Forward Shoulder Adjustment:Pattern Alteration

The computer was back up and running a few days ago, but alas, having caught the flu, I was not.   I did finish the first two of my spring blouses and completed the practice muslin for another pattern but it was slow going.  I am over the worst of the symptoms but still not too zippy yet. 

In my last post I mentioned showing you the forward shoulder adjustment I did on the camp shirt McCall’s 5052.  For years I have realized that my shoulders are settled forward but I have choosen to ignore that fact in my dress fitting.  Why ignore such a simple thing?

Because as a child I hunched over in a self-protective posture which has given me forward shoulders, and seeing those forward shoulders reminds me of the circumstances that left me feeling like I needed to be self-protective.  Rather than go there I just ignored it when a bodice didn’t fit so well at the shoulder.

But recently I guess some kind of emotionally-healthy-reality check kicked in and told my brain, “Hey, that shirt could be really cute if you would just fix the shoulder.”

I worried that the alteration would be too hard.

Then I remembered that I live in the age of the internet and someone somewhere has deconstructed everything.

Using two tutorials and my typical c’est le vie attitude towards fitting issues I came up with an acceptably easy forward shoulder alteration.

Here are the tutorials:

  1. One from Assorted Notions
  2. And, the other a hint from Gigi on

Contrary to my fears the adjustment was completed rather easily.

Step One: I cut a small wedge out of the front bodice and taped it onto the back bodice.  Then I cut the armscye of the back bodice deeper.  REMEMBER- save that little scrap of armscye you just cut away.  You will use it later.

Here I am cutting away excess from the back bodice armscye. If you look at the shoulder you can see where I taped onto the top of the back shoulder the wedge cut from the front bodice shoulder.

Step Two: I drew a straight line from notch to notch across the sleeve cap.  I cut along that line and moved the sleeve center point a small distance forward.  Whatever amount you take away from the front shoulder seam is the amount you move the sleeve head forward.

Drawing a straight line from notch to notch I cut along that line and moved the sleeve cap forward. You can see how far I moved the head by looking at the straight grain line marking on the tissue. If you have no other line, you will have to mark the original center before cutting and moving the cap forward.

Step Three: I cut the scrap of back bodice armscye in half and laid the halves on my sleeve pattern going from the center to the back notches.  This way I know I am adding to the back sleeve cap just the same amount that I cut from the back bodice armscye.  I taped the tissue slivers down, and then tidied up the edges. 

Hard to see in the photo but the tissue sliver from the back bodice is taped to the back sleeve cap. You can see the two slivers sticking out from each end. I took a marker and trued the curve, then cut away the excess.

Adjustment done and it worked!  The sleeve fits so much more comfortably now that I want to make this adjustment on all of my woven shirts.  Sometimes things we have avoided for years have the easiest of fixes! 🙂

I had to lighten up the photo considerably as the dark color was hard to photograph. Most of the original ill fit was along the back shoulder so I was surprised to see that the forward shoulder adjustment improved the fit of the front shoulder considerably as well.



You can't see but the camera is resting on my head as it was very hard to properly photograph one's own back shoulder. I have lightened it up in Photoshop. Hope the pic is not too grainy to see that the back shoulder area is largely free of excess fabric folds. Whenever I buy a shirt off the rack clearly it has a ton of folds in back as most shirts are not designed with my shoulders in mind. Usually I don't mind a few wrinkles as it makes my garments appear storebought, but the fit is so comfortable with this adjustment that I may do it to all of my woven blouse patterns. My husband even commented that it looked better than storebought.


Next Post: Tuesday, February 22, 2011: Pattern Review: Simplicity 2447


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sister
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 18:02:37

    Neat! Love your pictures, by the way.


  2. Debbie Cook
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 19:04:18

    When husbands comment on sewing, you know it’s working. 😉


  3. Steph
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 19:22:49

    Leaving wrinkles to make it look more storebought? Heh. No wrinkles looks better than storebought.


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Feb 17, 2011 @ 20:33:47

      I agree that “no wrinkles” is the sewing standard and my nonchalance would appall my early 4-H instructors. (They DID try their best with me!) But, Steph, you bring up a good point, and let me clarify so you don’t think I am safety pinning myself into fabric yardage and gleefully sailing out the door.

      I am fickle when it comes to patterns and I know that most of the patterns I try out are not destined to be TNT. I have a short list of mis-fits I will accept. Some excess in the back due to my narrow shoulders, I’ll live with a little of it since it often increases my range of motion. Those little wrinkles that appear on most women as the lower armscye meets the bust – I gauge it and if it matches storebought, I won’t bother to work that out of a dartless shirt pattern that I may never sew again. Horizontal wrinkling that displays too-tightness, I don’t accept. But some vertical folding indicating excess fabric, I am usually so flattered to even have excess fabric that I often find reasons (excuses!) to keep it. If I am making a cocktail dress or tailored item, I want better than storebought. Those faddish knit tees we all love – I am happy to reach a storebought appearance as they aren’t worth that level of tinkering to me.

      So you see I do have some standards! Low level, loosey-goosey, mass market clearance rack standards – but standards nonetheless. 😉


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