Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fitting Mrs. X

In the last two posts I talked about my sloper and how I use it to address my own particular fitting problems. But after an e-mail conversation, I learned that the PatternReview member who initially contacted me - let's call her Mrs. X - has quite different fitting challenges.

She is trying to alter McCall's 5138, which is an excellent choice for a first pattern to alter to match a sloper. The dart control closely matches that of a sloper: the pattern has both bust and waist darts on the front, and waist darts on the back.

Per her e-mail, Mrs. X faces the following challenges:
  • forward neck and shoulders
  • very narrow shoulders
  • rounded back & shoulders
  • low bust
  • tummy & one hip lower, with a tilted back, due to an injury
The dressmaker who made her sloper told her to start with a 16 at the neck & shoulders, moving out to an 18 at bust level, 20 at waist level, and 22 at hip level.

I don't have a copy of Mrs. X's sloper - I've asked her to send me one via snail mail - as she doesn't have a digital camera or ability to upload pictures. But I'm going to take a stab at the alterations nonetheless. I'll send Mrs. X a link via e-mail so she can take a look and evaluate if these alterations make any sense.

You can click on the pictures to get a bigger version - just use the browser "back" button to return.
Here's the line drawing of view D, which I picked as the clearest to illustrate the basic shape of the blouse on which she's working.
Here's the pattern front.
Here's the pattern back.
There's a mistake in the pattern. The double notches at the side seam do not match. I arrived at this because I always walk the seams of new patterns before I do any alteration work... I want to find the errors in the pattern before I alter it to h*ll and beyond. It's actually amazing how many errors I find in published patterns before even doing anything to them!
Here's a tracing of the front.
  • Pink = 16
  • Purple = 18
  • Blue = 20
  • Green = 22
  • Black = common to all sizes
  • Brown = marked seam allowances

I didn't include the cut on facing only because my tracing paper wasn't wide enough.

Mrs. X had a germane question - do you start with one size and then alter to match your sloper - or do you start by tracing the appropriate size at each level and alter from there?
And the answer is I'm not the person to answer that question. I'm self-taught, so I simply found it less confusing to use one consistent size, and then develop rules that I could use for every pattern. So I start with size 12, and have an algorithm that makes a size 12 match my sloper. At some point I really should compare my altered pattern to the original to see if it would be any easier to trace out different sizes.

Here's how I would alter for Mrs. X's forward neck & shoulder. For this alteration I'm following the advice in Fitting & Pattern Alteration: A Multi-Method Approach by Liechty, Pottberg & Rasband. It's described as variation #37 on pages 216-217 in my copy.
A forward neck requires lowering the front neckline to give room. I've marked - in orange - where I will slash the pattern.
Here I've overlapped 1/2 inch, lowering the neckline.
Actually, this style might not have needed this adjustment, as the blouse is worn open at the neck.
Forward neck also requires additional length at the back of the neck. Here I've marked a slash line on the back.
Here I've spread the back neck. Note I left a hinge where the shoulder meets the top of the armhole. I slashed to but NOT THROUGH the seam. The seam allowance at the corner where you see the pencil overlaps.
Note that this alteration will also require altering the collar pieces. Remember to alter any connecting pattern pieces if necessary!

Next up: narrow shoulders. I found the alteration in Liechty confusing, so instead I'll do what I always do, which mostly does not affect the shape of the armhole.
Marking a box around the front armhole to slash.
Overlapping to narrow the shoulder. I always end up with a smidgeon of extra length right below the armhole, and I have to extend the bottom of the armhole to meet the side seam. So there's probably a better way to do this! If I can wrap my head around the Liechty method I could possibly do better, but I haven't been able to figure it out.
It's the same process to narrow the shoulder on the back. Here's the marked slash lines.
And here's the overlap to narrow the shoulders. The back has the same issues as the front, i.e. a bit of extra length and extended armholes at the bottom.
Next, let's take a look at the rounded back issue. I was able to follow the method in Liechty, but it is definitely a bit more complicated than the others so far.

Here's the marked slash lines.

One line runs perpendicular to the grain from the center back to where the shoulder meets the top of the armhole. In the seam allowance, slash to but not through where the shoulder meets the top of the armhole, creating a hinge.
Another line, at about midpoint of the shoulder, runs through the seam allowance to meet the first line. If the pattern had a back shoulder dart, it would run through the center of the dart.
And the third line is placed parallel to the grain from the point where the neck meets the shoulder to the first line. Again, slash to, but not through the seam allowance to create a hinge where the neck meets the shoulder.

Here I've spread to gain extra length in the center back and along the back of the shoulder, which should cover the rounded upper back and shoulder.
Things to note:
  • I've keep the center back parallel to the grain, so the pattern should still be able to be cut on a fold.
  • The hinge at the point where the shoulder meets the top of the armhole overlaps.
  • The line at shoulder midpoint, the one that would be through the dart, opens up.
  • And the line from the neck point overlaps, while its corresponding hinge overlaps.
  • The shoulder is still a straight line and does not need to be trued.
Finally, let's take a look at lowering the bust. For this alteration, I'm following the method found in The Singer Sewing Reference Library: The Perfect Fit. It has the benefit that you don't need to redraw any darts, which the Liechty method requires.
Here's the marked slash lines making a box around the side dart and including the pattern's marked bust point.
And here the whole shebang is moved down. Very quick and easy.
Now, the issue I haven't addressed is the asymmetry between the left & right sides at hip level - because I really do need the actual sloper to evaluate how best to address this. I know it entails separate pattern pieces for the two sides, both front and back, and a single fabric layer to lay out the pattern pieces for cutting.

I hope Mrs. X finds this post useful. I actually really enjoyed working through this exercise - I LOVE pattern puzzles!


Pearl said...

Thank you so much for this - you make altering patterns look, if not easy, at least not difficult! I'm in the process of altering a sleeveless blouse, and may need to do the rounded back, will find out soon enough!

Thanks again,

Pearl in Vancouver

luckylibbet said...

>> Pearl - good luck with the alteration!