I found the Marcy Tilton article about T-shirts in volume 65 of Threads to be helpful, in that it does indicate the back armhole depth should be 1/2 inch longer than the front. She makes the adjustment at the shoulder by taking 1/4 inch from the front and adding 1/4 inch to the back, thus not changing the overall size of neckline, and requiring a shift in sleeve positioning. This is just what I'd decided to try, but is different from what was suggested in the article I can't find (it added to the back at the shoulder, and made no changes to the front armhole depth)I will look up the other articles you mention. And keep everyone posted, both on what I find, and how my project is going.

          1. cat42 | | #9

            I'm still looking for that lost article, and I ran across a book I'd forgotten I had: Easy Guide to Sewing Tops & T-Shirts by Marcy Tilton (Taunton, 1998, http://www.taunton.com/store/pages/070367_tcpg.asp). Her article "Not Your Ordinary T-Shirt) includes some of the valuable information in this book. Chapter 4 on 'Fit' includes more information than the article on armholes, shoulders, and sleeves, as well as body length, bust, side seam shape, princess seams, etc. Other chapters deal with neckline style, fabric selection, sewing techniques, interfacing, etc.. Definitely worth checking out if still in print

          2. Cathie | | #10

            Hi there. Glad you found that book. Must still be available (or second-hand). Lying in bed I thought of more to add. Perhaps I said I have forward shoulders, sloping too, and narrow. Then big bust, slight rounded shoulders, and small neck. Another idea is to pin out a small tuck in your front bodice paper pattern, between the armholes (about 1/3 down), running horizontally across pattern. You can also make this taper to 0 at the armhole seams. If is runs all across you would have to pinch out some in the front side of sleeve cap, a dart/tuck in paper pattern. This I have not done yet, but have seen diagrams. (Also diagrams in a French sewing book, from 60's, with the paper sleeve with small dart on a diagonal, v.s at side cap horizontally, tucking out excess. Sandra Betzina recommends sleeve muslins, even if we are not making a total muslin, until we get the fit adjusted to our liking. Re: boat and wide necks and mid-shoulder idea, I was wondering about that. I think you could "fill in" the neck (maybe temporarily, on pattern, with paper) to get positioned. I had a similar problem with slip dresses: how to find armscye, or even bust spot. I did find a French chapter on it (slip dress fit) , in the series the book above is in, but I only marked, haven't read yet. Thanks for article summaries (helpful), and, new suggestions from Neukam and Fresia. Hubby will help me here. And, so right, the garment hangs from upper bodice. All this is complex, but a very worth while search/quest. Also, relaxing. Yesterday was very bad - some psycho neighbours were in my yard cutting down trees. Must take further action to protect ourselves. Sewing a life saver mentally, and, you get to wear it - oh, joy. Happy sewing and experimenting.

          3. cat42 | | #11

            Great ideas you have!
            About that diagonal tuck on a sleeve pattern to take length out of the front side only: I've done that before and it does work pretty well, with a little juggling. One question I had when I did it (and now don't recall how I resolved it) was after making that tuck, the sleeve cap on the top side of the tuck will be narrower than the bottom side. Which do you follow when truing the seam line? I think I split the difference, but then had to modify when sewing to follow the lower part (making the cap just a bit wider). This is hard to describe. I've attached a crude drawing of this dilemma. What do you think?Something else I've tried when using multi-size patterns, is to use, for example, the size 14 armhole and shoulder line on the front, and the size 16 armhole and shoulder line on the back, and then ease the back shoulder into the front, since it will be longer (or add a shoulder dart). This works well for me because my upper back is broad and my chest is narrow above my bust (a consequence of forward shoulders, I think). And also makes the font armhole depth less than the back's. And then I do a standard enlargement for my bust since it is basically a size 16, not a 14. This worked very well on a shoulder princess jacket (a Vogue-Sandra Betzina pattern). It's the best fitting fitted jacket I've ever made.I often resolve sewing problems in my dreams, and that happened last night. I remembered how that lost article resolved the longer back arscye issue with regard to the neckline. first, you add about an inch of extra tissue all along the back shoulder (you really only need 1/2 inch, but add the extra for 'in case'). Then you pinfit the pattern, pinning the front and back together along your actual shoulder (the seam allowance tissue points up on both pieces). This allows you to resolve shoulder slope, forward shoulder and armhole depth all at the same time. Hopefully the adjusted neckline will be the same total dimension as the original (the back part longer and the front part shorter by the same amount). But if not, then you have to adjust collar and facings. The sleeve cap will have to be adjusted for new shoulder position. Different experts have different ways to do this.
            1-- Some simply move the shoulder point forward (towards the front), but this usually causes drag lines in the sleeve cap. 2-- Others cut across the sleeve cap horizontally, slide the top part forward and true the seams. This is the method I prefer, but takes a bit of adjusting to get it right. 3-- Others leave the sleeve cap as it is and just rotate it forward in the armhole. This works, but then the underarm seams don't line up. If you want them to line up, you move part of the sleeve underarm from the front part of the sleeve to the back. (This is Sandra Betzina's method). If I can't get method 2 to work, I try this one.Here's my rough sleeve cap sketch. If you use method 2 above, you will have this same issue on both the front and back sides of the sleeve cap, and that's why I sometimes have trouble with that method.

          4. Cathie | | #12

            You are very thoughtful writing all this super info. I dream about sewing discussions, and am with the people, sewing/solving sewing puzzles. I am working on this "designer T", mostly with Tilton tips, and, was thinking it could be a sort of sloper, leading me into more complex sewing, that fits. I am about to add sleeve, and, though cut out, I was thinking I could tweak (using these tips now). I made a small mistake on neck (about 3/8 inches too high), and I have a short neck. Binding already on - next time will not do this 3/8 boo boo! Off for some volunteering, etc., so no more sewing for a few days. Alas. Finally am getting the info I need so I'm not just obsessing. Thanks!!!!!!!! Also, re: sleeve changes, a lot of great tips at Kathleen Fassanella's Fashion Incubator. You can search, if can't find, ask me, and I will be able to tell you. But am going out soon, and will be home late.

          5. cat42 | | #14

            I'm checking out the blog "Fashion Incubator." Thanks for the tip. I just checked out her insturctions to draft a sleeve; http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/sleeve_drafting_tutorial.html This seems like it might be a good method. In her process, it is clear that the back armhole is longer than the front, and the shoulder point ends up on the front side of the grain line drawn down the middle of the sleeve.Hers is an interesting process using drapery cord to capture the sleeve head curve, but I got lost where she started talking about adding ease. She mentions 2 "ease pins" but I can't see them in her photos. Here's what I think she's doing: First she identifies the "ease area" between the green arrows. These arrows are placed where the surve changes from convex (over the shoulder) to concave (under the arm) on both the front and back side. This is where the positioning dots are placed on a commercial pattern. She also marks these on her drapery cord with additional pins. Then she places one pin on her pattern at the green arrow point on the front side of the curve, as the first ease pin. She locates another pin the prescribed ease amount (1.25 inches in her example) up the slope from the first pin. How she draws the new ease curve is not mentioned, but I think she uses that drapery cord again, using the second ease pin as the stop point, and realigning the curve between the back green arrow and the "new" green arrow point on the front (the second ease pin). But I'm not sure.She also indicates the back slope needs more ease than the front, and I'm not sure how she accomplishes that, but I believe it has to do with setting her ease pins on the front (as opposed to the back) slope, and on her method of locating the sleeve notch on the new ease curve. She describes two methods to do this: one is geometric, and theother is mathematical.I'm gonna give this a try with my current project (the one where I made the back armhole longer than the front, and adjusted for forward shoulder and thick neck at the same time). It would be interesting to compare this method with that offered in the recent Threads issues on Draping for Plus Sizes, part 2.If you have a copy of Marcy Tilton's book on T-shirts, you will find a lot of info there about sleeves, too.

          6. Cathie | | #15

            Dear Cat, thanks for long and interesting letter. The last poster is right, we need to have our clothes cut to fit OUR unique bodies. I had been sewing less, and trying to learn how to improve fit, and now I'm gearing back into more sewing, as I get the help I need. So, I am very grateful to these wonderful ladies. I read the sleeve tutorial 1X only, but, will re-read, and try. I did not understand totally, but, we learn as we go along. Kathleen has another topic - Sleeve Ease is Bogus, which is thought provoking. Personally, I'd like less ease in cap and sleeve, but more actual good fit. I was compensating before with extra ease. I do have large arms too, and hate that saran wrap feel. Also, Kathleen suggests gussets, and writes on this, and I found something at DIY on gusset shapes being incorporated into sleeve itself. I want to try all these things. I have been sewing for years, but, unsatisfactory fit has been my nemesis. Another idea is trying on better RTW, and taking mental notes. Being very curvey, RTW does not fit me, but, I do come across a well fitting garment section, that is a great inspiration (yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel). I have access to better RTW, second hand, and, even purchase items to help me. These can be guides, of a sort, though, if we use parts to create patterns, muslins would be wise, with the more complex. I am not very gifted, or so I thought, in these more geometric adventures, but, out of necessity, I am going for it. The improved fit possible keeps me at it. Also, on-line there is something on vintage sewing and pattern making, by Harriet Pepin, from 1940's. There is great info on sleeves here. Let me know if you can't find it, and I will send you URL Keep us posted.

          7. cat42 | | #16

            Wow! I just pulled up the Sleeve Pattern article by Harriet Pepin. This is such useful info. I'm gonna spend some time studying it.Also, I just read Kathleen's Fashion-Incubator postings on "Sleeve Ease is Bogus" (parts 1 and 2). Very interesting. Earlier today I tried her method of drafting a sleeve. That is, I did the work on paper; I have yet to try it with muslin. However, as I was working on it, I noted my sleeve was starting to look like her example of how a proper sleeve should look (part 1 of the Bogus article). I thought I might have done something wrong. However, I do know that my bodice front has quite a scoop in the armhole towards the chest, because of my forward shoulders and narrow front chest. And so it makes sense that my sleeve would turn out with a scoop, too.I note that the ideal sleeve in the Pepin article resembles kathleen's ideal sleeve more than it does the typical commercial pattern sleeve. Both have little scoop on the back side of the sleeve, even in the underarm area--rather relies on bias, I suppose for more ease of movement without straining the sleeve seam when reaching forward. And both have a definite scoop on the front side of the sleeve at the underarm, I suppose to allow the arm to reach forward better, without encountering a bulk of fabric in the way.(Of course, a T-shirt won't have these sculpted sleeve caps, unless it is a very tight fitting T-shirt.)I remember a jacket pattern I used years ago (in the 60s) that had a 2-piece sleeve--the kind with a vertical seam near the elbow. I noted way back then that when that seam was sewn, my sleeve would not lie perfectly flat, and that if I tried to force it flat, the sleeve cap showed that same scoop on the front part.Pattern making certainly has an unusual geometry! For example, I wonder how the first person to develop a pant leg felt when discovered that a scoop was required on the front and back crotch, to make the leg curve properly on the inner part.

          8. Cathie | | #17

            Dear Cat, glad the info was so helpful, and thanks for the interesting and helpful tips. Another thing I had thought to say is check out older patterns - the shapes of pieces. I am  also looking at patterns from other countries, doing just that. Some countries expect curvier women. Because I was really at a loss re:fit, I have looked into other sources, and found lots of good things. There is also Costume Manifesto (costume making at U. of Alaska), and old pattern making books are on-line. Kathleen F. says study the shapes. Have a great evening, thanks so much. The quest for fit goes on. Now to read with tea.

        2. cat42 | | #8

          Thanks! Here's a summary of what I found in the articles you sent, as well as some others I've found:The Barbara Weiland "Fit for You" article (http://www.sewnews.com/library/sewnews/aashoulderfit.htm) is about shoulder width, and doesn't address depth of armhole, darn it. But the width discussion is good, as are the illustrations.The Barbara Emodi "Fit for You" article (http://www.sewnews.com/library/sewnews/library/aatips0103.htm) discusses armhole depth based on sleeve type, but does not discuss relative depth of back vs front. It alters depth at the underarm, and alters the sleeve to match the depth change. Also good discussion and illustrations.The Barbara Emodi "Stop! Are You Sure That Pattern Will Work for You" article in Threads (http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00027.asp) also has good information and illustrations, but does not specifically address the shoulder depth issue. The Marcy Tilton "Not Your Ordinary T Shirt" article in Threads (http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00161.asp) does address armhole depth adjustment at the shoulder, as I discussed in an earlier posting.I also found a statement somewhere in Threads that I found enlightening: The point where the shoulder line meets the neckline is the point from which the garment hangs, and is critical for a good fit. There are several body-measurement articles in both Threads and Sew News that describe how to find this point on the body. I am going to mark this point on me and then tissue-fit my adjusted pattern to be certain that the corresponding point on the pattern matches that point on my body.The Barbara Emodi article (Stop! Are You Sure...) article states that the mid-shoulder point is critical to proper hang and fit of garments, especially the neckline. Another thing for me to check on my adjusted pattern. I can see how this works when the design is for a set in sleeve and a jewell neck, but for dropped shoulder designs, or for wide neck designs (such as a boat neck), I don't see how the point midway along the pattern's shoulder seam can possibly line up with the mid shoulder of the body, so I must be misunderstanding something.There is also an interesting recent article in Threads (For a Gereat Fit, Start at the Shoulder), issue 127, pg 73, http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/th_127_072.asp) by Judith Neukam and Carol Fresia. It's about drawing a shoulder tracing (both left and right) by tracing along your skin onto paper, as you stand up against a wall, then using this tracing to modify the shoulder slope and width on patterns, such as for broad/narrow shoulders, sloping/square shoulders. It should also help resolve my thick neck problem (this resembles sloping shoulder). This is an interesting technique definitely worth trying. But of course, it will not help determining how much longer the back armhole depth should be than that of the front.Definitely lots to digest here. But I'm still looking for that article from last year....

  3. User avater
    Becky-book | | #4

    You may be looking for Threads #121 Nov 2005 pg 64 Pattern Principles

    You may want to look at #112 May 2004 pg 44 How to measure a Pattern to Assess its Fit

    Hope this helps,


    1. cat42 | | #5

      Thanks. Both of those are excellent articles, but neither deals with lengthening the back armscye. I have applied the "Pattern Principles" many times and found it very helpful, especially in accessing the curve of the armhole and in maintaining the 180 degrees at all major pattern junctions."Cathie" suggested several articles which I will try to locate. I do have forward shoulders, as she suggests, and make that adjustment. I also have a muscular neck, and so add a little at the neck end of the shoulder on both front and back (and enlarge collars accordingly--that's why I don't want to add additional size to the neckline). These changes help the fit considerably. My head is slightly forward, and make a high round back adjustment, adding 1/4 inch vertically at center back, about 1.5 inches below the neckline, and tapering to nothing at the armhole. But none of these changes keeps shirts from sliding backward at the shoulder. What I'm going to try is shifting 1/4 inch of the armhole depth from front pattern to back pattern, all across the shoulder, for net change of making the back armhole 1/2 inch longer than the front armhole. This will keep the neckline the same size (as before the shift), and will shift some of the sleevehead toward the back. I will also add about 1/4 inch of back length all across the back at mid-armhole. These changes will make the back armhole depth 3/4 inch longer than the front armhole depth. I'll let you know if this works.There were other helpful items in that lost article, but I don't remember them and would really like to study them more, if I could only find that article. Perhaps it was in Sew News, tho I've looked through all back issues from current issue to Jan 2005, and not spotted it. However, I am missing issues 284, 293, and 296, so perhaps the article is in one of those.This is an interesting discussion; thanks to all who have responded so far.

      1. cat42 | | #18

        Hi all!
        I just finished my camp shirt. I moved the shoulder line forward (adding to back and subtracting from front all across the shoulder), so that the back armhole is 1" deeper than the front armhole. Then I made a forward shoulder adjustment, moving the shoulder line forward at the armhole and tapering to no change at the neck. Because I have a thick neck, I added a bit to both the front and back neckline at the shoulder, tapering to no change about 2 inches out along the shoulder. I had to add length to the collar to account for the addition at the neck. I had previously made a high round back adjustment to the upper back (adding 3/8 inch at the center back, tapering to no change at the armhole.The shirt style has a slightly dropped shoulder (about 5/8 inch past a regular armhole) and a wide, short sleeve with only a little bit of sleeve cap. I decided to create a different sleeve style, narrower then the original, and 3/4 length with cuff. Narrowing the sleeve also raised the sleeve cap to attain the same same length along the cap. I drew the new cap by using a cord to measure and mark match points along the armhole, then added 1 inch of ease, mostly on the back side of the sleeve curve. (I followed the tutorial on the Fashion Incubator website http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/sleeve_drafting_tutorial.html). I also added an elbow dart since the new, narrowed sleeve has only a little ease near the bottom. The new sleeve cap height is about 1/2 the height of the armhole. A Threads article on pattern basics indicates a fitted set in sleeve cap height should be about to 2/3 the height of the armhole, but because this is a dropped shoulder, I figured my height would be OK .The new sleeve fits in the armhole beautifully, and the shoulder line is good. But as I move about, the shirt slips backward so that the shoulder is no longer along my shoulder line, but about and inch or so back.I do think the problem is in the sleeve, because when I use the original, wider, short sleeve, the shirt does not pull back. But what do I need to change in my narrower sleeve? I did not shorten the armhole depth by raising the underarm; I probably should have done that when I narrowed the sleeves?Any ideas? I'm attachng rough sketches of the changes I made. I'll also try to get some photos.

        1. Josefly | | #19

          Good description of your changes. Thank you for sharing that with us. Since the blouse is still pulling (or pushing?) back over your shoulders ... It seems to me that the changes you made have the net effect of angling the shoulder-end of the shoulder seam forward; while that does lengthen the back armscye (with respect to the front armscye) at the shoulder, it doesn't add overall length to the armscye and therefore doesn't add room for movement in the back shoulder, if that's the problem. You've also lengthened the back bodice center in the high-round-back adjustment, tapering to nothing at the armscye. So I wondered, have you tried instead to lengthen all the way across the back? Excuse me if you've already tried this and I missed it somewhere along the way.Also, you said you increased the neck opening at the shoulder seams, equally on the front and back bodice pieces. If your neck is wide (as mine is) is it possible that you need to widen the opening horizontally, instead of deepening the opening front-to-back at the shoulder seams? Perhaps if the neckline isn't wide enough in the back from shoulder-seam to shoulder-seam, that contributes to the backward-sliding? So maybe the neckline should be widened at the center-back (and possibly center-front) rather than at the shoulder seams? Just suggestions, which maybe you've already considered.Another consideration - when you changed the shoulder seam, you effectively moved the seam forward, so did you also move the shoulder-point on the new sleeve forward, allowing more ease in the back of the sleeve?

          Edited 7/9/2007 5:10 pm ET by Josefly

          1. cat42 | | #20

            Great suggestions. I have not yet tried all of them. I love Gatherings! I am learning so much.yes, I did move the shoulder point forward on the sleeve, following the instructions on the Fashion Incubator tutorial--it works great! And I know it's just right because there are no tell-tale drag lines indicating a need to rotate the sleeve in the armhole (or move the shoulder point forward).I do think I need to add to the back armhole (and not take away from the front)--and thus also redraw the sleeve cap curve. But I think I'll do that in addition to the high round back adjustment, as I do need that extra length at center.About the neck: I added at the shoulder because of the "thick neck" adjustment in Fit For Real People. When I look at my shoulder, it slopes upward from armhole to about halfway across the shoulder. Then the slope increases as it approaches the neck. I do think the adjustment at shoulder is correct. However, it's possible I may also have a wide neck, requiring more at center back. I'll check that out.I really do think the main problem, tho, is in the new narrow 3/4 sleeve. If I use the original wider short sleeve, the shirt doesn't pull back. Also, if I push the 3/4 sleeve up above the elbow, the shirt doesn't pull back. And the real tell-all happens when I bend my elbow. If I force the shirt to stay where it belongs on the shoulder while bending the elbow, the elbow dart point moves 2 inches up the arm. If I let the shirt slide back when bending the elbow, the wlbow dart still points right at the elbow.So I conclude I need to move the elbow dart 2 inches down toward the bottom. but the bottom is only 2 inches away. Does that mean I don't need the elbow dart? Do I then need to widen the sleeve at the bottom so that it has more room when the elbow bends? I wonder how much to add? Or should I give up on a 3/4 sleeve?Here's the sketch of pattern adjustments. I use the computer, kind of like etch-a-sketch, so it's a little rough. But you can get the idea. I'm still working on getting some photos. the shirt is really cute.

          2. Josefly | | #21

            Thanks for the sketches.Your arm-motion, sleeve-holding experiment does seem to point to the sleeve width as culprit. The sleeve-drafting article in the June/July Threads specifies ease recommendations for the elbow as well as for bicep and wrist, but I don't know how that changes for 3/4-length sleeves. Some rtw blouses have ####1-inch slit at the bottom of the 3/4 sleeve, allowing more freedom of movement. I hope you can find a solution for the sleeve length you prefer.

  4. jjgg | | #13

    Cat,There is a lot more involved than just adding some length to the back armcye. The correct answer is what does YOUR body call for?? If you have rounded, forward shoulders, you will need much more length in the back than the front. If you have very erect shoulders / posture you may need evenly balanced armholes. If your upper arms are very fleshy than you will need more room in the back.... and the list goes on. Sometimes, when its a fairly simple thing, you can just move the shoulder seam forward (take off a bit from the front and add it on to the back) but if you're doing this because of forward shoulders / rounded back then you will need to add length to the back neck edge etc.Hope I haven't gotten you too confused or distressed, but you need to analyze what the issue is before you can make a correction.Commercial patterns were drafted to fit the "ideal" perfectly proportioned woman - that means NONE of us!!!

    Edited 6/30/2007 3:52 pm ET by jjgg

  5. DONNAKAYE | | #22

    My mom, Audrey Childress, had a terrific way to solve this problem, but since I've used my basic pattern for all fitting adjustments ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I'll have to go back and look it up in her old teaching materials.  Soon as I've had a chance to do that, I'll forward it to you.  I too have your problem.  She corrected it on my basic bodice/sleeve pattern way back when, so I've forgotten how she did it.  I'll look in her fitting class teacher's notes for you....Donna Childress


    1. cat42 | | #23

      Thanks! I'll look forward to that information.
      I just finished a sundress with a fitted princess bodice. It's sleeveless and has a harrow bit of fabric over the shoulder, but I was able to get a really good fit. I'm amazed at how sloped the shoulder seam must be to keep the back armhole from gaping, and how much longer the back armscye is than the front--almost 2 inches! The bodice stays in place on my shoulder and the fit really is perfect. This was an a-ha! experience. Now to apply those learnings to garments with sleeves.....Your Mom's information will really help, I"m sure.I've started seeing a different chiropractor to work on my posture problems. He has already helped me keep my shoulders back, so that all those prior adjustments for forward shoulder now fit a little off. But I'm so happy about my posture that I don't mind the odd fit of those old garments.

      1. DONNAKAYE | | #24

        As awful as it sounds, it's called a "dowager hump."  Aaakkk!

        Anyway, here it is.  As I can recall mom teaching it, now that I've refreshed my recollection a little, the solution is to be found on three fronts: neckline, shoulder line, AND armhole.  The attachment should explain this to you clearly.

      2. DONNAKAYE | | #25

        Sorry.  I scanned the wrong page.  Here is is, correct.

        1. cat42 | | #26

          Hmm, the scan is upside down. But I just figured out how to rotate it on the computer screen. I don't have a printer.The correction for dowagers hump in Fit for Real People is a bit easier to do. however, that is not my particular problem. I do have a high round back because I hold my head forward, but that's not the same thing. The horizontal grain line remains horizontal on me, once I've made the 1/4 inch high round back adjustment, indicating I don't need to do the dowagers hump adjustment too. Also, the upper back is not too tight across my upper shoulders.Still, I do get one useful bit from this: When adding height to the back armscye at the shoulder, you also raise the back neckline.Thanks for taking the time to send this, and also the 'wrong one' because both have useful information.

          1. DONNAKAYE | | #27

            Thanks for your reply.

            You will note that the page states that the alteration is for rounded neckline/shoulder AND broad shoulders.  You can certainly eliminate the shoulder width alteration, as not everyone with this problem also has wide shoulders.  When you say that the garment is falling backwards off your shoulders, I know the illustration doesn't seem to "fit" the problem (pardon the pun!), and I don't know why or how, but this alteration does work for what I might term the forward thrust of the shoulders.  A rounded shoulder at the back, keep in mind, doesn't necessarily translate into increasing the depth of the armhole.  It is a truism in fitting that the front and back armhole depths should remain as nearly equal as possible.  Otherwise the fit of the bodice back gets sloppy and somewhat baggy, not streamlined and perfectly fitted as it should be.  This is my "pet peeve," by the way, in commercial patterns, i.e., that the back armhole depth is almost always bigger than the front.

            Also, you'll note that it says that you may have to scoop the neckline out a bit, which would accommodate an even fuller neckline.  (You'll also probably have to add a tad of length to the collar/undercollar and/or facings in that event at their center back.) 

            Our basic problem is that there is simply not enough length between the midline of the back armhole and the top of the shoulders, whether that falls toward the neckline or further out toward the shoulder line.  (Incidentally, if you've got a garment that otherwise fits fine in the shoulders but lifts at the back waistline, that alteration should be made at the waistline, not at the shoulder/neckline.)

            There is another problem that can cause shoulder lines to fall backward: a too-high front neckline for the particular design of the pattern.  This can on some patterns resolve the problem easily.  It may require you to scoop the neckline out a little more in the front.  You can also try taking a tuck across the middle of the front bodice from armhole to armhole, which will actually "pull" the shoulder line back into place from the back toward the front.

            Another common problem with commercial patterns is too much length in the bodice front between the bustline and the shoulder line, which causes the increased fullness to work its way toward the shoulder line, causing the shoulder line to fall off the back side.  It also accounts for discomfort at the front neckline.  I have had to correct this problem on a number of occasions in the past.  When I have done so, I have adjusted my back armhole depth, in keeping with my "rule," to approximate the front armhole depth.

            Hope these help!

          2. Josefly | | #29

            I'm not the person who originally asked for help with this problem, but I appreciate so much your helpful suggestions. They make so much sense to me. In your last paragraph, where you mention too much length in the bodice between the bustline and shoulder line, this can be determined using a commercial pattern by comparing the bustlength? That is, measuring from the point where shoulderseam intersects neckline to the fullest part of the bust - is that correct? Also, should that measurement correspond directly to the corresponding measurement of the front bodice piece, without adding any ease? In a pattern which doesn't have the bustline marked, and which has only a sideseam dart, can the pattern's bustline be deduced?

          3. DONNAKAYE | | #30

            You said:  "In your last paragraph, where you mention too much length in the bodice between the bustline and shoulder line, this can be determined using a commercial pattern by comparing the bustlength? That is, measuring from the point where shoulderseam intersects neckline to the fullest part of the bust - is that correct?"  Well, not exactly.  I really misstated the problem.  See below.

            "Also, should that measurement correspond directly to the corresponding measurement of the front bodice piece, without adding any ease?"  Again, see below.

            "In a pattern which doesn't have the bustline marked, and which has only a sideseam dart, can the pattern's bustline be deduced?"  I'm not real sure I understand your question, but I'll try to answer it best I can.  The crown of the bust is considered the largest part of the bustline (for us ladies, usually the nipple).  Ideally, the sideseam bust dart should terminate about an inch or so (I'll have to go look up the correct amount for you) from the crown of the bust, releasing its fullness at the crown.  So as not to confuse, I was speaking in general terms and should have been more specific.  It's really, technically speaking, a problem of too much armhole depth in the front bodice, in other words, too much fabric sitting in the chest area rather than the bustline proper.  (Make sense?)  This area is sometimes referred to in commercial patterns as the "high bust."

            Whether you're pinching the fabric horizontally across the chest or vertically from neckline to hemline, you really should make a trial master pattern out of check gingham to see where your particular problem lies.  I can tell you this, that the problem you see on that master trial garment will carry over into every garment you ever make from a commercial pattern, with very few exceptions.  For example, I know that my blouses and shirts always fall back off my shoulders, so I would never cut a commercial pattern straight from the envelope.  Now, I make all my alterations from my master pattern, so as time goes on I forget which specific alterations I originally made on the master, hence my forgetfulness as to how mom originally got this and other problems resolved.

            To complete an earlier thought, just so I don't forget:

            So that your termination point releases at just the right place in any pattern, you should mark and compare the crown of your bust with the termination point of the pattern.  Standing erect, the measurement is taking at more or less the juncture of the neckline and shoulder line, down a true horizontal line to the crown of the bust.   A similar measurement is placed onto the pattern and compared.  You can draw a 1" circle from that point, and the dart should terminate outside of that circle.

            For me it's often easier to simply design my own garments rather than continually make the many alterations required in order for a commercial pattern to fit me properly.  I mean, it really does require quite a bit of time.  Also, by using my master pattern as a guide, I don't have to continually make "trial" garments, as I see so often recommended (which, in my opinion, is terribly time-consuming and, in my case, unnecessary).  Trial garments, unless I'm constructing something that's really expensive, or in the case of, say, a couture garment with lots of construction details, seems to me an added step that I will bend over backwards to avoid.....

          4. Josefly | | #32

            Thank you for your clear information. I really do need to make a fitting shell for myself, and use that for future alterations...I have promised myself that it will be done before the end of this year, but alas, I have a way of putting other things first. I appreciate your help.

          5. cat42 | | #31

            Regarding your question about how to deduce the bust apex if it is not marked on the pattern: Go back to DonnaKaye's response to me (cat42) where she sent the wrong file from her mother's textbook. That 'wrong' file shows exactly how to find the bust apex (although she calls it something different). It also has sketches. However, it requires having a bust dart on the pattern. If your pattern does not have a bust dart, it becomes most difficult to locate the pattern's bust apex, but it will probably be along a horizontal line at the widest part of the pattern (unless the armhole is very deep).Regarding your discussion with DonnaKaye about the excess fabric between bust and shoulder: If you observe this problem, or think you have this problem, here's what I think she means: The pattern's bust apex is too high for you. Patterns are drafted for a young woman's figure, when the breasts are higher up on the body. This puts the widest part of the bodice (the apex area) at a point between a mature woman's breast apex and the shoulder. Then down where her apex actually is located, the bodice is too narrow.Some people may think this means they need a larger size, but that is not necessarily the case. The way to determine best pattern size is to take the bust measurement at the 'high bust' point. this means to run the tape around your chest, high up under your underarms and up and over your bust (above the fullest part of the bust). Lets say you measure 38 inches. Then pick the pattern size for a 38-inch bust. Now measure around the widest part of your bust. Lets say you measure 40 inches. That is 2 inches more than the high bust measurement. patterns are designed so that the full bust is 2 inches more than the high bust, so you would not need to enlarge the bust. However, you might need to lower the apex on the pattern if you have a mature figure. To do this, find the point of the bust apex on the pattern (if it's not printed, use the method described above). Compare this to your actual bust apex. If you are lower than the pattern, you need to lower the apex. The best description of how to do this is in Fit for Real People, but I'll try to put it in words here: From the sideseam, cut a box around the dart and the apex. Slide the box downward to where your apex should be, and fill in the missing pattern space with tissue. For princess seams, it gets more complex.Now back to the bust measuring: If your full bust is more than 2 inches larger than your high bust, you need to do a bust enlargement on the pattern. If you also need to lower the apex, do that before you do the enlargement. Check out Fit for Real People to see how to do the enlargement.Now back to the problem of too much fabric between your bust apex and the shoulder: You would deal with this only AFTER you have corrected for bust apex position and full bust enlargement. Chances are those modifications have solved the problem. But if not, study where the excess fabric is coming from:--It could be the pattern is too long between shoulder and bust, in which case you would make a horizontal tuck across the pattern in the armhole area. Pick an area where the armhole curve is mostly vertical. Then check the armhole depth--you may need to play with that if the tuck makes the depth too shallow. And of course, you will also have to alter the sleeve.--Or it could be the pattern is too wide across the chest (this should not be the case if you bought a pattern corresponding to your high-bust measurement). Nevertheless, if this is where the excess fabric is coming from, then you take a vertical tuck in the pattern from shoulder to waist. I've never had to do this, so not sure where best to take that tuck. You might check out diagrams for pattern grading to see where a pattern is graded up or down. If you take the tuck all the way to the waist, you may have to enlarge the bust again, and also possibly the waist. To avoid this, slash into the pattern right below the armhole, across to where you plan to take the tuck. Then make the vertical tuck only from shoulder to the slash. You will need to true the sideseam--this usually means extending the armhole curve out to the sideseam, and that will mean also adding to the sleeve pattern in this area. It gets tricky.Good luck! Ever since I learned how to lower a bust apex and enlarge the bust, I've gotten much better fit on bodices. In fact, my most recent project has the best fitting bodice I've ever had! And it has a shoulder princess seam.

          6. Josefly | | #33

            Thank you for your reply. I did see the attachment to Donna Kaye's message to you, but that drawing shows how the intersection of the extended center lines of two darts - a side dart and a vertical waist dart - will identify the bust line. But I wondered if the bustline on an unmarked pattern can be determined when there is only one bust dart. I know that the dart ends about an inch away from the apex of the bust, but that distance is not necessarily vertical or horizontal, so I couldn't see how to find the bustline, or bustpoint, on an unmarked pattern. Your message is just full of helpful information. I appreciate you taking the time for that. I'm eager to find out whether I'm too narrow in the chest, or too short from shoulder to bottom of armscye!

          7. User avater
            Becky-book | | #34

            Bust point... if only one dart... use a straight edge to extend the fold line of the dart (the line in the middle) approx. 1 inch along that line is the apex point.

            Narrow chest... best to have helper measure you (but I did it in front of my bathroom mirror)  measure across your upper chest from the little crease that forms above your arm pit to the other side crease.  Measure above the crease (high on your chest). A front width of 14 inches is a size 14. For every half inch larger or smaller buy 1 size larger or smaller. (from Nancy Zieman's The Busy Woman's Fitting Book)

            I measure 12 inches which means a size 6 front (with size 16 hips!!)  still working on "The Perfect Shirt" pattern.


          8. Josefly | | #35

            Thanks, Becky. That makes sense.My proportions are similar to yours when using Zieman's method - size 8 at top, size between 16 and 18 hips. But there's still something wrong - must be the length of bodice above the bust. And my back needs more width than a size 8. I've just got to sit down and wrangle with this, but haven't, and therefore haven't done any sewing at all since I promised myself I would fit myself this year before doing any other sewing. Foolish promise - look how much of the year has gone by! :>)

          9. User avater
            Becky-book | | #36

            Yes, I know the feeling!

            My shirt project from last year is getting a little closer to "done".  It really is hard to fit your own back-side.  My duct tape double has helped a lot.  Now if I could just stop getting distracted and finish fitting this shirt!!!


          10. cat42 | | #39

            I too have the problem of being one size across the front chest and another across the back chest (and a whole other size in the hips/abdomen area!). My most recent project, a high-waist sundress with princess bodice on front (regular back with no darting), required a lot of adjustment to get it right. I measure 38 inches at high bust so that dictated the size. First I had to lower the bust apex and then a bust enlargement (because I'm 46 inches at full bust). the front then fit great, but the back was way too narrow in the shoulders. I had to add to the width of each half-back--I added it in the neckline area, from 1/2 inch extra at the neck (this neckline is about an inch below normal) to 2 inches extra at the high waist seam. This gave extra width in the shoulders and just below the underarm where I needed it, but made it too wide at the bottom. So I added two darts on each side of the back to take in that extra.I now have the best fitting bodice ever!Anyyway, what are you observing in your garment that is not fitting right, and making you conclude a problem in length from shoulder to bust?Regarding front and back sizes being different, I think I included this in earlier post, but one of the things I do is buy a multi-size pattern and use a smaller size (14) for front armhole, front neckline and front side seam (but I alter for large bust); and I use a larger size (18) for back sideseam and lower back armhole, shifting to the middle size (16) for upper back armhole (requires easing the wider back shoulder into the narrower front shoulder), and size 14 for back neck. This works pretty good, but sometimes the fit at the lower back armhole is too loose. So the method I used for my sundress worked much better, since I retained the armhole of the size 14, and just widened between center back and armhole to get extra width.

          11. Josefly | | #41

            What am I observing in my garment that's not fitting right, leading me to think it's a length problem?It's been a while since I put aside the bodice muslin I became frustrated with, so I'm trying to remember the problems correctly. (I should go and try on both the ill-fitting blouse and the fitting-attempt muslin, but I don't want to pull those things out just now since I'm getting my sewing room/guest room ready for company. :>)) I wear a b-cup bra; even so, I have trouble with the neck/shoulder/above-bust fitting on the size pattern I choose according to my bust size. So:1. The blouse slides back over my shoulders, crawling up my neck, and looks too full above the bust near the sleeve/armscye seam. (I feel as if I'm a little girl wearing my mother's clothes - ha.)
            2. When I next cut a muslin out, I used a smaller size, corresponding to my high-bust measurement, and extended the side seams to provide room for my full-bust measurement. The only dart in the pattern is a vertical dart from the waist-seam, and I had to shorten that dart since my bustline is lower than the pattern's. This attempt left me with a gap in the armscye, both front and back, and the back armscye, about 4-5 inches below the shoulder, doesn't feel wide enough. I don't think the excess fabric in my blouse is due to excess width - because the neckline doesn't really seem too big - if I took a tuck down the center front, the neckline would be too small. It's the shoulder, or at least the front shoulder, that's too wide for me. I've been reading about your fitting experience, trying to think through my problem. But I don't think that's a substitute for getting it all back out and playing with it, do you? I've copied off your changes, though, so when I actually sit down with my stuff, I can refer to it. Thanks so much for posting your trials and success.

          12. cat42 | | #42

            Thanks for the detail. Without seeing pictures, it's hard to know whether "too much fabric in the front" is pushing the bodice back off your shoulders. It could also be due to a problem with the back bodice, perhaps not enough width or length, or in the fit of the armscye, that is causing it to fall back. Fit for Real People says that you should first correct the fit in the back before fixing fit in the front. It could be (as it is for me), that the back needs to be wider in the armhole area, and that the back armhole depth needs to be longer. Gaping in the back armhole indicates to me that you need to use a smaller size armhole, and then if you need more width in the back, add it in the middle of the pattern (draw a line from neckline to waist, and separate along this line. If you don't need more width at the top, pivot at the neckline). The gaping may also be caused by forward shoulders, in which case you would need to move the shoulder seam forward, pivoting at the neck, for both front and back. Or by sloping shoulders. See attached sketch for back.It is more clear to me, as to how to resolve your fit problems on your front. You say the armhole gaps on the front (as well as the back), and that you altered for full bust by extending the sideseams. That method of allowing for a larger bust is what is causing the armhole gaps on the front--you need the added width in the middle of the pattern, not at the sideseam.In both cases (gaping at front and back armhole), I've found it is critical to use the right armhole size, as the smaller the size, the sharper the curve, and a sharper curve removes those gaps. I rely on high bust measurement to determine size.The correct method to enlarge the bust, that also eliminates the armhole gaps, is described in Fit for Real People, and there have also been fitting articles in Threads on how to do it. But here's a description (see also drawings in attached file):1. Trace the bodice front onto new tissue paper, if you don't want to cut into the original pattern piece. Find the bust apex on the pattern (intersection of centers of two darts, or if only one dart, about 1 inch away from the tip of the dart along the line through the center of the dart.2. Determine where your bust apex is and raise or lower the pattern's apex to match yours (If pattern has a side dart, cut a box around it and then raise/lower the box. If only a dart from the waistline, lengthen or shorten the dart.).3a. From the waist, draw a line along the center of the waist dart to the apex. If no waist dart, draw a vertical line from waist to apex (parallel to center front). Then find a point along the armscye seam about 1/3 of the way from the sideseam toward the shoulder (approximately where the notch is). Draw a line from the apex to that point on the armscye.3b. If the pattern has a side dart, extend the line along the dart's center to the apex. If no side dart, draw a line from a point about 1.5 - 2 inches below the armhole to the apex.3c. Draw a horizontal line from the vertical cut line to the center front. This can be anywhere between the bust apex and the waist. I use the lengthen or shorten line printed on the pattern.4.Now cut along the line from the waist to apex and apex to the point on the armscye seam. Then clip into the seam allowance from the armhole cutting line to the point on the armscye seam, leaving a bit of fabric between the two cuts at that point to allow for a pivot. Then cut along the side dart line toward the apex, stopping just a tad before the previous cut, to allow for a pivot.5a. Tack your pattern to your cutting surface, at shoulder, center front, armhole pivot, near the apex, and at waist between dart and center front. Hopefully you use one of those cutting boards with 1" graph lines drawn on it; if so, align the center front with one of the lines. Slide tissue paper (gift wrap tissue works great) under the cut areas and extending an inch or so beyond the side seam and below the waist. Imagine another vertical line parallel to the one between waist and apex, and separated from that line by the amount you need to widen. 5b. Then, using the point on the armscye as a pivot, carefully pull the bodice apart along the first cut line (the one from waist to point on armscye), creating a wedge, so that the moved apex point touches your imagined parallel line. Tack the moved apex to the cutting surface with a pin through the tiny bit of paper you left when you cut from the side dart.6. Swing the bottom of the side piece back toward the imagined vertical line so that it lines up with that imagined parallel line. Now there should be an equal distance between the original cut line from waist to apex on the center part of the bodice piece and the same cut line on the side part. And a wedge will have opened up along the side dart cut line. The waistline from the center front will not match up with the waistline of the moved side portion, but you'll correct that later.7. You will notice that the point where the front armhole and sideseam come together has moved upward, and that the curve in the armhole now makes a sharper turn at the point you marked on the armscye. This change will have removed the gaping at the armhole, assuming that you enlarged the bust by the correct amount.8. Cut along the horizontal line you drew from vertical cut line to center front, and lower the lower part of the pattern so that the waistlines match up. The length thus added to the front bodice allows fabric to go over the larger bust; you can always fold out some of this added length if needed, but you will probably find you need the length.9. Tape all cuts to the underlying tissue.10. Draw a new (or corrected) side dart using the intersection of the side dart cut lines with the sideseam as the ends of the dart legs, and a point 1" away from the apex along the new center line as the dart point.11. Similarly, draw a new waist dart using the intersection of the original dart legs with the waist line as the end of the new dart legs, and a point 1" below the apex (along dart's new center) as the dart point. (or you can leave the original dart as it was, and add another, shorter dart beside it, toward the side seam, as wide as the gap between the parallel lines).12. Cut out of muslin and try on.I hope this works better for you.

          13. Gloriasews | | #43

            Very good directions, but, for whatever reasons, your attachments aren't coming up.  Can you try them again, please?


          14. cat42 | | #51

            See my posting 6960.50 for re-post of the drawings. I added a pdf version that has both drawings in the same file, one per page, so you can try that if the jpg files don't work.Cat

          15. Gloriasews | | #52

            Thanks so much, Cat - the pdf worked beautifully.


          16. cat42 | | #53

            Glad that worked!
            I just made a reply to 7163.1 regarding bust enlargement on a vintage empire waist design, with a side bust dart positioned so that the upper dart leg is on the bodice and most of the lower dart leg on the skirt. I included sketches for that too. I'm not 100% sure I'm right in my approach, so I will appreciate any input. It was a fun challenge.

          17. Gloriasews | | #54

            I just saw your other thread - you'll certainly receive feedback on both of these threads as sewers try them.  Thanks, again.


          18. Josefly | | #45

            What a nice, clear description. Thank you for taking the time to spell that all out. And the drawings are great - I didn't have a problem seeing them.When my company is gone, middle of next week, I'll have time to try this.

          19. Teaf5 | | #44

            Did you mention what brand of pattern you are using?  I have found that certain brands are always too big in the upper chest/shoulder area for me, even though I'm a D cup, while other brands are less problematic. 

            I finally made a waxed paper pattern of the top 1/3 of a rtw shirt that fit me well (one of very few that do!) and overlaid it on my pattern.  I found that I have to make the shoulders at least 1" narrower on each side (pinning out darts in the pattern) and sometimes lower the shoulder seam and make it less sloping.

            A fitting book (sorry, can't remember which one) had good suggestions for fitting the flat or narrow upper chest area; another thread on this forum also addressed this problem with many excellent suggestions.

          20. Josefly | | #46

            This is a Vogue pattern I was using. When I finally sit down and start working on this again, I'll look through the other postings here, as you've suggested. I also may have a question for you about how you pin out darts in the pattern to narrow the shoulder, if that's okay.I've used Nancy Zieman's pivot method, and I'm trying to remember if that's what I did on the last muslin, which had me so discouraged I gave up. It's not the method that's at fault, though, it's that I haven't taken the time to properly work on all the parts - back, shoulder, neck, armscye, that seem to have something wrong. I think I'm missing something partly because I keep thinking that with a b-cup I shouldn't be having all these problems! Guess that's just not the case.I do appreciate all the suggestions here.

          21. Teaf5 | | #47

            Vogue never fit me, even when I was the size and height of a fitting model decades ago; I have to modify all brands anyway, though, so I think the problem is the industry standard body shape.

            I used the pivot method for awhile, too, but it seems that preserving the original lines incorrectly assumes that those original pattern basic body shapes or lines are accurate.  That is, if you compare the bustpoint or neckline on a size 8 and a size 22 pattern, you'll find that they are nearly identical--completely impossible in real life, where those two women could not share either. 

            Patterns also seem to believe that the shape of women from their bust upward is very round and full, while mine has always been flat and bony (despite a D cup bust).  There is always too much extra fabric in the upper chest area, so I do alterations that--gasp--change the armscye shape or even make the pattern a little lumpy in the shoulder area (because I've darted out at least 1/2 inch at the shoulder).  The resulting patterns don't conform to industry standards, but they fit; that's probably why so few rtw garments fit me, too!

            Good luck and fire away with questions...I'm procrastinating on a set of buttonholes and buttons that will take me less than fifteen minutes to do if I just get started.

          22. Josefly | | #48

            Boy do I know about procrastination. I'd promised myself I would do no further sewing this year until I do the fitting for myself. So...guess what...no sewing at all! Silly me. And now I'm putting the fitting job off again 'til my company comes and goes. But I am getting resolved, and I know the questions will come when I get started, so thanks for being willing to answer.Good luck with the buttonholes - bet you've already finished by now.Your darts at the shoulder - I wondered how you flatten the pattern after you've darted the shoulder line.Since you mentioned the virtually unchanging neckline for sizes 8 to 22, (I hadn't noticed that) - I have to say that I don't really understand how/where to measure neckline - this is a puzzle for me, even though - I think, again- the neck opening is usually okay. But it is one of those measurements we're supposed to take. I've read to put a 16-inch chain around the neck and where it rests is where the neckline is. But that makes no sense to me - where a 16 inch chain will rest is exactly where the neck measures 16 inches! Also, a 16-inch neck sounds very large to me, when I think, for instance, of men's shirt sizes. What am I missing? The more I go on, the more I think I have to make a tape-double, and oh boy, I don't want to!

          23. cat42 | | #50

            About neckline: I think you're wrong that a 16" chain will just fall where the neck measures 16 inches. That would only be true if the 16 inches around the neck is above the shoulders, If the neck is only 14 inches around where it turns into shoulder, then the 16" chain would stop at the 14" point, and the extra 2" would hang down in front.also, the back neckline should pass over the bony protrusion at the base of the neck, which helps in positioning that chain.About tape double: I know I need to do that too, especially to help me fit in the back area, as I can't really see that well on myself. But I'm avoiding it, and instead sometimes make multiple muslins before I get it right.have you tried making a sloper per the instructions in the latest issues of Threads, in the Fitting for Plus Sizes section? Even if you're not a plus size, I think it would work. It uses the draping method, which is hard to do if you're just you (no helper). I haven't tried it yet, as I have no helper, but it seems pretty straight forward.Once you have a sloper (or block) that fits you, pattern alteration/creation is much easier. And using the draping method eliminates all the complicated math of altering paper patterns.Good luck with getting past procrastination. I suffer from that too. Right now I'm procrastinating finishing some unfinished bookcases, in favor of sewing. My upcoming project is to work on pants that fit. I was working on that last fall before I left for Sweden and Norway. I got lots of hints and advice from people in Gatherings, and now I get to dig that out and put it to use. I can get good fit in the front, but the back leg twists inward and I get diagonal drag lines below the bum. I also have high-hip fluffiness on both sides, which pulls my pants off grain. Onward!Cat

          24. Teaf5 | | #62

            Thanks, and yes, I did finish the buttonholes rather quickly once I just sat down to do them!

            To flatten the pattern after taking the shoulder dart, I just press down on it with my palms.  Not scientific, but it works.

            I don't find measurements particularly useful in fitting, as people with similar measurements may have completely different body shapes, and the same garment will fit them completely differently. 

            My bust measurement would put me into a size 20 pattern, but a size 14-16 fits my shoulders and upper chest perfectly. About 60 percent of my total bust measurement is in front with only 40 percent in the back.  Someone else with the same bust measurement might need 60 percent in the back for a broad back and 40 percent in the front for a less full bust.  Since front and back pattern pieces are relatively close in width, the standard fit wouldn't work for either of us.

            Adding to the problems of fitting are the different qualities of different fabrics and each person's preference with regard to wearing ease.  Standard ease on patterns always seems too big on the top and too little in skirts or pants for me, and probably the reverse for someone else.  No wonder sewing for ourselves is such a challenge!

          25. Josefly | | #63

            Your answers are always so clear and helpful. Thank you. Yes, it's becoming more apparent to me that measurements are not enough. And that does complicate things.

          26. cat42 | | #49

            About cup size: You're right, if you truly are a B cup (in pattern terms, not bra size), then you shouldn't be having this problem, or at most all you'd have to do is lower the apex. I'm a B cup, too, in bra size; but in pattern terms, I'm a D cup, and hence the problem. it's not that I have a lot of breast tissue (hence the B cup bra), but my rib cage is fairly thick in the bust area. The way to determine 'cup size' in pattern terms is as follows:
            --measure high bust.
            --measure full bust
            --if full bust is 2" greater than high bust, you're a B cup. If 3" greater, you're a C cup, and if 4" greater you're a D cup, in pattern terms. Thus a 34D , 36C and 38B pattern sizes would all be the same width around the full bust. Weird huh! Note that the 34D is only 34 inches around high bust, while 38B is 38 inches at high bust, so that a person with 34" high bust would need to do bust enlargement to add 2" to each front (4" total), in order to fit a 38" full bust. OR perhaps some of the extra width is needed in the back, in which case you might only add 1" to each front and 1" to each back; That's what I need to do for myself.So perhaps you aren't really a B cup in pattern terms, and hence you have bust fitting problems.For those who could not open my drawings, I'll try again. I'll attach the two jpg files, and then I'll also put them into a pdf file (together), in case that works better.

          27. Josefly | | #56

            No, I'm a b-cup bra-size and pattern-size. I'm almost exactly 2 inches larger in full bust measurement than high bust. Your explanations are excellent and your drawings most helpful. I keep going back to that bodice-draping article in Threads. Perhaps while my daughter is visiting I'll draft her to help me with the draping.Thank you so much for your suggestions. I feel a little guilty getting such wonderful help while putting off the actual work I must do to take advantage of it! I keep trying to think the process through, in lieu of getting my hands on pencil, paper, fabric, and scissors! But I will get to it, I promise myself.

          28. TexasPat | | #55

            I've been reading this thread because I, too, have the dreaded dowages hump, aka high round.  I solved this fitting problem using both the Palmer/Pletch "Fitting for Any Body" and the Sandra Betzina's fitting book.  My library carries both.  Very good illustrations.  I wish I had a picture to upload to show the pattern alteration; sorry.

            Good luck,



          29. Josefly | | #57

            Thanks so much for your book suggestions. I've read Sandra Betzina's book, not the other, but I'll get it and see what it adds. I think all the information is here, in one form or another, for me to use when I start. I really admire those of you who've already been through this process and have found just which alterations work for you, and your wonderful descriptions of what worked and what didn't. The biggest problem is "seeing" the problem, and interpreting it correctly - sometimes I think my expectations lead me to misinterpret. But I'm learning so much from each of you, and am eager to find what works for me. So the end of this month will see me getting it one way or another.

          30. DONNAKAYE | | #58

            Don't we just "love" these fitting challenges?  OOOOHHHHH!  I know how frustrating they can be!

            Is there any way we can get a picture of your bodice fitting problems?  I hate to be an armchair quarterback, but I really believe a combination of lengthwise and crosswise tucks, then enlarging the neckline if necessary, may solve the problem of the fabric falling off your shoulders.  I know this is "generic" advice, and none of us can really know for sure unless we were there to actually fit you, but a photo sure would be great!

          31. Josefly | | #59

            Yes, I will get a photo as soon as I get all my sewing stuff back out. I would love to have your advice. But it will be a few days more before I can get it all out and refresh my own memory.

          32. DONNAKAYE | | #60

            "get it all out and refresh my own memory"!!!  Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.  When you get a good basic master pattern and you use it all the time, you do forget what you did.  That's my problem.  I am very reluctant to try to assist with the fitting questions until I can go back and review, review, review.  It's getting harder and harder to remember this stuff.  How I wish I could get your body in front of me for a fitting!

          33. Josefly | | #61

            Oh, I wish so too. :>)

          34. DONNAKAYE | | #28

            One other thing I forgot to mention.  I had forgotten this, and my mother passed away in '96, so I don't get "the treatment" from her anymore....

            Whenever I assembled a garment from a commercial pattern without making the necessary alterations, my mother would "fetch" me as I entered the room and take a pinch of fabric vertically down the center front line of the garment, effectively pulling my shoulder lines forward.  She often said that my front neckline was too big (I have a slender neckline and broad, muscular shoulders).  Other times she would pinch a fold of fabric on me horizontally across the upper chest (i.e., above the bust line), effecting the same or similar results.

            Here's to mom!

  6. DONNAKAYE | | #37

    I've been following this thread for a while now.  In some other thread we discussed this problem, it seems to me.  (Where was that?)  Anywho, one very easy and basic alteration for the fabric falling off the shoulders is to take a vertical tuck down the center front of the shirt/blouse.  In some cases, an additional tuck might need to be taken across the upper chest.  In either case, what's happening is that there is too much fullness across the front.  That excess fabric translates into this:  The fabric falls to the back, pushing the shoulder seam back with it.  In some cases, you may have to scoop out the neckline a little.  Folks who experience this problem often complain that the front neckline is too high and that it's uncomfortable.  The effect of removing this fullness from across the front (a pet peeve of mine in commercial patterns) will be to pull the shoulder seams forward.  In the first instance you are taking some length from around the neckline, so you'll have to scoop the neckline out to compensate for this difference.  In the second instance (the horizontal tuck across the chest area), you'll have to alter the sleeve.  Try the vertical tuck first on a master fitting pattern.  This usually solves the dilemma without further work....I'm going to try to remember where else I posted this.....donna

    1. cat42 | | #38

      Yes, you and I have posted to each other about this before. I thought it was regarding my original query about armhole depth on back vs front, but that was this same thread (6960.1 was my original post). And when I look I don't see you posting before this, so you're right, it was some other thread, and that will bug me til I figure it out.Meanwhile, I solved my problem of the camp shirt sliding back--it was because I'd altered from wide, short sleeve to narrower 3/4 sleeve with not enough ease at the elbow, adn that caused it to pull back. I'm working on the fix now. I had previously altered the front to narrow it, which gives a much better overall fit. And then I altered the back armhole by moving the shoulder seam forward (adding to back and taking away from front), adding a bit of width at the neck end of the shoulder because I have thick muscles near the neck. All of those things worked will with the short sleeve so that it didn't pull back. But when I changed the sleeve, the problem returned. Lesson learned! Ease is very important to proper fit.Cat

      1. DONNAKAYE | | #40

        Folks, I ran across an interesting back issue, No. 46 (Apr/May '93).  (By the way, if you have the old No. 45, Feb/Mar '93, my mom advertised in it!)  I'm attaching the scanned article on p. 22.  Refer to the response by Margaret Komives.  You'll notice that she uses the front-bodice-has-too-much-width principle and then there's a diagram showing the pinch taken out of center front......D.


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