So way back in May (ooops) I was hopeful to cross off a third pattern from my #2018makenine challenge by making the Deer & Doe Datura top to take away on holiday. In fact, I actually managed to sew three quarters of the pattern in a lightweight khaki cotton, but time and body shape were just naturally not on my side.
I’ve read that the Deer and Doe patterns are based on a typical pear shape rather than a standard block, and so whilst I thought this would be an easy make I still selected the pattern size based on my hips and waist measurement rather than bust. I made a VERY quick muslin in pattern size 40 which seemed to fit OK, and then dived straight into cutting and sewing my final fabric with no alterations.
As soon as I has sewn the side seams and yoke I excitedly tried the top on to see how amazing it looked, but I could instantly feel that something wasn’t right. The shoulders and front neckline felt quite roomy and the back armscye did not sit anywhere near flat against my back shoulder. These are all problems I have had before, most frequently with RTW clothes! I know I have narrow shoulders, however this is the first time while home sewing that the shape of the finished garment really showed up the poor fit. With just the hem, button holes and buttons left to finish I frustratingly abandoned the Datura to the UFO pile (for non sewists, this is ‘unfinished objects’, not flying saucers) and tried hard to forget about it.
Two months on and with my holiday long gone, I decided to return to the Datura pattern – mainly because I had bought some black and purple swiss dot shirting poplin that I knew would suit the pattern really well.
First stop was to finish the khaki cotton version, so I could decisively pinpoint everything that was wrong about the fit. It was clear that the waist and hip were not the problem, I felt sure I had selected the right size for these areas, but the yoke was seriously different to my actual proportions.
There was no hiding from it, the time had come to learn how to adjust a pattern to accommodate my pesky narrow shoulders! For this Google was definitely my friend, and I managed to find a method for reducing the excess fabric at the neckline by using a narrow chest and back adjustment (here).
With the help of Mr Distracted I pinched out a dart to fit at the centre back and centre front necklines and pinned them, and then I transferred the measured differences to my traced pattern pieces. The results were quite surprising - my adjusted pattern pieces for the size 40 yoke required the removal of 44mm from the front and 20mm from the back.
I say removal, but it is in fact just a redistribution of the fabric from the inside of the neckline / shoulder to the outside of the shoulder / under arm. The armscye length and bottom of the yoke stay the same.
The measurement is applied to the flat pattern piece by cutting vertically from the centre of the shoulder seam to meet a horizontal cut from the armscye, and then lifting the piece up and moving it over horizontally by half the desired amount. The shoulder seam then needs to be squared off, and the armscye redrawn.
I was dubious, but I made a tester yoke to see if this made any difference and I was amazed by the results (even if the tester yoke looked a little weird without the bodice!). These two adjustments had practically fixed the fit, all that was left to adjust was the gape at the rear armscye.
A second Google search informed me that the length of the armscye was too long and I found a method to adjust it. So again with the help of Mr Distracted, I pinned the armscye until it laid flat against my back shoulder and transferred the adjustment amount to the flat pattern piece - 10mm off each armscye.
This measurement was applied to the pattern by drawing a line from the middle of the back armscye diagonally to the centre of the shoulder seam minus seam allowance. This time, rather than cutting the section completely from the pattern I made a snip to the seam allowance and then cut along the line to almost but not quite meet the snip. The pattern piece is then pivoted down to overlap by the amount required – the 10mm in my case.
As you can see on the images above, the final pattern piece for the front and back yokes are far different from the original - my chest is much narrower than even the pattern piece for the size 34…If only my hips were too!
Finally, it was time to cut the swiss dot! Sewing the final version went very smoothly considering the amount of work it took to get to this point, although the hem proved to be a little tricky and the ‘unpicker’ made an appearance!
So far I have been very impressed with how simple, well thought out and effective indie sewing patterns have been - and the Datura did not disappoint! Because I had made the khaki cotton version, I knew there were no nasty surprises waiting in the instructions and that it was quick to sew, so I took extra time to make sure the bust darts and rear placket were as neat as possible before moving onto the yoke assembly. I decided not to make the collar for either version A or B and opted for a plain neckline instead.
Also…is it weird that I love sewing button holes? I mean, my machine has a wonderful button hole foot and automatic setting, so I don’t find them difficult to do, and I actually enjoy measuring them out, lining them up and then watching the machine do its thing.
I didn’t try the finished garment on until the very last stitch had been made, and I was excited but also nervous to see if the adjustments had paid off or if I had cut my lovely fabric prematurely. I am really pleased with the final fit, so much so that I (of course) made another!
The second make was also in a swiss dot fabric, and I decided to try out the Peter Pan collar in a vintage floral cotton. The first set of adjustments to the pattern made the shoulder straps pretty narrow – so I re-adjusted the pattern to widen them again so that the collar didn’t overhang and look out of place.
I did this by retracing the front neckline of the adjusted pattern further towards the centre, raising the neckline at the same time - purely for comfort. This of course meant the collar needed to be redrafted to match the new neckline, so I took the opportunity to make the collar slightly deeper as I've always felt some of the examples I've seen have looked a bit skinny.
Adapting the pattern was so easy, I know I still have a lot to learn but this was a complete revelation! I’m just not used to having clothes that sit flat around my back shoulder and that don’t feel too big across the chest. This is what I was hoping for when I began my sewing journey, this is what it feels like to have clothes that fit and (if I say so myself) that look good too!