Gentleman’s Greatcoat Muslin : Second Wave Offensive

Last night I used the sleeve alteration on Phat Chick Designs for a forward rotated shoulder.  Did I look at my FFRP ?  Did not.  I usually use that as a starting point.  I tend not to ascribe to Occam’s Razor, but rather to my detriment delight in positing plurality without necessity.  {wink}

That is to say, I should have looked at FFRP first.

Phat Chick Pattern after some alteration.  Weeeeird.  Long acquaintance with two-piece sleeves teaches me to first monkey with the upper sleeve, and then the under sleeve only if necessary.  This is the upper sleeve.  The left is the front of the sleeve.   My fingertip points to the shoulder seam marking.

Front, with Phat Chick altered sleeve.  Not so bad, not so good.  He had some mobility issues.  I spent a few years in theatrical costume.  During fittings we made actors reach their hands over their heads, touch their toes (as close as possible), reach across their bodies, jump, and twist.  If their character needed to perform any particular physical activities, we’d try that too.  If a garment doesn’t pass the mobility test, it’s no good.  This sleeve does not pass the mobility test.

Side.  Ick!  When I was altering the sleeve I realized Phat Chick tells you to alter out most of the sleeve ease.  Also, the sleeve in the illustrations was a simple one-piece sleeve with a flattish shirt-style sleeve cap.   I think I need to raise the sleeve cap and/or add in a little more east to both the front and back.  When I sewed in the sleeve, it wouldn’t ease.  In fact, the coat body tried to ease to the sleeve.  Terrible.  At lease the length is good.

Jumping Juniper, that’s a bad back.  I can’t discuss it. Sloppy.

I went back to good old FFRP over my breakfast.  They say not to change the sleeve at all, rather match the shoulder point on the sleeve to the new shoulder seam.  They further suggest not worrying if the underarm seam won’t match the side seam because no one looks.

Good solid advice.  However, the beauty of a two-piece sleeve lies in its elbow bend.  If I just plonked an unaltered sleeve onto the new shoulder seam placement, the back seam of the sleeve would sit too far up his arm. 

FFRP did suggest perfectionists should alter the sleeve seams the same way they altered the shoulder seam.  In my case, I sliced 1 1/8″ off the front shoulder seam and added it to the back shoulder seam.  I traced a new upper sleeve and did just that. 

You can see changing the placement of the seam alters the shape of the cap, but not dramatically.  Note the shoulder seam marking.  This looks better to me.

Front.  Oh dear.  This time we fit with the waistcoat and both shoulder pads in place.  The sleeve to your left is Phat Chick.  The sleeve to the right is the simpler FFRP.  It looks at first glance like the left one is better.  However, the collapse in the right one indicates to me that it has the right amount of ease and once it is made up in the proper fabric with a carefully fitted shoulder pad and sleeve head, all will be well.  Please correct me if you know otherwise.  He still had mobility issues.

Back.  Better but not great.  I realized I added extra width to the back armscythe on the waistcoat to allow for rounded shoulders.  I shall need to do this for the coat.  Once I do, the left (the FFRP arm) will look smoother.   I wanted to avoid making a second muslin of this coat, but I need to.  That’s ok, it tipped the balance in favor of deepening the back yoke curve to preserve the style. 

Left: Phat Chick sleeve.  Right: FFRP sleeve.

The left looks in desperate need of a higher sleeve cap.

The right looks like it needs a sleeve head for support (or an adjustment for smaller arms?) and the coat back needs a little more width.  I could either alter the Phat Chick sleeve or alter the back.  I believe altering the back (especially since I wanted to anyway) will fix the mobility issues and will smooth out the sleeve wrinkles.  I suspect it would also prove to be a shorter process due to my greater familiarity with the techniques used in back alterations.

Phat Chick would work well for a shirt sleeve with a smaller forward roatation, but for a coat sleeve (which has a higher sleeve head and greater ease) it is inappropriate. 

The next step involves pulling out the basting, remixing the back, and re-assembling the muslin.  It sounds like more work than it ought to be.  I might stick on the front skirt part while I’m at it.

Husband doesn’t like me to call it the skirt, but I’m stuck for any other word.  The kilt?


  1. Sorry it didn't work for you. That's why muslins are good ;) . I've used my method on coats with no problems, but I do tend to tinker with sleeve cap height from time to time. Often there isn't enough sleeve height on patterns for my body. A couple things I want to note:1. I always alter for wearing ease first before doing any forward shoulder alterations. If the sleeve doesn't have enough ease before the alteration, it's probably not going to have enough ease after, especially if I remove sleeve cap ease.2. I follow Kathleen Fasanella's mantra that sleeve cap ease is bogus. I know there are people that swear by it, but I personally find it unncessary and a pain in the ass for me to sew LOL. I realize the sewing world is probably divided on this, so eliminating sleeve cap ease is merely a preference of mine. Regardless, however, I like sleeve cap ease to be balanced on the front and back of the shoulder line. I measure for this and reduce so they match. I don't necessarily eliminate ease beyond that, unless it is more than 1 1/4". Again, preference :) .The FFRP forward shoulder alteration is the only alteration in the book I don't like. It just never worked that well for me. But it works well for many others and that is good. Thank goodness we have choices!2.

  2. Peplum. ha! I like it.Kat- thanks for coming over to look. I think perhaps a bit of ease is necessary to achieve a rounded sleeve head. Sewing the sleeve with no ease onto the coat body was really difficult. I suppose it could just be that the shape of the sleeve cap itself is not so great, it should be more arched. Hmmm… Now I'm wanting to go play with the sleeve alteration again!

  3. Have you tried setting in the unaltered sleeve first? If you have already moved the body shoulder seam forward, remark your sleeve shoulder notch forward the same amount. You might find the forward alteration is not necessary.If you think you need it, slide the upper (10cm approx) of the sleeve cap forwards on your pattern and redraw/smooth the lines, then test.I don't like the idea of rotating the complete sleeve within the armscye – I think you should keep the underarm points as drafted or the sleeve will twist.To me the last FFRP photo looks too forward, and has the twist.I like to mark both grainlines on the toile – it really helps to visualise what should go where!

  4. Well, I have a 1 1/8" forward rotation here. Its kind of a lot. If I simply move the shoulder notch forward, it will be off the sleeve head. The top of the sleeve needs to sit on the shoulder, that is how it works… As for cut and slide, that's what I did for the Phat Chick alteration. It was dramatic. On rotating the whole sleeve: because I changed the seam allowances, my underarm notch matched up with my underarm seam, and all the other notches matched properly. In effect, that alteration simply shortened the front armscythe appropriately and lengthened the back. I've been comparing the altered waistcoat pattern to the original; it seems I added 1" to the back armscythe and tapered it into nothing about 2/3 down the back armscythe… So now I'm playing with that on the side back piece… I took some of that width across the top of the shoulder into the front, and then scooped out the armscythe in the mid to lower front. It sounds weeeeird, but it fits him. I might alter the coat and post pattern pics…

  5. I also might sign husband up for a lengthy run of pilates classes… I very much believe in fitting the body we have, but this seems a little much to me. I feel like I'm enabling horribly posture.

  6. Oh my gosh! That IS a lot of forward shoulder rotation. (And I was thinking 1/2" – 5/8" was a lot…) Sometimes I think there comes a point where this is too much pattern distortion. That's a big reason why I use a base size 12 Miss pattern instead of a 10. At that size, all my alterations are usually no more than 5/8" in all the critical areas (narrow shoulder, FBA, increase in waist, etc.).But you know, I'm a big fan of the Whatever Works Method. So if you're doing some "unorthodox" approach by scooping here and there, and it works, that's good. Human bodies are so uniquely different from person to person, and there doesn't seem to be a perfect approach that fits everyone. And I completely understand about "enabling horrible posture". There comes a point where we say about ourselves or others, "This would be so much easier if you simply stood up straight!"

  7. I spent park-time today re-reading fit books. I think based on my scoop method that he has proportionately broad shoulders, and they're also forward rotated which exacerbates the fit problem. I suppose if he stood up straight the broad shoulders would be more obvious… Despite my best efforts (teaching him how to feel his muscles, regular light pilates and yoga), he still walks and stands that way, refuses to believe it is mostly controlled by a pectoral muscle and can be changed over time. His parents walk and stand the same way so I suppose he doesn't think there's a problem with it. Sigh.

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