Pattern Drafting: Basic Blouse for Forward Shoulder/Broad Back Fit

Over the last weekend, I decided to knuckle down and try drafting a pattern for a shirt from my own measurements. As I’d ranted previously, despite sewing something in the ballpark of 20 shirts over the last year from various patterns and with various modifications, nothing would end up fitting correctly without looking like a feed sack. So I consulted the Esther Pivnick Fundamentals of Patterndrafting book (freely available for download here) and proceeded to measure myself and fire down some synaptic pathways that have not been used since high school geometry. It was, essentially, a Klingon ritual of pain.

 

If I ever do it again I will a) draw actual lines on my body with a cheap eyeliner pencil so that there is no risk of measuring from different places and b) compile a worksheet to fill in measurements and label points for easier translation when actually drafting them. Hopefully no one catches me doing this because it might look a little too “it puts the lotion in the basket” for non sewers to understand. My measurements must have been a bit off, because the garment I ended up with was bigger than needed and didn’t really fit my midsection. The dart I ended up with in the front is, well, huge, which seems incorrect because my bust/waist/hip measurements are all within a few inches of 36, so there is almost no need for dart control to take in difference. BUT IT DID FIT MY SHOULDERS, which means IDGAF about having to redraft the waist.. I’m almost finished with the third test garment, which is a totally wearable buttondown blouse that allows for super fantastic happy funtime full motion of my arms. I can drive in it, I can raise my arms in it, I can EXERCISE in it (highly unlikely, but possible). Photos to come!

So here is what I learned about fitting a broad back and forward/curved shoulders:

-Adjust the angle of the shoulder seam on the front and the back bodice pieces. It’s easiest to lay them out so that they are butting up against each other at the shoulder seam. Adjust at the actual sewing line, not the seam allowance line, and add seam allowance back to your pattern pieces afterward. Consider the point where the shoulder seam meets the neck an anchor point. This does not change. The armhole also doesn’t change position. But the point at the end of the shoulder seam should be moved forward, usually just a small amount–for me about 1cm was perfect. Then redraw the shoulder seam line from the center anchor point to the end point on both the front and the back pattern piece. You’re essentially adding fabric to the back piece and subtracting it from the front. For me this makes the garment hang much better. But again, don’t move the armhole itself. Some things I’ve read have recommended shifting the curve of the sleeve pattern piece so that the sleeve cap ease is situated with the most fullness exactly over the ball of the shoulder, but I’ve found this adjustment to be unnecessary.

-Don’t mistakenly think broadening the shoulder seam and/or enlarging the armscye will add more freedom of movement. Been there, failed that. What you really need is to isolate the shoulder, which, almost counterintuitively, means the bodice comes high into the crook of the arm (think of what a gusset would cover). It also means the end of the shoulder seam should be behind the shoulder point, not quite on top of it. For me finding my shoulder point, subtracting about 3/4″, and angling the whole armhole back to meet this point made an enormous difference. It places the ball of the shoulder in a position to actually utilize the space in the sleeve cap to move.

-For the broad back/big shoulderblade area, I have in the past tried adding extra fabric at the lower third of the back and front armscye. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it works but looks a little more 1950s dolman sleeve than I would like. But this time, I adjusted the bodice. In the Pivnick instructions she points out that the point at the tip of the side bodice, where the bodice side seam meets the sleeve seam, can be extended out horizontally up to 1″ to allow for greater movement (with no necessary change to the sleeve pattern, as I understand it). I did this and blended it into the previous line of the side seam and it seems to have worked very well.

And now that I have a basic pattern that fits, with a bit more refining, I should have a basic block to use for experimentation and I may, just *maybe*, be coming out of my shirtmaking rut.

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