Ready to Add Sleeves

Some final tweaking is needed before the sleeves are to be attached.

Working with my duct tape dummy is so easy but what does the sloper/muslin look like on me? How close did we get to a good fit?

Now, I will cut all the basting and flatten the gingham fronts and cut them out in muslin fabric.

For comparison, I have stacked the two gingham fronts and muslin fronts  along with the original paper pattern.

The green line is the new side seam for the back with the original my actual measurements line in red.

With the gingham replaced with stiffer muslin, it is easier to see any issues.


The left side that did not have any sloping issues looks pretty good.














The right side forward sloping shoulder shows that the back side seam needs to be trimmed down to meet the front. In measuring the actual armscye of each side, they differ by 1/2 inch…see chart below. At this point a decision has to be made about which size sleeve to use as they are different dimensions.

Muslin fronts looks OK:

Muslin back looks the same with the right sloped shoulder:

Right side measured and underarm to be trimmed away to measure 10 inches to match the left side.

Left side with extra needed to be added at the hem:

You can see that the fronts have ended up shorter than the backs at the side seam. Taking up the shoulders can cause this 1/2 inch difference.

I have a student who always asks about what size sleeve works best…the answer is…measure the armhole, measure the sleeve and see what amount of ease has been given.

Checking these measurements shows that the original paper pattern gave the sleeve 1.25 inches to ease into the armscye.

Using the altered muslin mannequin measurements and to allow for trimming away the excess of the right side to bring it up to match the left side of 19 inches we will have to ease in 2.25 inches.

Firs, I drew the seamline in pencil for the size 18 sleeve and then I drew a seamline 1/2 inch away and measured that line to get 20.25 inches.

That gives us 1.25 inches to ease in just like the original. So, next I will make 2 gingham sleeves and attach them to compare and share with you next time. If you have never measured a sleeve and armscye before…please give it a try so you know what ease is included. For a simple cotton blouse 1 or 1.5 inches of ease is plenty.

Hoping everyone following along is doing well and can follow the photos. Thank you for your comments and emails to:



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After letting the muslin rest for 2 weeks, I’m back to measure and tweak it. As we know, my right shoulder to my waist is one inch shorter than the left. So what options do I have to look more balanced? Here you can see the 1/2 inch drop.

Starting with the last pinning and purple marking lines:

Let’s re-pin that right shoulder seam to remove the extra 1 inch. Pinning equal amounts on the front and back makes the horizontal lines of the gingham straight.

The other alternative is to add a shoulder pad at least 1/2 inch thick.

Looks better already! But what if I don’t want to add a shoulder pad in every garment?

Leaving the shoulder pad in, I decided to take in the side seams a little. The bust darts need a little tweaking too.

Here are the new shoulder seam lines for the right shoulder:

The left side doesn’t need much more:

After unpinning , I mark the new side seam lines in red.















If I was going to make this blouse without a shoulder pad, here are the seam lines I would use.

Comparing the shoulder seams you can see that the right side would be sewn at the size 16 line and the left shoulder at the size 18. What does this do to the sleeve when it gets attached? Well, that comes later once this bodice is machine basted. I will also make new fronts in muslin fabric so everything matches and has the same drape.

Maybe you don’t have sloping shoulders or one lower than the other. Maybe you have more squared shoulders and patterns fit great right out of the envelope. But maybe you have fitting issues with your bust where the ginghan rises or droops or drag lines appear. I have a friend and new model who has these issues and soon I will introduce her along with photos from her pattern making sessions with me.

In the meantime, Mr. Mole has brought in a little harvest from the back yard…pears and peaches and Asian pears and red onions.

Thank you for following along, next time should see the muslin/sloper ready for sleeves! Almost Fall in this hemisphere and Spring in others…can you feel the change?

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Center Back Fold Step 11

Not all center back folds can be slashed and spread like a center back seam.

But, let’s start like usual by drawing the yoke line. Someone asked me where to draw this line, I would say that for slashing, it should be where the spine starts to curve forward.

Slash and open to test:

Place new paper underneath and draw the line for the new neck dart.

Once the new neck dart is open, slide the top section over to the fold line.

The most we can get is a one inch addition, so that is good to know for the future. Fold your new neck dart under and towards the center back and trim  to make the points. You can blend the armscye cutting line by adding a tiny bit of paper. Can you move the neck dart to the middle of the shoulder instead? Sure, make another slash line to the yoke line, open the dart up and close the neck dart.

Returning to the altered back pattern, you can see the difference from the original and the final version placed on top. The center back neckline curves in and the center back hem curves out.

What about the front? You can see that the new white side bust dart added almost 3 inches to the width and also added coverage as it swoops up to the shoulder seam. If this were sleeveless, that added coverage would be a bonus.

Making and basting a new muslin back and pinning to the fronts, we get a more fitted look from the last time. Still you can see my actual measurements and how they add 2 inches of ease to each side seam. If those actual measurement lines were used as side seams, this blouse would be fitting like a second skin.

While the left side looks good and smooth…

The right side “problem child” still has too much fabric in the shoulder area. either this can be fixed with a small shoulder pad or taking up the shoulder seam once the real fabric is cut.

Again, if I wanted to be picky, I would focus on the gingham fronts. Can you see the center fronts creeping up? Could this be because gingham is thinner than the muslin fabric? Possibly. I could have added length to the front when I altered the side dart but waiting until the end, for me, is better to see all the parts connected and working or not working together.

Once all the pieces are basted together, I may have to slash a horizontal line across the front to get a bit more length to make the bottom hem parallel with the floor and not ride up. When paper patterns moves on to be in fabric, things can change with the looser weave of the fabric and the drape. Any diagonal edges can “grow” as they are bias and not stable like in an armscye and neckline.

If you are trying on your muslin, please do a “sit test” to see what happens. I’m working with a client right now that measures 44 inches at the hip but when she sits down, she needs 51 inches so she doesn’t pop any buttons open. This also goes for patterns that have 2 front or 2 back vertical darts, while they look OK standing up, they may be uncomfortable when sitting and grab unto our middle sections too tightly.

We still have some minor tweaking to do and then we get to the sleeves.

Another good day to stay inside with the mercury rising to 106F today.

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Adding and Tucking Step 10

For those of you new readers who have just joined, the measurement charts are here on the Home page. I have labelled the steps 1 to 10. Feel free to download and print out to use now or in the future.

Of course, there will be more steps to this initial sloper/muslin as I have other willing models who will have different body measurements and issues that may coincide with your body shape. For now, let’s tackle this mess of lines!

Working on the back…remove from mannequin, remove basting stitches from center back seam, open up back waist dart, now what?

Let’s start at the top and replace the gingham with new paper.

Because I’m using a center back seam, after adding such a huge wedge, it allows a new curve to become part of the pattern.

In making the new curve smooth, trim off a little:

Moving down to the swayback as it caused the waistline to drop one inch lower than normal. Taking the markings from the pins, you can see we need a 1 inch horizontal dart from the previous post.

Cutting on the waist line and overlapping the two edges gives us a straight line but a crooked lower dart.

Here is the amount of fabric pinned out with the vertical tucks. This amount will be transferred to the side seam. Draw a parallel line 2 inches away from the new dart’s center line.

We are going to transfer the .75 inch at the back bust line tapering to nothing at the top and bottom, over and use the right hand line to cut straight down.

Continue cutting across a line at the bottom of the new dart towards the side seam to make a wedge that will move over to reduce the width of the side back by .75 inches.

Slide some new paper under the side seam and tape it down.

Bring back the wedge and slide it over to the first line closer to the new dart. This now transfers the excess to the side seam and we mark the new seam line. Most of the excess will be at the bust tapering to the armscye and the waist. Redraw the new curve.

Trim away the new paper and erase the new dart lines or just ignore them.

Time to clean up and draw in a straight of grain line parallel with the center back seam. Also have to redraw and straighten the lower half of the waist dart. You can see that the new center back seam is curved to match my upper rounded back and slightly curved for the swayback area.

You may not have to or want to get into doing these type of alterations but what you end up with is a custom pattern/template that you can use for all future patterns.

I have had to do these types of adjustments since I was 32 and now 40 years later, they are even more important and needed to get clothes to hang properly. Back in 1964, when we all had figures like Twiggy, you could sew a pattern right out of the envelope.

Making a new clean pattern back by tracing over all the adjustments.

OK Folks, we have done enough today. Next time I show how to make the slash and spread at the back yoke line using a center back fold that came with the original paper pattern.

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Slashing and Pinning Step 9

This week I thought it might be easier for you to follow the lines using muslin fabric with the same lines drawn on. You can see the side seams are pinned exactly vertical and the vertical lines of my exact measurements on the back sections.

First photo is of the left shoulder. Second photo is of the right sloped shoulder.


Using the yoke line, you can see where the spine curves and where to slash.

The yoke line needs to open and drop down to the yardstick.

 If your back looks like this, then this is for you to try. Drag lines always point to the problem.

Let’s slash and see what we need to make all the other horizontal lines parallel with the floor. Looks like 1.75 inches will do it.

Adding gingham and pinning a patch all the way across, this will be filled in on the paper pattern with more paper. That will come in the next blog post.

You will notice that by dropping the yoke, the waist is now about one inch too low.

With so much extra fabric in the back, we can pin out vertical pleats that will also be changed on the paper pattern. Now, if you wonder why I am not just taking in the side seams…that involves reducing the back armhole curve which has to sew unto the sleeve. The back armhole measures 11.75 inches and I want to keep that. The front armhole measures 11 inches.

What else has to be done now? How about raising the waistline up to match mine?

The side view shows how the pattern will conform to my curved upper back and also the sway back of my waist.

What happens to all these alterations? Let’s measure the neck to waist for the original 18 inches needed…WOW…it worked!
















All of the other horizontal measurements at the back bust, waist and hips are now back to the original numbers with a bit of ease.

Next time, I will take the back off and do all the adjustments on the paper pattern and re-trace the back again. You will see how to handle the slashed area in two different ways with a fold and without.

Wishing you luck in your pinning! Don’t forget to take some photos along the way!

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Something is Missing Step 8

Every time I make a sloper/muslin, I learn something new.

This time I didn’t factor in the 1.5 inch armscye dart that I closed up before re-drawing the front armhole.

So when I went to pin baste the front and backs together at the side seams…of course, the back was 1.5 inches taller than the front. Soooo backtracking, I found the piece that I had trimmmed off and added it back on. I added in blue gingham to give you and me a visual image to remember for the future.     

Then I stacked the side seams to make sure we were correct.

Then I pinned the fronts to the mannequin. The side seams are placed exactly on the side seam tape. So far so good…


Then I added the backs at the side seam. The back side seams are pinned exactly to the front seams. Can you see the other vertical lines of my actual measurements?

Drag lines galore! Gingham really shows up rounded backs and sloped shoulders!!! The shoulders are pinned exactly to the shoulder lines on the mannequin and the front and back are pinned together to match actual seams.

Right now it looks like if I used the vertical lines of my actual back measurements and pinned that line to the front side seam, things would fit well but first a back yoke slash is begging to be done!

Lots of excess fabric here but the horizontal yoke line will be slashed and allowed to drop so the lines are parallel with the floor and then paper added to the pattern. Because we have a center back seam instead of a fold, that seam can be allowed to stay curved without adding neck darts with a center back fold version. Get ready for more blue gingham patching!!!

What else is showing up? How about a too wide back and once the slash is done, it will drop the line drawn on the back waist which will need a sway back correction. Normally whatever is added to the top slash, that will be the same amount folded out/removed at the waist.

The last thing to think about is the hem area, whatever was taken away at the waist will be added on to the length. This is especially important if you are making a tailored jacket or coat or coatdress as the center back hem will be shorter than the side seams.

If you have reached this step and can’t possible work on your back section, feel free to send me a photo or two and we can have a chat about what might work. Nadine, the cat, and I are always here but sometimes she just wanders off to eat tuna and nap.

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Cutting Out Step 7

Before we get pinning and cutting, folks ask me about where to buy 1/4 inch gingham. In the past I have ordered a bolt from JoAnn’s online but suppliers change all the time. Here is what is on the end of my bolt. Pity about the word “Fuchsia” being misspelled.

Next question is…”do you preshrink it”…No, because it is nice and crispy just the way it is. Being 60 inches wide, you can make a lot of slopers from less fabric.

So, let’s lay out the two pattern pieces from last time. All of the lines will be transferred to the gingham or plain muslin, what ever you are using. There is an extra 1.5 inches added to the front as that was what I cut off to keep center front just for measuring.

I always ask my students to add 3/8 inch to the already 5/8 inch straight seam allowances so we have a full inch to play with…you never know what you might need once it is basted.

The front with the actual lines of my measurements and the seam lines about one inch away for ease.

Remember that I added a center back seam to the foldline? Well, it will be basted closed on the foldline in case we need it for a rounded back alteration later. You can see the line that is my actual measurements next to the side seam about 1.5 inches away.


All the lines have been transferred to the back pieces:

The fronts have been marked:

The backs have been pinned together. Because you are using 1/4 inch gingham, the checks can be lined up perfectly or slid up or down a little to match.

A close-up of the front with a second stitching line at the shoulder. At this point I’m not sure how the right shoulder seam will sit once it is basted to the back section. There is an extra inch that has to be removed from the right sloping shoulder and it may have to be taken out equally front and back.

That is the cool thing about making a sloper/muslin, it can tell you so much once it is made up and tried on. Paper patterns can only go so far with measurements alone and once real fabric is involved, angles can change. In college we used gingham for all the draping classes to teach our eyes to see drag lines and where horizontal lines droop and rise. Then the corrections are transferred back to the paper patterns.

We will be doing that once we see how this fits on a real body. Then that paper pattern can be placed over any new pattern to check for circumferences and lengths…a template really of what your body needs for a bodice.

If your body adjustments have not be addressed in the past posts…don’t worry, I have 3 willing models from our local Sewing Guild who want to be models and they will have different fitting issues other than what I have covered like square shoulders, upright posture…etc.

I hope you can follow along and get to this step! I’m excited for next time…trying the sloper/muslin on the mannequin and seeing what needs to be tweaked! Thank you for your participation and kind comments!

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Getting into Gingham Step 6

Now that we have adjusted the front and back and have a paper pattern, we can make a sample also called a muslin/sloper. A muslin can be made from any woven/stable fabric. I have always used woven, not printed, gingham because like with all of Nancy’s muslins, I can cut on a straight line and add exactly what she needs where she needs it.

When using actual plain muslin fabric, all the horizontal measurement lines are drawn so we can see drag lines. In this photo you can see that a jacket back yoke and bust and waistline horizontal line was drawn first and then cut straight across.

When so much is added at the back yoke to release fabric, it affects the lower horizontal lines and sometimes they need to take a horizontal tuck to make them parallel with the floor. If a sway back alteration is involved, it has to be done to the muslin and the paper pattern.

This dress muslin will be slashed at the top yoke line and added 3/4 inch, then that same 3/4 inch will be taken out at the waist. This was needed to be done to keep that dropped waist horizontal seam parallel with the floor and not droop down.

But before we slap that pattern on the gingham and cut away…let’s map out our exact body measurements and see what ease is there already. Remember, if you can pinch an inch on both sides of your blouse for wearing ease, that is 4 inches total or 2 in front and 2 in back.

Here is another copy of the last version of the front. I have measured the actual numbers from my measuring chart in red and joined the lines to see what is ease. If I use the outermost cutting line I will have a little more than one inch in the body and very little extra ease in the shoulders and upper yoke area.

Compared to the original front, you can see my narrow shoulders and wider side bust dart.

Now for the back…the back shoulder is 1/4 inch wider than the front to be eased in. I still have left the added center back seam if I want to use it instead of a fold for a rounded upper back adjustment (my usual).

The back armhole length measures 11 inches so when I changed the shoulder length to 5.25 inches, I kept the same 11 inches for the new curve so the sleeve will fit.

Here you can see the new cutting lines. My actual body measurement lines in red will be transferred to the gingham along with every other line…tedious, I know, but once this is basted by machine and then ripped open, we can see where we are ease-wise. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it fits perfectly snug enough to be a proper finished pattern or we have to add more ease and some horizontal slashing and speading but you will be glad to have those lines drawn. It is your choice to use the darts or not in the finished blouse.

I hope you are able to follow along or are printing out the pages for future patterns. Next time I will have the front and back in gingham with all the lines marked and basted and hanging on the duct tape dummy.

I realize that I didn’t address short-waisted or long-waisted measurements but at least those lines are marked on most patterns if you have to raise or lower the waist.

Adios from my two favorite buddies…


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Are We There Yet? Step 5

Here is what we finished with last time…a bigger side bust dart but still left with some bunching in the armhole area.

Drawing a 3/4 inch wide dart that will be moved. Still using the red ink lowered and widened dart, let’s slash that side bust dart open again and see what happens.

Closing the 3/4 inch armhole dart and allowing the side bust dart to widen more to 4 inches. The excess 3/4 inch fabric is now transferred to the side dart. We could have put it anywhere but my goal was to see how wide the side bust dart needed to be to make everything nice and flat.

We end up with a distorted/smaller armhole but knowing that the side bust dart needs to be a 4 inch one is important.

Lay the original armhole over the distorted one for comparison. How will we get that to work???

One way to handle this is to close this little armhole dart and transfer the excess to the side bust dart more.

Thinking about how a sloping shoulder affects the pattern, I decided to measure the full length from the back waistline to each of the shoulder seams. Are they different?

Below you can see that they both measure 18 inches to the shoulder, but then the big difference is from the shoulder to the front waist.

The sloping right side front needs 19 inches to reach the front waistline but the left shoulder needs 20 inches to reach the waistline. After the sloper/muslin is made, I can decide how to remove the one inch extra from the right shoulder.


Maybe you don’t have this issue and your shoulders are more balanced or more square. Where it really shows up, the pesky missing inch, is in the paper pattern on the mannequin. Here is the right side with still some bunching issues:

Flipping the pattern over to the left side, non-sloping, it fits much better.

So let’s go back to the armhole dart to remove some excess fabric. Using  3/4 inch overlap was not enough so I increased it to 1.25 inches. Again this distorts the armhole curve but we can fix that later.

What we get is now a 5 inch dart.

Time now to draw in the 5 inch wide shoulder seam and the new armhole curve using the original pattern piece. 5/8 inch seam allowance lines will be added later.

Once everything is moved and redrawn, we can trim off the excess.

A new sheet of tracing paper is placed over this crazy mess of lines to make a clean paper pattern.

Ta da…finally a finished paper pattern! Next step is to use it to make a gingham sloper/muslin and see where we could use more wearing ease.

Thank you for following along and learning more things about your own body and how to change the pattern to fit you better! Some veggies to share that Mr. Mole has brought in:



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Tweaking the fronts Step 4

Have you ever worn a jacket or blouse that you needed to grab the center front edges and pull them together to cover your cleavage?

Well, here is a little true story to share. When I lived in Southport, England for 8 years and taught beading to 8 ladies in my neighborhood, there was a TV talk show with a female host. She spent the whole time grabbing and tugging on the center front edges of her suit jackets until it became quite a distraction. I wrote to the television station to ask about the poorly fitted jackets and was told that the wardrobe mistress bought her suits “off the peg/rack”so that the skirts fit tight and never thought about the jackets being at least 2-4 inches too narrow to sit properly on her full bust. It was then that my students dubbed this behavior, “pulling a Gloria”. Now my UK readers will know who I am referring to.

So we can fix this with your garments so you won’t get caught “pulling a Gloria”. What this involves is using your #4 measurement which remains constant from top to hem while something like the side panels of a princess seam are widened. Here is an example:

In this photo the side area panel above the pocket would be widened to allow the center front sections to lay flat and not gap. You add where you need it to allow the other sections to do their job. If you have a band that is a feature, you don’t want it flaring away from the center! Here is Nancy modeling her jacket.

You also want the princess seams to perfectly line up with your bust points for as soon as they veer off left or right, you lose the curved fit and shape.

So let’s tackle the adjusted front section on the mannequin. Even though we  dropped the dart, we have a dart forming in the armhole. This tells me that we need more fabric in the bust to allow this piece to drop down and lay flat. The first correction made a “B” cup into a “C” cup but we need more. You may not have this problem but for those who do…more to come.

The back is fitting ok but there will be excess fabric at the right shoulder seam with my sloping shoulder.

See the difference on the right shoulder, while it sits ok on the left one.

Back to the perfect posture “B” cup mannequin…shoulder sits well but there is still a little dart wanting to form in the armhole. You can see how the paper pattern is tight with very little ease for movement or breathing or sitting but it has just the correct body measurements without adding ease.

Back to the drawing board…please excuse my spelling error. The top pattern is a traced off original and the one underneath is what we have worked on already but it is not enough to fit the larger mannequin. Let’s add more!

Using the slash and spread method, we gain an inch where it is needed and this allows the side dart to enlarge as well from 2 inches wide to 3 inches wide.

Another advantage of this method instead of just adding to the side seams, you get more armhole coverage. The bust circle is redrawn .

The new larger dart is folded and trimmed.

Side view shows a better fit but still there is extra fabric/paper  that could be transferrred to the side dart which would alter the shape of the armhole. By adding to the already opened vertical slash, widening the new side dart, this small dart will drop down and the armhole will be back to the original shape and length. That will be next to test.

Next time this naughty little wannabe dart will be moved…but to where?

For the vegetable lovers…after another week of 100+ temps…this is what happens:

This week our local American Sewing Guild is having its 7th annual fabric sale. Tables will be piled high with every type of fabric for $2 a yard! Wish you all could come and get a bargain…imagine wool for $2 yard and fancy fabrics for Halloween costumes!

Stay cool my friends!

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