Shoulder and Neckline Adjustments

The beauty of sewing your own clothes is that you can make them fit your body.

No one has the same body, we are all completely unique and very rarely does a garment fit perfectly first time.

Today I thought I'd share with you two of my most common adjustments. These are ones that I have struggled to find elsewhere on the internet. There are hundreds of tutorials for full bust/small bust adjustments as well as grading between sizes and a number of other common fit problems that can be fixed.

However, whilst these two are pretty simple to do, I had to really hunt for something that would fix the particular problem areas. So much so I'm not entirely certain that these are official adjustments (if there is such a thing) or if they have been made up. But they worked for me so I thought I'd share them with you.


Both of these are adjustments that I made to my Coco top by Tilly and the Buttons which is made in a knit fabric. The template I'm using is just a sketch to illustrate, not the actual pattern.

It's a good idea to make a toile first so you can accurately judge how much you need to adjust by.

The first is to bring the neckline in at the shoulder seam. I often find that I get a sneaky flash of bra strap at the neckline of my tops, but the shoulder seam is still sitting where I want it to on the shoulder join, meaning the usual adjustment for widening shoulder seams doesn't fix the problem.

Try on your toile and measure how much you want to bring your neckline in. I decided on 1 inch for full bra strap coverage. On your pattern piece tape some extra paper behind and extend the shoulder seam by the amount needed. Then redraw the neckline creating a smooth curve between the shoulder seam and the centre of the neckline. You can do this with a curved ruler or freehand.

Make sure to make the same adjustment to the back piece of your pattern. To finish the neckline on the Coco top you just press it under and sew it in place. If you are sewing a top with a neckband you may have to make adjustments to the neckband piece. The best thing to do is to sew it in place with a longer stitch length and then decide if you need to make the neckband longer or shorter. This is common when sewing a knit garment due to the fact different knit fabrics behave in very different ways.

The next adjustment is one that I've heard called a "shallow chest adjustment". Sounds lovely doesn't it? This is an adjustment that I've made in both knit and woven garments.

Either the fit across the bust feels spot on, or you've already done a full bust adjustment but there is still some gaping at the centre of the neckline. This adjustment takes out that extra bit of fabric and transfers it into the side.

Try on your toile and pinch out the excess fabric to work out how much you need to remove. For me this was 1 inch. Divide this number by two as the pattern piece is just one half of the front piece. So I needed to adjust my paper pattern piece by 0.5 inch.

Hold the paper up to your body and mark a point where your bust apex is, this is the fullest part of the bust, basically where the nipple is. Draw a line from just off to the side of the fold line, at the neck down to the bust apex and then another line from the apex out to the side seam about 2-3 inches down from the under arm.

Cut along these two lines in the direction of the arrows but don't cut all the way through the apex point. You want to leave a little hinge.

Overlap the paper at the neckline by the amount you are taking out of the piece, in my case 0.5 inch and tape it down. This creates a small dart at the side seam. If you are working on a pattern that already has a dart it'll just open this up a tiny bit more.

If you are making a top out of a knit fabric you can just redraw the side seam with a very subtle curve and then when it comes to sewing your side seams just ease it in to fit. If it's a woven top however you might want to stitch a dart here to give a better shape. Try it on, see how you feel.

Finally, tape some more paper behind the neckline and just neaten up the edge to get a smooth curve.

And there you have it, two adjustments to fix around the neckline. I hope you found this post useful.

Happy Sewing!

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