This week I want to talk about adapting sleeve patterns for square or forward rolling shoulders … it’s a bit of a follow on from my bomber jacket post of a couple of weeks back when you may remember that I altered the raglan sleeve a little and I promised that I’d write about how I did that alteration. If you’re interested in fit issues or if you have square shoulders like me then hopefully you’ll find this post useful.
First a bit more about my shoulder shape. So my shoulders fairly broad and square. I have rather pronounced little knobs on them because by the upsweep angle of my collar bones and as a result, my armscye is high and my shoulders quite square. My shoulders also roll to the front quite a bit. Over the years I come to know just what alterations I need to do to a pattern, almost without measuring. I can just spot what needs to be done straight away and I know what pattern shapes suit me best.
I always know that raglan sleeves can often be a bit of a problem for me. The ones with a centre seam all the way to the cuff are fairly easy to adjust but a one-piece raglan style never really works unless I put in a shoulder dart. So without further ado, let’s get cracking…
Adapting a raglan sleeve pattern for square shoulders
This is my method for adapting a one-piece sleeve pattern:
- Draw a vertical line down the pattern piece from the shoulder point for about 3-4”.
- Next, draw a horizontal line across at the bottom of this vertical line. The intersection is the position of the outer curve of your shoulder.
- Cut down the vertical line, stopping at the horizontal one.
- Cut across the horizontal line stopping just short of the edges to keep the sections attached.
- Open out the two top sections until you have a gap at the intersection of about 1” to 1.25”. The more pronounced the squareness of your shoulders…the more you will need to spread the pattern out…so you may need to experiment.
- Place your spread pattern piece on another sheet of paper and draw around it. Use a french curve to even out the sides and at the top create a softly rounded dart shape like the one I’ve shown in the photo.
- Measure each side of the dart leg and true up the line at the top to ensure the ends meet properly when the dart is sewn up.
- You should probably do as I did and make a test muslin first of the sleeve to check the dart length and curve as you may need to tweak the shape of it depending on your shoulder shape. It doesn’t matter if the dart curves a little over the end of your shoulder. Better to have it like that than a pointy dart end.
- Note: If like me your shoulders roll a bit forward too, then you will need to position your dart slightly more towards the front of the original vertical shoulder line
Now if you use a two-piece raglan pattern its a simple adjustment of just adding a little more curve at the shoulder on the centre seam and if your shoulders roll forward as well, shave a bit off the front pattern piece and add the same amount onto the back piece. I came across this tutorial that’s in relation to the Clare Coat by Closet Case Patterns, which you might find useful
Adapting a set-in sleeve for square and/or forward rolling shoulders
So, onto set in sleeves now:
Firstly, it’s quite a straightforward adjustment for square shoulders: just straighten off both back and front shoulder seams a little and slightly increase the height of your sleeve head.
If your shoulders roll to the front though, then you need to assess where the new shoulder line needs to be situated. ie. by how much you need to move the seam to the front. This means adding extra fabric to the back at the shoulder line and shaving some off the front.
This photo explains the method:
This new seam position measurement is then used in the following 5 step sleeve head adjustment for forward-rolling shoulders:
- Draw a line across the sleeve head above the notch marks about 3 inches from the top. This amount isn’t all that critical.
- Draw a vertical line from the centre of the sleeve head to meet the horizontal line.
- Cut across the horizontal line.
- Move the sleeve head to the front by the amount you needed to move your shoulder line as mentioned above.
- Now use a french curve to even up the sleeve head shape blending in at the front and out at the back. You now have a properly adjusted sleeve head to fit the new shoulder seam position.
I really hope you found this tutorial useful and that it will help you with shoulder fitting. It’s good to get familiar with what alterations you need to do for your individual shape and pattern adaptations will become automatic with each new make.
In closing though, I’m in full on Spring mode because this weekend in my neck of the woods in the UK, we finally have the sun after a week of drizzly dull weather…I’m suddenly thinking of warm weather clothes and to kick things off I’m joining in a two week challenge being run by my friend Faye of Faye’s Sewing Adventures. The challenge is called ‘Tops That Pop’ and you can read all about the challenge here and the idea is to make a top….any top 🙂 I personally like having lots of tops options in my wardrobe, so I’m attempting to make two…One fabric has already been pre-washed and the other is ready to go…I’ll hopefully share my makes with you very soon. Till then, happy sewing…and don’t forget to leave a comment if you want to chat about shoulder fit…or tops. I’d love to hear from you x
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