Pattern Alterations- Let’s List and Vanquish Them

Until very recently, I taught sewing.  (I quit so I could teach through other venues, and so I could blog more freely.) While teaching, I noticed a few general alterations that most people need to make in order to achieve a basic good fit.

My top three observations:

  • Bust-waist-hip ratio- I find that more often than not, a person will be one size on top and one or two sizes larger through the hips and waist.   A common variation is one size on top, one size larger through the waist, and another size larger through the hips.
  • Full bust- I know some people don’t have to do this, but it’s another alteration I see all-the-time.
  • “Sway back”- That’s the rippling folds of fabric some people find settle above their backsides.

When I work from regular patterns, I tick all those boxes and more.  It’s what drove me to learn to draft, but I recognize that not everyone has that option.  This week, I’ve been working on my perfect basic t-shirt pattern.  Simple to sew, easy to wear, suitable for a variety of fabrics and just a little interesting.

Then I thought- Why stop with myself?  I’d like to hear from you- from anyone out in the sewing world who wants the same things from a t-shirt.  I’d like to develop a simple, multi-sized pattern for people who want to uncomplicate their sewing.

Is pattern sizing completely out of step with the modern body?  Or is it just that people who don’t fit the “standard” size are more likely to want to sew?   If most people have to perform the same pattern alterations, is it time to experiment a little to find a “new  normal?”  I don’t know.  I do know I can count on one hand the students I’ve had who didn’t need to alter their patterns.

Tell me your fitting woes.  You gave me some really great ideas for necklines, now I want to focus on the fit. For those who are dab hands at alteration, tell me what’s on your “laundry list?”  For those who don’t alter because they don’t know where to start, tell me what doesn’t work for you.  Where do garments sag, stretch, gap or bunch when they shouldn’t?  I want to make a crowd-sourced t-shirt pattern.

This project has entirely captured my imagination.  Help me make your perfect t-shirt pattern!  I’ll show you mine tomorrow, and then I’d like to make a list of common pattern alterations (this is where you all come in) and work through the list one fit issue at a time.  If I can’t find a useful tutorial, I’ll make one.

List and Vanquish!

If you’d like to contribute but would feel more comfortable emailing me, please do.  stephc (at) 3hourspast (do t) com


72 comments

  1. I’m still a beginner, but I find that the size difference from top to bottom is a big one for me. I have a small bust, so I’m always bringing things in a lot up the top. Also – I don’t know if it’s just me, but underarms *always* seem too high and tight…

    I get frustrated that patterns don’t fit my body, or have a crazy amount of ease, but I do remember that *everyone* expects these patterns to fit, and there’s a lot of different shapes and sizes.

    • I hate high, tight underarms too. I get that.

      You’re right, but I find those three alterations are fairly constant despite someone’s weight or height… So I’m trying an experiment… :)

  2. I started sewing two years ago, but I’m only just starting to learn how to mod clothes. I’m one of those people with ALL of the above modifications required. Maybe the short woman is more predisposed to sewing? :)

  3. I pretty much always have to do an FBA. Empire waists always take a bit of finagling too. There’s usually about 4 sizes between my waist and my hips so sometimes not all of the sizes I need are even in the same pattern packet!

    I really like small pattern companies who cater to other body shapes like Colette Patterns and Sewaholic Patterns. I still don’t fit “off the rack”, so to speak, in their base sizing but it’s closer to mine than any of the major pattern companies so I have to do less and they look better because the proportions are closer to what they were designed to be.

    • That sucks about the pattern sizing, and it happens to other people all the time. Really..

      I rather like Colette, too. The first time I made one of her patterns, I measured and re-measured to be sure it would in fact fit me. It was weird not to alter. :)

  4. I’m probably going to throw your poll of by a lot, but here goes: I always have to do an FBA. According to my bust, waist and hip circumferences I’d have to take a burda size 40 for the bust, a 34 for the bust and a 36/38 for the hips. Do I even have to mention that these don’t do the job? I’m more like between size 36 throughout with a too big bust and butt. I confess to being a dance addict. Now that also led to more muscles in the legs (you don’t need this for Shirts but but explains the butt) and a flatter-than-average tummy (from tilting my hip forward in order to stay flat against my dance partner). I know it’s unusual, but do you have a way of doing a sway-back alteration at the back while taking out fabric at the front? I can’t find it anywhere and I would like to use a pattern once in a while.

    • Thank you for that- I’m working out proportions, so all input helps a lot! I’ll puzzle over your question for a few days and let you know, that’s just the sort of question I like… Anyone have ideas?

  5. I’ve been sewing for many years, but have only recently begun to learn to really do fit alterations other than for length (I’m short) and to move from one size to the next on multi-size pattern options (hips are bigger) A very recent revalation is that I reguire a full bust adjustment–despite the fact that i’ve never considered myself to have big boobs. This is because my shoulders and upper chest are small compared to the lower part of my body. I can’t really see this when I look in the mirror–my shoulders don’t appear to be narrow. However, I recently used a (big 4) dress pattern that had multiple-cup sizes, and the C-cup fit amazingly well. Next up–try a blouse pattern that has multiple cup offerings. I wonder–are there any knit patterns that are available in multiple cup sizes?
    I’m also beginning to wonder about the sway back adjustment, which I haven’t used but am considering. Is it swayback, or a tilted pelvis? Are they the same thing? Or does my butt just stick out?
    Fitting is hard! It’s difficult to judge you own body “quirks” objectively, and it is difficult to measure yourself well.
    Good luck with your challenge!

  6. I think this is a great idea! I’ve been thinking for about a year that it would be nice to have bodices with the FBA (and maybe other alteration options drawn on the pattern) already done. So, say, I could download Bodice A in a size 18 and have the multisize part only affect the cup size.

    My alterations include: FBA – I’m an H cup but have a narrow chest and narrow upper back. The FBA ensures that my armholes don’t gape- I don’t have the tight armhole problem. I also take in for a sway back, add a little for my waist, take in for my narrow upper chest (it’s a petite alteration). Needing the FBA as badly as I do means that I don’t tend to need to raise the waist for my high waist but sometimes I do have to take up the waist in the back.

    So many different body types sew. It’s something different for everyone. Some sewists spend more time fitting (like me), others spend more time on fabric selection or couture details. I love it! But I love your idea. I’ll help in any way I can. And I wish I were in Brisbane right about now. :)

  7. I didn’t understand the concept of FBA until I was reading blogs. I’m a D cup (and short so proportions come into play too) and I never understood why shirts fit so poorly when I swallowed my mental sizing issues and made patters to my full bust measurement. The shoulders are way off, it never fit snuggly under my bust when it should which resulted in me looking pregnant.

    In understanding high bust and making FBA, I’m actually pretty spot on hip to bust ratio and my waist is usually 2-3 cm bigger than standard sizing.

    I would really like a sway back post because I’m sure I need it, but it’s still a little foggy for me. With RTW pants, I could generally take in an inch in the waist at the back even though on patterns it’s my waist that is too big. I don’t quite get how that works out. I think it’s two fold. 1. I’m short, patterns think my waist should be where my hips are starting. 2. My hip size comes more so from the back than sides so the difference in my waist shows up at the back.

    • It sounds like you and I have similar body shapes. I can definitely write about those issues, it’s good to know someone wants to hear it!

      Let’s hold off on the pants, I have another plan in the works for pants. ;) Whole new pattern project for after Christmas, methinks. I think butts should have “cup” sizes kind of like busts, because I think it’s rather common for someone who needs a FBA to also need some kind of “juicy booty alteration” although it’s called “swayback.” I’ll rip into that in an upcoming post. ;)

  8. Points 1 and 3 describe me. Alas, no fba needed, lol! I can usually get away with sewing a size 40 in the shoulders and bust of a tshirt and then flaring out to a 42 at the waist and a 44 at the hips.

  9. Fitting is a bear for me. I sew for myself because of how poorly RTW fits… and I know I’ve not gotten it quite right yet.

    I’d love some help figuring out the bust issue… I have a heavy (36g) bust and the last fitted dress I made fit fine through the bust (I have that worked out) but above my bust through my collarbone? OH DEAR. I had enough extra fabric to smuggle a cat. When I do my muslin, the fabric isn’t lined, and so it lies flat on my chest. As soon as I add the lining? Sigh. I’m going to do the next muslin in a stiff fabric and try an over-bust fabric dart (that doesnt’ make it to the final fabric, just is a way to reduce the pattern). It’s such a pretty dress too … cheerful fabric in the Collette wrap dress. And now it’s off-the-shoulder. :p

    I’m also short, long-waisted, with substantially different lengths in the front and the back for clothing, and a small-sway back. And I have short arms, with wide biceps.

    Thanks for any assistance!

    • I get that “smuggle a cat” issue too sometimes. In RTW it almost feels like I don’t have enough bust to fill that space. It’s an issue in making bras too. I have one that I made and it fits my MIL well but I can fit my arm through the top. I need the cup size, but I don’t have breast flesh extending up or to the middle like my MIL does.

      • I don’t even know if it’s “not enough breast flesh” – I certainly have plenty of that – but not very much flesh around my collarbone. My above-bust measurement is big because of a wide upper back, not a wide front chest. FWIW, there is a 10″ difference between my ribcage measurement and my full-bust and a 5″ difference between ribcage/overbust.

    • Wow thank you for that insight! I hear you, I totally hear you about the boobs being an issue- I have found that the more darts I have, the better. I’ve been known to divide darts. For me (DD), I like my woven “shell” pattern that has a shoulder dart, a side dart and two underbust darts. It’s a slightly longer sewing process, but the finished garment suits my body much better. I’ll spend some time in the near future going over how I address those issues in my own fitting. :) I have an upcoming simple woven top planned in my wardrobe, so I’ll just carefully go through the pattern process.

  10. I have both a long waist — to which I regularly add 2″ to commercial patterns — and a deep rise — to which I regularly add 2″ to commercial patterns. (Human bodies exist in so many variations that I, personally, would despair of achieving a “normal” pattern. You go, girl!) And age brings its own changes: spreading waistline, shrinking spine, forward thrust of head and/or shoulders, etc. It might be more useful to aim at “normal” for year groupings, say, 20-35, 35-50, 50-60, etc. Manufacturers of rtw must, of necessity, establish some standard measurements by which to cut and sew. I would sew whether or not rtw fit me well. It does not, so my sewing skills serve me well. I do not feel qualified to speak as to why others may choose to sew.

    • :) Thanks for sharing and the encouragement… It’s just the alterations I teach people to do are so frickin’ consistent, regardless of age or weight that I can’t help but think we should just have slightly better considered sizing proportions. The last time a sizing survey was undertaken was after WW2… I think I did a post about this a while back, might be time to revisit that…

      I get what you’re saying about gravity and age, but I think it a knit those might not be issues worth exploring… I’d like to release a couple of sizes, then a “hack” of how to easily fine-tune the pattern for your body. Once the proportions are correct, that part is really really easy.

      • You might also consider that genotypes within regions differ from each other, too. A friend with Norse ancestry complained that German patterns for traditional Teutonic costumes were consistently short-waisted on her. She said that her Norwegian cousins laughed when she told them. Apparently, Norse bodies are usually long-waisted, and her cousins always have to alter for that. They told her that German bodies are usually short-waisted — it’s how they identify the Germans in a crowd of tourists. Some geographical regions produce bodies that are wide from side to side, and narrow from front to back; and other regions vice versa. They both wear the same diameter, but fitting issues are quite different. Wrangler Womenswear faced that particular dilemma in designing lines for different fits, in the 1980s (I worked in the advertising department). I’m sure you’ll enjoy tackling this knotty problem. I look forward to reading about your progress.

        • Thanks- I kind of noticed that too, but surely we can get a little t-shirt pattern that drapes ok on a variety of sizes… Especially if I follow up with a “hack this pattern” post to show how to easily alter… hmmm…

  11. It would be amazing to have a pattern that doesn’t give a puddle of fabric in the front armpit, as Kathleen Fasanella describes here:
    http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/pop-quiz-fitting-the-common-women's-t-shirt-pt-2/
    All my rtw t-shirts give me armpit puddles, and I thought it was because of my small bust but it happens to large-busted women too because the front upper chest / armscye is too long.
    I like my t-shirts tight, and always have to take in a lot to get negative ease – I have a 30in bust.
    Thanks for your blog, I always learn something new from your posts!

    • Aw, thanks. :) I get armpit puddles, too, often at the same time that the armscythe is cutting my armpit. Ridiculous. I like my t-shirts fairly tight, but I designed this one to be a bit ease-y through the waist. It’s very very simple to take it in if that’s your preference, but if you like a flowier style it’s built in. The bust has a little negative ease. (thanks for the measurement!)

  12. Fit is a constant issue for me, too. I’m a DD, so I always have to do an FBA, and I also need a swayback most of the time. I let the waist out, though my hips usually fit the pattern size.

    The more insidious fitting issue I have, though, is that the Big 4 pattern armholes are so long! I must have short armpits or a short upper chest or something, because I consistently have to remove 1 or more inches in length from the upper chest, back, and sleeve cap. Giving sleeve caps a flatter slope also greatly improves my range of movement and comfort, because I find the tall, narrow caps on commercial patterns too binding.

    By the time I’m done with a pattern, it probably would have been faster to just draft the thing myself.

    • Yes. That’s why I started drafting. I realized that the time I spent altering a pattern was at least as long as it would take me to draft. Once I got used to drafting (and I’m still learning all the time!) I could make a bodice/dress pattern in no time. Much less time than if I altered, in fact. I find when I alter, it’s like working backwards to figure out which pieces to change, etc. Drafting is more straight-forward…. At least to me… And I want to (try to) crack the proportions issue!

  13. I have ridiculously narrow shoulders for my size. I usually cut an 18 at the shoulders and adjust to a 22 at the hip. Then I take in the shoulders 1/2″ to 1″, make a 1″ tuck above the waist for the front and back, do a swayback adjustment (well. Large behind adjustment), a FBA, adjust the sleeves, and then a “prominent shoulder” adjustment so I don’t rip anything when I reach forward. Which I do a lot, because I cycle and have an active job.

    Honestly, it’s ridiculous. But I’m trying so hard to get a blouse to fit properly, and I haven’t had any luck drafting my own pattern. Hopefully this list works – I had to make more pattern adjustments after I wore the blouse for a few hours and I haven’t had the time this week to cut out and sew up the new version.

    • I see that come up quite frequently, you’re not alone! I’m pretty passionate about helping my students fit, and since I quit my teaching job you’re now all my students. :) I’m going to email you….

      • Learning more about how to fit my garments – from the comfort of my own home! – is so awesome. I’ve actually even tried taking a “draft your own clothes” distance education sewing course, but everything was based on tables, and I had to do so many adjustments after that I scrapped the whole idea and never completed the course…

  14. I’ve sewn for hundreds of women and it is so rare that a commercial pattern is any use at all! Classic adjustments (I toile and adjust, I don’t mess around with flat adjustments) FBA, armholes too big, deep, wide, tight, backs too wide, shoulders too wide…the larger a woman, the more likely this will become a bigger problem. I guess this is simple math – bigger means bigger differentials. And pattern size grading is just dreadful. It assumes that people proportionally grow with the grading and we don’t. Bits stay put, others go mad!
    I am TALL, nearly 6″ as well as being a size 22-32 (yup!) depending on who’s selling, and this is most definitely why I learnt to sew, and why I still do. Apart from wanting gorgeous clothes that only exist in my head and not in the shops :)

  15. I have been sewing a size 42 for my bust and still have to do a fba and adjust the shoulders–forward and narrow plus a rounded back. For pants and skirts its a size 40 with a waist adjustment.
    I have thought about starting with a size 40, but I think I would have even more adjustments for my large rib cage.

    • Thank you for sharing that, I’m taking copious notes! For this project, I think it will suffice to focus on general proportions, and then we can hone in on bone structure type alterations.. :)

  16. I have issues with my shoulders and back (my “hanger”). I’ve yet to figure it out. I know a square shoulder adjustment helps and also lowering the back neckline a bit, but something’s still a bit wonky. I’d love to figure it out. I don’t really need other adjustments, other than cutting a size bigger in the hip.

  17. Interesting project Steph! I am petite, and proportional. That is, I am short, with arms and legs not overly short or long. I often do petite alterations in length, taking equal amounts above the bust and below; or above the knee and below. I hope that makes sense. This is pretty straightforward, though I didn’t figure out to divide the decreases until I had been sewing for a year or so. Sleeves are too long, and collars are sometimes too big. Pockets need to be resized, and buttonholes set in different places.

    The other major alteration I do 95% of the time is to narrow the shoulders, and change the armhole.

    Finally, I am muscular and need to adjust for an athletic body-biceps, back, quads and thighs. These alterations are fine tuning, and are more for comfort.

  18. I never thought I was especially “hard to fit” until I started sewing my own clothes—all of a sudden things that had niggled me for years, but I never really paid attention to, clicked together and I realized just how much of regular clothes don’t fit! I think this is perhaps the most significant factor in making your own clothes—understanding fit. I’ve come a long way, but I’m by no means an expert. My measurements suggest that I’m a 10-14-12 (bust-waist-hip) in Big 4 sizes. Usually I make a 12 with the following alterations, though:

    My standard alterations are:
    1) petiting bodice (usually through armscye… I have skinny arms and like a high armscye). It’s not so much that my body is short as that my waist is set really high, though, so I often add length to the hem of a shirt, for example.
    2) adding length to sleeves and pant-legs. The majority of my height is in my legs and my arms are proportionately long.
    3) swayback. I don’t have a huge swayback, but shaving a cm or so off either side of the waist seam at the centre back just lets everything sit so much more nicely.

    A couple others that often help, but I don’t need every single time:
    1) square shoulder
    2) small bust adjustment (especially with princess-seamed patterns)

  19. RTW drove me nuts long before I thought of sewing my own clothes. Too tight in the underarms, around the neck/upper back and too short in the arms. And pants are either too tight in the waist or huge in the hips. For tops, I generally blamed this on shrinkage, but now I know that a centimeter or two adjustment here or there makes a huge difference.

    I have an automatic list of alterations, but am still tweaking it. (Shoulders and neck are tricky, adding to the waist/reducing hip curve is easy). Being a very un-curvy inverted triangle is the least common shape, I think.

  20. Interesting topic, Steph.

    It’s obviously that many people are frustrated by the usual patterns on the market.

    I’ve stopped using commercial patterns, partly because I’ve learnt to make my own and I get such a great sense of satisfaction doing so, and partly because toiling a commercial pattern to fit me correctly took so long and sapped my enthusiasm.

    I’m probably a size 12 in the bust, a size 10 in the waist and 14 in the hips. I’ve never learnt the lingo of pattern alterations but I think I’d need a swayback alteration, purely because it sounds like a description of how I stand. Plus, I always have those ripples of excess fabric sitting at the small of my back.

    I don’t recall if I have an armscye issue with commercial patterns but I know I do with clothes bought off the rack. They’re always too tight and too high, which makes me joke about my ‘fat armpits’, which sounds like a paradox; how can a pit – therefore a cavity – be fat?

  21. I’ve been working on trouser fitting since I took up sewing again after a gap of 20 years. I started with them as I could not get any RTW ones to fit at all. I have a 29″ waist and 40.5″ hip, almost all of which is at the rear. Hence I have enormous gaposis at the back waist. Commercial patterns were just as bad, but many muslins later I have a TNT trouser and jeans which fit me pretty well.
    I have turned my attention to my top half which has a different set of fitting issues. I have narrow shoulders, and no meat on my upper chest. I wear a 34D bra, but don’t really think I need much of an FBA. Most tops and jackets I have made feel a little too big though, sort of floating round my neck and collar bones. I’m just starting to alter the shoulder, taking about 3/4″ off the shoulder line. I’m not really sure how to make the upper chest feel snugger though.
    I have made the Pendrell blouse and that does seem to be a good fit for a pear.
    T shirts are less successful, but part of that is down to a lack of decent fabric. I can’t find any reliable source of jersey that doesn’t strech like mad.

    • That’s really interesting, Susan, thank you for sharing… I have a couple of reliable sources for decent knits, though some of them are in Australia… I often find that organic cotton knits are quite good. Aside from the ethics, I find as a general rule that the manufacturers who go to the trouble of using organic cotton also go to the trouble of making a decent fabric… Fabrics.com has a huge variety of knits, but again I can’t vouch for the quality.. Their bamboos (last time I bought them) are decent, and some of the interlocks but I haven’t tried them enough. When I do try them, I find it’s a mixed bag. Gorgeous Fabrics consistently stocks quality… I might do a little research and then put up my findings, thanks for the question!

  22. Aahh, where to begin. I add a bit to the waist and a stack to the hips. I have narrow shoulders but don’t know how to fix this problem yet. And I also get the rolls of fabric above the bottom. I am way to impatient to fix ALL these problems. I would love to be able to though.

    • Yes- I have some of those issues too… I actually tried going 1 size down from my high bust measurement and doing a massive fba… It worked, too, but then I decided to just start drafting my own stuff…. Now I want to draft for everyone… We’ll see what happens.

  23. What an ambitious project! FWIW, I have a 50″ bust, 46″ waist and 49.5″ hips, a classic apple. I usually start with a size 20 pattern and add everywhere but the shoulders, which I take in 1/2″. If I use a bigger size, the neck and shoulders are humongous. I’m deep front-to-back, have a big ribcage, and the ubiquitous (in my family) high back hip, forward thrust head and rounded upper back. My front waist width is two inches bigger than my back waist. As you can imagine, all these adjustments frequently discourage me from sewing for myself at all! Best of luck with your project.

  24. Pingback: Getting a Handle On Pattern Alterations « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  25. After being unable to make a pattern work I gave up and started making patterns off RTW clothes that almost fitted, and fitting from there. Looking at sizing charts from the pattern companies, if I go by bust-waist-hips i’m within half a size to fit.. but being an E cup, that really doesn’t work in practice. I need a top-half pattern 4 sizes smaller than the waist/hips with a massive FBA. And then I need to fiddle with the whole thing. No matter how well everything else fits, I also have the armpit puddles. Self made, RTW, always always always. I havent figured out the long waisted/short waisted stuff though. My underbust and waist measurement are the same, the only difference being that my waist is squishier, there being less ribcage, and my hips get wide quick. No gentle slopes here. A t-shirt pattern that was easily customisable would be amazing. Can’t believe you’re actually figuring this all out!!

      • I’m more ‘s’ shaped now than I was before I had kids, when I was all hourglass. I used to be all hip, but now the butt is coming into play, and while some people complain of breastfeeding leving them smaller than they were before, I’ve gone up 4 bra sizes. Gaining weight in general didn’t help, but its still unusual to go from a 12C to a 16E. I still think of myself as hourglass, because the hips are fairly obvious, but there’s definitely a bit of ‘s’ going on there.

        • Same! I am a little heavier than I was before having a baby (not much) but I went up 3 cup sizes. It was rather upsetting, I had to re-learn how to dress myself.

  26. I started, once upon a time, to make croquis of myself. http://www.sewinguptheneighbourhood.com/2011/02/in-progress-croquis-of-me.html

    What I discovered (though I already knew it on some level) was that my lower half is a bit crooked. I think one leg is shorter than the other or my pelvis is twisted or something. It affects so much! One hip curves out and the other is flat. The flat hip has a bulge of fat above it that totally masks what little waistline definition I have on the other side. Trying to dress my body so as not to highlight this unevenness is tricky.

    I have a bust that is one size, a waist that is two or three sizes larger, and hips that are a size smaller than my bust size. I am a bumpy column.

    • As I read through some of your other responses, I realized I wasn’t terribly specific. I generally use a size 36 in Burda. I then flatten out any waist shaping. I also petite through the armscye, as I often find the bust point and the armholes a bit low. Arms are usually ok. I do often flatten out the sleeve cap.

      I really want to make jeans. RTW stuff baffles me. The company who sells a dress with a miniscule (in my body’s opinion) waist also sells jeans in the same size with an enormous waistband! I don’t even have a juicy booty (nor do I have anything resembling a defined waist) and I could take in most jeans by an inch or two in the center back at the waist.

    • No, you are not a bumpy column. You are a woman. :) Don’t get me started on those column/banana classifications… Makes me see red. ;) They’re never complementary, and equate the female body with an inanimate object. Nope…. ;)

      I’m not ranting at you! When I was reading your reply, I was thinking about the Parthenon. None of the surfaces in the Parthenon is actually, measurably straight. Yet the Parthenon looks like straight lines and angles. It’s all curves… So I wonder if a clever curved edge might help with your unevenness problem… I’m intrigued, let me think over it for a few days…

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  28. I can’t wait to have you look at my body and poke at it and tell me what alterations I need! They don’t use all these terms in the sewing books I use ;-) My 1903 book has alterations for ‘adiposean’ bodies, and late 19th century patterns describe ‘generous’ figures, but neither of those quite apply to me.

    I have sloping shoulders, a very long neck (& big head), a long measure from shoulder to bust point (despite the sloping shoulders), a square ribcage, slight swayback, LOTS of booty (my hip width all comes from what is happening in back), and a very long rise. Also very noticeable scoliosis, which makes my ribcage stick out on the left, and my right shoulder drop. And really short, stubby legs despite being tall. My height is all in my rise and neck/head!

    Interestingly, I have discussed how my body affects my sewing with my chiropractor, informally at least. I have to shorten the straps on my right, and certain patterns ‘twist’ on me, because my body twists, and I’ve never been able to figure out an alteration that fixes that.

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  31. I’m too new to sewing to have done much by way of alterations, I’m sticking to looser fits til I know what I’m doing.

    However, I reckon my body shape is pretty much a dead ringer for Mary’s (as above).

    My worst problem with bought or even dressmaker-made clothes is getting them to fit across my back, which is apparently ridiculously narrow.

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  33. This is fascinating reading, Steph! I have tricky shoulders and it’s compounded by height. I am 5’9″. My shoulders are very small. They slope half-way and then straighten out into a square. They are rotated forward.
    I have the adjustments figured out now, but it took a very long time and much persistance.
    Another thing I have noticed is the variation in where the weight is distributed. My waistline is 10″ smaller than my bust or hips, so it sounds OK on paper.
    But in reality, more inches are in the front than the back. So my waist is small in the back, but in the front there is barely any sense of waistline at all.
    Well, I can’t complain. Seeing all these other comments is validating. Most of us need a lot of help to get a good fit.

    The blog is looking really good and you are posting great stuff. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks, Robin, that means a lot to me coming from you. :)

      This was a sort of long-term “back burner” project while I was teaching these past few years… I have all this data and didn’t know what to do with it… Now I have even more data, and a clear direction so I’m having a great time with it. :)

      Do you use deep back waistline darts, and shallower front ones? I’m so curious to look at your patterns…

  34. Pingback: Pattern Alterations: How to Fix Waist Length « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  35. Great thread, thank you! I’m another petite and proportional, (5’2, 100 lbs, 32C), short-waisted and like “another Stephanie” have a freakishly narrow back, so that’s an adjustment I do without thinking about it. I like sheath dresses with princess seams because they’re so easy to adjust, and always end up taking them in along the full length from what ought to be my size because I have narrow hips too. I think my biggest complaint with many contemporary patterns is that there is too much ease, and clothes just end up looking baggy.

    I CANNOT WAIT to see what you come up with for pants–since I’m short, and short-waisted, the crotch is always way too low for me out of the package and I don’t have much butt to speak of, so I’m just now trying to figure out how to adjust pants patterns. Please do think about a crotch-length adjustment along with the “rear cup.”

  36. Pingback: Merry Christmas- Simple, Chic and Free T-Shirt Pattern « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  37. Pingback: The Pitfalls of Plus Sizing « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World


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