My Standard Alterations

Yes in the last 4 years, I’ve come to know my body pretty well and I’ve got my alterations mapped out.

TOPS — I need only 2 alterations to fit most tops and dresses. I do these alteration in the order listed. I actually find it makes a difference. If I reverse the alteration order, I end up repeating or tweaking the alterations.

Back Waist Length: I still take the 1″ in length out above my waist as my aunt suggested. Well somestimes it not a full 1 inch. The difference comes from the selected size and the pattern company.  Each company has their own sloper.  I need different amounts altered to make their sloper fit my body Point is, my aunt was right. Removing 1″ above the waist, brings the pattern’s waist in line with my own. Oh and by gollies it also brings the hip shapping in line with my own and I don’t need to be cutting 2 different sizes along the side or otherwise slashing my pattern to add room in the hip.

Narrow shoulder adjustment:  This corrects the shoulder length, the sleeve length, the collapsing front and all the wrinkles across the front becuase my bust was, is and probably will always be smaller than the pattern is designed for.  Over the years I made multiple changes. I’d hem the sleeves or alter the sleeve pattern; trim the shoulder seams and the center front. Then turn around and add to the hip which added to the waist ’cause you had to blend that line. I’ve cut 1 size across the top and a larger across the hip. I’ve forgotten some of the things I’ve done to fix this area in place of 1″ shoulder pads and padded br!s.  One day all the top issues went away.  That was the day I learned about the narrow shoulder adjustment. My adjustment varies between .5 and 1 inch.  Again,  difference resulting from the size and the pattern company.    I need a different alteration amount, but all I need is one alteration to fix these issues.

PANTS — are a little more demanding and require more tweaking for me to get a perfect fit. I make the waist fit first and true the side seams last always. But the other alterations aren’t neccessarily done in the same order.  I do find myself tweaking pants much more than tops anyway.

Make the waist fit:  If it doesn’t my pants, slide down slightly.  I feel it in the crotch.  I’m very sensitive to the fabric accumulating right below in the thigh area and rubbing. I see it in wrinkles all over the body.  My pants must hang from my waist. The only exception is the skin tight Jalie Jeans.  MissCieliesPants wrote me that she found she needed negative ease at the waist.  She also experienced her skirts turning, rotating around her waist during the day. Pants of course are not free to rotate. They just accumulate weird wrinkles.  I’ve reach the point of basting my pants together, to include the waistband before attempting to fit.  If the waistband doesn’t fit, the pants won’t fit. Worse though, is that I’ve made alterations that then have to be changed once I do get the waist fitted. Similar to MissCieliesPants, my waistband length is equal to or slightly smaller than my own waist. I’m not talking about pull on pants with their easy fit elastic.  I make the elastic 5″ smaller than my waist. But for zippered pants, with waistbands, I cut the waistband to equal my waist measurement and then I interface and tape the waistline.  I need to keep the wastband controlled if my pants are to look good all day long.  I then have to make a decision about what to do with the extra ease allowed at the waist in the pattern. This actually makes for design variations.  I can use a line of basting and ease the two (waistband and pant) together. I can add more darts. I can increase the depth of existing darts.  I can add pleats — I like them in the front. Once the waistband fits, I have options and I’ve enjoyed exploring all of them. But the issue has to be considered an a solution selected.

Add to the crotch extension: this varies by pattern between 1 and 3 inches.  Yes that’s a big variance.  I am the classic, feminine pear shape.  I am nearly as deep as I am wide.  Yet most patterns do not acknowledge this.  Pants are especially vulnerable to this issue.  With out making sure I have enough depth in the crotch, pants simply don’t fit. I’m amazed at the wrinkles which result from this.  Remember those TV documentaries that show the sun shinning on one spot on the ocean which causes the water to warm and then swirl into a vortex?  That’s exactly the effect a too short crotch has on my pants.  The vortex forms right at my whatsit.

Back Crotch Scoop: Curiously though, I can eliminate the vortex, but then have X wrinkles in back.  These are dreaded wrinkles that  run diagonally from hip, to knee and then reverse back to the calve.  When looking at me standing and legs together, it looks like a big X. These had me making alterations for large calves, knock knees, long inseams and a host of other things.  The solution was found by accident.  My sewing angel sent me several patterns which she had used successfuly for the same problems when she was my size.  By comparing the patterns, I realized that the patterns which worked were recognizing and offering a solution to accomodate the depth of my body which they refer to as adequate body space. My easiest solution is to scoop from the back of the crotch which in effect straightens the crotch from the ski jump formation of Kwik Sew to more like the L shape crotch in Christine Johnsons’ designs.  This makes no sense to me. But it’s true. Changing the shape of the back crotch allows the pant to settle around and under my body so that the pants are not being pulled out of shape in those other places.

Tilted waist: I don’t always have to make this alteration. Most women need this alteration and the pattern companies I use for pants patterns automatically include the alteration.  The Big 4 assume that the front crotch depth will be equal to the back and any difference in length is added and subtracted at the crotch extensions.  I believe this may have worked when I was 12. But by the time I was 13, I started being annoyed with pants that seemed to have this extra room in front.  Like they expected me to have another piece of equipment.  Along with that, when I sat down or bent over, the center back would pull down. The solution is ignoring the Big4’s assumption and removing 1″ from the front crotch depth and adding it to the back crotch depth.

Shorten legs: 36″ is the popular length for pants these days and the pattern companies are giving that to those of us that sew.  Problem for me is that any shaping for the thigh and the knee is usually placed incorrectly for my body.  I typically remove 1″ above the knee and 1″ below the knee.  That leaves me with a 2″ hem which I prefer to the RTW 5/8″ turned twice.  A 2″ hem hangs nicely. The 5/8″ turned twice wants to keep rolling.  I know this too is a popular look, but it’s not one I desire.

Truing the side seam:  This involves removing from the front and placing it on the back.It’s actually simple.  On the front I pin out a 1/2″ tuck from waistband to hem. On the back I slash and spread from waistband to hem and even 1″.  Why and when it is neccessary is the question.  This isn’t always a problem.  I like my pants to have the typical straight plumb line at the side.  I do have a tummy which can pull the pants toward the front.  But that’s clearly a different alteration.  When that is the issue, I’ll see the side seam is straight from the hem, up though the calve, knee and even hip and suddenly it will veer forward at the tummy.  For this line, I need to slash and add ease right where the line veers.  No the line that’s odd, is seeing a plumb, vertical line of the side seam but on the back half of the side.  I’ve read that designers do this delibertly because they think your body looks narrower if the back is narrower.  I think it also comes from the mentality of taking a circumference measurement and dividing that by quarters; ending up with 1/4 of the total measurement in each quadrant of the pant. I have nearly as much depth as width, but not exactly. Dividing the measurement exactly in quarters, is not going to match my body. That’s why I watch for and make this alteration.