RBA: A Modest Success

RBA=Round Back Alteration More commonly called Dowager’s Hump. Discussed in detail in several places, I’m starting with the instructions from Texas A&M.  Whoa. Let me back up a sec and explain how I got to here.  I’d known my back was rounding.  It is an age factor which will happen to everyone but to varying degrees.  I’ve been ignoring the issue so far, partly because I could disguise it through the use of shoulder pads. My lamenting about the diagonal lines on the Gold and Blue Ink PP104′s, elicited a sympathetic response and discussion with a SG member. (Hi tazzieM).   Our discussion center around HBL’s and grain lines. Oh and wedges vs tucks. I decided to ignore the front diagonals for now and tackle my rounding back issues. I started with a search which turned up many posts.  I’m surprised at how often an RBA is needed.! I still hesitated to do the RBA because my wrinkles are not exactly the same.  My upper back, from shoulder to shoulder-blade is pretty smooth. My wrinkles occur below the shoulder-blade across the back and diagonally towards the side seam. But I do agree I have a round back. I can see it in my pictures and sometimes even in my reflection.

The RBA is more complex than my NSA. My NSA is a slash, overlap and smoosh the pieces flat.  I can do that anywhere along the shoulder line and be assured of a fix. With the RBA, I needed to know exactly where on the pattern the first slash should take place. Also, the instructions indicate that the amount of the RBA can be measured.  To figure out where the RBA needed to be, I held my tape measure at my neck, aligned with the shoulder seam and took a picture.

Then I cropped so I could see detail.

My biggest horizontal drag line is below my armscye! Does that mean I should make my RBA there or up by the bubble? And what should I think about the side diagonals?  I decided that the mid-back bubble was probably the fabric shifting upward and the causation below that. Also, I know that the apex of roundness back there is not below my arm. It’s more like mid-arm.  I’ll need to offset for  the shoulder seam when I get to the pattern. So I decided to start by making the first slash 8″ down from the shoulder/neckline point. Next was how much. The horizontal is pretty deep, but that bubble is not.  I know from experience that it only takes the grain being off a little to make a big difference. I started by opening  a 1/2″ wedge at the CB seam.  Trouble with that is the 1/2″ that the neckline skews away from straight up and down of the back line:

and it’s the reason I have avoided the RBA up to now.  The easiest solution, is to add a seam allowance and sew a center back seam. I would do that, if I wasn’t fitting a T-shirt pattern.  I do want a T-shirt pattern and I’m willing to accept some less than perfect fit for a T-shirt.  There are several things that can be done. The recommendation is to slash from neckline to the RBA and allow the neckline to open. Hmmm, I think that’s going to make a nice gaping back neckline on me.  I could rotate to the shoulder (slash from shoulder line to RBA), except that will make my .5″ too long shoulder line 1.75″ too long. Not what I want at all.  I tried trimming the additional shoulder length at the armscye, but then my armscye that was 2″ longer than before. Ache! Doesn’t that create another problem. I don’t like solutions that create more problems.  I don’t like alterations that require more alterations!

So I did my RBA slightly differently. (1) I slashed across the CB seam at 8″ and opened the 1/2″ wedge. (2) But then I slashed from neckline to RBA forming the hinge at the neckline instead of the RBA.(3) I allowed the neckline slash to overlap slightly along the RBA.

I confess that I was not entirely sure this would work.  For one thing, I thought when you added ease for roundness you needed to add both horizontal and vertical ease. I’m adding only vertical ease.  (The slash is horizontal, across the body. But it adds length, vertical ease). Also not following instructions exactly, I dont’ think I’ll have exactly the same results (If you always do what you always did…..).  But I’m willing to try. Hey this will be another winter/spring T-shirt that I can cover with a vest. Right now my T-shirts look as good as anybody’s in the bank line!

By now  I’m so tired of Blue and Gold. I confess I made my last garment a T-shirt because I thought I could zip through the sewing.  This time, I wanted to be careful of the fabric, hmmmm, features I would deal with.  From my stash I chose the brightest pink ITY.  I like ITY. It stretches but still has some stability (no it’s not the most stable knit). It recovers nicely when worn and I’m fortunate that I’m not bothered by it.  I know some people can’t stand poly of any kind. I don’t mean just the people at SG. Some of those people in the bank line swear they can’t wear poly.

I’m in a small rural town. Definitely a throw back to pre WWII. Our social activities are limited. There is the Post Office line, The bar,  The American Legion Steak Night, City Hall and the infamous BANK LINE.

I wanted to use my T-shirt pattern, but wanted to style something slightly different. I spent an hour looking at current  fashions on HSN and QVC (yeah that’s where folks like us look for high fashion).  I didn’t want to do anything that would affect the fit of the shoulders or torso. So nothing much at the neckline or anywhere else. I decided to scoop my neckline 2″. The high round neckline typical of T-shirts is not flattering for me. But it is still winter and will still be cool through most of our Spring. In fact, I will wear long sleeves up to almost the end of May. Ah sleeves. Yes I decided to add ease from elbow to  wrist for a fuller sleeve.  To really point out the fullness, I gathered slightly about 3.5″ above the raw hem edge.  This was not a big deal.  To add sleeve to the edge, I placed my pattern on fabric. Then aligned my ruler with the hem and slid it over 2.5″ from the hem edge. Drew a line straight up to meet the sleeve which happened to be about elbow length.  Repeat for other side.  Then for the gathering, I aligned my ruler along the hem of the now cut out sleeve and drew a horizontal line 3.5″ above the hem edge. I found the center of the horizontal and made a tick mark 3.5″ to each side. I used 1/2″ clear elastic and the triple zigzag to attach 5″ of elastic along the horizontal chalked line. On the inside it looks like this:

Once hemmed (I used my CS. Yeah!) it looks like this:

I think I erred, slightly.  I left my hem length at 1.25″.  I think you get a slightly fuller look by turning up 1/4″ twice. But I’m not unhappy.

So the front, doesn’t look much different:

This fabric looks terrific in pictures. Not so wonderful in the stash or real life.


It shouldn’t. I’ve made no changes to the front beyond scooping the neck slightly.  I finished the neckline with a bias band (it’s habit to cut bias), which is stitched 3/8 from the edge and then wrapped up and over before top stitching just below the well of the previous seam.  The shoulders are still slightly too large. There are still diagonal wrinkles from the bust (no surprise there); a little too much ease across the waist and hip but not the tummy (?).  The sleeve may be slightly long but I like it this length for this gathering.  Truth is, I haven’t shortened the sleeve because I still may shorten the shoulder which will bring the sleeve up on my arm and make it look shorter.

It is the back which is slightly eye-opening

The back is now smooth across the shoulders and upper back down across the shoulder blades. The diagonal lines I’m seeing are at a lesser angle and pointing at the hip, not the side. They are also in the area which I know to have too much ease.  I considered removing ease in this area way back at the Gold PP104.  I believe the hip ridge line is caused by the jean pockets.

The side is equally encouraging:

There are no diagonal drag lines front or back. Astonishing!  I think that’s the kind of thing that happens when you find the true cause of your problems. I mean you fix the real problem and all the little distracting, irritating little…. goobers disappear. I know that was true with computers. Fix the obvious problem and everything else works like it’s supposed to.

I still need some changes

The front and back shoulders are still too wide. Need 1/2″ NSA or retrace the pattern using the Small shoulder line.

The back has obvious excess ease below the shoulder blades all the way to the hem.  I think tracing a medium back could be the answer.

The front still has diagonal wrinkles from the bust line.  I’m thinking instead of doing a tuck for the front BWL, I should do a dart or wedge.  I’m not sure if this works (dart vs tuck BWL).  It is simpler than tuck and add wedge immediately above the tuck.

I only notice the front flare in the pictures. Which makes me wonder if I need to correct it or not.  I don’t think there is overall too much ease (as visible on the back). More like just too much below the tummy and above the hem. Not sure I can or even should do anything about it. Some changes are fitting issues. Once you find the fitting solution, you accept the results as necessary; as personal style.

The hem is actually too long for a T-shirt. However I use this same pattern for knit tops and use it to compare with patterns to check for sufficient length and width. (Style changes all.)  I see a little flare right a the hem. I think it may be from my hemming procedure.  I turned up the hem 1/2″ and secured it with SAS. Then I covered stitched the hem. The cover stitch is not exactly adjusted correctly but it’s close enough to pass my tests. Only on the longest hem (the sleeves don’t flare or ruffle along the hem), does my problem occur.

The hem has also developed into the  high low style. Probably because I added length across the shoulders. High-low is very popular right now with some real extremes that I won’t wear.  This is not bad, IMO.



Categories: RBA