A Sleeve Starts to Form (Holiday Shirt, Part 4)

In Part 3 of this series, I summarized all the fitting work I’ve done on fitting my muslin to date.  What I hadn’t done was actually try out Muslin F, the very latest fitting garment that is the culmination of all my alterations.  So before we go on, I wanted to share it with you.

How has it turned out? Pretty well, I think.

Muslin F, Front View


Muslin F, Back View


Muslin F, Side Views



I’m actually pretty happy with the fit of the bodice.

  • Straightening out the wavy “M” in the yoke seam was successful, and also seems to have cleared up the gaposis in the neckline.
  • There’s still a small amount of fabric bunching at the armscye in back, but I’m going to leave it – I’ve been warned about the dangers of overfitting, and I’m concerned if I try to take out every last wrinkle I’ll also remove mobility from the arms.
  • There are some diagonal strain lines coming off my left shoulder (to the right in the photo). I saw this in the original shirt as well, so I might try to address it.
  • I managed to properly establish the neckline on this muslin.  The Muslin F neckline was initially too tight in front.  Using a Sharpie, I drew in a neckline with the muslin still on me.  Then I clipped the curve in front down to the new neckline until it felt comfortable.  In back, the neckline looks more or less OK.

The Sleeve

With the bodice looking reasonable, and the neckline sorted out as well as it can be without attaching a stand and collar, my thoughts started turning towards the sleeve.

When I took the tuck in back to even out the shirt balance, I also removed an inch from the armscye circumfernece.  Plus, I had done some sleeve fitting way back around Muslin A, and I knew that the sleeve cap height needed to increase, in order to address the drag lines on the sleeve. The sleeve I traced from the original shirt no longer fits the pattern.

On a lark, I decided to draft a new sleeve following the instructions in Don McCunn’s book, How to Make Sewing Patterns.  I measured my sleeve cap height (from shoulder tip to underarm), as well as my bicep circumference and palm circumference.

Ignoring my computer, I followed the instructions in the book and drew on top of the original sleeve pattern from Muslin A.  It was surprisingly easy to do.  The updated pattern piece has a much taller sleeve cap and is narrower than the original shirt, so much of the fullness in the sleeve is gone.  The sleeve cap has no ease with respect to the armscye.


The sleeve turned out way better than I expected for a first effort. It feels a little bunchy because it has a lot less ease, but in a drapey shirting fabric I think it could be just fine.

Muslin F, Front View


Muslin F, Back View


Muslin F, Side View


I might have some mobility issues – it pulls somewhat when I reach forward, but it’s hard to tell because the sleeve is pin-basted in place.  And the whole shirt pulls upwards if I reach overhead.   According to Paul Gallo, raising the underarm point can solve the upward pull issue. But it would likely change the armscye circumference and require an updated sleeve.  I hope to discuss it with him in class this week, perhaps when he covers sleeves in detail.

Next Time

I said I was coming out of the closet, and I mean to do that.  But I will probably talk about my course in Draping and Patternmaking with Paul Gallo.

Shirt Troubleshooting (Holiday Shirt, Part 3)

Last time, I got started on fitting myself for a shirt, and we took at the fitting issues I had with the original garment.

In this installment, I’ll discuss the fitting issues I’ve encountered and my attempts at solving them.

Armscye curve alignment with shoulder tip

Last time, we noted that the shoulders on the shirt were a bit too wide for my body.

Starting with Muslin B, I brought the armscye curve in closer to the neck by about a half an inch.  This causes the curve to line up right about at my shoulder tip.  It’s a little different on right and left due to body asymmetry.

In this screenshot, Muslin A is in golden yellow, B is in blue.  Front piece is on the left, back piece is on the right.  You can see how I took in the shoulder point to match my shoulder width.  (I also lowered the back/yoke seam by about 2 1/2 inches, more on that later).


Fabric puddling at arms in back

The fabric puddling on the back, right at the armscye, is caused by an armscye seam that is too far out (wide) for my body.

I clipped the armscye from the seam allowance to the stitching line to allow it to relax on the body as intended.  To bring in the armscye curve, I snipped further into these clips, effectively taking in the back armscye seam.  I snipped, deepening about 1/8 inch at a time, then tried the garment on for the camera.

The first round of armscye snipping happened with Muslin B.  While evaluating Muslin E, I took in the back armscye curve some more.  Again, the left side crumpled more than the right and the curve needed to be taken in further.  I chose to fix the left side, hoping that it won’t be too far in for the right side when I try on Muslin F.

For this pattern alteration, I used a hybrid of handwork and digital work.  I’m still feeling my way through this stuff, and experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t.  In this screenshot, taken while drafting Muslin F,  you can see that I’ve transferred the muslin markings back to the paper pattern, and drew in curves by hand with a marking pen. (Magenta line is for my right side, light blue for left side).  I scanned the paper pattern, with its hand alterations, back into the computer.  In Pattern Master, I overlaid the digital curves of the pattern atop the paper scan, and then traced new digital curves off the scan.


Compare the fabric puddling at the armscye in these two views.

Muslin B, Back View:


Muslin E, Back View, with armscye curves clipped


This photo is a prelude to Muslin F, which has been stitched up but not yet fitted as I type this. Especially on the left, you can see the clipping into the armscye curves.  The new curves are the ones I scanned into Pattern Editor in the screenshot above.

Fabric puddling below neckline

The original muslin, without a collar attached, had a small amount of gaping at the base of the neck in back but was largely OK.

In Muslin B, I lowered the yoke seam as per DPC’s suggestion.  That’s when a huge gap at the base of the neck appeared.  Take a look at the back view of Muslin B again to see it.

Muslin B, Back View


This gaposis has been pretty difficult to treat.

Via the private forum for PatternReview’s Bodice Fitting class, I described the problem to Sarah Veblen.  She suggested a pattern alteration that involved pinning out a dart on either side of the center back line, then transferring the dart to the yoke seam in an unusual way.  I’m not going to describe the method here because it was a guess on her part (based on just a written description) and unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

The idea to pin out two neck darts on either side of center back was still a good one, so I did that in the changes leading up to Muslin E.  I pinned out the gap as darts on both sides, and also I raised the yoke seam so that the dart apex terminated at the yoke seam.  It was then easy to transfer the dart to the yoke seam in a straightforward way, by pivoting out the dart.

Here’s the darts I pinned out of the neckline on Muslin D.  The pencil line is center back. Because the yoke pattern is symmetrical, I only need to take one of those darts out of the pattern piece.

Muslin D, Yoke


On the computer, I drew in the darts, then transferred the darts to the yoke seam and straightened up the yoke seam a bit.  Here’s the process I followed.


And here’s a comparison of completed pattern alteration on the yoke. In this screenshot the Muslin D version is in black and the altered version for Muslin E is in magenta.


The neck gaposis isn’t completely gone, but it is improved somewhat.

Muslin E, Back View


Part of the reason why the neck gap persists may be that I am also changing the shape and placement of the yoke seam on each muslin at the same time I’m updating the yoke to get rid of the gap. (See the next section, “That troublesome yoke seam”).

I haven’t made any change to Muslin F to address this issue.  What I may do is turn the yoke from a one piece yoke into a split yoke.  The split yoke would have a center back seam, which I could use to shape out the excess gap in the neckline.

That troublesome yoke seam

I began on Muslin B by lowering the yoke in back about 2 1/2 inches from its original location.

Apart the gaposis at the neckline in center back, moving the yoke seam down caused it to take on a strange shape.  As the seam crossed the tops of the shoulder blades, it would “peak” at the tips of my blades before dipping down near center back.  The seam now had a wavy, sinusoidal shape.

The back view of Muslin B shows it very clearly.  Look at the yoke seam – it traces a letter “M” shape.

Muslin B, Back View


I think the basic problem was that I lowered the yoke seam too much.  Given the problems I’ve had from lowering the yoke seam, I wish I hadn’t touched it at all.  I do want to move the seam line down for style reasons, but I think I moved it too far down.

On Muslin D, I raised the yoke seam to clear the top of the shoulder blades, but not as high as before.  Then on muslin E, I got my “assistant” to draw a horizontal line across the back, while the muslin was on me, to show what a visually straight yoke seam would look like on me. (green is along a straightedge, orange follows a shallow curve on the pattern ruler)


I took that back to the computer and altered the yoke and back seam lines to match.

Here’s the completed pattern alteration.  Magenta is Muslin E, Teal is Muslin F. (I’ve also moved up the neckline in Muslin F, which we’re about to discuss).  There’s a corresponding alteration to the back piece (raising the seam line near center back) I’m not showing here.


Collar and Neckline

I wanted (or at least, thought I needed) to customize the neckline to match my own.

I took the trick from DPC’s Craftsy class of taking a long piece of cardboard (in my case, a 2-inch wide strip cut from a file folder), wrapped it around my neck at the desired circumference, and taped it together.


I used the “two finger” rule for men’s shirt collars – there should be enough ease that you can insert two fingers between the collar and your neck.  With the cardboard circle around my neck, the place where the cardboard touched the muslin was the new neckline.  (My “assistant” helped trace this out).

The neckline turned out too low.  Without even putting an actual collar on the muslin, I could tell it was too large. Did I make the cardboard too loose?  I’m not sure what went wrong here.

I tried again to fix this for Muslin F.  I remeasured with the cardboard and redrew the curve.  You can see the change I made in the teal line in the screenshot from last section. I’ll repeat it here.


In retrospect, this is another adjustment I probably should have left alone, but it has been educational.

Front/Back Balance

The horizontal balance lines between front and back are not level – when I stand, the shirt tilts towards the back.  Here’s a side view of Muslin C, so you can see what I mean.  The horizontal balance line that’s roughly at waist level tilts towards the back.

Muslin C, Side View


If I take a tuck of about an inch all the way across the back (pin out a half-inch fold), it helps level the balance lines and greatly improves the way the back of the garment hangs on my body.

For me, a question arises where one decides to take the tuck. I initially made the tuck way up high, close to the yoke seam, so as to affect the drape/hang of the fabric all the way down the back.

Taking a tuck at armscye level doesn’t affect the side seam, but it does make the back armscye curve about an inch shorter.  Though I haven’t fitted a sleeve to this muslin yet, I am concerned about reducing arm mobility and I don’t know how that might affect things.

Alternatively, I could take the tuck farther down (say, just below the armscye). There it would not affect the armscye curve, but then I would have to adjust the side seams to keep them true.

Which way is better? I asked Sarah Veblen this question in the Pattern Review class forum.  Her answer was simple: she basically tries more than one option for the tuck, and goes with the one that looks the best.

So for Muslin E, I tried out two variants of the tuck.  One took the tuck up high, the other took the tuck at the side seam just under the armscye, at chest level.  This was a bit of work because I actually made two muslins to do this bake off.

The high tuck was the winner of the bake-off.  The back of the shirt hung nicer with the tuck up high at shoulder level, rather than at mid-chest level.

Muslin A, Back View


Muslin E, Back View


And the side view of Muslin E shows the horizontal balance lines to be roughly level from front to back.

Muslin E, Side View


Not dealt with yet

So here’s a small list of the things I haven’t dealt with yet.

  • Strain lines at front shoulder. I haven’t been seeing this in the fitting muslins, but the original shirt does have some strain lines starting at shoulder tip and radiating downwards towards center front.  This means my shoulders are slightly too square for the shirt, so the shirt may need a square shoulder adjustment.
  • Ease around middle. The muslins are more snug around the middle, especially around the waist, than the original shirt.  I think some circumference was lost at the seams when I traced the shirt onto paper.  My plan is to add some ease to the side seams.
  • Sleeve cap and Sleeve.  I have seen Sarah Veblen’s instructions for drape-fitting a sleeve cap.  But I am waiting to tackle this, until I have covered Sleeves in Paul Gallo’s pattern-making and draping course (which I will write about soon).
  • Cuffs. Basically I have to draft new cuffs, as well as placket and pleat locations on the sleeve.  Again, I’m hoping to get some direction from Paul Gallo’s course.

Next Time

I’m coming out of the closet.

Shirt Fitting (Holiday Shirt, Part 2)

I have several things stirring in the pot right now, so my absence from the blog isn’t a sign I haven’t been busy!  In fact, I’ve been so busy I’ve put blogging at the bottom of my priority list, and now I have writer’s block because I don’t know where to start.

So I’ll start with what I promised you last time: the progress on fitting the shirt block for my late, but still planned Holiday Shirt.  I have another occasion coming up in early February that the shirt will be appropriate for, but I’m still unsure I can meet the deadline because of another sewing project that’s higher priority.  You’ll be hearing about that other project as soon as I can write about it.

Shirt Fitting

In my kickoff article for the Holiday Shirt project, I was foolish enough to utter these words:

Both shirts, especially the Regent shirt, already fit me pretty well. They only need minor adjustments to fit better.

While I still stand by that statement, I’m currently working on the sixth muslin of the shirt and I still haven’t gotten around to fitting the sleeves yet. There’s a lot I’ve worked through, and a detailed article at this point would take a lot of words and pictures to get through.

Instead of giving you the play-by-play of what I’ve done every step of the way, I’ll show you the original muslin and where I’m at right now. 


For my education on shirt fitting, I’ve been using these sources:

  • David Page Coffin’s Craftsy class, Shirtmaking Details: Beyond the Basics. Though DPC stresses construction over fitting in his course (fitting is covered only in the back half of the very first video lesson), he does demonstrate his draping method for fitting shirts.  He also describes the concept of “balance” in shirt fitting, which was very important to me and I hope to show an example of where it was helpful in my fitting.
  • This article at the Cutter and Tailor website also describes balance in fitting shirts, and was useful to elaborate on DPC’s presentation.
  • Sarah Veblen’s video class, Fun with Fitting: Bodice with Darts. You saw me work with Sarah Veblen over email as she coached me through fitting pants.  This class is aimed at fitting bodices for women, but there’s still plenty here applicable for men.  Some things are different.  For example, Veblen might take neck and shoulder darts to shape the bodice at upper back.  In a men’s garment, you have to transfer those darts to the yoke seam.  But in terms of understanding how to make fabric fit the body, her classes have been very helpful to me.
  • This blog post from Ruben Bakker, a tailor in the Netherlands.  I found this via DPC’s Pinterest boards, and it’s like a course in men’s shirt fitting in the space of one article.  I was amazed at how much I got from it.

There’s other articles I’ve found useful.  My Pinterest board “Shirt Making” has links to a lot of them.

The Original Shirt

Here are the fitting photos of the original “Famous Maker” shirt. (Click/tap for larger versions).





Some of the things I noticed from these photos are:

  • The armscye curve goes past the tip of my shoulder and hangs out on the arm.
  • In front, there are faint strain line radiating out from the shoulder point, going across the collarbone area and diagonally to center front.
  • In the back, lots of fabric is collecting as vertical folds near the armscye seam.
  • The sleeves have diagonal strain lines.
  • It’s hard to see in the photos, but there’s a bit of fabric puddling at the neckline just below the collar.  It shows up best in the side view above where I face to the right. I frequently get this problem in ready-to-wear shirts.

Some things about me that are noticeable in the photos:

  • My standing posture leans back slightly, which affects the hang of the shirt in back.
  • My left and right shoulders are mildly asymmetrical.  The left is a little wider than the right, and I think the right is a bit lower than the left.  The right side also has more of a hollow in front than the left. I broke my right collarbone in a cycling accident about eight years ago, which contributes to the asymmetry.

Scanning and Digitizing the Shirt Pattern

I took the shirt trace I made in part 1 of this series, and scanned the pieces into the computer, assembled the 11×17 scans into pattern pieces using Inkscape, and traced the scans using Wild Ginger’s Pattern Master software.  I’ve described the process in my series on pants fitting, so I won’t repeat it here.

I’ve refined my scanning and digitizing process; I now stick several 2-inch alignment squares on the pattern pieces before they go through the scanner, and I write letters inside each alignment square (“A”, “B”, “C” and so on).  I now include around four or five alignment squares per major pattern piece.  This really helps me orient the 11×17 scans when I’m assembling them via computer, as I can precisely overlap the squares across scans and I usually have at least two squares in view to align on.

This time around, I got very good agreement between the scanned/digitized pattern in the computer and the paper trace.  I did a printout and overlaid the two and they matched up perfectly.

I also got a fairly accurate trace.  There wasn’t a lot of discrepancy between the dimensions of matching pieces. I didn’t have to do very much work inside Pattern Master to true the front and back side seams, shoulder seams and so on.  As suggested by blog readers, I also measured the shirt to verify the pattern dimensions against the original garment.

Muslin A

The muslins I’m preparing are made from actual muslin fabric, as I did in pants fitting.  Up until this point, they haven’t included sleeves or collars.  The muslins also have alignment grids that show the grain line as well as the horizontal balance lines to judge how well the garment hangs on the body.

I made a mistake on the first muslin; I left out the back pleat and realized pretty quickly that removing that much ease made the shirt muslin tight to wear everywhere, especially around my large-ish belly.  So I added in the extra ease up and down center back to allow for the box pleat in the back, and I sew that pleat into the fitting muslin now.

I don’t plan to include photos for every muslin along the way (as I write this, I’m doing the pattern work for Muslin F) but I did want to show you the Muslin A photos.





This muslin was difficult to pin shut at center front due to the missing ease at back.  I had to clip into the neckline because I added seam allowance there, which was totally unnecessary for the neckline.  Clipping into the neckline released the tension from the added seam allowance.

Also, notice the notch marks on the back, on the left shoulder.  One thing I got from DPC’s Craftsy class was the idea of locating the yoke seam at the point where the roundess of the shoulder gives way to the flatness of the back.  I marked a couple points where I thought that might be, and so I lowered the yoke seam (at the middle of the three points I marked) for Muslin B.  This caused problems I’ll elaborate on in my next article.

Final comment about Muslin A:  There’s quite a lot of crumpling in lower back. That’s a balance issue and I’ll also talk about it in my next article.

Next Time

I’ll start going through the fitting modifications I’ve done to the shirt muslin, and show you the current state of affairs, hopefully with Muslin F that I will be working on today.