Adjusting a pattern for high shoulders

High shoulder adjustment

Let’s talk about shoulders today.  If you are like me and have “Amazon woman” shoulders, you know how tricky it can be to achieve a good fit in this area.  My shoulders are both wide and high.  Adjusting a pattern for wide shoulders and/or a wide upper back can be done rather easily with a broad back adjustment, but I propose that adjusting for high shoulders can be a bit more difficult, especially on a garment with sleeves.  While fiddling with my Carolyn Pajama top a few weeks ago, I think I gained some new-to-me insight on how to accomplish this.  Hence, the high shoulder adjustment was born.

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Fitting broad shoulders: a pattern comparison

Fitting broad shoulders - the problem

Shoulders.  While I’ve grown to accept my genetic makeup and everything that comes along with it, having broad shoulders definitely presents a challenge in my sewing.  Maybe I’m biased, but I feel like adjusting the fit in the shoulder area is one of the trickiest adjustments to make, perhaps second only to the mystical crotch curve.  There’s just so much going on in that area, and a simple change can easily affect nearly every major pattern piece.  The fit issue is really noticeable too – just look at how far away the shoulder seam of my Renfrew is from my actual shoulder point!

There are plenty of sewists out where who are similarly blessed with broad shoulders and a broad upper back, including Morgan, Sunni, Erin, and countless others.  Morgan recently wrote a great post on fitting her broad shoulders, essentially an open letter to the sewing community for suggestions and support.  Go read the comments on that post – they’re full of shoulder fitting wisdom and camaraderie!

Inspired by Morgan’s post, I wanted to add a bit to the conversation.  Specifically, I wanted to illustrate how fundamentally different the drafting has to be to accommodate broad shoulders, at least in my (admittedly limited) experience.  So, I whipped out my bodice sloper and compared it to my adjusted Renfrew pattern, focusing on the back bodice pieces.  Granted, the sloper is drafted for a woven fabric, and the Renfrew is drafted for a stable knit, so they aren’t really directly comparable.  However, I still think the comparison nicely illustrates a few basic points, even if the numerical differences have to be taken with a grain of salt.

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My first attempt at sewing pants: Named Alpi Chinos

Named Alpi Chinos - cover photoAll right, sewing friends.  The time has come.  I MADE PANTS.  And now I’m going to talk about them… a lot.  Sewing pants is something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time now, and I took the opportunity to dive in during my long holiday break from work.   I desperately need a new pair (or three) of pants in my wardrobe, and stubborn girl that I am, I absolutely refuse to buy them.  Why buy when you can sew it yourself, right?  Cue maniacal music…

Before I dive into the details of my ill-fated pant sewing adventure, let me start off my sharing a few lessons learned:

  • Sewing pants is easy.
  • Sewing pants that fit is NOT easy.
  • Sewing pants involves a lot of staring at your own ass and poking at your crotch.  Be warned.

Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?  🙂  You may have figured out by this point that I don’t yet have handmade pants that fit, but I’ll share with you my journey thus far.  Please keep in mind that I have no idea what I’m talking about and am total pants noob.  Advice very welcome!

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Pattern drafting: first attempt at skirt sloper

Skirt sloper version 1 - front

My adventures in pattern drafting are in full swing over here!  This weekend I drafted an initial skirt sloper using the same book I used for my bodice sloper, and you can see the results above.  I can’t say that I’m happy with the current state of the sloper, but it’s really not all that bad for a first attempt.  Take a look at the photos and let me know what you think.  : )

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Adventures in pattern drafting: bodice sloper

Jack Handford patternmaking book - binding

Over the past week, I’ve been diving head first into the glorious and puzzling world of pattern drafting.  YOU GUYS.  This is seriously the most fascinating, most fun, and most confusing sewing I’ve ever done.  I LOVE IT.  Sorry for the caps, but come on people!  This is really exciting stuff.  : )  There is a ton to say about this type of work, but I’ll try to keep this post as brief as possible.  Let’s dive in!

The book pictured above is my Christmas present from John (which I totally asked for): Professional Patternmaking for Designers of Women’s Wear by Jack Handford, published in 1974.  I had checked it out of the library earlier in December and decided that I needed a copy of my very own – it was that awesome.  The book walks you thorough drafting slopers (also knowns as blocks, fitting shells, etc.) and how to then alter them to make any garment your little mind can conceive.  Let’s just say my mind was blown.  The possibilities are endless.

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