Wednesday, March 21, 2012

pattern alterations - Style Arc Abby

Are you tired of me yet?  I took a lot of pictures while sewing my cardigans here and here.  
A few asked, so I will show you my pattern alterations.  Plus, I am in a rush to sew up all the fabric I bought.  I have buyer's enthusiasm.  Or whatever is the opposite of buyer's remorse.

This post describes how I approach upper back and shoulder alterations.  I am dealing with excessive height, in case you haven't noticed.  Being tall is really not that great, by the way.

Starting with the back, the first step is to locate a fixed point from which to measure and compare the pattern to the body.  What works for me is the intersection of center back and a horizontal balance line at the bottom of the armscye.
Now it is a matter of reconciling the pattern to the body.    
The length of the shoulder is fine.
The width of the back is fine.
I like this about the cut of Style Arc patterns.  Based on my measurements,
I wear an Australian size 12 and the overall proportions are very good.  

 I think of the shoulder slope as a triangle consisting of lengths from center back to the neck and the shoulder tip, 
along with the shoulder seam, form a triangle.  By increasing these back lengths, the shoulder seam will now rest at the natural top of my shoulder.  To me, this is what's happening when I hear terms like "moving the shoulder seam forward" or doing a "forward shoulder adjustment".  For a more educated explanation of measuring, see Maddy's post on how to draft a bodice block.  I just recently found her lovely blog Madalynne.   
I also do some garden-variety adjustment at the hips (to add more, of course!) and then on to the front.

The front is placed on the body the same way - by aligning center front vertical line and horizontal line at armscye bottom.
Extra fabric is needed on the front, too, in order to place the
shoulder seam at the natural top of the shoulder.
Additionally, the collar is extended to meet in the back
on the center back seam.
The style of the cardigan calls for drapey-ness in the front, so it
requires a little imagination to ignore the paper flopping around.
In the photo above, you can see how the front is too wide and the excess
is scooped out at the front of the shoulder.
A corresponding increase to the sleeve cap is needed
to accomodate the greater circumference of the armscye.
In more fitted styles, I'll  narrow the bodice front above the armscye, perform a full bust adjustment below the armscye, and lower the bust apex.  I added at the hips only in the back, not in the front.  That kept the side seams hanging straight.

My notes.  I measured, then did flat pattern alterations on the
work table.  

The yellow broken lines show where more paper was taped to the
pattern to create the new, altered pattern pieces.  I always add
quite a bit to the sleeve cap in the front.  I measure the armscye, and measure
the sleeve cap and try to make them equal.   In a woven fabric,
the sleeve head can be an inch more than the armscye, but not much more
than that. 
If you can decipher this image, it shows what was added to the
shoulder seam on the front, what was added to the shawl collar
and what was added to the facing (also shoulder).
Oh how I love this new cardigan!!

About the dress form - it is undeniably a luxury to have a custom dress form for my sewing hobby.  I had to slow down on cut out fabric purchases for a year to cover the cost, but it has proven a valuable tool and it saves me a lot of time.  Don't worry, I had a healthy stash to tide me over while I was on the fabric wagon.

A dress form is not a necessity.  Accurate measurements, a camera, some curiosity and persistence will get the job done.  Oh, and time, and patience, we can't forget those.  Having unusual measurements may cause a little more time spent in pattern alteration, but it is worth every bit of effort.

Bonus: patience is a virtue, so all this sewing will make you a better person too.
What more could you ask for?

Have a great day!
{I think that's all I have to say for now.}
(thank you for all your lovely comments about the bright print and the finished garments!!)


  1. Wow I am in awe of your teaching, presentation and sewing skills. Great post.

  2. Wow I am in awe of your teaching, presentation and sewing skills. Great post.

    1. thank you Barbara.
      I am sure you meant it twice, because of how strongly you feel.
      heh heh


    2. Yes it was the annex! I found lace overlay and a lavender with a black tint silk both from Italy which I'm going to use for the Susan Kahjle on line dress course...hopefully to wear to my friends daughters wedding in November! And I love your comment about fabric buyers enthusiam! that sure is the truth!

  3. I am truly enjoying your posts about the modifications to the pattern. Everything is quite clear and the finished product is simply lovely. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    1. Rosie, so glad you come and read my little blog :)

  4. It's such a pretty cardigan - Thanks for showing us your process!

    I'm rather impatient by nature, so I'm glad I can feel virtuous about the pace of my sewing! It's definitely in the style of the tortoise, not the hare.

  5. Thanks for this great tutorial. I believe we have similar body types tall with a bit of hip action going (LOL) I'm going to make my self a sloper and follow your example and see how I make out! Thanks for posting such great information! also I have ordered from Elliott Berman and there fabric is great - never made it in person as I usually get up to NYC on Saturday and they are closed - darn it! Did get some good buys at Parons Fabric last trip!

    1. Good luck with your sloper!
      No I didn't make it to Parons last time.
      But I have also gotten great fabrics there (at great prices in the Annex)

  6. Thanks a lot for this informative post. Actually, I think that in the absence of a fitting assistant, a dress form is essential.

  7. Wow, this is great info! Lots of adjustments to make for the shoulder & height differences from the pattern. It was interesting to see how making triangles and rectangles helped. I bow to you in awe! I'm three inches shorter than the shortest "petite height" (and yet there's nothing petite about me, ha ha). And I usually don't have to make shoulder or upper back adjustments so I can totally see why a tall person would have to adjust the pattern. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

    1. sounds like we are sharing our "ah ha" moments :)
      Just writing this post helped me clarify how I think about fitting alterations for shoulders.

  8. Thank you for taking the time to share this great information.

  9. Thanks so much for posting these alterations. I am so eager to try this pattern and have just purchased some "missoni" style knit to try with it. Your new version looks beautiful too. This pattern really brings the material to life doesn't it.

  10. Wonderful tutorial, Robin. Thank you so much. I have my new S. Veblen book and am just learning about HBL. I can't wait to get started on my next fitting project and your info here was very helpful. Thanks again.

    1. Bunny, I must get a copy of that book! I have heard it's very good.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Robin, Thanks for sharing all the information! Beautiful cardigan!


  13. Terrific cardigan, and fit perfectly. It will be a pleasure to wear. Your red cardi in your previous post is great too!

  14. Thanks so much for showing how you hemmed this garment. I am ready to hem mine now, and I did not want a serged finish.

  15. Very cool... I find myself wishing more and more for a dressform...

    Could not agree more about sewing breeding patience. So true.

  16. This is so encouraging! I have recently returned to garment sewing (with a much-altered body :) and my current project required what I thought of as a crazy amount of adjustment--after 2 muslins, I finally cut the fabric last night. I'm very motivated to succeed, so this was a timely word--thanks

    1. So glad you made all those alterations! No doubt it will be a big improvement over a non-altered patten! Good luck!

  17. No! We are not tired of you or all your wonderful posts. I am now just returning to sewing for myself after raising my kids and sewing for them. It's always been a struggle to fit patterns to myself and I am so thankful to have found your blog. I appreciate all the detailed pictures and sketches that you provide us. Thanks!

    1. *music to my ears*
      I am glad I am not alone in my need for clothes that fit!

  18. That cardigan turned out great! My question is does ANYONE have a standard body? At least among those who sew, I think that's one of the biggest motivations to learn how to do it - nothing fits us without adjustments anyway. And I second the recommendation for Sarah Veblen's new book. For me it was kind of an eyeopener. I'm now encouraged to make muslins!

  19. Thanks for the detailed explanation of your fitting process. I've been enjoying your blog for quite a while, and have learned so much from you. For me, there is nothing more challenging, frustrating, and exhilarating than working to perfect the fit of a garment. So, this post finally prompted me to write and say thanks.
    BTW, I would LOVE to see the steps you take as you do, in order, the three adjustments you mention: "In more fitted styles, I'll narrow the bodice front above the armscye, perform a full bust adjustment below the armscye, and lower the bust apex." Chris

    1. Chris, I was just pondering what to sew next and you have given me the motivation to sew a more fitted style.

      and thanks for the validation. I blog because I enjoy it, getting affirmation is frosting on the cake :-)

  20. Your blog is super - great info and inspiration. These are 2 great posts - both the alterations and the sewing techniques! You got a really good fit, especially the way it hugs your neck just right.

    My sewing assistant is away at college. At her best, she can come up with wildly different measurements if she's asked to measure the same part 2X. (If she sewed herself, she'd know how crucial proper measurements are!) I'm convinced I need a dress form. How "custom" is yours? Where did you purchase? Are we talking more than, say, $200? . . . er $400?


    1. Nina, you can get standard dress forms for about $200, but it varies, of course.
      See the answer to Carolyn a few comments down.
      And you can make your own, but you'll need a buddy.
      I did a lot of reseach just by googling.

      (my custom dress form was over $1k becuase it was made to my measurements)
      I know, big splurge!!
      good luck!

  21. Thanks Robin for yet another very informative post. I too am tall and always need FBA's. Your tutorial will be very helpful on the Abby I was planning on. I just got the pattern a couple weeks ago and want to start on it this weekend.

  22. Thank youso much for this very informative explanation.
    May I ask about your dress form, where you bought it? I do have really good one myself; made by a fantastic local man who is now sadly retired.... sad for me, not for him, I guess!
    Anyhow I wish to buy a good one for my daughter.

    1. Carolyn, I bought mine from Wolf Dress Form located in Englewood New Jersey.
      Also I have seen Alvanon and

      online, and many others. It's worth some googling to see what else is out there.

      Any standard form can be padded out to approximate your measurements - in fact that is what most people do. Most don't buy a custom form, but I am tall and it was either that or make my own. Google "duct-tape dummy" or join the Threads website for instructions. Thanks!!

  23. You know we can NEVER grow tired of you:) I ALWAYS appreciated seeing your pattern alterations! They're always so accurate and precise and yield such great results!

  24. I love the bright colors and the pattern in your new cardigan. So spring!

  25. BTW, I would LOVE to see the steps you take as you do, in order, the three adjustments you mention: "In more fitted styles, I'll narrow the bodice front above the armscye, perform a full bust adjustment below the armscye, and lower the bust apex." Chris

    I would also love to see how you use your measurements to alter for a narrow front and low, full bust! I love your blog, thank you for the wonderful posts and pictures! I have had a real "aha" moment on how to use measurements to alter. Thank you!!! Beth

  26. Late to the party and don't have these issues but I really enjoy your approach, Robin, and your presentation is just wonderful. Great job.


Thanks for visiting my blog and Happy Sewing, xo

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.