When we were planning my daughter's wedding, my big melt down crying jag came while attempting to sew my outfit. No matter what I did, the sleeves twisted and bunched horribly, so much so that in the end, to save our sanity, I went sleeveless and that's saying a LOT because I really Really REALLY prefer sleeves. It also means that I've been attempting to solve the armhole and sleeve problem off and on for over six years which is one reason why I was so happy about yesterday's armhole.
When I talked to her yesterday, my daughter asked why I keep sewing clothes I can't wear and I said it's part of the process and explained the steps I'm working through to get "it" right - with it being different things at different times and in this case fit. I do want to sew clothes that I can wear and I'm very particular about fit so it had become increasingly important to me to resolve these fitting issues once and for all. I wanted to stop guessing and know for sure which alterations to make in which order. It seemed that I may as well explore some different styles and fabrics at the same time.
While I have my favourites, I see trying new styles and unfamiliar fabrics as a natural and positive part of sewing because it lets us take safe risks and climb out of our fashion ruts every so often. And I've been sewing long enough that getting less than best results isn't discouraging; it's research - like flopping a cake recipe. It doesn't hurt that I sew quickly. I'm not rushing but it comes easily and it doesn't take me a long time to make a basic garment. Except for the collar and buttons, I sewed a blouse yesterday afternoon. This is good because being quick allows me to explore the theories my mind ponders and my mind ponders a lot of theories. I like to share that learning so - I hope - it's good for everyone.
For yesterday blouse, I used a cotton polyester crinkle blend in a dull grey. I can't figure out why I bought so much of it since it's somewhat lifeless although it would look good with colorful accents. Most likely, it was in the bargain center and I had a garment in mind that I've since forgotten about HOWEVER... it's perfect for what I'm working on now and there is more than enough to make another version.
When I asked my husband to take this picture last night, he said two interesting things. The first was that I was getting to such fine detail that it was hard for him to see the differences and the second was that the shoulder seemed too far out. YES YES ! ! ! ! I agreed with him because...
... the front and back shoulder widths and the shoulder length were exactly what I was confirming with this garment. The polka dot blouse seemed too tight and I wanted to make sure that it was a different issue (the size) and not these measurements so I widened the measurements by 1/2" and as you can see, it's too much HOWEVER... please do note that even with the too long shoulder... and the sleeve cap falling off... that the armhole is vastly improved. I'm going back to the measurements used for the previous two blouses and concluding that they are indeed correct and that the armhole issue is resolved. There turned out to be a pivot and slide method to drawing the armhole that creates the back scooping as I trace and doesn't necessitate adding to the back sleeve seam. It's perfect and I'll get pictures to show you when I trace the new pattern today.
The process I've been working through is a top down fitting of the bodice. It started when my friend Lorraine said that she thought I should square the shoulders more. Once I realized that I needed to raise them 1/4", I wanted to know how that affected everything else and it's quite surprising what I've discovered. For instance, when the shoulder point is raised, the shoulders are narrowed, and the armhole is retraced, it's typically 3/4" higher at the underarm point which explains why at one time a petite adjustment made sense and how it wasn't the whole story. It also illustrates what I wanted to discover - the least number of correct alterations and why I'm making them. I started working on fitting the bodice about the same time we started work on my new studio which meant I couldn't sew as much and had time to study pattern drafting. It has helped significantly and is something I wish I'd known a lot more about a lot sooner.
Over the past few weeks, I've confirmed that I'm sewing the correct size and I've confirmed the slope of my shoulders, my center back length, my back shoulder width, my front shoulder width, my shoulder length, and my cup size. I've eliminated two adjustments that I thought I needed to make and don't and I've learned the correct way to trace the armhole shapes and have (finally, thank God) removed the excess from behind the back armhole that has been driving me crazy FOREVER. This is good. AND... I'm learning my numbers which is making it quick and easy to alter patterns.
What I'm working on now is the sleeve. It appears that I have the correct size, cap height, bicep width, and armhole shape and I'm in the process of fine tuning the shape of the cap to accommodate my forward shoulder. I don't anticipate this taking too long as it's an alteration I've worked through previously but I do have some ideas for doing the alteration differently that will hopefully be easier so we'll see. I'm about to cut out the Butterick 5678 blouse with the narrower shoulder widths and will try shaping the sleeve cap on my next version. Once that's done, I will have reached the end of this part of the process - the bodice - and will have...
... worked out the information needed to sew blouses, t-shirts, jackets, and dress bodices that fit well. I've identified the alterations that need to be made and especially the ones that need to be made in advance of cutting out the garment. From there, my plan is to focus on fitting a skirt and to then use that base to move forward with dresses and pants. And even that is only part of the process because my ultimate goal is to alter, cut, and sew with complete confidence of good fit and high quality results and to then focus on surface design and creative details both of which take significant time, money, and energy. This is the prep work.
What part of the process are you working on?
Talk soon - Myrna
Grateful - confirmed measurements