Good afternoon, lovely ones! Back in January, when we asked for content suggestions, we had several requests for tutorials on shoulder adjustments. In theory, picking a size based on your high bust should give you a proper fit through your shoulders, but that’s not always the case. Shoulders are one of the largest areas of variance on the human body. Women with the exact same measurements everywhere else can have a huge range of shoulder measurements, thanks to genetics and lifestyle. To properly fit your shoulders, you can either pick a size based on your shoulder measurement, then adjust everywhere else, or adjust for shoulders on a pattern that fits your high bust. I take the latter approach, in my own fitting. Today, I’ll be teaching you how I adjust for narrow shoulders on such a pattern. Then, in my next post, I’ll demonstrate a similar adjustment for wide shoulders.
Personally, I make a Narrow Shoulder Adjustment on almost every dress and top I make. While I don’t consider myself to be a particularly narrow shouldered person, based on my measurements everywhere else, I seem to be. Luckily, shoulder adjustments are a breeze to make. They’ll take you five minutes, at the most, so there’s no reason to skip over them. A few cuts, some spreading of pieces, and a bit of tape, then you’re good to go. Let’s get started!
Gather Your Supplies
- A bodice pattern!
- Pattern weights — As always, I use large washers.
- Scrap tracing paper — I use Swedish tracing paper, but medical exam paper or tissue paper also works.
Determining Ideal Shoulder Fit
First up, who needs a Narrow Shoulder Adjustment? Well, there is a fairly straightforward way to determine this. First up, you must find your ideal shoulder seam. Put one finger on your shoulder, raise your arm to the side. Where you feel those two bones hinging is the exact point your shoulder seam should hit! When you make a muslin, the shoulder seam may droop past this point and onto your arm itself, or you could have a lot of blousing through the shoulder before this point. Both of these markers indicate that you have too much length at the shoulder itself.
Pinch out the extra fabric, until your shoulder seam hits nicely at that pivot point, and pin it in place. Measure the amount of fabric you pinned out–this is the amount we’ll be taking in our shoulders by. For example’s sake, I’ll be performing a half-inch adjustment, in this tutorial.
Marking Our Pattern
The very first thing you want to do, when making shoulder adjustments, is mark in your seam allowances along the shoulder seam, neckline, and upper armscye. We’re going to use these as a guidelines for several of our pattern adjustment marks. Now, let’s draw in some lines!
Next, mark a dash at the center of your pattern’s shoulder seam.
(Marked in orange above.)
Then, draw a line through the center point you just marked, to a point on the armscye, about a 1/3rd of the way down. We don’t go any farther down, because we’re trying to prevent as much distortion of the armscye as possible.
(Line 1 is marked in pink above.)
For our final adjustment line, draw a line from the outer shoulder corner, through the intersecting seam allowances and to our first line.
(Line 2 is marked in blue above)
And…that’s it! You’ve now drawn in all the lines you’ll need to make a Narrow Shoulder Adjustment. Let’s start slashing those lines, shall we?
Cutting Our Pattern
For our first cut, we’re going to cut along Line 1, from the shoulder seam edge, down to the armscye. Stop just before the end of the armscye, so that a hinge is created there. That hinge enables us to move the outer shoulder edge inward, to narrow the shoulder.
(Shown in pink above.)
Our next two cuts are a bit odd, but there’s a method to the madness, I promise you. I’ll show you where both cuts go, before making them in the photos, so that you get a clear sense of what’s going on. Let’s do this!
Our second cut is going to be along Line 2, coming in from Line 1. Cut along Line 2, stopping just before your marked seam allowance.
(Shown with the blue arrow above.)
For our last cut, cut along Line 2 coming from the shoulder corner, again stopping just before the seam allowance intersection.
Do not clip through to meet our last cut! Leave a little bit of paper at the seam allowance, creating another hinge.
(Shown with the blue arrow above.)
With those two cuts combined, we have another hinge at our shoulder corner, as you see above.
Huzzah! We can now completely move the outer shoulder, without sacrificing armscye length.
Adjusting Our Pattern
Now that we’ve slashed along our pattern adjustment lines, it’s time to narrow those shoulders. Grab some tape and scratch paper, then let’s get started!
First up, we need to mark our new center shoulder point. To do this, measure inward by your adjustment amount, as I did above. Mark a dash at your new center.
(Shown in blue above; I’ve measured inward by .5 inch.)
Now, carefully move your hinged outer shoulder over to this point. Be sure to use your hinges to allow for full movement and a smooth top shoulder edge.
Notice how those outer corners are overlapping each other and the inner pattern piece has spread out? That’s exactly what we want! It means your hinges are compensating for this adjustment.
Next, tape everything down and fill in with scratch paper, where needed.
Finally, trim your overlapping corners and scratch paper. Voila! A perfectly narrowed shoulder. Perform this same adjustment on your back bodice piece, then you’re done!
Now, I do have a word of caution. If you’re making a fairly substantial shoulder adjustment, whether wide or narrow, pay attention to your sleeve head shape. For adjustments over .75 inch, you will most likely need to raise or lower the arc of your sleeve head, in accordance with your shoulder adjustment. If you’re curious about the interaction between armscyes, shoulders, and sleeves, I highly suggest this brilliant post by Ikat Bag, Subtleties in Drafting: Sleeves. I am a big fan of LiEr’s entire drafting series, but that post will completely change your relationship with sleeves, I promise you.
So, that’s a Narrow Shoulder Adjustment! I’ll be back in a few days, with its sister adjustment, the Wide Shoulder Adjustment. Happy sewing!