January 18, 2014

Shift Dress Sew Along: My Unwearable Muslin and Standard Pattern Adjustments

Simplicity 3833, pattern size 14 constructed without alterations
I have never participated in a sew along but when Rosie Wednesday's Shift Dress Sew Along popped up in my blog reading immediately I jumped on board. I love 1960's and therefor I adore a good shift. A big plus, I had the pattern in my stash, so why not?! 
In case you have not gathered, I do not like to muslin my projects. I sew by my own special set of rules on the topic: 
  1. I will make a muslin if I am using my own patterning. 
  2. I will make a muslin if I am sewing for someone else. 
  3. I do not need to muslin a "big 4" pattern because at this point I have a pretty good idea how each brand fits and I can just use my personal measurements to adjust the pattern. 
Melody, then why would you make an unwearable muslin? Well you see, I always tell you that I have a standard go to set of alterations for my projects: "Square and broad shoulder adjustments and petite torso adjustment to accommodate my frame." 
After reading the lovely Carolyn's (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) adjustment post for The Shift Dress Sew Along it occurred to me that maybe someone out there would like to see how I have to adjust my patterns. 
So I made the shift from Simplicity 3833 right out of the envelope, I used my high bust measurement (35" or 88.9 cm) to choose my pattern size (14), and as it turns out the fit leaves something to be desired. From the waist up the dress is NOT comfortable and I CAN'T move my arms. 
My face says it all
So as you can see a perfect fitting garment can be a little more involved than selecting the correct pattern size. Custom fit begins with accurate measurements and measuring your own back side is next to impossible, find a friend. 
The Vogue Sewing Book, Copyright 1970
Broad Back Adjustment
How to tell if you need this Adjustment:
  • Bodice wrinkles & pulls across fullest part of back
  • Tight when raising arms. 

Measurements needed: Back Width (8) and Shoulder (11) 
Broad Back Adjustment, The Vogue Sewing Book, Copyright 1970

How to perform the adjustment: 
  1. Calculate adjustment measurement: 
    1. Personal back width measurement: 16" (40.64 cm)
    2. Simplicity 3833 back width measurement: 14 3/4 "(37.47 cm) 
    3. Difference between the two measurements: 1 1/4" (3.18 cm) 
    4. Divide the difference by 2 (because you have two shoulders and you will be cutting 2 back pattern pieces). I will add 5/8" (1.59 cm) to the pattern for my broad back adjustment. 
  2. On the back piece, under the armscye, measure 5/8" (1.59 cm) down from the cut line and draw a line into the garment, then intersect that line up through the mid point of the shoulder. 
  3. Cut along the marked lines and slide amount calculated (from step 1). 
  4. Add a scrap of paper to the opening, tape to secure. Finish by redrawing the shoulder cut line and side bodice cut line. 
Broad Shoulder Adjustment 
How to tell if you need this Adjustment:
  • Armhole draws up over the shoulder causing wrinkles 
  • Pulls at the sleeve causing minimal ease for movement 

Measurements needed: Shoulder (11) 
Broad Shoulder Adjustment, The Vogue Sewing Book, Copyright 1970
Note: Because I have already adjusted the back shoulder width when performing the broad back adjustment (above) for this step I am only adjusting the front bodice piece to align the the shoulders.  
How to perform the adjustment: 
  1. Calculate adjustment measurement: 
    1. Personal shoulder measurement: 4 5/8" (11.75 cm)
    2. Simplicity 3833 shoulder measurement: 4" (10.16 cm) 
    3. Difference between the two measurements: 5/8" (1.59 cm). I will add 5/8" (1.59 cm) to the pattern for my broad shoulder adjustment. 
  2. On the front bodice piece, create a point at the shoulder mid point. Create a second point at the lower portion of the front armscye. 
  3. Connect the points. Draw a pivot from the point in the armscye through the seam allowance. Cut from the shoulder to the armscye point, then clip into the pivot without detaching the piece, creating a hinge. 
  4. Spread amount calculated (from step 1). Add a scrap of paper to the opening, tape to secure. 
  5. Redraw the shoulder cut line.
  6. Walk the Pattern. After the  adjustments, line up the front bodice piece and the back piece of Simplicity 3833 at the shoulder to make sure that they both are the same size. 
Square Shoulder Adjustment 
Square Shoulder Adjustment, The Vogue Sewing Book, Copyright 1970
For quite some time I was making my square shoulder adjustment by slashing from the arm and adjusting, because that is how I learned to do the adjustment from The Vogue Sewing Book. Then I happened upon a square shoulder method from Tanit-Isis Sews which I found works much better for me because I too do not need to adjust the armscye and add length to the bodice I already have a petite torso and enough shoulder issues. 
How to tell if you need this Adjustment:
  • Pulling around shoulders and armhole
  • I use the following tells: 
Measurement needed: Distance from dress to body 

Large Arm Adjustment
How to tell if you need this Adjustment:
  • Sleeve pulls due to a lack of wearing ease 

Measurements needed: Arm Circumference (13 & 14) 
I can not express how uncomfortable my arm is right now. 
How to perform the adjustment: 
  1. Calculate adjustment measurement: 
    1. Personal lower arm circumference: 8 3/4" (22.23 cm)
    2. Simplicity 3833 lower arm circumference: 9" (10.16 cm)
    3. Difference between the two measurements: -1/4" (1.91 cm). I will add 1/2" (1.59 cm) to the pattern for my lower arm circumference adjustment. 
  2. Trace the entire sleeve cap on paper. Draw line down the center of sleeve and the paper below pattern piece. Draw line across sleeve pattern piece 5/8" (1.59 cm) under sleeve cap. 
  3. Cut up through cuff hem line along center sleeve line; at the top clip to create a pivot. Cut into each side of the cross line creating pivots at each corners. Spread from center line amount calculated (from step 1) keep lower portion of sleeve cap aligned with original traced portion. 
  4. Trace new wider sleeve. Transfer markings, dart, grain line, and notches. 
I will spare you from viewing my sway back adjustment. I hope all my mess has been legible and helps someone.
At this point the upper bodice of  my Simplicity 3833 shift fits me and I am ready to cut the pattern! 

27 comments:

  1. Those are wonderful tutorials on adjusting patterns. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your adjustment methods!

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  3. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial on how you do your adjustments.

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  4. This is great!! That stinks that you ended up with an unwearable muslin, though. The fabric combinations you have here are wonderful.

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    1. Yes, I did love the fabric but it was from the scrap bin and aided in a good cause! Thank you.

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  5. This is helpful! I always need a swayback adjustment, and have yet to do one. Getting your clothes to fit well makes such a big difference!

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    1. Thank you. Adjustments really make a world of difference! That sway back is a very common adjustment that makes a huge impact. I am plotting and planning to post and show how to do one.

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  6. Thank you for posting this and if you feel led, please post the sway back adjustment too. :)

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    1. Thank you Robin! Yes, I will get on a Sway Back post.

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  7. Terrific post Melody!! I have bookmarked it to refer to when I go to fit my next dress or bodice. I also have wide square shoulders but a very petite bodice, along with a swayback so when I select the smallest size for my small chest measurements, it is almost sure not to fit anywhere else.

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    1. Is it not crazy that so many people are one or two sizes larger in the back than the front yet patterns are divided in equal halves?! I am glad to hear the post will help you, best of luck with your future modifications!

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  8. I'm not advanced enough to know what half of that means, but I will remember this post when things don't fit and I think about adjusting patterns for the first time;)

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    1. Thank you Rebecca, I do hope you find it useful one day. Keep on sewing!

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  9. This is very helpful! Thanks for sharing your methods :)

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    1. Thank you Siri, so happy it is helpful!

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  11. Melody - this is so awesome that you posted these...to be honest I'm going to make a muslin of the front to see if my adjustments will work. I'm concerned about where the dart points to as I said in my post. I'm in awe that you make these adjustments every time you make a new pattern, cause I cheat and use my TNT pattern to get the look & fit I want.

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    1. Thank you Carolyn! I actually was inspired by your post to create a back sloper to act as a TNT to quickly fit check and speed up my adjustments, it is not cheating it is genius. Because the Simplicity shift has minimal ease in the bust and non standard darts; a quick bust muslin is a wonderful plan.

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  12. This is such a helpful post. I've never really had to adjust patterns and the thought of having to do it has been putting me off. You've explained everything so well here, I'll definitely be coming back to this post if I ever have to make an adjustment!

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  13. Thank you for this highly informative post, Melody!! These are lessons I desperately need to learn. I'm hoping to put together my shift dress muslin tonight, so this post will undoubtedly help me to be more thoughtful and methodical about the fit.
    Thanks!
    Shelley

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  14. Can I ask why you used your high bust to select the pattern size? I just bought this pattern today!

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    1. Hi Kara! When the high bust measurement is used to determine pattern size most upper chest alterations can be avoided. This is great because those upper chest, neckline, shoulder and armscye alterations are troublesome to achieve a great fit. However if you are above a B cup size bust more than likely a Full Bust Adjustment on the pattern will need to be done. For example if your high bust measurement is 36" and your bust measurement is 39" a size 14 pattern size would be chosen and a FBA would be performed to add the circumference to the bust with out compromising the fit of the neckline, shoulders and armscye. Good luck with the pattern it is a fun sew!

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  15. Thank you! I found your blog by searching for a sway back adjustment only to find out that I have a (more petite) clone. You have described the required adjustments for all of my fitting issues. Thank you. You've just been bookmarked and moved to the top of the list. (I also like your style and that patterns you choose.)

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    1. That is fantastic Marie. Welcome and thank you!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.
Happy sewing!
Melody

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