Monday, November 29, 2010

Fitting for small shoulders and neck

Working with DRJ (dear reader Jan) has been quite informative.  She sewed the muslin from the pattern I drafted for her, and she sent photos.  I had made the shoulders and neck at least 2 sizes smaller than the torso, and they still need to be smaller!  Just like my shoulders!  It is so nice to know I am not the only one with this fitting requirement.
Here are pictures to explain the pattern adjustments.  First we will get the neck and shoulders right, then work our way down the bodice. As always, there are no seam allowances on these pattern pieces.
A horizontal balance line (HBL) is a valuable aid in the fitting process.  If it's not level, the garment does not yet fit.  The HBL at the bottom of the armscye is an important landmark when we compare this pattern to a commercial pattern.  DRJ will want something a little more stylish than this basic bodice.  We'll use this in conjunction with commercial patterns.   More to come on that topic.
Just FYI, I ruined a perfectly good pattern when I made my recent striped shirt with a yoke.  What a pain to re-construct my TNT bodice pattern, and all because I was over-confident and did NOT trace a copy for the new style.
At first, the bodice looked like it needed a vertical dart starting at the neckline in the center front.  Upon closer inspection, the entire top of the bodice needed to be graded down.  How did I know that?  Well the shoulder seam length was correct, however it was hanging off her shoulder.  And, the neckline was too far away from her neck - at the side, at the front and at center back.  The neckline was just too big. 

The back of the bodice does not gape - it does not look like it needs a dart.  However, the neckline is too big and needs to be re-drawn smaller.  The armscye line at the shoulder seam also needs to be re-drawn to follow DRJ's own arm.

Coming along nicely!  And another reader has emailed me and we are just getting started.   With permission, I will post pictures when we have finished.

Back to my sewing, the last thing I touched was my pajama pants.  I promptly came down with a horrible cold the next day.  If you have to be sick, it's nice to have cute pj pants.  
Hope you aren't sneezing and sniffling where you are!


  1. Thank you so much for this! It explains where I've been going wrong trying to make this same adjustment. I'm so excited to go give this a try.


  2. Wow this was great and so in depth. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us!

  3. You have a real gift for illustrating concepts in a simple, user-friendly manner.

    I have the same issue with small neck and shoulders. I had not tried this particular approach to pattern adjustment, but it makes sense. One thing I have learned in my fitting experiments is that those balance lines are extremely important.

    I am looking forward to seeing how you use this to adjust commercial patterns. That's where I usually have problems-- the slopers are easy but when you start adding details, you have to make all the pieces fit together correctly and that can get complicated! :)

  4. Betty, I am looking forward to posting about using the TNT bodice in conjunction with commercial patterns. I am no expert, but I have come up with techniques that work for me. I am so happy I can share them with you! It makes all the effort seem a little more worthwhile.

    Thank you Betty, Rita, Jodi and Alethia, for the support!

  5. Thanks for a very helpful, detailed tutorial on how to adjust a pattern. And what a great idea, to document the process, for yourself as well as others.

  6. Robin: I tend to leave the neck the same size to avoid collar problems. Would you trace the neckline from a smaller size or how do you deal with the collar? Ditto the armscye/sleeve.

  7. Nice tutorial. I do the same thing when cutting or tracing patterns, but just do it on the fly, switching to one size smaller, and fixing the neckline when necessary.

  8. Hi Elizabeth, I would dedfinitely trace the neck (and the armsyce) from a smaller size if it is available. Unfortunately, not many patterns encompass the entire range of sizes necessary.

    Thus the necessity to re-draft collars and sleeves. With practice, that isn't as hard as it may seem. I'll post another tutorial on that.
    Thanks for reading!

  9. Very informative tutorial! Thank you for posting such clear photos and instructions.

  10. If I had to do this every time I made a shirt, .. I'd mostly make pants :-). There's a lot easier adjustment, where you just redraw the curve down from where you want the point of the shoulder to be, blending in at the usual armhole notch. It looks like you need to get the Singer fitting book, which shows you how to do that whole rigamarole of slashing and moving if you're adding 4" somewhere, but also shows you the easy methods for the usual adjustments (like 2 sizes in the shoulder, which sounds enormous but comes in under an inch).

  11. Marie-Christine, if you needed this adjustment, you'd understand the difficulty in diagnosing the fit problem- it is not easy and not well explained in the Singer book or any of the fitting resources others I own or researched.

    Furthermore, shoulder adjustments usually require not just one but multiple adjustments. I am taking it one at a time.

    And you are right, there is no way anyone would want to do all this every time they makes a shirt. That's why they won't. The idea is to use the fitted bodice pattern as a guide when adjusting commercial patterns. That is when the "just re-draw the curves" part comes.

    For this person, the total adjustment to the shoulder ranges, in total, a span of 5 sizes. Relatively speaking- yes, it it enormous.

    Thanks for reading! I am just showing what I have learned and what works for me. It's a journey!

  12. I do need this adjustment! Badly. That's why I'd almost rather give up sewing than go through such slashing rigamarole -every- time I made some upper-body garment.

    In both our methods you need to redraw the armhole seam, whether by hand or with the adequate ruler, that's the only faintly iffy part of the process, and you don't avoid that part with your way. But, if you look carefully, we end up doing exactly the same thing, except that Singer has you do it in one single step :-). Maybe it doesn't work well for you because you aren't careful to draw the new armhole so that it's perfectly perpendicular to the shoulder at first?

    One thing you don't mention is that making the shoulder narrower mathematically implies lengthening the armhole seam. The thing that saves this adjustment is the fact that most commercial pattern have ease in the sleeve caps, way too much ease. So the shoulder adjustment can take up much of that slack in one step. It's good to check the first time though, the first time with any new pattern brand I mean, just to be sure, if you're narrowing a lot like that client of yours.


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