Friday, April 6, 2012

pattern alterations on the front - knit tops

When I sewed the Pleated Pia knit top, I wanted to raise the neckline.  Here is how I did it:

Draw a vertical line at center front and a horizontal line at the base of the armscye.
Slice and move the neckline detail, using tape to attach extra paper to the pattern,
The lines provide guidance to keep pieces aligned.
Smooth out the new neckline - mark new stitching line and new cutting line.

Want more? I've had a few requests to post more fitting details, so here is how I approach fitting the front of the bodice.   I narrowed the width of the upper bodice, lowered the bust point, and did a slight full bust adjustment (FBA).

By the way, before tackling the front alterations, I fitted the back (here) on the cardigan.  I don't reinvent the wheel every time I sew a new pattern.   I refer to my tried and true (TNT) patterns and leverage previous work whenever I can.    

Altering the front
Evaluate: take measurements of the pattern and take measurements of my body.
Deciding what to measure is driven by the design.  When faced with a poor fit, it's good to think in terms of all these different measurements to find the variances and get into some specific problem-solving.

The pattern measurements that matter to me (size Aussie 12) are:
  1. Base of armscye, from one side seam to the other is 21"(53cm)
  2. Middle of armscye, from edge of sleeve, is 15"(38cm)
  3. Across shoulders, from sleeve cap to sleeve cap, is 15.5" (39cm)
My body measurements are different, as follows:
  1. Base of armscye is narrower by 2.5" (6.4cm)
  2. Middle of armscye is narrower by 2.5" (6.4cm)
  3. Across shoulders is about the same.
On the left is what the pattern - on the right is my body.
The red lines indicate new armscye shape.

This analysis reveals that my shoulders are not too narrow.   It is the chest (measurements 1. and 2.) that are narrower than the pattern.  In addition, the bust point on the pattern needs to be lowered.

Here are the pattern adjustments to Style Arc's Alice top I sewed recently:

 Step 1. Draw lines to identify center front and base of armscye.

Step 2. Narrow the chest.  Cut along the horizontal line and cut the center front line above that.
Overlap the center front to reduce width by 2.5" or 6.4cm.
This also has the effect of narrowing the neckline and raising the neckline.
Furthermore, the armscye is enlarged by performing this adjustment,
and that triggers the need for an adjustment to the sleeve.
Note that the lengths of the shoulder seams remain the same.
Step 3. Add length below the base of the armscye.
This lowers the bust point.   Normally, I'll also make a full bust adjustment, but
adding to the side seams is good enough in this design.

I get a little faster each time.  I think I understand the characteristics of my body now.  I am super happy to wear clothes that fit.  Overall, yes, it is worth the trouble.  In my world, comfort and vanity go hand in hand.

The good news is that sewing the top is faster than making the pattern alterations, and now I have a couple new TNT knit top patterns.
What am I doing on the computer?  I need to go and sew more of these tops!  I have a SWAP to finish!

How about you?  Do you make more alterations?
Fewer alterations?
And how do you feel about it?
Are you nervous about my SWAP?

*** update ....


  1. I get scared when I think of doing alterations :) Thats why I love the Style Arc patterns, I can get away with minimal changes. But one day, I would love to be able to do what you have described so well in your post today - thankyou for taking the time to do it.

    1. I have to agree - Style Arc patterns need the least amount of work, of any pattern company I've sewn.
      Truly, I could sew them up straight out of the envelope and they would be OK - as if I bought them in the store.
      But it's so nice to have a custom fit (so don't be scared :)

  2. Thanks for these details and an awesome tutorial. After a million years of sewing and hit-or-miss petite-izing and upper chest/fba altering, I finally bought some custom fitting shells. I recruited my husband to take my measurements (I told him it would take 10 minutes). If we survived that, we will survive anything. I got so mad at him ;)

    When I rec'd them, I had to mess with them a bit but they've changed my sewing life. I got bodice, trouser, skirt, and princess sets.

    I love Style Arc patterns, too!

    1. oooh thanks for sharing your success story!
      I made my husband help me make a duct tape dummy, so I know.
      After that he was really supportive about me purchasing a custom dress form, LOL.

  3. You are a genius! Reading this post provided the epiphany I needed to finally understand my problems! I have many of the same fitting issues as you do, but I have narrow square shoulders with a slightly wider back. I have been tackling these issues individually: narrowing the shoulder, altering the armscye, trying to figure out how to narrow the chest. I’ve been pivoting and sliding and shifting, and scooping, but have never really seen the overall picture of how these individual variations work together. When I look up narrowing the shoulders in the fitting books, I always see only the shoulder altered, not the upper chest as well. Yet when I look up rounded shoulders it is always accompanied by a rounded back that I don’t have! I feel so dense for never putting it all this together before.

    As far as the altering the sleeve, I am going to assume that you shift the corresponding section of the sleeve outward in the front to accommodate the shift in the armscye. Please let me know if you have some other way of doing it. I’ve got a project I am finishing at the moment, but I can’t get it done quickly enough to get my next dress pattern altered and cut out! I might have a bodice that actually fits me.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to explain your alterations. You have really blessed me today; I couldn’t have asked for a better Easter present. I hope your Easter is equally blessed!!!

    1. Seam by Seam, you are too sweet! I am really glad this information helped you. It helped me a lot to write it out.
      You are correct about the sleeve. If I use the sleeve pattern straight out of the envelope, it is not big enough to wrap around my arm and connect to the front of the bodice. I do cut and shift it forward and end up with a wider sleeve pattern.
      Your comment made me very happy - thank you!

  4. Thanks for sharing a cool alteration.

  5. I have such a difficult time making anything to fit me. (Buying a dress is rarely an option!)

    I have a long torso (3.5 inches longer than most patterns,) a very large bust and I am very tall. All of this put together is a nightmare!

    I want desperately to be able to make dresses for myself. I have such a great sense of style but it is nearly impossible to fit myself...I can not pin the back of my body for Goodness, Sake!

    About the sleeves.....

    Try slashing the center top of the sleeve to get the seam length. It would be a long "V" shape opening. Just add a little extra paper with some tape. See how that works for you....????

  6. Definitely will be checking the Style Arc, by the way!

    I am going to try to make myself a form. The closest form to "me" that I have found is still 1 1/2 inches shorter than my own torso.....

  7. Regarding the top illustration about raising the neckline......does that method work in the opposite direction? I have a pattern that I love but would like to lower the front neckline slightly (it is a scooped neckline). Thanks!!!

    1. Susan, yes, I think you could easily apply this alteration to lower a neckline. Good luck!


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