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Jun 25, 2010

Baby's got back and mild scoliosis


Readers, what idiot said:

That's the beauty of drafting: you're using your own body's measurements, so provided you can handle a little math and draw a straight and curved line (and there are a zillion aids to help you), things are going to fit.  You don't have to waste time with endless pattern adjustments?


I spent much too much time yesterday working on fitting my self-drafted top pattern.  Now I know I don't have a bulging bosom, crooked clavicle, XXXL love handles, or a hunch, but I DO have my deformities and they are heck to deal with.

How I used to wonder (with some smugness, I'll admit) at the endless fit obsessions of various blogger friends, struggling with their swaybacks, dowager humps, and assorted bumps and bulges.  Oh, but karma stings!

Granted, unless I'm drafting a skin-tight jumpsuit -- and I will be -- there can be some fullness in men's tops.  Even a well-fitted men's formal shirt is likely to have more ease than, say, a 1950's wiggle dress women's bodice meant to be worn with a bullet bra and girdle.

But as anyone who's ever gotten deeply into fitting knows, once you get started, all you want to see is SMOOTH: no fullness, no pulling, no wrinkles.

I want the equivalent of my body covered in molten latex.  Or a good face lift. 

So yesterday I measured.  I trimmed.  I widened darts.  I narrowed darts.  I lengthened darts.  I shortened darts.  I did everything but throw darts which if I had, would have been at a photo of Dorothy Moore.

The problem, dear readers, is that while in my fantasies I look like this...

In reality, I look like this:

If there's one part of my body I'm not keen about, it's my forward-sloping shoulders and rounded back.  OK that's two parts, but you get the idea.  It makes fitting my back a challenge, IF I'm going to get really obsessive about it.  A yoke should deal with some of the fullness at the armscye (see top photo). I lowered the shoulder line twice and even tried darts, with mixed success.  Or do I need to lengthen the back?  You'd think I didn't own half a dozen books on fit.  

Maybe I'll just wear stretch knits from now on.

Anyway, that's where things stand, or rather, slouch.  David Coffin doesn't even advocate drafting a men's sloper from scratch but rather starting with a decent-fitting shirt pattern and making small adjustments from there.   I'm hoping this investment in fitting will pay off somewhere down the road. The question is when, and where will that road be -- Auckland?

So there, I've been chastened -- smug no more.

More coffee please!


  1. It's funny how obsessive we get when we are making and fitting our own clothes. Imagine going to a clothing store and being that critical of the fit. I'm sure this will all pay off. "What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger?"

  2. OK Peter, you have a terrific body - one that works perfectly for clothing (for boys or girls)! Do not spend a second thinking otherwise. Carry on. :-)

  3. Perhaps, you've just been working on it too much in one day. I've had this problem and then if I leave it alone for a few days and come back to it, the problems I thought I was having aren't really problems anymore. I was just being crazy. Ha. The bodice looks really good and really well fit, from what I can see.

    I don't have the David Coffin book, but Adele Margolis and he must be on the same page. The problem I see with using a "shirt" pattern that fits you well or using a fitting shell pattern, is that there are tons and tons of slashes and spreads to be made and things to fix ON TOP of fitting your personal fit problems like rounded shoulders or dowager's hump and so forth. I'm working on this same problem. I personally think its easier to draft the sloper and then fit it to your body. Slash and spread gets really old after awhile and you end up wanting something more precise.

  4. Peter, there seems to be a lot of readers in New Zealand who sew. Maybe if you move to that road in Auckland, you'll meet one and they can draft a shirt for you?

    But, more to the point, is part of the issue not your body--as we've all got body issues--but more that it's difficult to draft and sew a shirt on your own? I wonder if any of the experienced sewistas have thoughts on this. I can't imagine the back/shoulder/torso etc measuring and adapting required with two people working together let alone one person trying to figure it out alone with his helpful dogs. At least on the first round. Maybe you just need a spotter on this project.

  5. Eh, that model is not so perfect either, no one is. One shoulder is higher, and I think I see some swayback, too. Embrace the wabi-sabi, and I'm delighted to hear you will be drafting a skin-tight jumpsuit. We would expect nothing less!

  6. Ah yes, fit issues. So fun. I love the list of things you find you don't have, they are too too funny.
    Don't worry about it too much though, most normal people won't notice most of these things, which gives you time to work them out while making other garments.

  7. I agree - you need a break dear Peter.

  8. Maybe the photos are not showing me what you see, but I think you sloper fits well.

    That poor model looks like his two shoulders should be on two different dudes - you are fine.

    I see that little gape in the back at the sleeve. I'm not a fitting guru. I don't do things in the right way. I come at these things with more of an engineering perspective. My suggestion would be to have a friend take some scissors while you are wearing this muslin and cut along the shoulder seam. Then try to lay the fabric back along the shoulder like you would like it to look. Maybe even have them cut a shoulder dart. Once they mold it to the right shape, tape with masking tape. When you take it off, you can see what adjustment made it smooth. I have used to this method a time or two with good results.

  9. I agree with The Cupcake Goddess--take a step back for awhile. It sounds like your obsessing! I know this because I'm looking at that photo where you say you have rounded shoulders and laughing -- rounded shoulders!? Puh-lease! You need a break.

  10. Agreed on the taking a break, although it's hard to walk away sometimes ( stitch!!). Maybe go try on some cheap shirts at a retail store and examine their flaws and fit issues :)

  11. haha, you have the exact opposite problem to me! (and we both seem to obsess over a perfect fit, I have spent two solid days with no more than 3 hours sleep trying to fit my back!)
    I find that for my flat upper back it helps for me to re-estimate where the apex of my back curve is in relation to the patterns curve. (mine is a lot higher than the initially drafted pattern is) to work out the apex on your pattern, draw a straight line from the centre of your waist dart in the direction the dart is pointing. do the same from the shoulder dart. Where the two lines meet is where the apex is. compare this to your own back shape, and move the apex up/down in/out to where it should be on your body. next lengthen/shorten the darts to remove/create fullness as it is needed. If you need more fullness, (maybe for a good amount of movement ease) you could cut along the dart-apex lines so that the back pattern is in two halves, and spread it until you have the upper back width you want. Back the pattern and redraw your darts to be the same length as they originally were. (do not alter their width at the edge of the pattern though.
    I hope some of this is useful and makes sense!
    Just remember not to go over the top with these changes, the sloper only looks like it needs a tiny change. It looks great so far!
    Not sure what you would do about forward sloping shoulders, but I'll bet theres plenty of good advice out there! xxx

  12. I just want to know how many times you changed your underwear and shorts yesterday?! I count at least 3!

  13. Why not give Gertie a shout? I'm sure she'd be able to help.

    I love the red stripey fabric, please tell me it's 100% cotton!

    Your sofa is taking a real beating today.

  14. I think it looks really good! As you say, the back armscye gaping will be solved with a yoke seam (or back shoulder dart - same thing, different location).
    From the side view, it looks like you could either shorten the back slightly (check correct waistline with string), or release the back waist dart a bit, so it doesn't do that little pouchy-thingy.
    Time out is good too!

  15. Thanks, everyone. Yes: I needed a break from fitting, big time. So I worked on my 1920's dress. More about that tomorrow!

    Sewsister, if you think my sofa looks bad, you should see the rest of the room; eek.

  16. Yes....sigh...Fitting is an OCD's dream/nightmare. When I get lost in that vortex, I have to remind myself that when it stops being fun, I need to take a little break and go back later-- or tomorrow.

  17. I think you need to do a high round back adjustment. Only a fairly small adjustment as the armsyce isn't gaping too much but I'm sure a little extra fabric in that area will allow the gaping to sit flat. Do you have the Fit for Real People book? Page 122 (2nd edition) explains all about the adjustment. Basically you need to add extra fabric across the upper back,(to cover where it is curved) not the rest of the back. Drawing a line on your draft or fabric bodice from CB across to the armsyce (approx where the gaping is), cut on that line, to but not through, the armsyce line, widening the two pieces of paper/fabric (at the CB edge) enough to allow the gaping to sit flat. I think it would only be a tiny bit that you would need to add in. You could either slash your fabric bodice and add another piece of fabric or cut your pattern.

  18. FINALLY! So you are not a god. You are a normal person like me - WITH FITTING ISSUES.

    Oh thank goodness. I was really thinking I was deficient cos you made the pants look so bloody easy.

    Now see, you could have been like reality TV and not posted this leaving all of us to continue thinking you are supernaturally gifted. I am very grateful for this humbly human post. And for your honesty.


    Now get back to work! There's sewin' to be done.

    (I just forked over for the Fit for Real People Basics video. I remain eternally optimistic.)

  19. Be kind to yourself in this process. I have spent the best part of two years trying to get a decent fitting shirt for my bloke. Every time I think I've cracked it, something else is wrong. It's even harder when you're doing it on yourself. Take a break and come back later, I'm sure it will look better than you realised.

  20. I think your draft looks very good. But if the armhole wrinkles bother you, remember: almost all of us have forward, sloping shoulders. It comes from not standing/sitting up straight like our Mother's told us AND hours at desk and computer. May I recommend one more book? Palmer/Pletsch Fit for Real People. They willl tell you (as others have here) that you need a dart in the middle of the shoulder (which comes from a slightly rounded back alteration). It's an excellent book. In fitted garments, you may want to consider adding a center back seam, which allows some room for adding the curve and additional length needed.

    On a related note, I think most men have sloping shoulders and a rounded back. If I fit a shirt to DH, it's unbelievable what I have to do to eliminate the drag lines. If you look at movies or TV, you'll see where men's jackets hike up in back. Even guys with good posture. Look at Lenny Briscoe (Law & Order) for an exaggerated example.

  21. scoliosis?? you should see my daughter's back. she was born with a spinal deformity that has gotten worse over the years. When she was a teenager she stole a t shirt from her brother's closet and hasn't looked back.

  22. I agree that you really need a center back seam to most easily make the adjustments you're looking for. It will aid in shaping the armscye & lower back to fit the natural curvature of your spine that a yoke cannot accommodate. I think you'll get more function from a CB seam than you will a yoke.

    Depending on your purpose, ie; sloper, pattern or muslin, you may, or not, want to release the bottom CB seam an inch or so to smooth the lay of the fabric. If you have to rip higher than 1-2 inches to get the fabric to lay flat against your skin, than perhaps the darts are a little too tight at the bottom.

    If you're making a vest pattern, shaping an inverted "V" at the CB hemline is a nice detail & will aid in relieving the poof for a more tailored look. Again, easy to do if you have a center back seam plus you have the option to tweak the shape & fit as well.

    If you're creating a sloper, then by definition, you would have a center back seam.
    Typically they are drafted on a quadrant body basis, rather than half body.
    This makes sense considering most people have shoulder blades, curved backs & forward slanting shoulders. And half of all those people have boobies. Your center front & center back is not likely to have the same profile as your side front & side back; not to mention wrapping around to the sides.

    Removing the CB seam is fine for patterns & muslins, but not for slopers if your aim is a reliably precise fit. Slopers are suppose to be as close to "Body-Double" as possible.

    Two major philosophies dominate the issue of ease. One camp says wearing ease is built into a sloper & the other camp says not. Wearing ease, not to be confused with design ease, is the minimum amount added to be mobile in a garment. Design ease is anything you add to that to satisfy the look &/or function you are desiring. My opinion is personal preference should dictate. Only you know what purpose is served from your sloper(s).

    Another thought is, are your side seams perpendicular to the floor? Perhaps it's the strips or more likely my mature vision infliction, but it appears that the front darts may be pulling slightly too hard at the bottom to maintain a straight side seam & would also exacerbate the poof in the back.

    A rule of thumb I've read over & over is to dart/seam the front/back for looks & fit from the sides. So far, that's worked pretty well for me in the decision making department. Now I spend a small fraction of the time previously spent vacillating over what to try next. Hope it's useful to you & your readers too.

    Thanks for allowing me to comment on your blog... ...a nice group of folks & I enjoyed my time spent here.

  23. Your scoliosis is almost identical to mine. Kind of nice to see another dude with the same problem. I get pretty self-conscious about it sometimes. I usually just wear whatever. People don't really notice it. But I'm sure me and you notice it, but that's because you always look at your own body with a more critical eye. Sorry I'm not a sewing expert. Just another dude with scoliosis


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