Here is the progress of the Butterick B5986 pattern.
Due to the large swathes of fabric required I was reluctant to do a test without any prior modifications. NOTHING fits me straight from the envelope! But to modify the pattern I would have to understand it. This got me into a circular argument and a stalemate as there are NO indications on the pattern tissue that allow it to relate to anatomical landmarks on the body and I could not find anything on the internet where someone darling intrepid person has figured out the answer and is sharing the knowledge.
So I bit the bullet and made a trial run cutting out just the top half of the pattern front and back. The rationale is first to figure out how the armhole relates to the shoulders and neck because a garment hangs from the shoulders and is the major area of fit for this garment.
I cut out a size 10 exactly as per pattern in a relatively thin black jersey with 2-way stretch. All the notches and other pattern markings were tagged with a little piece of painter tape. This turned out to be very valuable as when trying on the garment I could check the position of the top and bottom of the armhole relative to my actual anatomy. I serged the front and back seams using the widest 4-thread regular stitch on the overlocker as this is how I will sew up the final garment. The barest whisker of fabric was trimmed during overlocking. Modifications to the garment were stitched on the sewing machine.
Here is the result on me:
The good news was that there was a nice cowl drape at the front, the notches for the top of the armhole lined up with the top of my shoulder and the back armhole was great.
The two problems were first that extra fabric was needed at the armhole to accommodate the location of the upper chest. Easy fix, I just slid a piece of tissue paper into that area and traced approximately how much fabric to add to the pattern.
The major problem was a huge amount of weird and nasty looking bunching of fabric at the back between the shoulder line and the neck line. From my learning with Peggy Saggers and Silhouette patterns, I could tell that this was a DEPTH issue. Peggy Saggers is one of the best and most accessible sewing instructors for fit. I have all her DVDs and her new PBS show DVDs and probably watched a substantial number of her free webcasts that are first rate. Highly recommended for anybody involved in patterns, fit and garment sewing.
After many rounds of pinching out fabric, sewing down the folds, cutting away fabric, retrying on the garment etc. I came up with something that fitted acceptably in the back neck and shoulders. This must be the hardest part of a garment to fit by oneself! The changes ended up being a large wedge being taken out of the pattern tissue at the center back in the location of the offending bulge and ending at nothing at the other edge of the pattern piece about in the middle of the draped cowl at the front. The shape of the back seam was also altered a couple of times and I also removed another wedge from the center back to the top of the armhole.
This was a messy process of trial and error. Basically I would pinch out the area where I thought fabric needed removing, then hold the pinch while I took off the garment and tuned it inside-out so I could see how the pinch of fabric looked relative to the existing seam. I then would make a guess as to how to relate the pinch to a wedge of fabric that could be sewn together on the machine. I then basted my guess on the sewing machine with a 5.0 stitch length and 0.5 mm zig-zag. If a previous seam needed releasing or trimming for the cloth to reflect the changes (eg if a seam is ‘taken in” the effect cannot be seen until the previous stitching line is removed), I would hack away.
For each change I tried on the garment to see if anything had improved for the better. Rinse and repeat. It’s not an exact science and it is certainly futzy and frustrating. I just grit my teeth and got on with it. The other problem I had was that the lighting in my house is not great and I could only do this process during the day when the combination of natural light and electrical light allowed me to actually see what is going on. I stand in front of my bathroom mirror and hold another mirror at an angle so I can see the back, similar to how the hairdresser shows you the back of the head when you go for a hair cut. I finally arrived at something that seemed acceptable and where the extra back fluff had been eliminated.
To show the resultant changes that had been made, I lay the altered piece on top of the pattern piece (which is the same for the right and left sides in this region of the pattern).
The angle of the camera distorts the visuals as is apparent from the cutting mat grid underneath. I have roughly outlined the altered garment (dotted green line) relative to the pattern piece (pink line). These are the changes needed to get the garment to fit around MY neck and shoulders. You can see how quite a bit of fabric has been removed and angles have changed.
The good news is that when I overlaid the front and back of a t-shirt pattern that fits me, I was able to get a much better understanding of the relationship between this pattern and a basic block.
From this overlay (B5986 pattern piece in white on bottom, altered garment in black, t-shirt block on top), it is more obvious how the extra area at the top will drape more to the front from the original pattern draft.
Unlike my initial thoughts about the relationship of pattern draft to block, the front and back half patterns appear to intersect at the top of the armhole. The challenge of this pattern results from combining these patterns and making a neckline. With only 2 seams (front and back) there are no additional fitting elements in the pattern. There will be extra area, aka fabric and the angle of the draft will dictate how this extra fabric falls and drapes in the front and back. I want the fabric to drape just at the very top of the back but mostly lie at the front creating a cowl front drape. Probably most people would want this arrangement around the neck, I don’t see back cowl drape in the upper back area being particularly flattering to the average person!
Unless you have very broad shoulders I’m going to hazard a guess that you will need to make some similar pattern alterations to B5986. To roughly get an idea of how much change will be needed take a t-shirt pattern that fits, lay it on top of the B5986 pattern piece and intersect the stitching line at the top of the armhole.
I hope this makes sense, please ask questions for further clarification and in my next post I will discuss what else I learned about the B5986 garment draft from my first mock-up.