Thursday, March 19, 2015

Narrow Chest Or Back Adjustment

It seemed like a lot of readers could benefit from more information about the shoulder area. Several years ago, I spent quite a bit of time researching this because I didn't like the way my sleeves hung. What I discovered was that I needed a narrow back and a narrow chest adjustment and not a narrow shoulder adjustment. This process moves the shoulder point and changes the armhole to a more flattering shape and at the same time adds width to the bicep.





To start, you need to know your side to side chest measurement and your side to side back measurement. Mine is 14" in the front and 14 1/2" in the back.





The pattern above is of a back. To compare the pattern measurements to my body measurements, I measure from center back to the small circle for my size. This circle...





... is almost always drawn on the pattern but if it's not, you'll know from other patterns about where it's positioned. For me, the measurement from center back to this circle needs to be 7 1/4" or half of 14 1/2". Whatever the difference is, that is the amount of the narrow back adjustment I'll make. It differs pattern to pattern however, the amount of the adjustment needs to be the same in the front and the back otherwise one edge will need to be eased. I've never had that issue. I've always made the same adjustment front and back.





I recently traced Marcy Tilton's Vogue 9089. This design has a button band. In order to measure from center front to the small dot, I overlapped the two pattern pieces and pinned them together.





Aligning the edge of the ruler with center front, I measured straight across to the small dot.





The distance is 7 3/4". For me, the distance from center front to the dot needs to be 7" so I will make a 3/4" narrow chest adjustment. To do that...





... I start by drawing a box around the armhole using the grainline to keep these lines parallel to or at a ninety-degree angle from the grainline. Above, I first drew the box and then drew another parallel line 3/4" away for the narrow shoulder adjustment.

Next, I cut across from the armhole and fold the two parallel lines together. This lengthens the space from the side seam to the front (or back) notch by the amount of the adjustment or 3/4" in this case. I'll add 3/4" to each side of the sleeve or 1 1/2" in total which can make the difference between a far too tight and a just right bicep width.





Next, you shape the shoulder seam. At one point, I drew the new shoulder line from the lowered shoulder point to the original neck point only had problems with pulling at the shoulders. A friend who is a professional seamstress suggested I should raise the shoulder point 1/4" which seemed strange because I didn't think of myself as having square shoulders and then I realized that I also didn't have sloped shoulders which is the adjustment that happened when I connected the neck and new shoulder points. Now, I extend the original line. As you can see above, that - along with the 3/4" adjustment - adds to the cap height.





I don't make any adjustments to the sleeve until after I've made all of the adjustments to the front and back pieces. Along with the narrow chest and narrow back adjustments and extending the original shoulder line, I will need to check to see if the underarm should be raised. Looking at the shape above, I think that's most likely what will happen and all of these adjustments affect the cap height.  I work through the adjustments step by step to get to the sleeve with the greatest possibility of success and then - with so many adjustments - I typically make a muslin sleeve when testing a new pattern just to be sure.

If you have narrow shoulders, it is quite possible that you - like me - need more than a narrow shoulder adjustment and might find the narrow chest and narrow back adjustments solve some of your fitting issues. It has really worked for me with the bonus of a much easier way to increase bicep width than other options. Let me know what you think.

Today... I have no appointments. After journal writing and walking Miss Chloe, I intend to spend the entire day in the studio working on pieces for my cruise collection. YES YES

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - sharing

If you have a candle, the light won't glow any dimmer if I light yours off of mine. 
- Steven Tyler

17 comments:

  1. Too funny! I had no idea that the circle on the arm hole signified anything! I thought it was just a random placement, just something to help align the sleeve to the bodice. This alteration thing you're showing us is gonna be interesting!

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    1. On a sleeve cap, the easing is centered between those dots and over the shoulder because that's the curve that needs extra room. Under the arm, the sleeve falls straight and doesn't need easing. The shape of the armhole for a set in sleeve is meant to go from the back to the shoulder point to the chest and for the greatest range of movement, sit at those points otherwise the more the sleeve falls off the shoulder, the less range of movement there is. On me, going through those points makes for a more flattering shape. LOL - took a while to figure that out though.

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  2. Same here, although I don't think I've even noticed the circle before!

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    1. LOL - and now you can let it be there to help you. YES YES

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  3. Your sharing this information is incredibly timely, for one of my goals this year is to figure out how to make a woven button front blouse that fits me, a garment that in all my years of sewing has eluded me. I never thought to measure my front and back width, and will get a friend to help with that, as something that gets the shoulder seam into the right place *and* adds bicep width sounds much more helpful than my earlier attempts

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    1. How fun. Best of luck Alison. I know you can figure it out. I found I had to be persistent but eventually I weeded out this and added in that and I'm more fine tuning than figuring out now.

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  4. Love it. So when are you going to write your own book on pattern adjustments? I'd buy the e-book in a heartbeat, even though I have a couple other books by well-known sewing writers.

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    1. All the info I'm sharing came from doing research so it's all already available. The two sources I use most frequently are Pati Palmer and Sandra Betzina. Pati wrote Fit for Real People, Jackets for Real People, Pants for Real People and is just about to release Knits for Real People. She knows her stuff. I'd buy anything she wrote in a heartbeat. Sandra wrote Fast Fit - a quick guide with a powerful punch. LOTS of good info. If I want to know something, I go to these books first. They're not fancy but they're encyclopedic and worth reading through with sticky notes.

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  5. Marilyn in OntarioMarch 19, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    I think the piece of material that you used to paint your collar is called
    Punchinella.
    I can only read your blog every other day as i was scammed on my main computer
    and they then they shut down my wireless service by going into the router.
    Since my computer guru (my Brother who has an apartment in my house) is now in Chile and will not be back home for one more monthi have to come to the Library in town to get wireless.
    It is too bad that these people can't be caught. When I asked him if he would like to have this happen to his Mother....he said "Don't go there" How they sleep at night knowing that all they do is make lives miserablr i will never know! It is for sure that they will never have a heart attack because they lack a heart!!
    Marilyn

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    1. Thanks. I'm definitely going to get more punchinella.

      I'm sorry about your computer. Luckily libraries have public ones. Did you ask your brother if he'd like this to happen to his mother? It sounded like you asked the hacker ? ? ? There was a blurb on the news about this type of hacking just the other day. The answer was change the router. Apparently some people are being charged a ransom to get access to their information and pictures so it was once again impressed how important it is to have a back-up so you can not pay the ransom, get a new router, and reload your info from your back-up.

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    2. Marilyn in OntarioMarch 23, 2015 at 11:48 AM

      I asked the hacker/scammer. Sorry that it was unclear.My brother will fix the problems.

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  6. Myrna,your sleeve and bodice posts have been so timely; I've been eagerly following along.I've been working on a knit bodice block, and have been struggling with my sleeves hanging poorly as well. I've been narrowing my shoulders, but think I may need to make the narrow chest adjusment instead. Could you provide a quick description (maybe with a picture or two) of how you "increase the sleeve cap width" to coincide withthe narrow chest tweaks? Thanks so much!!

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    1. In today's posting where I talk about adding the 3/4" of my narrow chest/back adjustment to the side of the sleeve and also 3/4" to the cap height, that gives the extra distance needed. If you make those changes - with the amounts specific to your circumstance - what you need will be there. Wednesday's posting - cap height adjustment - showed how to add the cap height. To add to the side seam, either trace over the required distance or - if the side of the sleeve has shape - cut and insert paper to widen each edge. Let me know if this makes sense or if you need the photos and - if needed - I'll see what I can do next week.

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  7. I've already added cap height to reduce some of the drag kines. As I look at your pattern work to narrow the bodice, it occurred to me that I could do the opposite process with the upper sleve, thus maintaining the same final total dimensions. Exciting! Can't wait to try this out tomorrow, thanks so much!

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  8. This is a great post! I spent last night studying Sandra Betzina' ftting book trying to figure out what is the problem with the shoulder fitting of the tunic I am making. And it is not narrow shoulder but a narrow chest. Your photos are really helpful I can actually see exactly what to do. I am really excited that I will be able to fix this problem once and for all. The thing about the shoulder point on a pattern was a revelation for.me,too.

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    1. Learning that adjustment fixed a whole lot of issues for me. The dot is not actually the shoulder point, that would be the top of the sleeve cap where it intersections the shoulder seam. The dot is the measurement point for the front chest and the back. I'm not sure if it has an official name.

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