Adjusting a pattern for tall shoulders

00 Shoulder adjustment close upWork has begun on my black and white dress, and one of the very first things to do was to adjust the pattern pieces in a few places where I know I’m going to have issues.  I added some length (about 4 inches) to the bottom of the dress because I know I want it to hit my knee, and I added 2 inches of length right at the waist to accommodate my long torso.  Both adjustments were pretty straightforward – just horizontally cut the pattern pieces and add length where needed.

But… what about my big shoulders?  Oh universe, why must you strike me with your vengeful wrath???  Haha, I guess big shoulders aren’t that bad; it’s just more of a challenge to make adjustments in such a tricky area.  With the caveat that I’m totally making this up as I go along, I’ll show you what I did.

The idea was to add length (height) in the shoulder area without screwing up the neckline placement (i.e., without adding any width that would require completely re-drawing the neckband and neckline areas).  Since this is a sleeveless dress, I’m not worried about width, just height.  So, I added height vertically (and only vertically) in the upper back, front shoulders, and neckband.

You can see the upper back piece below.  I taped a big piece of plain white paper behind the pattern piece, horizontally cut the piece pretty close to the neckline (but without touching the neckline), and added 1.5 inches in height.  Then I drew in the new side lines and cut away the excess paper.  So far so good!  You can also see my vertical guidelines in pencil – I drew these before I cut so that I could match up the two pieces of the pattern after I added in the extra length.

01 Upper back adjustmentNow on to the front shoulder pieces – a little more tricky.  Since I wanted to add vertical height only, I marked 1.5 inches directly above the top corners of the shoulder and then connected my dots with a diagonal line – the new top of the shoulder piece.  Getting a true vertical line was a little tricky since the piece is on the diagonal in this area, but I have a ruler big enough to get down to the vertical grain line marked elsewhere on the pattern, so I used that as my vertical guideline.  Awesome.  Finally, I freehanded the new diagonal side lines, which are probably not perfect but will be good enough.  : )  Note that this involves adding some paper on the right and cutting away some of the original pattern on the left.  Be brave and just cut it off!  My big shoulders are already thanking me for my courage, haha.

02 Front shoulder adjustmentBelow you can see the final adjusted shoulder piece after I cut away the excess paper.  Not bad!  I also extended the notch directly upward, using the vertical grain line as a guide again.  Now I have a piece that my ample shoulders will actually fit in… and hopefully an armhole that won’t be digging into my armpit.

03 Front shoulder adjustment after cuttingFinally, I adjusted the top of the neckband pattern piece in a similar manner to the shoulder.  Again, I added 1.5 inches in length without changing the width, and I freehanded the new side lines as best I could.

04 Neckband adjustmentEasy enough, right?  I had done essentially the same thing with my red polka dot dress, and it worked out pretty well… so I’m hoping for the best for this dress as well.  : )

To end this post (and my evening) tonight, I wanted to include a recent photo of Maggie, my sweet kitty who makes my day everyday.  She’s a great sewing helper and all-around awesome cat.  Meow meow!

Maggie looking beautiful as always“I know I’m gorgeous, but please stop taking pictures of me.”

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