Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lady Grey: Swayback Adjustments and Making Your Lapels Smaller

Hey, Sew-Alongers! So, it's been a busy week for me—you know, what with meeting fashion royalty and all. And then there was the Glee season premiere last night. (Glee, I just can't quit you!) Tonight will be tied up with a salon visit where I plan on doing something slightly dramatic to my hair. So DO NOT WORRY if you're behind on your muslin. Hey, I am too!

However, many people have been posting their muslins in the Flickr pool (where we are 189 members strong!) so now is a good time to talk about fitting issues that people are encountering. The fit problem that we're seeing a lot of is the need for a swayback adjustment. This simply means that the wearer's lower back is slightly curved in (resulting in a sexy dip at the waist!), and extra fabric pools in that area. Here are a couple examples from the Flickr pool.

From K.Line

From Erika Jean
From Emmy-Seamstress (who's using a different pattern)
See the extra ripples around the lower back in each of these? This points out the need for a swayback adjustment. All you need to do is pin out the excess fabric at the waist, taking out a wedge-shaped dart. This dart will taper to nothing at the princess seams.

Now for the second step: check to see if your hemline looks uneven now. Often, you will need to take the amount you took out at the lower back and add that amount back at the hem, tapering it the way you did with the wedge in the lower back. Make sense?

Update: as a couple commenters have pointed out, extra fabric in the back waist could also point to a too-long bodice all around. Test this by seeing where the pattern's waist sits in relation to your natural waist. (Though the waist on this pattern is not marked, it's easy to see because it nips in so dramatically.) If it's too low all around, you can take out a horizontal tuck out all the way around.

Okay, on to the next topic: making the lapels smaller. This is a concern that I've seen with some of the petite ladies, who feel that the large lapels look oversized on their frames. This is a super easy adjustment. Here's how I would do it: Press in the seam allowances on your lapel, so you can get a sense of the true size. Now, while you're wearing it, stick pins in around the lapel where you'd like the new edge to be. Taper it down to the bottom of the lapel (as well as to the top of it) so that you don't mess with the fit of the coat elsewhere. (The arrows point to the pins.)

Now, take the muslin off, mark where the pins were placed with a Sharpie, and connect the marks smoothly with a French curve. Try it on again to make sure you're happy with the shape.

You can make your collar smaller this way as well.

That's it! And hey, I forgot that I haven't shown you my fabric. Here it is:

The coat fabric is a thick navy and white wool tweed. I love this particular navy color; it seems to have a bit of purple in it. To coordinate, I chose a deep purple rayon Bemberg for the lining. The buttons are blue velvet flowers from M&J.


  1. Whew! I'm kind of glad you're behind on your muslin too--I have only just gotten to cutting out/thread tracing mine! :p Although I plan on spending a couple hours today sewing and fitting it. So hopefully I'll be on my merry way soonish (but I said that last week, and it didn't happen. *sigh* Life--I hate how it gets in the way of Important Sewing Time!).

    Thanks for the tips about the swayback adjustments; I suspect I'll need to do that on mine...

    I love the fabrics you chose--and those buttons!!! *covets* Your version is going to be gorgeous, Gertie!

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  2. I had to finish a dress I'm wearing to a friend's wedding this weekend first, so I'm just starting to trace my pattern pieces, but I know the sew-along will still be going by the time I get to my muslin, sometime next week presumably :)

  3. Gertie, my impression is that not all of these need a swayback adjustment. For some, the bodice is just too long - they have shorter upper torsos that the pattern requires. Instead, I think adjusting the position of the waist by taking a horizontal tuck all around the coat is the answer. K.Line (one of your examples) said this worked for her.

    I think a nice modification to this pattern, if Sarai is listening, would be to make a waist marking so that this could be checked more easily at the muslin stage.

  4. I'm not participating in the sew-along myself, and have been largely passing by the related posts, but I also have a couple issues with this whole "swayback adjustment" thing - which is by no means a reflection on you Gertie, lots of people seem to be doing it.

    I remember that in formal apparel design and construction classes I took that some students were inclined to make such an alteration to their muslins/patterns, and were told in no uncertain terms by the instructors that this was incorrect. Essentially, I think you could say that it adresses the symptoms of a problem rather than the problem itself. If there is puddling of fabric at the back the issue is most often not one of actual excess length, but a lack of necessary width for the garment to hang smoothly over the hips and tooshie. This is confirmed by you mentioning that extra length may need to be added to the hem. It's a case of the garment getting hung-up on the back hips/backside.

    The problem with taking this horizontal 'dart' at the centre back seam is that there is already an issue with the grainline that's being caused here, and the dart will just exacerbate that. And we all know that grainline integrity is all-important - unless you're messing with it on purpose!

    The solution the instructors taught (which I passed on when I became a TA) was to open the back seams from the puddling area and below until the garment lay smoothly over the body. You then measure the length and width of this opening and adjust your pattern accordingly. The correct grainline is maintained, as well as the proper length, and I believe it would help avoid a tendency that can happen for the back seam to dip unflatteringly inwards towards the body (I hope that makes sense). Oh, and it also works equally well on styles that do not have back seams, but only princess seams instead.

    As ejvc mentioned - if the puddling is consistent all around the body at the waist, than a length adjustment is required.

  5. Thanks, ladies. I made an update to the post on the too-long torso issue.

    Brocade Goddess, I'm not sure I understand your method. Does this mean you're making your pattern wider and longer?

    I'm not ready to write off sway-back adjustments all together (Kenneth King does it, and I think he's a fitting genius), though I see your point about the grainline. Always more than one way to skin a cat!

  6. I just read David Page Coffin's 'Making Trousers' and was struck by the seemingly simple advice to just make the garment larger if you're having fit issues - more ease will make the wrinkles go away! So I think I can see where brocade goddess is coming from.

    OTOH, ff the tuck is taken for the sway back, then transferred to the pattern, then a new piece cut, the grainlines would be preserved, correct? By taking the tuck and transferring to the pattern, you're changing the shape of the pattern piece, not the grainline of the garment.

    I often have trouble with sway back - or as I've seen some bloggers call it, the full-butt adjustment!! I just carry a lot of my hip-inches in my hind end, which for a dress or longer coat/jacket, can cause problems - although, oddly, I haven't had a swayback issue with this pattern yet (working on second muslin), even though I really thought I would!

  7. Oh lordy, I was scrolling down and wondering if my puddley back was going to show up and lo and behold, there it was!

    Mine is definitely just at the back but owing to the lack of centre back or any horizontal seams, I've had to redraft the pattern with a CB seam rather than cutting it on the fold. This is a pretty big deviation from what it was printed as, so I'm going to buy a few more metres of muslin on Friday (god bless my local market!) and run up a Muslin III just to make sure the ammended pattern looks OK.

    I don't think my posture is too bad, so I have to agree with Patty that it's down to the junk in the trunk. I have it on trousers and skirts very definitely and just put it down to my fairly ridiculous hip/arse to waist ration.

  8. Hi again, sorry for the bit of confusion. I should have referred to it as adding additional ease. You're adding ease only (width-wise), not additional length. That's part of the point, you don't have to add any extra length to compensate for anything. But you need to measure the length along your seamline over which extra ease is needed. Does that make better sense?

    Believe me, I know there is more than one way to do just about anything in sewing, which actually made me hesitate before posting. However, upon further reflection (granted, it was fuzzy, morning reflection), I couldn't get over how the grainline would be affected. Even if you re-drew the grainline on the pattern piece to account for the 'dart' you take in, I still see it being off and/or the piece still not fitting quite right on the body because you did not address the *actual* cause of the 'puddling'.

    To Emmy: as I mentioned, this would eliminate the need to add a centre back seam to your pattern.

    A lot of people probably won't really notice the differece, so this 'swayback' method may be fine for you, but if/when you get particular about fit, you may wish to try it.

  9. Thanks for the clarification, Brocadegoddess. I'll give it a try!

  10. Junk in the trunk, indeed! I just made New Look 6808 and had that exact problem - now that I think on it, I DID try Brocade-G's method of adding ease - I cut right up the center, filled in with more muslin and adjusted the pattern. The problem was that by doing it that way, it made the fabric flare out on the hips (not a good look!), and STILL puddle int the center!! (um, my sewing skills leave something to be desired!

    I ended up adding a CB seam and a wedge right in the middle! It's that big 'ole booty causing trouble!!

    I'll definitely keep Brocade's method in mind - I'm sure I can use multiple tricks to deal with that pesky small of my back!

  11. I'm clearly too visual a person to make any sense of your explanation! Do you mean add enough width from the hips downwards so that the extra fabric stops gathering at your waist and smooths down over your bottom?

    I've had to do that on garments in the past, for myself and other women with similar figures. I'm not sure that would have made much difference in this particular case, to be honest, as the original coat had a pretty a-line shape and loads of ease already there. Taking the tuck out didn't affect the hemline and definitely made the back of the coat fit me much more smoothly. The redrafted pattern has the grainlines altered so that shouldn't be an issue.

    I'll see how it goes with the CB seam (which is probably going to help make me look longer and leaner anyway, so is no bad thing) and maybe try your way if the third muslin looks wonky at all.

  12. ok...dim sewist here...can't work out what you mean by making the dart of the extra fabric at the waist. Rather, I imagine what you mean, but not how to do it.

  13. Gertie, your fabric looks nearly identical to mine, although mine is grey and white! Is yours a weave?
    Also did you do the drier method to preshrink yours or did you take it to the cleaners? I nervous to do either since I don't want to shrink it too much.
    Thanks for the helpful post, as always. :)

  14. Hi Gertie, thanks for the tutorials on making lapels and collar smaller, I will give it a shot. My other issue (since I am only 5" tall) is that the coat is too long for me. I posted on flikr (I am hokidoki on flikr) how my muslin look with the original length and shorter hem (I pinned the hem). Is it as simple as chop the hem off a few inches? I also feel that the peplum might be overwhelming, how to adjust that? Lastly, I also notice that some fellow sewalongers including myself have issue with the wide sleeves. How to adjust that? my apology to bombard you with so many questions....thanks

  15. I've used the method Brocadegoddess mentions and can attest that it works. You'll want to distribute the ease you're adding below the waist among all the back seams, not just the CB. (In fact, I described this method on someone's flickr photo of this problem and was unsure, but now I'm glad to be validated!)

    On another note, I'm so happy to be doing the sewalong! Before my daughter was born I used to do at least one complicated/advanced project a year, but I've slipped back into just making the same basics and not trying anything new.
    It's good to get out of my comfort zone. OTOH, yikes, is tracing seamlines tedious or what? I cheated a bit and didn't draw in the new cutting line (with 1" seam allowance), but just measured and cut as I went.

  16. I LOVE your fabric, lining and buttons!
    I am behind, too. I really want to make this coat but I am still finishing my Butterick coat.

  17. Hmm, I went back and read the fitting comments more carefully. I think this confirms that I will draw a horizontal balance line on my muslin; somewhere near the waist.
    I know I'll need something along these lines, too, but how will I know whether to make a swayback adjustment or add more ease? Well, it depends on which method keeps my grainline plumb and my horizontal balance line level.

  18. I love your buttons! They are gorgeous.

  19. Oh! I can't wait to make my very own coat! I'm not ready for it yet, but maybe next year! I'm excited to see what everyone creates!!

  20. Thanks for the tips! I started sewing my muslin, but have yet to finish it and try it on. Hopefully tonight. I hope your picks for your version!

  21. Having thought about this a little more, I reckon the reason I got the wrinkles in my lower back isn't entirely to do with the width of my arse, it's also because I'm short waisted but have reasonably large bosoms. The extra length in the front was filled out by the girls and therefore wasn't really extra, so I just had to tuck out the excess in the back. The hem was level even with the wrinkles, so it wasn't so much the bottom half of the coat being pulled by my bum as the upper portion not being supported by the lowness of my shoulders. Does that make sense?

  22. I'm so behind on my muslin! I can't for the life of me figure out how/where to add the excess for an FBA, since the princess seam curves off into the armpit.

    I've gone through four sets of traced patterns, a lot of yelling and a lot of tears and I still can't figure it out... :(

    I'm about ready to add this project to the other four in the back of my sewing locker....

  23. Wah!! I love the buttons and immediately went to the website. Unfortunately, I did not see them available to us outlanders. Believe me, it is a button wasteland where I live. I was in Munich recently, and had a chance to visit the famous department store Karlstadt (formerly "Hertie"). While they offer a very high-end selection of buttons, I did not see anything offered like your coat buttons.

    I think your coat will be fantastic in the fabric,lining and buttons. Perhaps I will join in a future sew along. To all current participants, please know many of us out here are excited to see your completed coats!!

  24. i'm also super super late on making my muslin. glad i'm not the only one. my glee premiere party and getting a last minute acceptance to an awesome craft fair have me behind, but i'm sure i'll catch up eventually!

  25. I haven't even read this yet Gertie. I posted my discussion topic on Flickr having not got to the blogs - I'm a bit out of sorts today having gone through a migraine. My discussion question is probably answered by this post (in which case I'll remove it). Now onto the reading...

  26. OK, one other thing: I will post a new photo of the shortened waist version of my muslin. It worked WONDERS. I thought that what I was doing was a swayback adjustment. Of course, now that I've read this I realize I shortened the bodice instead.

    Note that when I shortened it I took an inch out all around: half an inch was from above the waistline and half an inch was from below. I do have a short waist. I've noted it in my sewing and with purchased clothing. I'm just amazed that the pooling went away completely with that simple adjustment.

  27. OK, me again... Binky: I recall seeing lots of info about FBAs and princess seams in Fit for Real People. Seriously, if you don't have the book, I'd go and get it just to assist you with this project. I've never done an FBA for princess seams so I can't really explain it to you. In reading, it seems complex (I learn by doing so the reading is a very preliminary step for me) but I bet it would fix your problem.

  28. Blinky, for a Full Bust Adjustment on a princess seam follow this link Hope it helps.

  29. Binky - I also put pictures up of my FBA on the Lady Grey - you can see it here (although, I probably mixed up my left and my right a few times! :-))

  30. A quick comment: A large bust requires extra length in the front. So if you are large-bosomed and short waisted, you'll get puddling at the waist in the back. I am not sure of the procedure for fixing this exactly - I mean, you can do a tuck above the waist and then an FBA, but I wonder if that won't create extra work and there isn't some way to combine them? In any case I think the back view will show a truer picture when it comes to the length of the bodice than the front view. In fact I looked at my muslin pictures again with this in mind - my back length is about 1/2" shorter than "standard" and I normally don't adjust for it because in most patterns it doesn't matter - but here I think that could clear up some of the back wrinkles I have. Gertie, I think it would be useful at this stage to point people to a range of fitting resources. I really think that's something that puts people off sewing - I have seen posts from others who have made a muslin and given up on this pattern; for some it doesn't suit them (lesson learned) but for others I think it was a fitting issue that they simply didn't know how to solve.

  31. ejvc - I saw your comment in my email and have been chewing over it while looking at my morning computering (um, blogs...)

    I think the key is to use the high bust measurement to choose the correct size, then do a full bust adjustment. This certainly adds length to the front pattern pieces (I did a 5" FBA and my front side piece is definitely much longer, and my front piece a bit longer) but none of that length was added to the back pieces at all! I don't know if you could get much more short waisted/full busted than me! (DD, with my visual waist less than a handspan below my bustline!)

    And you are so on with how people give up on account of fitting issues. Also, fitting is so hard, body image-wise. I don't know ANY of my friends who like how they look in photos. And here we all are, taking pictures at unflattering angles that are intended to show off how badly our clothes are fitting! If only the partial head-on pose would work as well for fitting purposes as it does for taking off 20 pounds!


    I'm a visual girl, and with even all the visuals from sewmamasew, I couldn't figure it out 'cause of the inner curve/outer curve of the two front pieces, vs. the two outward curves of "normal" princess seams

    BUT! now I get it...and so, today will be spent making pattern adjustments, tracing, and sewing my muslin! YAY!!!!

    which, I'm sure, will cause more trauma and heartache :)



  33. I'm glad it was helpful Debora-Bink! I'm very visual as well, and when I started sewing any pictures helped (thank you for explaining horsehair braid Gertie!! Although I still did it wrong!)

    Good luck!

  34. Hi guys! I know fitting issues can be frustrating. Hang in there.

    ejvc, I keep pointing people toward Fit for Real People and the online FBA tutorial taken from that method. If you have an additional list of resources, would you consider putting them together for an op/ed post? I obviously can't address everything on my own, and I love having extra constributors!

  35. I haven't started yet, but I am not using the Lady Grey.I would like you to address adding a inside pocket for a cell phone. I have started drafting the size and shape I would like and will incorporate Kenneth Kings instructions in his book "Cool Couture"
    The reason is safety for both the wearer of the coat and the cell phone itself. I have started incorporating the inside pocket after a near miss while walking near my home. All of my REI coats and jackets have this feature so I want to add this to my coats and jackets I make.

  36. ejvc has just sent me here to look at the sway back alteration discussion.
    There is a thread at pattern review that might also be of interest

    I have just tried the Kenneth King method of transferring the dart to the side seam, as described by Marji in the thread, and was very pleased with the result.

  37. Hi Gertie,

    Not sure if this is the place to comment on the hair or not. I love your hair in this style. You're pretty and can carry off so many looks! But since you asked I wanted to let you know if you didn't already that there are a couple vintage hairstyle sites I've read . In no particular order
    Hope you find it interesting.
    You lucky gal! Tim Gunn he's such a dapper gentleman.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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