Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A pretty dress comes from a frankenpattern

I would like to sew this Butterick 5523 in one of those double-knits that everyone is sewing lately.  Gorgeous Fabrics and Fabric.com have them.
This is a pretty easy pattern to alter for shoulder weirdness. 
ooops, don't mean to bad-mouth my body parts, but well, if the shoe fits...

Anyway, this is an alteration I will tackle because the bodice is so similar to my fitted tried and true (TNT) bodice block. 
Important caveat:  If I have a pattern that includes the entire range of sizes I need, I will trace each area in the size that fits me. 
Sadly, that is not always available, so I resort to cutting & pasting as follows.

Just for reference, here is an approximation of a standard bodice block:

wonder whose shoulders look like this?

And now for the pattern surgery.  The unaltered bodice from Butterick 5523 (without seam allowances) is aligned with my fitted TNT bodice in the next picture:
So that is the story.  Did it make sense to those of you who wonder, "once I understand my own shoulders, how do I make a pattern fit me?"  This is how I do it.  And, it really works pretty well.

In the best world, the pattern has everything from size 10-20 and I can get everything I need to make the dress fit.  Of course, there are variable with every project.  Sometimes, it is way easier to make a franken-pattern adjustment like I have described above.

If you have questions, please ask.  If you would like to send photos to me, of your shoulder fitting problems, please do!  I keep learning more every day and it is my true pleasure to share my knowledge and help you sew clothes that will please you.  It has made such a difference in my life to wear clothes that please me.
I cannot begin to describe what it has done for my self esteem to create my own clothing.

Have a good one, everybody!
And thanks for reading,
your friend in shoulder adjustments,


  1. If I'm buying a Big Four pattern, I've been known to buy two copies on sale, one in one size range and the other in the next size range in order to get all the sizes I need. But that's only if I can get the patterns on one of Joann's big sales! Your explanation here is helpful.

  2. That makes sense! Sometimes the explanation for how to do this is incredibly convoluted, but your description here breaks it down into something that seems manageable.

  3. I find myself making these kind of adjustments all the time. And I agree with your comment about self-esteem. I can now wear dresses which I could never buy to fit both halves of my body.

  4. Thanks for showing how you do this. Your horizontal balance lines make sense and are pretty straight forward. It's something I could do!

  5. This was helpful information. Look forward to seeing the dress made up.

  6. Great post - your explanations are very clear and helpful. I am always interested in how people solve their fitting problems -thanks!

  7. This makes so much sense to me, to use the shoulder part that fits and the bodice part that fits and make them be friends with each other. I have tiny narrow shoulder that are at least six sizes smaller or more than the rest of me (my armscye seams end up halfway down my arms, which is not comfortable)

    How would you adapt the sleeve cap, if using a smaller shoulder? when I tried just adding more at the top to make up for the less at the bodice shoulder, I ended up with a sleeve that I couldn't move my arm at all.

  8. Alison,
    The impact on the sleeve is a huge issue, I agree! The first patterns to fit me properly were custom-fitted to me through workshops and private lessons with teachers. As I started "reverse-engineering" my patterns, I learned that the bodice was easy to translate into the different sizes on the pattern. And for sleeves - I just used my TNT fitted sleeve pattern. However, I think I have cracked the code on drafting sleeves from scratch. I'll put together a post soon that shows how I do that. You make so many beautiful clothes from commercial patterns!! I would love it if you'd post about how you make it work! I'll come post on your blog or send you an email in case you don't come back to read this. Thanks for your feedback Allison, and everyone following along!

  9. OOOooo I am so looking forward to your post on drafting sleeves. Having a TNT bodice and fitted sleeve pattern is one of my dream goals. When I wanted a denim "jean jacket" six years ago, it took me five trial muslins to get something that fit.

    I have been working up my nerve to make a raincoat. Actually made two muslins and was quite unhappy with how the sleeve/body interface was not working. I just might start again, starting with a different pattern, and do what I can to document the process and post about it, as a way to keep myself motivated. (I'm thinking about changing the sleeve from set in to raglan, if I can figure that out, as a way to get around the tiny shoulder large bust issue, and to gain additional mobility, which would be welcome in outerwear)

    My sewing patterns are only tangential to commercial patterns, as my TNT knit top, pinafore bodice, jumper and popover top have been so heavily modified over the years as to be actually quite different from the original patterns. With the exception of the popover top, which has a bias-cut front, all the rest have had princess seams and shaping added, shoulder lines re-cut, bodies graded up to my size, and the popover top has had sleeves and gussets added.

    You'd think with all of this, that actually having a button front blouse pattern wouldn't be so difficult. The one I have is a copy from a mens shirt that I altered heavily (added bust darts, recut and narrowed shoulder, reshaped armsceye and sleeve) but I am not happy with how it feels when I am wearing it, the original was in a very drapey raw silk and the ones I've made from the pattern are still too bunchy.

  10. I have a shirt pattern that I'm planning to use as a basis for my 'Great white shirt project' . I"ve made it many times and the shoulders always drag towards my back (wouldn't you think I'd have figure it out before?).

    Does that mean that I shouls change something about the arm scythe (sp?) I have the feeling that the front piece - like your B5523 outer curved red line - should be less of a drop from the shoulder to the bottom of the curve? But I sure don't want TIGHT sleeves. So I always go for fully roomy and then it pulls from the front, near the collar, down over my back. Kinda pigeon-like.

    Seems like somewhere I"ve seen pictures of standard fitting challenges.... I used to just not worry that much about fitting. I was happy just to get things done. Also I often wear a vest over these shirts. Isn't it terrible to admit that I cover up a fitting problem? Well I guess it just didn't bother me because I like to wear vests. Now, I'd like to learn to get it right. Then I could take my vests off when I get hot!

  11. Simple Romantic, I don't think it's terrible to cover up a fitting problem! I think it's funny, in a way and you are just making the best of the situation. But, yeah, maybe you will want to take off your vest now and then!

    From your description, I am not quite seeing the fitting issue you have. If you want to take pictures and send more details, please do. I won't be back in full swing until January, but if I have any ideas, I am happy to share!

    I really, really want to get back to the white shirt project, too. I love white shirts!

  12. Robin, I was so relieved to recognize my bodice shape in photo no 2 with the narrow shoulders and looong armscye. Ouf! no more feeling like Quasimelda, LOL!

    And I'm looking forward to the sleeve post because what I have been doing is drawing the sleevecap for the size I picked, with the sleeve seam being traced on the regular size. So, if my armscye is 8 and my bust 12, I do the sleevecap 8 and the rest of the sleeve 12...which does not satisfy me since my arms are actually probably an 8 too.

    But as I still haven't figured out this sleevecap ease issue, I just leave it alone for now and make it work!

    In Burda, my bust/waist/hips are 38 but my neck and arm are 34.

    ETA: my word is butses, LOL, the other fitting issue ;)

  13. I'm going to work on photographing that fit problem as part of my design of my first GreatWhite. Yes, words don't do it. So interesting reading about everybody's different fit challenges.



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