Shoulder blades

The red jacket is done, but for one offending button. I sewed it on last night, but when I put the jacket on Brunhilde for a final check, the bottom button made the front hang funny. That button must be moved down about 1/8″ before you can see it. Perhaps tomorrow.

For now, I’m fitting another pattern for my little plan. It’s for a sleeveless top to wear underneath a jacket or other top. This one is the tank from Simplicity 2938, which I adore! If I can make the tank work, I’m gonna make the dress, too.

As with the last few garments, I’m starting with the size 10. I have the usual issues. I can get enough width, but I’m still trying to deal with all that excess length that I get in the center back.

I want to solve that on this top once and for all.

Part of what gives me that excess is the way I’ve been dealing with my rounded back. There is a little rounded back up there, but I think the biggest problem is prominent shoulder blades–just bad posture. Several of my books discuss the issue and yesterday I came up with something that may work better.

For me.

As with anything I say here–YMMV.

Try things and see what works for you.

That’s what makes this so fun!


Palmer/Pletsch’s Fit for Real People has you do something like this:

PP Method

You add width all the way down (in blue) then dart out the excess in the existing shoulder and waist darts. Tried it. Didn’t like the bigger darts.

So. Let’s think about this logically, shall we?

This is a hump that needs more fabric over it. Like a breast needs a bust dart. Not so large, but the same idea. I should be able to approach it that way. The mound is on each side of the back about mid armhole. I put a point where I need more fabric and drew two lines pointing at that spot. Then I cut.

Draw some linesMove the section outward

So far so good, but what do I do with that excess length? Normally I would slash across and move the center portion upward like this:

Slash Slide upward

But that puts extra length at the center where I don’t want it. It also eliminates a little width that I might want mid-armhole. So I’m going to try this:

Try this

I’ll add the length to the inner dart leg and true the armscye seamline (in red). Then I’ll add a shoulder dart (in blue) to control the excess that the shoulder seam. Perhaps that will work. I’ll commit it to tissue tonight and see what I think.

After I get that button moved and the jacket photographed.

Vogue 8151, Take 1

Vogue 8151

Yeah? I think so.

This was the very best of the horrid photos that I took of this top on me last night. I didn’t remember that I had already put my retainer in for the night until I got the photos off the camera this morning. (And you thought you were through seeing pictures of me with metal in my mouth!)

This is Vogue 8151, view B, made up in a lousy knit off Hancock’s clearance table. I think I paid $1.78 for it. I like the colors a lot, though I was (and remain) fully prepared to trash it at any moment. Contrary to my usual habit, I did not prewash this fabric, so the top may disintegrate in the first wash.

I did not prewash the knit because I read that they wouldn’t curl as much if you didn’t. That is true and I plan to continue the practice when I sew polyester knits. Shrinkage worries me on cotton, though. Anyway…

Normally I make up commercial patterns in muslin first and don’t bother with finishing. I compared this pattern with Posies and decided that it would work–not without some alterations, but it would work.

Of primary concern, as always, was my rounded back. I gave this top about 3/4 of an inch more length center back creating a shoulder dart.

shoulder dart

Shoulder darts are almost invisible and make such a wonderful improvement in the fit of tops. I used to do the thing where you cut some off the front and add it to the back shoulder. That merely moves the seam and, for me, doesn’t come close to solving the problem. My patterns need major surgery!

Need a little round back alteration of your own? Have a look at my post here. There are how-to links at the bottom.

I’m hoping to review this thoroughly at PatternReview, so I’ll edit later to give you the link to it.

Later …

I forgot to say before that I wound up using a machine-stitched blind hem for this top–no stabilizer required.

My review is here now, if you want to read that.

Do you have a Dowager’s Hump


The alteration I’ve done to my Tote bag jacket is referred to as “Dowager’s Hump” in many of my sewing books. I don’t like the sound of that at all! says a dowager is “an elderly woman of stately dignity, esp. one of elevated social position” Now that doesn’t sound *too* bad. I’m not elderly just yet, but stately dignity we can all aspire to.

I think it’s the “hump” part that bothers me. We’ve all seen those elderly people (men and women) who are shaped like cartoon vultures. I don’t want to go there, ok??

(Where’s that yoga class brochure??)

No matter what you call it, or how you feel about it, you may need to perform a rounded back alteration on commercial patterns. There just isn’t enough length in them to get from the mid-back to the neckline. On my body, there’s also too much length between mid-back and waistline. The length has got to go precisely where you need it–adding at the top or bottom simply won’t work.

To alter for rounded back, you have to slash the pattern and give more length. This results in a dart being needed somewhere–shoulder, neck or somewhere creative. (I’m sorry. It just does.) My alteration to my Butterick jacket seems to be working out great. You can see how I slashed from those photographs, but what you can’t see (yet) is what I did about it in the wearable muslin that I’m working on now.

After I slashed and spread the pattern piece, I placed my darts at the neckline. The darts are sewn on the yoke, but I thought the collar would cover most of it. It doesn’t, but it isn’t noticeable either. What you notice is that the jacket now fits properly.

Palmer-Pletsch’s FFRP (Fit For Real People) suggests several ways of dealing with the extra length. In a yoked garment, like my jacket, they suggest placing the excess along the bottom of a yoke and the top of the lower back, tapering to the sides. I didn’t think this would look good in my striped fabric, so I went with the neck darts.

If you need a rounded back alteration (look for diagonal wrinkles below your shoulder blades like this) you can get some good directions on-line:

How do you manage without (your) Brunhilde???

Butterick jacket muslin front view Butterick jacket muslin back view with slice for rounded back Butterick jacket muslin slice close up

This is the muslin that I’m working on (not finished with–working on) for my Butterick B4463 jacket. Now granted I’ve got about 12 pounds on Brunhilde, so the jacket is plenty big enough for her. On me, it could use a bit more frontal circumference.

The cool thing, though, is that Brunhilde’s posture closely approximates mine. You may not realize what this means, so I’ll tell you. When you are fitting a garment–well, let me quote my friend Miriam:

“Just because you can get your fat @___@ into it doesn’t mean it fits.”

What you are trying to do is A. Get your fat “whatever” into it with some wiggle room, and B. Allow the garment to hang straight. The garment’s grainlines want to point to the floor. That’s one reason to be sure you cut your garments on the straight grain of the fabric. That’s also a reason to take posture into account.

I have a rounded upper back. For years I wondered why I got those diagonal wrinkles below my shoulder blades. You can see some here, and here, and a little bit here. I posted questions on the sewing boards, and everyone said it had something to do with my shoulders. I tried various suggestions over the years with some success. As you might expect, my PMB garments worked better than commercial patterns.

Fast forward to March of this year when I attended Cynthia Guffey’s seminar at the Sewing Expo. She showed us rounded back and what to do about it.

Ah-hah! It was *the answer* to my problems with diagonal wrinkles.

You can see on the muslin above how slashing across the yoke allows my jacket back to hang smoothly. (I know, a “before” picture would have been nice.) I’m still puzzling over the slight remaining diagonals–it may need to be shortened just above the waist.

If inspiration strikes, you’ll be the first to know.