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Saturday, 8 August 2015

Pattern Alterations for High Round Back and Forward Head

I had fitting problems for a long time which I could not really identify, I tried petite alterations and various things which didn't seem to work too well. At the Stitchers Guild Meet up in London July 2010, I was proudly wearing all Me-Made things and we were chatting away about alterations (as sewists do), Karen and Elizabeth pointed out very politely that I needed a high round back alteration on my T shirts. When I came back my sewing was a bit stuck for a while, because now I knew I needed to do something more but didn't quite know how. I researched it a bit more and found some options which I thought might help others.

There are a couple of way to tackle the high round back which either introduce a centre back seam, gathers across the centre back neck or a shoulder dart. Here's a really good Threads article showing the various options.
I tend to go for the shaped centre back seam and add about an inch at the deepest part of that wedge.

Threads don't seem to cover the opposite side of this which is that at the front I now have too much fabric between the shoulders and the bust, which fits ok out at the shoulders but is too much fabric in the centre. I remove this with a wedge taken out across the front between the bust and the shoulders. This works well on an open V or scoop neckline but on a round neck it needs to be redrawn lower down.
This alters all of the facing, neckband and collar pieces too which also need an amount removing where they would be attached at an area which has had fabric removed from the front or back. I often avoid things with a collar for this reason because you are then altering the collar, facings etc as well which is a pain.

Here's an example from a top I made in March 2014 from Vogue 2989.
I add a wedge across the back which adds an extra inch. And I also take a little bit off the top of the centre back seam. This is a super easy alteration on things which have a centre back seam.
Basically draw a line across the upper back (I do mine about half way up the armhole) at 90 degrees to the grainline. Cut through this from the centre back almost to the armhole leaving a small 'hinge'. Then add extra tissue behind and spread the upper section by the amount you need - 1" in my case. I also curve in the very top of the neckline (not clear on my photo) but same as the image below. That little curve affects the shape of any back neck facing and/or collar pieces, so you'll have to take matching wedges out of them.
Here's someone else's diagram with extra red lines. My alteration is more extreme and further down the back, but you get the idea.

This will then need a matching forward head alteration to remove the excess from the front neckline. 
Again draw the line at 90 degrees to the grainline. Then mark 1" up from the line and draw a second line at an angle back to the hinge point in the armhole. Fold so the two lines meet and tape in place. Alter any facing and collar pieces to match (easiest done by transfering the two lines onto the facing piece and then folding afterwards).
This leaves you with a bit of a step in the edge and you can fill in with tissue if liked. I tend to just mentally add the tissue and cut accordingly.

This leaves the armholes and sleeves exactly the same and thats not been a problem for me.

I thought for ages I needed a small bust alteration but I don't - the excess fabric for me is between the bust and the neck so this is where I need to remove it.
I tend to pick styles with scoop or V neck as I don't like the sensation of a neckline at the collarbone level. However if you do have a higher round neck style and do this alteration, you will need to redraw the front neckline slightly lower, and alter any facing/collar pieces accordingly.

I hope this helps! 

The top I made in these pictures was too drapey for the pattern and I didn't keep it, but I used the alterations for a dress as well, also from Vogue 2989, and here's an old photo of me wearing it.
You can see there is no excess fabric at the front neckline and the raised neckline which forms a sort of collar hugs my neck at the back.


Jane M said...

I have started to make this adjustment also, Ruthie, nicevexplanation. I still need a swayback adjustment further down my back. Interesting to see how small changes make a garment look and feel better.

JuliaRu said...

thanks Ruthie. I have the same problem, but didn't realize it also meant altering the front neckline (which does gape on me often). so, now I will automatically also plan on adjusting all front necklines too! thanks again.

Julie Culshaw said...

Interesting, I wonder if I need this alteration too. Ruthie, before you made the alteration, was your shoulder seam not sitting correctly? I have the problem of my shoulder seam not sitting at right angles to my neck. But unlike all the illustrations in fitting books, my seam angles toward the front of my body, meaning that I have to take off the back shoulder seam and add it to the front. All the books only show the opposite alteration. I am wondering if this indicates the same fitting issue as yours. I do notice that I always want to take the center front seam lower, as it seems to choke me otherwise. Any thoughts?

Linda T said...

Great explanation. I like your new haircut, too.

Anne said...

Good explanation. I know I often have excess fabric above bust but I haven't done this change at back. Maybe I need to.

Cherie said...

Ruthie, as I've begun sewing after a long hiatus, I find that now I need those same alterations. And you've shown me how!! Great explanation and graphics. Fitting the "aging" neckline, back and front, means the garment will look good on! Again, thanks for doing this!

twotoast said...

I use the back alteration that you have mentioned here (in the Threads article). I couldn't understand why my tops and jackets didn't curve into my lower back, when my back neckline never sat flat against my body, and why I was always pulling my tops down at the front because the neckline kept crawling up to my throat. I took a Palmer/Pletch sewing class and had these alterations explained (sway back, rounded upper back, forward shoulders) and now my tops fit much better.I usually drop these alterations onto all patterns for tops, and I've been really pleased with the results.

Thanks for bringing this up and letting people know about it. I'd struggled for years, not realizing the problem!

SewRuthie said...

Julie. It may well help, why not try it in a test garment.

barbara said...

hi ruthie,
the article in threads does address the issue of too much fabric in the front of a bodice. i have the same issue and correct it as they suggest. i have a big bust and it works fine for me even though there's that concave area so it would probably work for everyone, especially someone sleeker. it's a very easy (if time consuming) fix, but it does involve fiddling with the sleeve cap. honestly, it's worth it for the better fit. give it a try. i think you'll like the results.