Sunday, March 22, 2015

Current Projects

I have been working on getting a tried-and-true basic dress using this pattern.

The pattern is Butterick 6186, a pattern by Connie Crawford. It is a princess-seamed dress with the seam coming from the armhole rather than the shoulder. It has a back zipper, but I imagine if you used a knit fabric, you could eliminate the zip.

I sewed this in a cotton batik fabric from my stash, figuring that if it worked, it would be a wearable muslin. But I'm not so sure about the fabric, it's a bit loud for my usual taste. Perhaps on a summer day with the grandkids, I could wear this, I don't think I would wear it anywhere else.

My first impression was that the fit was pretty good, letting in or letting out the side seams, taking in the princess seam above the bust to eliminate the armhole gaping. Of course, one alteration affects another area and fiddling with the armscye resulted in having a sleeve that was too large. It will have to be reduced in the next version; for this one, I simply made a pleat at the top of the sleeve and called it a design detail.

But one, or rather two, issues have me puzzled. The shoulder seam is not straight on me. I have noticed this before in other patterns, and years ago in a couture sewing class, this was pointed out. So it is an issue I have always had, it hasn't come about through too much time leaning over a computer or sewing machine.

Last night, I dug out three fitting books to sort this out. Sandra Betzina's Fast Fit doesn't talk about this at all. The Singer Fit book mentions it, but doesn't really tackle it well. However, I did find it covered in detail in Pati Palmer's Fit for Real People. It comes along with another issue, a high rounded back.

I had no idea that this was a problem, but sure enough in this muslin dress, the back zip stands away from my body in the top 4". Just like the pictures in Pati's book. She says to correct this issue first as it will affect the shoulder seam. She also says that people with this problem often feel as if their blouses and dresses are pulling to the back and collars of shirts seem to choke them. Yes, I have to admit I have that problem.

So this will require another muslin, making that alteration and then redrawing the shoulder seam. Funny the things you learn about yourself when doing basic fitting. I didn't know I had a forward leaning head, but I guess I do.

I will try to take a picture of the problem, perhaps someone who reads this can suggest a fix.

This minor blip calls for doing something simple and straight forward. So let's bring on a dress for grand-daughter Hannah who will be turning 11 next month. She is a slender girl, perhaps a little shorter than the average, so I will cut between the lines of the size 10 and 12 to make her a size 11.

I had bought this fabric last year to make a shirt-dress for myself, but didn't get around to it. I found the bag last week, with pattern, thread and even buttons for the dress. There is enough fabric to make Hannah a dress and a matching dress for her baby sister Sarah who will soon be 3.

So simple sewing of a pretty sun-dress for Hannah, and a second muslin of the Butterick pattern. Inspired by Carolyn of, I want to have a basic dress pattern that can be used by itself or to compare the fit of other patterns.


  1. I have this issue too and lately realize that I need to be making the adjustment for it more. Most times I cheat and add darts to the back of the neckline aka vintage patterns from the 60s. There is an adjustment though where you go down about 3" on the back pattern piece, slice across leaving a hinge, then spreading 3/8" to 5/8". Add paper and tape down. See if it that works for you.

  2. Julie - do you have the book, The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen? She has a whole section on back fitting starting on page 152 which I think will help.

  3. thanks Carolyn, no I don't have Sarah\s book, but we might have it in our sewing guild library. Someone mentioned it at the last meeting.
    My puzzle is that I don't think I have extra length at the back, since I often sew collars on deeper at the back as they ride too high otherwise.
    I think I will just make the top of this dress again and work on that area to get it right. No sleeves, just the fronts and back and get the neckline and shoulder area right. Fitting the lower part of the body is easier than this area.

  4. I do this correction for my client, Nancy, all the time:
    Making a muslin in gingham will show up lots of places to slash and spread. A curving upper back is a normal aging feature and some of us have been doing it since we were in our 30's. Depending on whether your back section has a center back seam or a fold you treat this alteration a little differently. You can write to me privately and we can work together:

  5. I made another muslin this afternoon. I went with a medium shoulder line, I had previously used the large size. Then I could see that my shoulder seam was going forward at the neck, rather than to the back. So I restitched that seam, taking it 1/2" deeper at the neckline on the back seam allowance and leaving the front seam allowance the same. This worked and made the shoulder seam sit where it should be. It also had the effect of shortening the back neck edge, which must have drawn in the center back neckline, because there was no fabric sticking out there.

    Then I measure the sleeve caps for the XL which I had originally cut and the medium which would fit into the new armscye. There was a difference of 1" which should solve the problem of a too-big sleeve cap. I think I am on my way to getting this pattern to fit.

    I will make another muslin, this time in a wearable cotton or linen, and hopefully I will be able to take some selfies for the blog. I have a husband with zero interest in this, so I can't ask him. And I don't have a tripod so I will have to figure something out.
    Thank you for your advice and your interest. Fitting one's self is the biggest challenge. So easy to see what others need to do, not so easy for one's self.