For many years, I’ve been helping sewing enthusiasts fit sewing patterns. A common issue is that the shoulders of a blouse, dress, or top are too wide.  Here are the easy steps to adjust or fit the pattern for narrow shoulders before cutting out the fabric.


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman. How to adjust a pattern to fit narrow shoulders.



First measure—well . . . kind of!

If I told you it is impossible to measure a shoulder to determine a change, you might ask, Why? Here’s my response: Shoulder seams are style features—jackets, blouses, vests and tops all have varying degrees of shoulder lengths. Rather than trying to measure the right length of the shoulder seam, use a common sense approach.


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman. How to adjust a pattern to fit narrow shoulders.



The comfort of your clothes is the best indicator of a good or poor shoulder fit. If your Right Size Pattern (discussed in Pattern Fitting with Confidence) is a smaller size than you used in the past, the shoulders will automatically be narrow! If you still believe you need a narrow shoulder change, make only a 1/4″ or 1/2″ change. Since shoulder seams are relatively short, a change of 1/4″ or 1/2″ is significant! This common sense approach works very well.

How to adjust or alter a pattern to narrow the shoulder seam:

1. Outline the front pattern piece on a worksheet. Measure the needed decrease amount in from the shoulder cutting line; mark.

2. Align the pattern with the outline; slide the pattern along the shoulder seam so that the shoulder cutting line meets the decrease mark.


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman. How to adjust a pattern to fit narrow shoulders.



3. Insert a pin at the stitching line where the shoulder and armhole intersect. Pivot the pattern out to the original underarm cutting line. Trace the new armhole.


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman. How to adjust a pattern to fit narrow shoulders.



4. Align the pattern with the original outline. Tape, leaving the armhole area free. Fold the sections that overlap the new outline. Cut out the pattern, following the new outline.

Note from Nancy: The modified armhole is the same size as the original armhole. It may appear slightly higher, but it will fit correctly.


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman. How to adjust a pattern to fit narrow shoulders.



5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 on the back pattern piece.


Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman. How to adjust a pattern to fit narrow shoulders.



Want More?

I share more fast and easy fitting techniques in my book and DVD, Pattern Fitting with Confidence. Plus you’ll get reference charts for measurements and a personal fitting chart for various body types. You’ll be confident in no time!

Pattern Fitting with Confidence book by Nancy Zieman

Learn more fitting techniques by watching this video.

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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