How to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment

HelenBlackwood Cardigan, Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong, Sewing Tutorials9 Comments

How to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment

How to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment

Today is the fourth installment in the Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong!  We are going to wrap up the adjustments portion of the process today with narrow and broad shoulder adjustments.  Tomorrow we will be cutting out the fabric and moving on to the actual sewing!

If you want to join in the fun, you can grab your copy of the Blackwood here!

Do you need a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment?  The indications for this change can be subtle. First, identify where your natural shoulder is. It should be right where your arm meets your shoulder socket, and you can usually find it by lifting your arm up and down and feeling around for the ‘hinge’. Now, try on your muslin and take a look at your fit. Is the shoulder seam sitting up from your natural shoulder? Are you seeing pulling lines radiating from the shoulder seam? You might want to try a broad shoulder adjustment. Is the shoulder seam lower than your natural shoulder? Do you have extra fabric pooling at the armpit or baggy sleeves?  You might want to try a narrow shoulder adjustment.

How to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment

If you are not making a muslin of your project, you can try on a previous make, like a t-shirt, and look at the fit there. Then, compare that pattern piece to your next project pattern piece to see if any adjustments might need to be made.

To determine the amount to adjust, I like to eyeball it. With your muslin on, take note of the distance from your natural shoulder seam to shoulder seam. This is your adjustment amount.

How to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment

Note: Also look for other indications of pulling or baggy fit. You may need to go up or down a size overall.

Let’s get started!

First, mark the seam allowance on your front pattern piece. Draw two lines. The first should go from the center of the shoulder to about 1/3 of the way down the armscye. The second line should be perpendicular to the first and go to the corner of the shoulder seam.

How to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment

Next, cut the lines, starting with the first. Cut down from the shoulder seam, stopping at the seam allowance marking. Clip into the seam allowance, leaving a little hinge of paper. Cut up into the second line, also stopping at the seam allowance and leaving a hinge.

How to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment


For a Broad Shoulder Adjustment

Swing the two triangles out to make some room. Place extra paper under your pattern piece and measure out from the seam allowance. Measure the amount you need to adjust and make a mark.

How to do a broad shoulder adjustment

Work with the hinged triangles to bring the seam allowance to meet the marking. Your triangles will be overlapping, this is what we want.

How to do a broad shoulder adjustment

Tape everything down and draw a straight line to true up the shoulder and a new curve to smooth out the armscye. There may also be a small gap in the upper corner to fill in.

How to do a broad shoulder adjustment

Cut off the excess paper and there you have it, you have made a broad shoulder adjustment! Don’t forget to make the same changes to both the front and back of your pattern! 

How to do a broad shoulder adjustment


For a Narrow Shoulder Adjustment

Measure in from the seam allowance and make a mark. Your measurement should equal your desired adjustment amount.

How to do a narrow shoulder adjustment

Work with the hinged triangles to bring the seam allowance to meet the marking. Your triangles will be spread apart, this is what we want.

How to do a narrow shoulder adjustment

Tape paper underneath to fill in the gap. Draw a straight line to true up the shoulder and a new curve to smooth out the armscye. There you have it, you have made a narrow shoulder adjustment! Don’t forget to make the same changes to both the front and back of your pattern! 

How to do a narrow shoulder adjustment


 

It is important to note that if you are making a large adjustment (more than 3/4″), you may want to consider adjusting the sleeve cap height to compensate for the amount added or removed from the shoulder. For a broad shoulder adjustment, you can remove height from the sleeve, and for a narrow shoulder adjustment, you can add height.

How to do a broad or narrow shoulder adjustment


I hope this post on how to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment has been helpful!

Do you have a different method for making this change? I’d love to hear about it!

About the author

Helen

Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

9 Comments on “How to do a narrow or broad shoulder adjustment”

  1. Thanks, Helen! I recently figured out I often need a broad shoulder (or maybe a square shoulder?) and have tried the pivot method from Pattern Fitting With Confidence by Nancy Zieman and Joi Mahon’s method of cutting and sliding. Both worked but I think the Zieman method matched up better with the sleeve head. I’ll try your method next, it looks much simpler than either. And thank you again for the use of your serger!

  2. This is brilliant! I have very narrow shoulders and always bodge it! Now just being pedantic, by how much would you raise the sleeve head when adjusting for a narrow shoulder. Thank you. Claudia

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  4. Hey all how much do you adjust the arm height by I’ve added an inch to a broad shoulder adjustment?

    1. Hi Samantha! I would take 0.5″ off the height of the sleeve cap in this instance. You may decide to take more off if the sleeve feels baggy in the arm.

  5. THANK YOU! I have narrow shoulders and have just about given up on sewing for myself because of having to practically redraft the pattern. At least, that was my opinion. More work than it was worth. I will try this and see how it goes. Thanks again.

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