Sewaholic Fitting Issues

By Tiffany - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

After making my Belcarra blouse, I almost gave up on Sewaholic patterns. I felt defeated and thought I could never get a Sewaholic pattern to fit. However, making the Ginger jeans taught me some valuable fitting lessons. I decided to pick myself up and tackle top fitting issues head on.

Seeing the new Granville shirt also made me want to do this even more. I have been looking for a shirt pattern like this for a long time (almost two years!). The fact that this particular pattern has back princess seams sold me (much easier to adjust fit). So, I am going to take you on a fitting journey that might help you with a Sewaholic pattern (or even another pattern you are not sure how to approach).

Picking a Size

It's a good idea to take detailed measurements of your body before you start.

These are my measurements:

  • High Bust: 34.5"
  • Bust: 35.5"
  • Waist: 30.5"
  • Hips: 39"

So, according to the size chart below, I'm around a size 10 in the bust and waist and a size 6 in the hips. Through trial and error with the other Sewaholic tops I have made, I have often settled on a size 6, because the other sizes seemed too big. But that is not the right size for me.

What I should do, is pick the pattern according to my high bust, which is a size 8. This ensures the best fit in that area (alas, my Liberty Alma in size 6 almost never gets worn because it is too tight in that area).

Then, I should compare my measurements plus ease to the finished measurements. It's also a good idea to measure a shirt that fits you for and idea of what you like.

The amount of ease you want to aim for is as follows: 2-3" in the bust, 1-1.5" in the waist, and 2-4" in the hips.

Here are my results:

Even though my bust-to-waist ratio matches the size chart, the waist is too big. The waist of a Sewaholic pattern has too much ease (unless you like really flowy tops). There is at least 2.5" too much fabric in the pattern waist for a good fit.

Comparing measurements is something that I did not do well before making a muslin of the Granville shirt. My eyes kept jumping to the finished size 6 waist (33"), which is what I wanted to see. It became really apparent when I tried on the muslin and I had too much ease in the back of the shirt by my waist.

Unfortunately, this is not something that can be easily fixed by grading between sizes. The Sewaholic silhouette is already very angled at the waist. So, if you are not truly pair shaped (like me), it is probably better to take out the excess at the back. I will address how to fix this below.

Measure Length

Sewaholic patterns don't have the waist location marked on the pattern pieces. This can making assessing fitting issues before sewing tricky. Try to find the narrowest part and mark a horizontal line across all the body pieces (make sure they match and that they are perpendicular to the grainline markings).

These are the body measurements you need next:
  • Shoulder to Waist
  • Bust to Waist
  • Waist to Hip
  • Back Top (at base of neck) to Waist
  • Shoulder to Shoulder 
Most of my measurements in these areas are ok. Where I have issues is in the back and I need a swayback adjustment. I also need work in the shoulders, which I will discuss below.

If you need a SBA or FBA, it would probably show up in the Bust to Waist measurement. I don't have this issue, so you will have to research this if you do.

Swayback Adjustment

If you are like me, and carry more mass in the back (ie. the derriere) than at the sides, you might find the same issue. When I made Sewaholic tops in the past, I often needed to do a swayback adjustment, because fabric was pooling in the small of my back.

My measurements confirm I need this adjustment. My back to waist ratio is 15", while I measured 15.5" on the pattern. So, even before I make a muslin, I know I need to lose 0.5".

I used the yoke of the Granville to make this adjustment. I traced the piece and then marked a spot 0.5" down from the centre back near the neckline. I then pivoted the piece at the shoulder seam / armhole seam intersection until the bottom of the neckline matched the mark. I did the same for the other side of the piece, since goes across both sides of the body (you only have to pivot once for a piece cut on the fold).

Here is the new pattern piece on top of the old.

The adjustment worked and my muslin had no pooling in the back. Yay!

You might also see that the new piece is 0.25" narrower on each side. This is because I did a slight narrow should adjustment.

Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

If I was smart, I would have measured the yoke piece and compared it to my actual shoulder measurements (something I will do in the future). Instead, I went ahead and made my muslin.

Of course, I ended up with the same issues I always do with Sewholic patterns. The shoulders and sleeves look like they are falling off my body (eg. my Cordova, which I never wear because of this issue).

Another way to tell is if you have a gaping armhole and draglines that go from the bust point towards your lower back (if you look closely, you can see some of these wrinkles in the picture above).

To figure out how much I needed to remove on the muslin, I pinched out from the shoulder towards the bust point until the armhole seam sat were it was supposed to. I also marked on the muslin where the seam should sit (the red marker lines) before I pinned, so I could measure there as well.

The results are amazing. Below you can compare my two shoulders, one with the excess pinned out and one without. Can you see the draglines I was talking about on the side that isn't pinned?

All I needed out of the Granville is 0.25", which I took out of the yoke piece and the front bodice.

Armhole Adjustment

As with other Sewaholic patterns, I found the armhole too low.*

To fix this, I added a piece of paper to the front and back armhole pattern pieces.

To make sure that the armhole seam didn't change size. I traced the pattern armsyce on a piece of paper, pivoted the pattern down the amount I needed (5/8"), and then taped it in place.

Make sure to measure the new armscye and sleeve seam to make sure they still match.

Hopefully, this will be enough of a change. I will find out with my finished Granville.

* The exception to this is the Renfrew, which I had to scoop 3/4" out of the armsyce to get it to fit.

Waist and Hip Adjustments

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Sewaholic silhouette is quite angled at the side seams. This can look a little awkward on people without a true pair shape. For example, you can see the wings of fabric by my hips in my Belcarra.

Taking in the waist (which I found out I needed from my measurements above) at the side seam would result in even larger wings of fabric!

Instead I need to take out fabric near the back, which is easy thanks to the princess seams. I traced the pattern pieces and used the pivot method to make my adjustments.

What I did was pivot my back pattern pieces along the princess seam lines. I kept the pattern fixed at the top corners and pivoted the piece in 0.5" at the waist (this take off 2" total: 0.5" x 2 pieces x 2 princess seams) and traced a new line.

I then fixed the pattern at the new waist point, pivoted the bottom of the piece so it was 0.5" past the old seam line (this adds 2" total). I also took off 1" on each side from the waist to hip (0.5" on each piece). This make more room at the back and makes the shirt not stick out so much at the sides.

Here are my new pieces on top of the old pieces.

Back Side
Back Centre
I made these changes to my muslin and it's looking pretty good.

Sleeve Width

No matter what pattern company I go with, I usually have issues with the sleeves being too tight.

According to what I've read, you need 2" of ease for a woven shirt. I measured my arm as being 12" and measured the Sewaholic size 8 Granville sleeve as being 13.75". Which means I should be fine (12+2" = 14"). But, I know from experience that when I actually wear a shirt, things aren't fine. The sleeves are often the most uncomfortable part. I was thinking to myself, "What is wrong here!?!".

I re-measured my arm and this time decided to do a bicep curl. My measurement was now closer to 13"!

So, if you have muscular arms, you might want to flex them while taking your measurements.

In the end, I went back and added 1" in width to my sleeve. My sleeve pattern is now 14.75" wide, which is closer to what I need (13" + 2" ease = 15").

Sleeve Length

The sleeves on the Granville are super long! I measured my own arm and another shirt I liked and found that I have to remove a whole 3". It's good to make the sleeves the right length to begin with - why waste all that fabric?


That's a lot of adjustments! In a nutshell, the process you want to follow is:

  • Analyse your figure (where do you usually have issues? for me, it's my swayback, sleeves, and shoulders)
  • Measure yourself and a RTW shirt that fits
  • Pick the pattern size that will fit you best in the high bust / upper chest area
  • Figure out how much ease you need
  • Compare your measurements to the pattern
  • Make all your adjustments before you make your muslin or first top
This is almost the same process I explained in making pants.

I spent hours on this top and figuring out what I needed to do in a researched (almost obsessive) way. My adjustments are complete and I've cut out my fabric. So, I hope to finish my actual Granville this weekend.

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  1. This is far and away one of the best blog posts on sewing I've ever read! I'm working on a lot of these same issues, not on the Granville pattern (although I'm very interested in making it eventually) but in general. I used to sew a lot 10 years ago, before kids, and I've gotten back into it lately. But fit issues continue to perplex me. Narrow, sloping shoulders, forward rotated shoulders (thanks to all that computer work!) and a sway back or at least a faux sway back from having, um, largish assets. I finally overcame my resistance and purchased the Craftsy class on making a bodice sloper. I've been working through it for the past couple weeks. A super intensive process, but I'm hoping it gets me through these fit issues once and for all.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading all your steps and thank you for all the details!

  2. I'm glad this was helpful for you, Soposie. It does sound like we have a lot of the same 'issues'. Good luck with you sloper!