Great Shoulder Fit Narrow Wide Shoulder Adjustment

How to Get a Great Shoulder Fit: Narrow/Wide Shoulder Adjustment

If you think that Itch to Stitch’s patterns fit me perfectly out of the file, you would be incorrect. I don’t use my own measurements to draft the pattern. Just like everything else in life, it’s not always all about me. Since I develop the patterns for different women, it makes sense for me to use some sort of “standard” measurements. I use the ASTM standards for Adult Female Misses Figure Type, which are used by many apparel manufacturers. According to ASTM, these standards “assist manufacturers in developing patterns and garments that are consistent with the current anthropometric characteristics of the population of interest.”

However, we already know that standards does not mean that they fit everyone out of the gate. These standards where developed using many women’s measurements, and the measurements are averaged for each size. If a certain measurement happens to be spot-on for you, congratulations!

For me, the fit is not too bad, but I do have to adjust for my shoulders slightly. In fact, it’s customary for me to widen the shoulders for many brands of patterns.

I often refer people to the Curvy Sewing Collective’s shoulder adjustment tutorial. Whether you consider yourself to be curvy, this tutorial is very detailed and useful. In fact, it is equally applicable whether you are slim or curvy.

However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And I actually use a different method. I think it’s slightly easier. Try both and tell me what you think!

Do You Need an Adjustment?

But before we jump into the adjustment, let’s talk about whether you need the adjustment.

Your shoulder joint is where your shoulder ends, and that’s where the shoulder seam should sit. When you raise your arm, and there’s a depression where your shoulder joint is. You can see this depression better if you raise your arm not directly to the side, but rather, half way between your front and your side.

And of course, you will need to make a muslin to see whether the garment’s shoulder seam is on top of the shoulder joint.

Note that some garments are not meant to have the shoulder seam on the shoulder. There are plenty of designs that have the shoulder seams sitting inside. On the contrary, the seam of a dropped-shoulder design is supposed to fall off your shoulder.

Also, if your shoulders are slightly narrow, you may want to consider using shoulder pads. I am not talking about big football player shoulder pads in the 80s, but something thin and inconspicuous. Our garments don’t need to fit our shapes exactly, instead, ideally they should make us look the way we want to look. I often wear dress with a waist that is slightly higher than my natural waist, so that my legs look longer. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you think small shoulder pads would make your shoulders look broader, and that is what you want, then go ahead and include them in your garments!

Narrow/Wide Shoulder Adjustment

If you decide that the shoulder of your garment needs to be adjustment, then let’s begin!

At about the half way point of the shoulder, draw a line that is parallel to the grain line. And then at a right angle, draw another line perpendicular to the first one. The second line should be above the armhole notch. The exact position of these lines are not awfully important, as long as they are roughly where I describe them to be.

Wide/Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

Cut the pattern on these lines. For me, I need to widen the shoulder by 1/4″ (6 mm), so you see I move the cut piece to create a 1/4″ (6 mm) gap. Notice that the gap is the even from the top to the bottom, and the bottom of the cut piece is still perpendicular to the grain line.

Wide/Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

If your shoulders are narrow, and you need to do a narrow shoulder adjustment, then you would overlap the piece as such.

Wide/Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

The processes of the two adjustments are the same. Let me proceed with the wide shoulder adjustment. I tape the pieces to a piece of paper.

Wide/Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

Even out the shoulder by drawing a line from the beginning to the end of the shoulder.

Wide/Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

For the armhole, draw a curved line to transition the armhole from one to the other. You can certainly free hand this curve if you don’t have any appropriate ruler, but make sure that the transition is very smooth.

Wide/Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

Lets zoom in a little, you see that in order to draw the curved line, some part of the pattern is cut off while some part is added. The ideal position of the curved line is midway of the jog.

Wide/Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

Then you repeat the same process for the back piece. The shoulder seams will need to be stitched together, so you will do the same amount of adjustment for the front and the back shoulders. You don’t need to make any changes to the sleeve.

Cut out your pattern and you are done. Let me know how it goes!