Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crepe Sew-Along #5: Pattern Alterations

Happy Tuesday, Sew-Alongers! A bunch of stuff to go over today.

First, I confirmed with Sarai, the pattern's designer, that the back pieces should not wrap all the way around to your side seams. They should definitely cover your back darts, and then end about 1-2" away from your side seam. The fit in a wrap dress is more flexible than other garments, so don't fret too much about this number. I did let my own side seams back out to give me a bit more wrap.

Next, let's talk about darts.

Your darts should end about 1" away from the apex (or fullest point) of the bust. The darts on this pattern are a little long on some people, me included. No worries! It's easy to shorten a dart.

First, make a mark 1" (or however long you need to shorten) from the tip of the dart. My new point is marked in silver Sharpie below.

 Next, draw new lines from the end of your dart legs up to the new dart point.
That's it! You'll now have a shortened dart.

Next on the dart agenda: moving darts up or down. Your bust darts should be level with the apex of your bust, no higher or lower. The darts on this pattern seem to be a bit high for some. The easiest way to lower a dart is to cut it out and move it down as far as you need (have some new pattern paper taped underneath). Re-draw your side seam line. (You can see this method in action in the book Fit for Real People, but it's really as easy as it sounds.)

And lastly on the subject of darts, re-shaping a dart for a more flattering bust look. Some of you may be noticing a bit of bagginess under the bust. You can re-shape the dart to get a more stream-lined look. First, draw a line about 1-1/2" down from the tip of the dart (this measurement may be shorter or longer for your personal fit), making it perpendicular to the dart's center line. My new marks are in silver again.

 Make new marks 1/4" away from the original dart lines.
 Connect the dart tip to these new marks.
 Connect from the 1/4" marks down to the beginning of the dart legs.
This is your new dart! It's curved rather than perfectly triangular, resulting in a snugger fit right under the bust.

Finally, let's talk about transferring muslin alterations to your paper pattern. After you've pinched out whatever excess ease you have on your muslin, take your muslin off but keep the pins in. Mark the "humps and gullies" (as Sharon would say) on the pins, as below.

After marking all your pins, remove them. Your muslin will probably look kind of like this.
Side seams are easy to change. Just measure the difference between the old seamline and the new one and re-draw it on the pattern. (New side seam in purple below.) It's a good idea to work on a tracing of the pattern at this point.

Trace the rest of the original pattern, removing width from side and shoulder seams where needed.

Next, you can deal with your tucks. You can't just take a tuck out of a pattern because it changes the position of the neckline and shoulder. Here, I've taken the tucks out of the original pattern.
Now, I've put my tracing down on top of it. See how the neckline has shifted on the pattern below because of the tucks? This would not be a flattering fit.

You want to use the original shoulder position, but the lowered height of the piece. Trace your new lines and slash through your old ones so you don't get confused.
Repeat on the back, drawing a new smooth line at the back neckline where you've taken a tuck.

Don't forget to label your pattern pieces! If you're going through multiple drafts of a pattern and muslin, I highly recommend numbering your drafts as you go along. You think you'll remember which is which. But you won't. Trust me.
For best results, make a new muslin. Remember that fitting is all about trial and error! The only way to get better at it is to practice. To give you an idea of the process, just check out this shoulder seam I was working on. Yikes!

Always have a bunch of different colored pens and pencils for this purpose! Slash through any bad lines, and draw little circles along your final line. That way you can keep some of your madness straight.

I know that was a lot to cover for one day, but I hope it helps. Keep uploading your muslin pics to the Flickr Pool, and check back for a fabric cutting post later this week!


  1. Gertie, I have read the part about transfering the tucks to the pattern pieces ten times now and still totally don't understand.

  2. Spookily, mine seems to fit fine. It's a bit short (I'm freakishly tall). I lengthened it a bit before making my muslin, but I think I need to lengthen a bit more - does ending at my belly button sound like a sensible place?

    Will lenghthening more have a big impact on the darts underneath the bust? (I'm hoping the answer is no!)

    And apropos of nothing, this is the first time I've ever made anything (second time using a sewing machine) and my muslin fits really well. Beginners luck probably (and a pattern that matches my boob to waist ratio).

    And while things are going well (I'm not foolishly optimistic), thank your for the excellent instructions and all the effort you've put into this.

  3. Thank you so much for your detailed explanations. I struggle with fit and pattern adjustments and exactly now to transfer from the muslin to the pattern. Following your process has helped me quite a bit. Your explanations are excellent!
    Thank You

  4. Caryn, is there a specific question you have? Basically, you 1) make a new tracing of the original pattern, 2) take the same tucks out of your original pattern that you took out of your muslin, 3) place the new tracing on top of the original pattern with tucks taken out, and 4) trace the new height of your piece (the tucks will have shortened it) but do not change the position of the shoulder. Make sure you do this in a different color than the first tracing.

    Mirana, I would recommend slashing your pattern below the bust and spreading it the amount you need. Add some new paper underneath and tape. It WILL affect your darts by making them longer, but you can easily shorten them using the method I've described in this post.

  5. MarIana, sorry for the misspelled name!

  6. Gertie, maybe actually doing it will cause a lightbulb moment. I will try it tonight and see what happens.

  7. Tall and with an unspellable name. I've also remembered a further thing I wanted to ask (sorry!) about lengthening. All the lengthening I have done has increased the size of the bit of the pattern where ties will be attached (there is probably a name for it that I don't know). Should I increase the angle of the slope of the back pieces to reduce the size.

    Hope that makes sense.


  8. Miriana (ha! think finally got it right!), you will need to redraw that portion you're talking about. I'm not sure what you're referring to beyond that. Can you post pics to Flickr?

  9. I'm so glad I joined this sew along! I learned something new today: reshaping the darts. That's going to come in very handy for me. Thank you!!!!

  10. I need to add length and I'm not sure where to do so with the darts and all.

  11. Stephanie, I addressed that question in my first comment on this post. (Fourth comment at the top of this thread.)

  12. Sorry about that I must have only read the first part. Hopefully I get this done tonight.

  13. Hi Gertie,
    Thanks for this post - I'm afraid I have a question. If I take a tuck out of the back (and mine is big, it's 2 inches wide), how do I match up the side seams? My side seams will be different lengths. I added 2 inches to the front piece and then did the same with the back pieces to match up the side seams. Now I need to take out 2 inches (from the top part of my bodice back pieces), how is this done? Sorry for the confusion, I'm probably missing something really obvious. F x

  14. Gertie - I shant put either of us through any more pain by trying to explain in a way that makes any sense! And I'm too luddite for Flickr (I don't know how to download photos from my camera). So, I shall make something up and see how it goes - it's working well so far.

    Many thanks


  15. The failure of the pieces to wrap to the side seam gave the dress an odd look to me, especially with a contrasting tie.

  16. Thanks for all the information, Gertie! At first, I was freaking out about the whole concept of "pattern alterations" but then I just followed your dart instructions and now my muslin looks so much better! Thank you!

  17. This might be a completely stupid question, but I was wondering if the bust darts would be a little bot high cause they would have the weight of the skirt pulling it down a little, and the muslin is just the bodice?

  18. I cut out the size 0 because I'm a good 3 inches less than those measurements - so it's crazy big on me! Do you have any recommendations for what to start with as far as adjustments go?
    I actually have already eliminated the side dart (from the previously suggested SBA) and that already made a big difference, but it's still quite baggy around the underbust, the neck, the sides, the back & shoulders! Eck!!

  19. Fay, it sounds like your tuck needs to be a wedge rather than a true rectangular tuck. In other words, it will start at the outer edge of the back and then taper to nothing closer to the shoulder/side seam. This means that it won't affect the length of your side seams. Make sense?

    kira, if your skirt was made of a heavy material, it could definitely weigh down the bodice, probably by a half inch or under. Our light and medium weight cottons shouldn't have this effect, though.

    MJ, I would start taking in at the side seams and go from there.

  20. Thanks Gertie,
    I have now done the wedgey sort of darts - I added 2 because of the amount of fabric I needed to remove & I think it's worked. I'm going to take another look tomorrow & upload to flickr- It's not perfect but I think it's good enough - I have now completed 5 muslins and it's been a huge learning curve! Both my little boys have been ill today and have behaved appaulingly - leaving me frazzled and in need of wine - my judgement of good enough might not be quite the same tomorrow without the beer (wine) goggles : )
    Thank you for your help, so far I've learnt such a lot.

  21. Hello Gertie!

    First of all - I adore your blog!!
    Since you often do posts about pattern alteration, I wanted to ask a question. Maybe you can help me!
    I love sewing jackets and coats, but I am never satisfied with the way my sleeves look. I think that first of all its because of the pattern. I´d like very narrow sleeves, but the patterns (I use burda only) don´t seem to be very narrow. Of course I could just make them slimmer, but then the upper arm looks odd (It looks like there is "too much fabric", especially when i bend my arm. ). I don´t really know how to explain my problem, but where would you take in the sleeves?

  22. Hi!
    First, thanks so much for all the time you are putting into helping us :)
    I have a question - The front of my bodice seems to fit ok, i just changed the shape of the darts, but the back is really loose and baggy. Would this indicate that I have a narrow back? I'm having trouble getting wedges pinned out - do you think that just changing the width of the pattern would help? When I tried to take out the wedges as you demonstrated, the bottom started forming an upside down V & that didn't seem right...


  23. I (finally) finished 1st muslin with alterations and what an improvement. It wasn't all plain sailing and I think I need to make further alterations. I'll put some photos up in flickr tomorrow to get some much needed advice. When you say the darts need to finish about 1" from apex I am right to assume you mean both waist dart and bust dart? In current muslin I took in 3/4" side seams, moved bust dart but didn't add 3/4" to it. Duh! Thank you :)

  24. I've been a little slow getting started, but I've got my first muslin! Will post pictures later today.

    I'm curious - why take the tucks out before altering the darts? If it was left to me, I would lower the dart points and alter the shape of the front darts, then take out the tucks. It just seems more logical! But I don't have your experience :)

  25. If we take a horizontal tuck out of the front, should we also take one out of the back?

    Also, where should the bottom of the bodice fall on our body? Mine is about two inches above my belly button-- is that too high?

    Thanks! :)

  26. After 5 muslins I am caught up to this point as of this afternoon! I can't wait to get out my good fabrics tomorrow to continue! Thanks for all the great detailed descriptions on how to do everything :)

  27. Hi - I am bit behind on this sew-along due to an extended christmas vacation - but I am trying to catch up now!! I have made my muslin and it only needs to have the side darts moved down and a bit taken off of the shoulders... however, my bust darts suck! I don't know what is wrong with me but no matter what I do I make it look like I have pointy boobs! I always have this problem when I am working on bust darts. Is that I have them too high? I made the dart adjustments that you suggested to make it so that they are more flattering - but although they are more flattering. they are pointy! Any suggestions would be much appreciated!!

  28. delighted to have found this website, brilliant

  29. So happy that you did this sew-along! It's been very helpful and I am now on my third muslin. Here's hoping third times a charm!


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

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