Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Alterations Which Order

This morning, I'm cleaning house and then I'll sew one more muslin and after that move forward with "real" clothes as my husband calls them. When I was talking to my daughter on the weekend about how I don't actually have a large wardrobe, he interrupted to say that's because all she sews is muslins. Too funny and somewhat true except that the process of the last few weeks has confirmed some things I needed to know and has made me very comfortable with the alterations I am making and why. It has also illustrated why other alterations looked like they might work and why they didn't and has shown where I've been overworking and what alterations I need to make in which order. Take the shoulder slope and the narrow back alterations for example...

The amount of my narrow back adjustment is 5/8". In the back, the tuck is made from the shoulder to the waist and then the width at the side seam is returned. In the front, for a narrow chest adjustment, the tuck is made from the shoulder level to the bottom of the armhole. I'm not sure why that doesn't work in the back but it doesn't. I've tried it and ended up with a lot of excess fabric through the lower back.

The tuck needs to be made before the adjustment to the shoulder slope because it greatly affects the position of the armhole and the shape of the shoulder. Above, I've drawn the tuck lines from the shoulder to the waist on the back pattern piece.

When I make the tuck, it appears as if I've adjusted the shoulder slope as well. This is deceiving. If I were to draw a line from the original neck point to the original shoulder point, I would be lowering the shoulder point. If I were to extend the original cut line, I would be returning the shoulder slope to its original angle.

In my case, I want to raise the shoulder point by 1/4" so I measured up that amount from the shoulder point and redrew the line as illustrated. Because of the tuck, it looks as if the change was 1/2" and it's not. A good way to know if the adjustment has worked is if the underarm point has moved.

Taking the 5/8" tuck narrows the width of the back. The measurement above - from center back - is 7 1/4" and a teeny bit. My back shoulder width is 14 1/2" so this works. The width of the back and the slope of the shoulder are now correct.

I retraced the shape of the armhole from the new shoulder point. The armhole is now 1/4" higher and 5/8" closer in to the body. To return the original width...

... I add back the 5/8" creating a new underarm point. It was interesting to me that the net outcome of the two adjustments was to raise the underarm because at one time I was making a petite adjustment through the armhole and although that adjustment was wrong, this information confirms that I was at least thinking in the correct direction. The underarm needed to be higher. What I hadn't realized was that the shoulder point also needed to be higher.

Here is the final affect of the two adjustments on the armhole. The darker line is the new armhole shape. It was traced from the original pattern tissue. The lighter line is the original armhole. On the front, I'll make a similar 5/8" narrow chest adjustment and on the sleeve, I'll add 5/8" to each side seam. Because the shape of the armhole was maintained, the shape of the original sleeve cap (if drafted correctly) will be correct.

Wish me luck. Hopefully, it truly is only this one more muslin. I know I've said that in the past and have then been sucked into following up another thought. I don't want to do that. I think I've learned what I needed to learn and can move forward now. LOL - we'll see.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - Although I'm tired of working on this "puzzle", I'm grateful for all the learning and how it is clarifying and simplifying the adjustment and sewing process.

For the next few weeks, until we take her back, there'll be a Chloe picture at the bottom of each posting so my daughter and son-in-law can see how she's doing. This is her please, please, please do you have a treat for me look.


  1. Hi Myrna, I think you are a little like me - you have to play around with concepts and figure out for yourself what to do. Books help, but there is nothing like immersion. Pat to Chloe.

    1. I do like to explore concepts and see how they come together... or not. I find as I play the stuff I've read about starts to click together and then ta da, I get it. Wrapping the 3D form takes a bit more effort than the text implies but... it's worth the work.

  2. Your husband sounds like mine. When I was fitting jeans a few years ago he told me that if I had been making "real" clothes I would have had a fantastic wardrobe. Unfortunately he was right and I still didn't have a jean pattern that I liked the fit of! I'm working on them again.

    One question-does it ever end???

    1. I don't believe it ever ends for curious minds. We get an idea and explore it and learn. Even when I say I'm not going to, I do because I just have to know. I'm okay with this. It keeps my mind active and that's good. When I first started back to fashion sewing it took a long time but now I find I get to answers quicker and quicker. I just finished the last muslin and it's near to perfect. There's some minor things that can be corrected on the paper and good and enough. YEAH. Pants next ! ! ! !

    2. I think the active mind is what I like best. It makes me stop and think about how to best do the alteration and what/why it fixes/works.

    3. My mind is always active and most of the time this is good. With this attempt to make a fitting shell, I've been doing a lot more thinking in my head before transferring it to the fabric and it has saved a LOT of frustration. The results I have now are quite good and they'll be fine tuned as I learn more. I love that. Adding to what we already know.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.