McCall’s 6119 Halter Top:Second Practice Muslin of Bodice:It’s Getting Better

What I should have done the first time around.

Tissue fit of McCall's 6119: I went up a cup size and was thankful to see the better coverage as compared to the first muslin.

Actually fit the tissue to the dress form.  Normally I don’t have anything especially customized about my dress form other than height, and that sometimes slips as the screws in this thing are very old.  At one time I had a duct tape dummy but I threw her out when my figure no longer matched.  That must have been why I forgot to try the tissue first. 

This maternity dummy is wearing one of my old bras so it comes the closest to my actual form than any I have had in awhile.  I ended up nipping in a bit at the neckline top, and some at the closure area. 

It’s better.

McCall's 6119 Second practice muslin of bodice: The fit is much better though I will have to lower the bust point just a tad on the final cut.

This is my second practice bodice and I am fairly pleased.  Went up a cup size, made a few alterations and the fit is much better.   During try-on I was a little self-conscious about showing this much of my chest but I keep remembering what the weather is like in August.  It will do for around the house.  I can always slip on a little jacket if I go out.

The next step of course is sewing it up in the fashion fabric.  I am rooting through my stash for the right material and hope to get it cut out today.


Bustin’ Out! Fitting Issues with McCall’s 6119 Halter Top

McCall's 6119 halter top

McCall’s 6119 appeared to be a pattern that would allow my belly to increase through the summer and I might even get some wear out of it next summer when I am no longer pregnant.

I pulled the bodice portion for a practice muslin and quickly sewed it up.

A problem arose.  Just a glance and you get the jist. 

All of you ladies out there who know what happens with pregnancy/nursing nips can imagine my horror when I tried this little number on! Clearly not enough coverage.

I’m bustin’ out!

I don’t dare show you a real-life shot as it was obscene.  Use your imagination about where things are placed on the normal female bosom, then look at the dress form and you begin to see how poor the fit is.

How I ended up with this state of things:

I am one of those women department store lingerie clerks despair of  because I wear the wrong size bra.  Though the skies may fall I go up a band size and down a cup size for comfort.  I know, I know – this approach elicits strong words from fashion advisors, but the band size that matches my rib cage is uncomfortable.  What is a little tight in the morning is excruciating by 4:00 p.m. when my body has naturally retained some water from the days food and liquid intake. 

I have quietly rebelled on this fashion issue and been quite comfortably trussed into my allegedly ill-sized lingerie.  However I should have remembered my approach is not the standard one when I cut this pattern.  My absentmindedness led me astray.   I cut my RTW bra size, not my actual measurement.

Just a heads up – if you are pregnant or nursing, skip the A/B option altogether.   A no brainer, all of you will remind me,  but I forgot.

See how the strap on the photo right is falling off the mannequin shoulder. And notice the gaping neckline at the bra cup top seam. Is a bigger cup size, meaning more fabric, going to take care of those fitting issues which may be inherent in the drafting of the pattern?

Now I am looking at the muslin I see other potential fitting problems. 

  1. Look at how wide apart the straps are and I have a narrow chest.  The one strap in the photo appears to be falling off the mannequin shoulder. Given the angle of the strap can one change the starting point and maintain the shape of the neckline?
  2. Even if I go up a cup size, or two, the material may cover my bosom, but will it be loose and drapey along the top like the practice muslin? 
  3. Will a bit of elastic along the neckline take care of that?

Over the last few days I have been reading what fellow sewist and blogger Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic is going through putting so much energy into fitting what might be a poorly drafted pattern.  I understand her determination as she has expensive fabric on the line.  But I have just invested an old sheet up to this point and I am wondering if it will be a waste of time tinkering with this pattern?  Or worse, I make it up in fashion fabric and still feel exposed and end up pulling on the shirt all day as it may slide around on my shoulders.  Should I abandon it now, or perservere?

Has anyone else made this pattern or one like it?  What was your experience?

Maternity Pants:Knit Pull-Ons and Leggings:Practice Muslins

They changed my meds!

Sometimes people say this tongue-in-cheek after they have experienced a marked improvement in emotional demeanour and now I understand how that phrase entered the vernacular.  My pregnancy nausea is severe enough and long enough to warrant meds.  The first meds made me a walking zombie.  The doctor changed my meds and it is like I am Rip Van Winkle waking up after a long nap!  My mind and interest in life are plugged back in.  I am so thankful.  I can sew again!

After my long break from sewing I was eager to get cracking and tackle a growing problem: my belly.  My pants keep falling down and I need to devise a solution.  I think knit pants will stretch with me through the months and if they are custom fit maybe the constant pulling will be eliminated.

But first I needed some dirt cheap knit fabric.  Pants often take more than one practice muslin and the fabric stores don’t have that huge selection of $1.00/yard fabric that they used to sell.  I did not want to pay huge sums for practice muslin fabric and that is where a timely article by sewing blogger Erica Bunker of Erica B’s DIY Style came to my aid.  Ms. Bunker ran an article on Walmart as a fabric source which triggered a vague memory.  Sure enough, when I checked out my local store, they had a bottom of the barrel fabric bin of bolts going for $5.00 for 5 yards.  Perfect! 

I bought two 5 yards for $5.00 bolts from Walmart to make the practice muslins.

I selected a grody see-through knit that I only find in cheapo fabric bins, or perversely, as overlays on prom dresses seen at high-end department stores, (which has always caused me to question the cost of such gowns since I feel like I am being conned by the designers into thinking that high prices must mean high quality – but that is an aside.)

Butterick 5539

Cheap fabric in hand I went home and began working on my practice muslins.  I wanted to make knit pull-ons and leggings.  I used Butterick 5539 and the leggings pattern I made earlier using Kwik-Sew’s Swim and Action Wear, a pattern compilation and instruction book by Kerstin Martensson.

The Knit Pull-Ons

I altered the front piece as I would for a prominent belly on the first muslin.

Here is the result.  Looks like the stuff I remember pregnant ladies wearing in the 1980’s; voluminous.  Oh so comfortable, but my ego could not stand looking even larger than I already do.  Back to the drawing board.

Oh so comfortable, but pants with no maternity panel left me feeling like the thigh area was too baggy and made me look pudgier than I already am.

On the next shot I cut a portion out of the front pattern piece, laid it on the fabric fold and using the pivot method, made a larger piece to serve as a maternity panel.

The maternity panel for the leggings. You can see that I cut out a portion from the cut fabric, and then using the pivot method, I took the cut portion, placed it on the center fold and enlarged the panel.

In order to get the crotch depth correct I used the pants sloper I drafted this summer.  I laid that on the pattern pieces and made the necessary alterations.  I also took a flexible curve reading of my belly and checked that against the front pattern piece.

The cloth pattern is the pants sloper I drafted. You can see my high bump on the flexible curve.


The pull-on practice muslin in white. I would have modeled but the fabric was see-through.

The result was a very comfortable pair of pants on the first try!

The Leggings

Kwik Sew Swim and Action Wear by Kerstin Martensson

I reviewed making leggings in an earlier post.   But they were a bit tight.  And short, as Kwik Sew only takes the legs down to capri length.  I lengthened the leg enough to have some folds at the ankle, and I added 3/4 inch to every seam for a little extra room. 

The result: If only my experience fitting non-maternity pants typically went as well!  Again, I had a wearable pair of leggings first try. 

Me in all my rotundness wearing the practice pair of maternity leggings.

The practice muslins complete I am busy sewing up pants in fashion fabric.  I hope to have some to show you in Thursday’s post along with any other practice muslins.

Next Post: Thursday, April 21, 2011:Completed Pants to show and hopefully more practice muslins.

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

Spring Tees Finished and Why Does Burda Shape Their Sleeve Patterns So Narrow?

The spring tees are finished.  Here they are.  That brings me to ten tees, but two are iffy, which makes the required eight.

Now on to blouses.  The wardrobe list  shows 16 blouses, eight for work, and eight casual.  As a SAHM I am redefining the work category as dressy-casual-out-and-about wear.  And casual is defined as a bit more comfortable, things I would wear at home. 

 Sixteen blouses is a lot but I am going to give it a shot.  I plan to use eight different patterns and make two versions of each.  That should cut down on the time somewhat. And if I see any great sales I am free to fill in the corners with some RTW.

My first is a simple camp shirt.  Here is my practice muslin of a camp shirt using Burda 8673, option A. Often I have issues with Burda sleeves and this time was no different.  I made three sleeve renditions and the results remained so-so.  Three is my typical limit before I scrap a pattern. 

Two very hazy photos of the practice muslin sleeves. Nothing I did made the sleeve any better.

I have had this problem before with Burda sleeves and now I am considering trashing all of my Burda top and jacket patterns as they all seem designed the same way.   I find the fit and design of the torso to be very flattering so I hate to lose the patterns, but I have yet to get a sleeve to fit comfortably.

The sleeve cap does not look wide enough to cover an arm and it is sloped so differently than the armscye.

Can anyone tell me why the sleeve cap is so differently shaped than the armscye of the shirt?  Has anyone else encountered the same problem with Burda?

Is there a correction or should I throw my Burda’s away?

Next Post: Tuesday, February 8, 2011: Working on another camp shirt using a different patternmaker.

How to Draft a Sleeve Pattern When You are Desperate and No One Has Ever Shown You

How to Draft a Sleeve Pattern When You are Desperate and No One Has Ever Shown You.

Simplicity 3786

We home-sewers are always going it alone it seems.  When constructing Simplicity 3786 I found I liked the bodice but the sleeve fit was abominable.  I would need to draft a new sleeve pattern.

The problem is that no one has ever shown me how

Prior to my sewing snit over this sleeve I had heard two solutions but I could not see either working.

Solution #1;Looks Like a lot of Work for a Sleeve that Still Might Fit

Butterick 5746:Fitting Shell or Personalized Sloper

There are pattern drafting books that cover drafting sleeves. However, their sleeve patterns are drafted from a personalized bodice pattern, often called a sloper.  Slopers are usually very form-fitting, more a carbon copy of you with some ease thrown in for movement.  Additionally, the sleeve drafting is explained in a separate chapter and there are no illustrations of the relationship between the sleeve cap and the curvature of the bodice shoulder. 

Solution #2 Which I Think Only Works if You Make the Same Kind of Shirt All the Time

I have also been advised to take my French curve and measure the armscye curvature on a blouse whose fit I like best.  But then there is the problem of matching sleeve to shoulder. Because I like a certain blouse does not mean that the pattern I am currently sewing was designed with the same curvature and fashion ease. Just a glance in the closet tells you that garments each have their own unique curvature at the armscye.

So what to do?

Here is what I did. 

It won’t win me any ribbons at a contest I’m sure, but it worked.

This design had a flat sleeve head.  By that I mean it had no gathers and minimal ease.  That made what I did easier.

Simplicity 3786:The sleeve from the pattern envelope. You can see how tightly it fits. Nothing I did to alter the original pattern worked.

1) I seam ripped the sleeve from the pattern company and threw it in the scrap bin. (That kind of made up for the previous night’s snit over the sleeve’s general chumpiness.)

2) I also ripped out the side seam so I could lay the bodice flat on top of a large piece of paper.

Then I winged it.

If you have sewn a lot of sleeves you will notice some commonalities.  The deepest armpit portion is curved away from the sleeve cap. A few inches in from the side seam there is usually a notch.  Any easing or gathering takes place between the notches most of the time at the sleeve cap. 

SOOOooooo. . . . . .

3) I put on the sleeveless shirt and got the shoulder seam and armscye I wanted.  Cutting and pinning until I got it right.

4) Then I laid the garment completely flat over a large piece of interfacing.

Shirt laid open over interfacing. Mark your notches, remember one notch for the front, two for the back, then trace the curve for the sleeve cap.

5) I guesstimated where the notches should be on my new armscye.  I marked both the interfacing that was to be my new sleeve and the bodice.

6) I traced the top portion between the notches, the sleeve cap, directly from the bodice.

Flip the garment over and trace the underarm curve portion. Remember to mark where the seam ends, that will become the underarm seam for your sleeve.

7) Next I flipped the bodice over, matched the notches and traced the armpit curve using the bodice as a guide. 

Remember to make a slash where the curve ends and the side seam begins.  That becomes the underarm seam of the shirt.

My new sleeve cap. I just had to tidy up the lines and draw the seams.

I had my sleeve cap.  From there I just needed to decide how long I wanted it.  Since Simplicity 3786 has a three

The sleeve not fit with the looseness it was designed to have.

part sleeve, I took the pattern for the cuff and gathered lower sleeve and altered them to fit my new upper sleeve.

I realize that this isn’t by the book, but if I had a book to show me how to redraft a sleeve for an existing pattern I wouldn’t have had to make this up.  You must consider the variables of your specific pattern and you must make a practice sleeve, but this a quick and dirty method that may be of help if nothing but a new sleeve pattern will work.

Next Post: Friday, November 19, 2010: Week Ten- I Can’t believe it! – Stash Bash Update

Sloping Shoulder Alteration: Fitting Technique

Someone in my house is continually getting sick this fall and yesterday I spent an entire morning at another

Simplicity 4978:Girl's School Uniform

unexpected doctor’s visit.  I keep looking at my daughter’s unfinished school blouse muslin hanging on my bedroom doorknob but not much sewing is getting done around here.  I had hoped to review the pattern with both a muslin and finished blouse to show you today, but alas.

The practice blouse has a little pin in it at the shoulder.  My daughter it seems has inherited my slightly sloping shoulders. I am hoping that when I alter the excess from the pattern that some of the boxy-bigness in the shoulder area will go away. 

Though for many of you this is old hat, when I was a newbie, I wish someone had told me not only how to make this alteration, but how to follow through on the consequences created by that alteration

Shoulder alterations  are often so glaring obvious that you can’t even call them intuitive.  Even new sewers will take that sucker in if they see a shoulder seam standing away from their bodies like a wing. 

And they often get perfectly fitting shoulders – with too tight armholes.

Because your shoulder slopes does not mean that your arm is necessarily thinner.   Those with small arms may not notice the tighter fit, but if you have average to larger arms taking away at the shoulder seam if giving you less ease to move around.

When you take in the shoulder, you decrease the armscye.  You have to get that amount back.   Below are three Paint Illustrations that take you through that process.

The First Step: Cut the excess out of the shoulder.

The Second Step: Now your shoulder fits.  But your armsyce is decreased.

The Third Step: Getting back what you took out of the armscye.

The Fourth Step: Make the same changes to the back bodice.

This method works for me on most bodices and blouses.  On most shoulder seams I take out less than one inch front and back.  Since I have to ease the sleeve cap anyway I have not noticed any sleeve distortions with this method on basic tops. 

I used to get very frustrated when one small fitting alteration changed the appearance of my garment for the worse. If you have made a sloping shoulder alteration in the past and have gotten a too tight or boxed-in fit, please consider what I have shown. 

Next Post: Thursday, November 11,2010: Is Fashion Design Entering a New Phase?

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