Sewcation Day 4: Forge ahead or abandon ship?

Sewing friends, I am at a crossroads with this pattern.  While running errands and cooking for most of the day, I was pondering my fitting issues in the back of my mind.  Can I save this Robson, or should I move on?  I decided to try to fix one more issue and then re-asses.

I was experiencing some tightness across the front upper chest and bust, especially when I moved my arm back.  I’m pointing to the issue below:

Sewcation Day 4 - fitting upper chest 1

So I opened up the princess seams and tried to maneuver the fabric until things felt a bit more comfortable.  I was feeling pretty smug for “discovering” this awesome technique until I realized that everyone does this, LOL.  It definitely helped to fix the tightness across the chest, but it was by no means a miracle cure.

Sewcation Day 4 - fitting upper chest 2

The back is still a mess too.  As of now (with a broad back adjustment), the coat feels comfortable across the back with minimal pulling when I raise my arm (see below, right), but I have lots of excess fabric when my arm is down (below, left).  If I remove the excess fabric (taking out the broad back adjustment), I can’t raise my arms nearly as high and feel much more constrained.  Am I facing Sophie’s choice here??Sewcation Day 4 - back view with one arm raised

Now I present, for your informed critique, some blurry photos of me wearing the trench coat muslin over my pajamas.  This is high quality blogging here, people!  I’ll pose this overarching question:

Can I save this, or should I abandon the Robson and start over with a new pattern?

Criticism welcome; I value your honesty!

I’ll also provide this piece of data: As it currently stands, the coat feels pretty comfortable.  I have a decent range of movement (as much as can be expected in a trench coat), and I seem to have a decent amount of ease where I need it.  With that said, does it look ridiculous?

Sewcation Day 4 - full muslin front

(I’ve been so focused on shoulders that I didn’t even notice the diagonal pulling at the waist until I looked at these photos!  That should be an easy fix though, right?  I also wonder if the fabric is just getting caught on my PJ pants, which would be avoided with a slippery lining…)

Sewcation Day 4 - muslin front view Sewcation Day 4 - muslin back view Sewcation Day 4 - muslin side view

For what it’s worth, here’s what I think:

  • Front doesn’t look too bad – perhaps can be fixed.
  • Upper back looks awful and poofy.
  • Side view actually looks pretty good.

So what do you think: forge ahead, or abandon ship?

19 thoughts on “Sewcation Day 4: Forge ahead or abandon ship?

  1. Hi Carolyn, I think you are on the right track. One thing id say is don’t over fit, this is a trench coat that will have 3 layers of fabric and then need to fit over a top and who knows maybe a light sweater. And, Muslim wAy lighter fabric than what you’ll use for a final. Viewing (and typing)on my phone so hard to see but I think it’s salvageable. Lol if my kids weren’t home at noon three days this week killing my schedule, I’d offer to come over and help you with it. 😉 Hang in there.

  2. Hey Carolyn, you certainly have a challenge ahead of you. I haven’t yet tried anything this complex so my question is coming from a place of uneducated curiosity and not critique. Why did you decide to work out instead of in (larger to small vs. small to large)? I ask because in the limited adjustments that I have done, I prefer to work larger to smaller (pinching out rather than adding to). When I looked at this pattern, the complicated areas seem to be closer to what you are going for in a size 14/16 rather than the 12 you are working with and I would have started with a 14 and worked to reduce the areas where needed rather than messing with so many pattern details. Thanks for sharing your project and experience.

  3. I haven’t tried a Sewaholic pattern yet, but I’ve noticed that they tend to have high sleeve caps (really better described as a low bicep line – the length of the sleeve stays the same regardless of the sleeve cap height), which make the sleeves look nice when your arms are at your side, while making raising your arm difficult. I hate sleeves like that. Big 4 patterns do this a lot, and that was one of the reasons I stopped sewing until I learned how to alter patterns.

    I would try ripping out the bottom 2/3 of one of the sleeve to body seams, raising your arm to see how much you need to add, and raising the bicep line of the sleeve that amount while keeping the length of the sleeve cap seamline the same. It’s a little trickier to do with a two piece sleeve. I would cut the under sleeve piece vertically in half, tape the two pieces to the upper sleeve to temporarily make it a one piece sleeve, make the adjustment, then re-assemble the under sleeve piece. Raising the bicep line and keeping the sleeve cap seam the same length will widen the sleeve, which it looks like you’ll need anyway to fit it over clothes. The under sleeve piece will have width added where you cut it. Hope that makes sense. It’s hard to describe without a picture.

  4. Only you can say whether or not you want to go ahead with it, but I had almost exactly the same problem with the Granville. It was super tight across front and back shoulder area. This was lessened slightly when I put in a different sleeve, but it was still too restrictive to be comfortable. The odd thing is that the pattern pieces corresponded almost exactly in width to a well fitting Burda shirt pattern. This led me to conclude that it was some subtlety in the draft which caused the fit issues, and this was something I neither knew how to or wanted to try to change. I’ve found Burda patterns to be well drafted and fit a broad back, so I ditched the Granville for a Burda shirt which fit much better straight out of the package (download?). I’d probably do the same here if it was me, just because I know that with my skills, I can only alter so much before the style lines go completely out of whack.

  5. Forge ahead!! I think the muslin looks good, I mean, as good as a muslin ever can look. I think you were right about the diagonal pulling at the waist being caused by pajamas, because in other pictures it’s not there.

    I politely disagree that the upper back is poofy; maybe it doesn’t come through in the pictures but it seems to be laying flat on your back. Except I think you’re right and you’ve over-corrected and added too much extra to both the back and the sleeve. If it were me, I would take it out.

    As for the fitting, I think you hit on it already: “…a decent range of movement (as much as can be expected in a trench coat)”. Maybe you’re falling into the trap of wanting your homemade coat to be totally perfect, more so than can actually happen with woven fabric. I always do the same, thinking that I should be able to do handstands and windmill my arms around, but the laws of physics and fabrics won’t let that happen. You should try on another coat you like and see what kind of range of movement you have in that one, then compare to your muslin.

  6. Have you tried it on with regular clothes that you might expect to wear it with? Maybe you would feel differently about the excess? It looks a mighty fine effort to me!

  7. I made a trench coat from McCalls 5525 and was pretty happy with the fit after messing with the bust. I don’t think I’m as broad shouldered as you, but my shoulders are by no means narrow. It’s a well drafted pattern, so I’d recommend it if the Robson drives you nuts. Especially if you know what adjustments you normally have to make for McCalls patterns. Also I think pooling of fabric in the underarm is inevitable if you want to raise your arms high.

  8. I made a Robson coat last year – half way through construction I was convinced it would look awful and the back would be puffy. But once I had the belt tabs on and tied the belt round it all suddenly came into place – try putting them on and see what you think. Also echo comment above – get dressed up the normal sort out of outfit you would wear and try the coat on over that. I include shoes in this – once you start visualise the coat as outerwear rather than critiquing it as you would a dress, you might find you have different fitting criteria. Good luck, and I admire your perseverance!

  9. I’m finding with Sewaholic patterns that the back is always really wide and long with something weird going on around the shoulders. I’d suggest you try a few RTW trenchcoats on to see how they sit across your back and shoulders and go from there. I agree the front looks pretty much there though!

  10. Well I don’t think all is lost! When I made the Granville shirt last year, I had extensive shoulder and sleeve issues to correct. Check the sleeve cap–if the sleeve cap is rather symmetrical, add some width to the backside of the curve, then you may be able to shave a tiny bit off the armhole to address the pooling. I don’t think the pooling there is terrible, but I can see why it’s bothering you. As far as the drag lines in the front, it looks like you need to add length at the bust line; that would allow the front to drop and eliminate that pulling. OR check to see if length needs to be removed from the back to even things up. Also, a stiffer fabric will behave quite differently, and some drag lines will just disappear… Just be realistic on how it should fit; it’s nearly impossible to rid a garment of every last dragline. That said, would it be possible to grab a different pattern to muslin as a comparison? There’s a McCalls trench (I think… or Vogue?) that has had pretty good reviews I believe. Good luck!

    • Last thing… I just scrolled back up to your photos… The shoulder line may need to come in a tad. It looks like it’s actually past the shoulder point, so perhaps backing off the broad shouler adjustment would help.

  11. I’m going to second (or third) that you should try on the muslin with more layers BEFORE removing width from the back and sleeves. My grainline wool coat looks insanely huge over regular clothes. When I actually need a mid-thigh length wool coat, I’m wearing 2-3 layers underneath, plus a scarf. The scarf actually takes up room more room than I would think at the back of my neck, which means the *huge* neckline is suddenly nice and snug. I have issues zipping the coat up all the way if I’m wearing something with a shawl collar and a scarf, and I have a skinny neck for my shoulders.
    So, throw on whatever you would plan to wear under the coat. Then, lift heavy bags (my bicep split a sleeve recently doing this, who knew curls would be something to practice in a muslin?), walk around, swing those arms. My bet is you need all that extra sleeve and back to compensate for your wonderful swimmers body once you put on more than pjs.
    FORGE!! You CAN! YAY!

  12. Hrm, I took a look at other Robsons that people have sewn, and it looks like a lot of them have a poofy area in the upper back sleeve (although maybe not quite as much as your muslin.) I also wonder if the sleeve that matches your shoulder size is too big for your arm size, if that makes any sense.

    As for persevering or changing patterns… you could have probably guessed this from my comment yesterday, but I’d pick another pattern! Thanks for sharing so much of your process – I’m finding it very engrossing!

  13. Well, i don’t know much about fitting but the only problem I see is the diagonal lines in front (for which I have no fix advice) the rest seems to be ok, as already mentioned above keep in mind that you will underline and line this plus it dosen’t have to be close fitted, you should be able to move your arms wearing the coat! I hope you’ll find the way to fix the front lines, I admire how much you work to get a good fit!

  14. I don’t have anything new to add, as you’ve got a lot of fantastic ideas up above. Just wanted to say that I think you’re almost there – forge ahead!

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