My Personal Fit Notes And Pattern Adjustments

Carrying on from last week with the theme of fit, this is a post that I’ve been promising myself to write for so, so long and today I finally I got off my butt to write it. So, I’m sharing all of my fit notes and pattern adjustments that I make whenever I start a sewing project. By sharing this, it might be useful for you too and it also reinforces the fact that in the same way that off-the-peg clothes are designed for an industry average it applies to sewing patterns too. Patterns are designed for an average set of measurements or a fit model chosen by the company. Nobody is the same and alterations are often a necessity.

Before I get going, I thought it would be useful to start off with my measurements and to list the fit issues that I personally need to address in varying degrees (depending on the design) for my sewing projects.

My Measurements:

  • I’m 5’ 5” (165cm) tall or maybe a smidge more
  • Bust 35.5” (90cm)
  • Waist 32” (81cm)
  • Hips 37.5”(95cm)
  • Width across my upper back 14.5”(36.7cm)
  • Inside leg 30”(76cm)

The areas that cause fit issues are:

  • Forward-rolling shoulders that are fairly square from the front view.
  • Slightly narrow across my back width
  • DD bust
  • Small ribcage under my bust
  • Wide waist compared to hips and my waistline dips down at the front.
  • A flat and low bottom
  • Knock knees (fleshy pads at my inner knee)

Starting at the top and working my way down, I’ll talk you through my adjustments, so let’s begin!


A symptom of my forward rolling shoulders is that clothes feel like they’re riding backwards and I’m continuously tugging them up and forwards, and sometimes the front neckline gags me across my throat or it can feel like it’s too wide at the front, in which case I have to cut a narrower front across the armholes and sometimes I do an alteration similar to this mentioned in this post on Cashmerette

I ‘square off’ and add a bit on to the back shoulder line. The front shoulder has a little shaved off it but I also found out that I need to angle it down a little too and a result of bringing the front shoulder line down means that I lower the front neckline a little as well. Here’s a diagram because a picture is worth a thousand words as they say:

Fit notes and pattern adjustments

Sleeve Head Adjustment

Having moved the shoulder seam to a more forward position a knock-on effect is that the seeve head needs to be adjusted too, with the centre line shifted. 

A horizontal line is drawn across the sleeve cap and the whole thing is shifted forwards by the same amount that I moved my shoulder line. I then blend in and re-draw the sleeve head curves.

Upper Back/Shoulder Combo

As well as my forward shoulders my upper back is a little rounded over my shoulder blades and high-set. I don’t really need extra width across my back, what I need is for the fabric to contour around my curves where my arms are set in a more forward position, so I create shoulder darts. On some patterns, I just add a dart by drawing one (about 3″ long) halfway along my shoulder line and compensate for the fact that I’ve removed shoulder seam width by adding a bit back on at the armhole edge. Sometimes though, I also need to raise the back neckline up. Often I simply draw the back neckline a little higher but sometimes I raise up the back like this…

After I’ve already squared off my shoulder line I create a dart and add a little more depth. Here’s how:

Fit notes and pattern adjustments

Bust Darts

I’m a DD cup but I don’t always feel like I need a total FBA which would give me more width across the front, instead, what I tend to need is extra length only. If a pattern already has a dart I often need to increase the intake of the dart and if there is no dart at all then I create one myself. I just think a garment hangs better with darts or some shaping via seams. My little pet peeve is seeing angled draglines on a top or dress that picks up at the front. If there is no dart at all here’s how I create one:

  • First I mark the bust points (I hold the pattern up to me and mark the position). 
  • Next, I draw a line across at bust point level that angles down at the sides (approx 2”-3”(7cm) down from the armhole)
  • I open and spread the pattern with the amount of extra length needed.
  • I draw the dart stopping short of the bust point (a dart should finish about 1” (25mm) before the bust point for smaller busts and 2”-2 ½”(6cm) before for larger busts)
  • Finally, I make sure the side seam is trued.

For a pattern that already has a dart (which isn’t big enough), I go through the same steps but just slash through the middle of the existing dart and through the pattern then spread it and widen the dart.


Waistline Adjustments

I always have to increase the width of the waistline on patterns. The absolute simplest way is to just grade out and add some extra width at the sides. 

On a standard pencil skirt pattern, I simply add some width at the side on the front pattern piece but on the back pattern, I do a combination of things. 

So, I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I have a flat bottom, therefore on a skirt, I don’t need the fullness created by the usual two darts. What I do is completely omit the two darts and draw a single one positioned in the middle of where they would have been. I also lengthen it a bit. Once I’ve done this I check the back waist measurement and if I still need more width I just add some on at the side.

Fit notes and pattern adjustments


Well, I covered a whole lot of stuff on this subject last week in my post about pants fitting, but I’ll quickly go over my general adjustments here as well.

  • I make sure to widen my waist.
  • I have to make the front crotch curve is shallow to the point of it being almost a straight diagonal which then curves out for my tummy. 
  • The back crotch is much longer than the front due to my waistline dipping down at the front and on a close-fit pant is also angled quite a bit for sitting comfort.
  • I do a considerable knock-knee adjustment by adding width at the inside leg. If you scroll halfway down this Threads post you’ll see a great little diagram that illustrates what I did on my pattern (weirdly the technique described for a knock knee adjustment on Closet Core patterns whereby you angle the legs out does not work for me at all, but this may be to do with the angle that my legs exit my pelvis).
  • Finally, for a nice fit over my calves, I developed a centre contoured seam detail at the lower back leg (diagrams on my pants fit post also)

Well, I think that about covers my personal fit story. I can’t think of any more alterations that I do, but if something comes to mind I’ll add it. I hope perhaps you found some of it useful for yourself. Let’s chat in the comments.

And finally, one of you lovely lot asked me a question two weeks ago in the comments. The question (from Angela I think) was about front closures that always seem to gape. It wasn’t clear from the question where the gaping was happening so, for now, I’ll try to think of as many causes.

The most basic one which can cause buttons to gape in between is if something is tight across the front and then you need to add some extra width to the front pattern in the form of an FBA. Buttons that are sewn on too tight can also cause bulging of the fabric once the buttons are fastened, so be sure to create a little shank with your thread when you sew buttons on. If the gaping happens around the neckline above the closure it might be caused by too much width across the front neckline. Another cause of neck gaping above a closure might be a bit too much length from shoulder to bust point. 

I can’t think of any other causes of gaping at the moment but if anything comes to mind I’ll update this too. 

Ok, then. That just about wraps it up for this week. I hope you enjoyed your tea/coffee break while you sat for a read. I’m really excited that I’m finally getting some fabric to start my Vikisews Emannualle coat but I’m guessing it’ll be a looooong project so I’ll maybe make a top in between coat stages so that’ll be my sewing sorted. I’ll hopefully catch you next week.

See you soon!

PS. I did a moulage drafting and fitting course with Gina Renee and I can highly recommend her book on fitting

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  1. Giedre
    January 22, 2021 / 8:04 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing these useful ideas of various amendments! I just figured that probably I still lack experience to feel if at times the fit is sudoptimal, as haven’t felt the need for significant amendments yet. And probably even dread the moment of that realization, if it comes one day. Or maybe I am just sort of ‘standard’ and don’t need that much adjustment, which is quite difficult to believe 🙂 Well, now will clearly be thinking, which one of those is that! 🙂
    Needless to say, am so curious to continue seeing your new coat in the making! Let me wish a smooth journey with it!

    • diane
      January 22, 2021 / 8:43 pm

      So glad you enjoyed my post Giedre! Thank you. And you never know, maybe you are lucky to not need adjustments 🙂
      And thanks for the best wishes in my coat making!

  2. Karey
    January 22, 2021 / 10:55 pm

    No wonder I find your makes helpful. Apart from being shorter and bustier, my basic frame is very similar, and I have to make almost the same adjustments. (Hinging in middle of leg and expanding knee side, shortening outside leg works wonders for my knock knees.

    • diane
      January 23, 2021 / 11:46 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Karey! Funny about our similarities and it sounds like you’ve nailed your knock knee fit.

  3. Barkcloth
    January 23, 2021 / 11:36 am

    Hi Diana, I really would appreciate it when you would use the metric system in your blogposts. Thanks, Barkcloth (from Amsterdam, NL)

    • Barkcloth
      January 23, 2021 / 11:37 am

      Sorry, I mean Diane, not Diana.

    • diane
      January 23, 2021 / 11:43 am

      I edited my post 🙂 Though I’m an inches gal at heart and just assumed you could look at your tape measure to convert 🙂
      Actually…edited to add that I realised I always do fabric measurements in metres…maybe I’m a weird mixture of imperial and metric! Lol!

  4. January 23, 2021 / 2:49 pm

    Thank you Diane for taking the time to create this post! SO HELPFUL! I’ve been doing FBA’s ever since I learned how (I’m a DD too in sewing as well and FF bra) but my FBA’s don’t always provide the result I’m seeking – they often add just too much width but I love your method of simply adding a dart once you’ve added some length only. I’ve saved this post for that AND for your forward shoulder adjustment and how you adjust that on the sleeve head. I had been rotating the sleeve head forward with varying success but I believe your methodology is simpler and undoubtedly more effective. I’ve learned more from your fitting posts than I have from any in person fitting classes I’ve taken!

    • diane
      January 23, 2021 / 5:22 pm

      Thank you so much, Kathleen, for such lovely positive feedback! I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to writing this post as it’s been on my to-do list for months!

  5. Joan
    January 23, 2021 / 7:42 pm

    Hi Diane, I’ve been looking forward to this post since you mentioned you would do it “in the future”! One reason I’ve really enjoyed your blog is bc you do deal with fit in sufficient detail to be really helpful, in addition to your “makes” being of consistently beautiful finish quality.

    Like Karey, I share some very similar fit issues with you, except mine are in the bodice, not the lower half. I have a very similar forward shoulder as you, and though only a large C, I need a larger dart and a lot of additional length in my bodice front (about the same as you, but I’m 5’1″). Then in my back bodice I go a bit wonky, needing a bit extra at the neckline for a dowager’s hump (quite unattractive!), yet I have flat shoulders and too erect posture, so that I have to take length out between my waist and shoulders in a wedge to the side seam to get the F & B side seams the same length. My bodice has been a perpetual issue for me, and I am only just getting its issues under control!

    Would love to see more of your bust adjustments as you need them on future patterns, to compare/contrast FBA options.

    • diane
      January 23, 2021 / 8:17 pm

      Hi Joan, yes, I finally did this post! And I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it and found some of it helpful. I’m trying to wrap my brain around your description of your back/shoulders and waist alterations…sounds like a tricky thing to get right but at least you’re getting there.
      By the way, you mention me sharing any bust alterations that I do…well, I have a complicated one coming up when I finally get around to posting about the coat I’ve just started…it’s a doozy of an alteration 🙂

  6. Christine
    January 23, 2021 / 8:56 pm

    Such a helpful post. I don’t need many adjustments as these days I am only sewing simple stuff but I am going to save this post for future reference. As others have said I learn so much from you as well as seeing your beautiful makes. Thanks for taking the time to put these comprehensive posts together.

    • diane
      January 24, 2021 / 10:56 am

      You’re welcome, Christine. Thanks for the kind words!

  7. Ka Yang
    January 23, 2021 / 11:06 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I really needed a visual for the forward shoulders adjustments, especially for the sleeves. I just never really knew how to adjust the sleeves part and I’m surprised by how easy it is to do. I, too, have a flat bottom and I think it also sits low so I’m going to keep your suggestions in mind for making pants. Still haven’t gotten a fitted pants to my liking yet. Even though this is your personal fit adjustments, I found it so useful and will keep it as a reference!

    • diane
      January 24, 2021 / 11:00 am

      Thank you! Oh, I’m so glad you found the shoulder and sleeve adjustment useful. Pants are a real pain to get right though, but it’s really worth the time and effort. Throughout the two different times that I tackled pants fits (the first time I don’t think I knew enough about my own figure), I must have done about 6 toiles in all!

  8. January 24, 2021 / 8:36 am

    Hi Diane- this is fab! I also share some of your adjustments needs and make some of the alterations you make as standard, but you’ve given me some great ideas for variations. I’m really interested in your method for adding length but not width in the bodice because I feel I don’t need width either sometimes. Great stuff and thank you!

    • diane
      January 24, 2021 / 11:02 am

      Oh, good, so glad you find it helpful, Claire! Yeah, that bust idea is so straightforward on a basic bodice and it makes such a difference to the hang of a garment.

  9. January 24, 2021 / 8:57 am

    You do go to a lot of trouble to ensure good fit. I mostly check where the dart point lands!! Most interesting and informative post, thank you Diane!

    • diane
      January 24, 2021 / 11:05 am

      Hi Sue. Glad you found it interesting. I do go to a lot of trouble I guess, but I think it’s because my eye is trained to really spot all the pulls, drags and wrinkles that shouldn’t be there. It’s a learning process to be able to see them and something I’ve also picked up from my many years of sewing for others.

  10. Jojo
    January 28, 2021 / 8:27 pm

    Enjoyed reading your adjustments for a forward shoulder and rounded back. I too have these fit issues, and a low flat butt. How do you address the extra fabric that wrinkles right under the butt area. Thank you for any help, I am a new subscriber. And I didn’t used to have all these fitting problems that have come with old age and weight loss from chronic health problems. I so need a sewing buddy.

    • diane
      January 28, 2021 / 9:13 pm

      Hi Jojo and welcome! Glad you found my post helpful. That effect of wrinkling fabric below the butt has only happened when my pants are that in-between fit of being a little baggier than a close-fit style (which I don’t wear these days). I never seem to get the problem with a wide leg or a close-fit style. There’s an alteration called a fish-eye dart adjustment that I’ve yet to try out for myself but if you do a quick Google search for ‘fish-eye pants adjustment’ you should get a load of results.

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