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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The most important fitting trick I learned all year

Fitting has evolved for me as an issue and in the knowledge most sewers have. My fitting is better than it was years ago and this is how that has evolved, in chronological order:

1. Multi-sized patterns - finally this was an acknowledgment that a person could be size 14 in the neck and size 18 in the hips and gave you lines to cut along to make that happen.

2. Buying patterns by your upper bust (right under your armpit measurement around the body) measurement rather than the full bust which the pattern companies persist on using as a standard on their pattern envelopes. This means that collars and necklines fit so much better but may create a secondary problem to be solved by solution number 3 below.

3. Full bust alteration - used so often that most of us use the acronym FBA as a descriptor. The Amazing Debbie Cook has generously written the definitive tutorials on this here. The important thing to know about the FBA is that you may benefit from this alteration even if you don't have what you yourself consider a full bust. Think of this more as a fullish bust alteration, or a your actual full bust is just larger than the upper bust measurement which is of course the measurement you just used to buy a new pattern. This puts the extra where you actually need it and not under your armpit (which also increases sleeve size) and makes a huge difference.

So far most of you are with me, I am sure.

However I have recently discovered another alteration, #4, an easy one, THAT MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE to bodice fitting, and that is the square-or-sloped shoulder alteration.

This is the reasoning.

If you think that your clothes hang off your shoulders as a base, sort of like a coat hanger, then it really helps if the garment has the same shape as the hanger, which in this case is you. Just bend down the ends of a wire coat hanger and put a blouse on it and see where the wrinkles are - that's what sloped shoulders ("duck shoulders" one of my friend's calls it) do. Just what your own shoulder might be doing to your garments.

Or, if you have the experience to have this picture in your head, think of how some small cocky guy in a Western shirt with bony shoulders swaggering around a summer fair looks, with the sleeve seams at his shoulders, but the collar all loose and riding up, that's what square, slopeless, ruler-straight-across shoulders do to you. That would also be me and it's been many years since I swaggered around a summer fair, but my collars still push up loose around my neckline, no matter how many back neck darts, forward shoulder rotations I do, or how many upper bust measurements I take.

So what I am saying is you might be fitting everything else but are you thinking about your shoulder shape?

The fix is simple and involves putting a pin in the pattern at the point where the neckline and shoulder seam stitching lines intersect and pivoting up (for square) or down (for sloped) shoulder seam by 1/4" to 1/2" depending on how bad a case you have. Front and back of course.

For pictures again refer to the Debbie Cook's great tutorial and here are my steps:

1. Place your bodice pattern on the fabric and cut out the centre front and neckline, do not cut along the shoulder yet.
2. Put a pin in the pattern where the shoulder and neckline stitching lines intersect. 
3. Swing the pattern piece up or down 1/4" to 1/2" cut along this shoulder line.
4. Move the pivot pin to the new location of the sleeve/armhole seam stitching line and shoulder line and pivot the pattern back to normal so the centre fronts of the pattern and your original centre front cut match.
5. Proceed with cutting out the rest of the bodice evening out the bottom hemline if necessary.

What is cool about this method, which is a simplified version of that described in Nancy's Zeiman's useful book Pattern Fitting with Confidence, which I feel is particularly helpful on this issue, is that it doesn't change the armhole at all so the same sleeve fits in just fine. The only thing changed is the angle of the shoulder to match yours.

Worth a try if bodice fitting is still making you crazy, this supplied the missing piece of the puzzle for me.


Debbie Cook said...

Thanks for the shout out! :-) I also have a square shoulders illustration here: This is one of my always alterations.

Debbie Cook said...

Well, shoot! The link didn't work. Here it is non-linky:

Barbara said...

Excellent Debbie, thanks so much, don't know how I missed that, have edited the post to include your link.