In many ways this post is kinda redundant from my perspective. Even as I type, this project has been shelved. Again. I bought the Colette Laurel as soon as it was released. Which was what? Like 3 years ago?? At that point I made two toiles. When I cut the recommended size 12. It was huuuuge! So I regrouped and cut an 8. (I am NEVER an 8! Not complaining!) Then ended up grading down even further at the hips because the hip shaping on me (I have a very low hip/waist ratio), looked like comical jodphurs. I also had to lower the bust dart by 3 cm . That is where my boredom kicked in and my patience ran out 3 years ago and my Laurel was shelved for the first time…
Fast forward 3 years and I felt I’d forgiven this pattern enough to give it another try. I knew from last time that there were still some fit issues to fix. So I armed myself with an old kingsize duvet cover, anticipating, and prepared to make, multiple toiles. (I do question how bizarre my proportions must be to require such gritty determination!) My toile count is now at 5 for this pattern, and I’ve decided enough is enough. I really shouldn’t have to work this hard to get a simple shift dress to hang right. End of. So I have conceded defeat and concluded that this pattern and me….we just don’t work. Which is a shame.
BUT, it is a good opportunity to show you a sway back adjustment! Every cloud and all that! I covered this adjustment a few years back over on my old blog. But when I made the migration from Blogger to WordPress a few posts were lost. This being among them. So now seemed a good opportunity to revisit it. It’s quite long; and I’ve taken alot of photos along the way. So this will be split into 2 posts. This being Pt 1…not just because of the adjustment itself….but also because, although I know this adjustment works… I haven’t quite gotten my head around why. There’s elements of it that are quite counterintuitive; and I wanted to open up the discussion a bit and hear from you on the subject. I am NOT a fitting expert. I’m still learning; so help a girl out if you have some insight here 🙂
For anyone that doesn’t yet know what a sway back is, (or indeed whether you have one ) it’s an above average (whatever that is!) inward curve in the spine. An arched back basically. If you have a sway back you may have noticed that alot of RTW clothes (and sewing patterns) will sit as they do in the left hand picture below. That is, an excess of fabric “pooling” or bunching in the lower back. This is because that “curve” in your back is essentially shortening the distance between your shoulders and your backside. Basically meaning that the CB on a sewing pattern will be longer than you need it. (It’s worth noting that there are other fit issues that can cause this effect in back ((such as being too snug at the hips )). But because these horizontal wrinkles stop at the side seams, and my side seams are hanging freely, I know the problem is in the back. Savvy?) If that bunchy fabric at the back bugs you, then a sway back adjustment takes care of that and allows the back to hang smooth. Like the picture on the right!
It does this by means of removing horizontal tucks/wedges from the CB and redistributing them, among other places, at the hem. Usually it’s only a small amount. My back curve it seems…is quite extreme. I began by taking out that tuck at the top of my lower back; and when it didn’t quite fix the issue, I took that second tuck out at my lower back. From what I’ve seen this is relatively unusual. Usually it’s just the one tuck, and much smaller at that. It may be related to the fact that my upper back/shoulders are rounded which will also have an effect on the way the CB hangs on me; and it’s worth noting here that I have an 8″ long 2″ wide dart basted out at the CB neck to fix that. But in any case…I’ve always been taught that it’s a case of interpreting what the fabric is telling you when it comes to pattern adjustments…and you can see that the double tucks have removed that pooling fabric and allowed the CB to hang straight.
You can also see in the far right pic above that the back is overall, tighter than it was. That’s fine because when I make the adjustment to the pattern I’ll be redistributing that fullness elsewhere which will take care of that. Soooo…
Above is what the back looks like from the right side with those tucks taken out. Turns out that squared fabric was quite useful in that it really highlights how that tuck is re-orientating the back. Notice that the CB is still straight.
Below you can see the effect it has on the hem. I’ve basically pulled up that hem at the centre by pinching out that length further up. This gets fixed on the paper pattern later…
So here it is inside out and you can see those tucks in all their glory. Essentially it’s a French dart turned on it’s side. I stitched them during the fitting process so I could get a better idea of how the final adjustment would look. Plus it’s flippin’ hard to fit the back on your own. With pins. Ouch! I took a chalk pencil and drew over all my stitching lines and also marked the fold of each tuck at the CB.
Once I seam ripped all my basting and pressed it flat this is what the back piece looked like. You can see the tucks (AKA what I need to remove) clearly marked. Widest at the CB and tapering to nothing at the side seams.
Here’s the CB. If you think of this as a dart just for a moment, I’ve now got the centre point marked, and the dart legs either side of it…
I separated my toile at the CB and took one half to use as my new pattern. (You can see the massive dart I had to take out of the neckline too.) Then using all those points I’d marked I smoothed out my lines with a ruler, drawing directly onto my fabric, and making sure that the centre line of those tuck was square to the CB line. Make sense?
Here’s a close up….
So from here, the next step is to transfer those marks to, and make the adjustment on, the paper pattern. Then of course…test it with a second toile. That post will be up later this week. But in the meantime….if you have any insight into a sway back adjustment, have anything to add, tips for improvement etc (or if you just want to rant about fit issues and how annoying they are!) please feel free to chime in!