Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cashmerette Concord Tee - The Muslin

So I made a muslin of this T shirt today and, natch, as I sit here with a gorgeous Montepulciano (chilled to combat 35C sunny weather!!), I have a some thoughts to relay...

For starters, the pattern is very good - well-drafted (and drafted differently than other patterns I've made, to accommodate flesh). I haven't really engaged with the instructions but they seem clear to the extent that I've reviewed them. If you are in the size range for this pattern, you should own it! It's a great sloper-base.

For comparison, here are my sloper pattern pieces (right-hand side of pic) next to my pre-muslin 1, altered size 12 Concord pieces:

T Shirt Front Bodices
T Shirt Back Bodices
My sloper was constructed maybe 5 years ago, when I was a different size.

I'd like to point out how similar these patterns are. Yes, you are viewing the Concord in a pre-muslined, modified size 12 (smaller than the pattern), but the proportions haven't really changed.

Pre-muslin Concord alterations:
  • The back neck and upper back above the armscye were narrowed by @3 inches. Spoiler alert: It wasn't enough.
  • I removed about 3 inches over all from the hips.
  • I removed about 2 inches from the waist
  • I removed about an inch from the bust.
  • I removed @3 inches from the upper arm width. (Not shown.)
  • I changed the sleeve cap to suit the slightly altered armscye (more about ensuring lengths of each would match rather than shape changes). (Not shown.)
But you'll note:
  •  My sloper scoop neck is really similar to the Concord's. What makes the Concord neckline sit somewhat lower than mine is the longer shoulder span. Note: I like the lower neckline because, even though my skin is vaguely lined at the span of decollete, this is an attractive part of my body, IMO.
  • The general, vertical proportions of the waist and hips are also similar. The Concord is longer than my sloper but they have the same basic silhouette. Sure, it's a T shirt, so how much variation is there likely to be, but still... 
  • The waist is high. It's designed for someone with a short waist (or padding at the narrowest point of the torso).
  • The armscye isn't drastically different than mine, in shape.
In truth, I would have had an easier time altering my sloper, than redevising the Concord, but the altering of the Concord, and working with it, has taught me some things about how to shape pattern pieces for added waist girth and boobs. You'd think I'd know all about the boobs at this point but, since there are no patterns that really design for narrow frames and large breasts (or even average frames and large breasts), I'm going to work with what's available - even if I'll have to alter everything else.

Here's the thing: There's a fine line between making a new pattern and pre-altering one, such that it's just a version of one's original sloper. I don't know that I kept to the right side of that line...

In the end, my modified Concord muslin didn't work because:
  • The upper back and neck were still a good inch too wide (the back neck drooped and folded). 
    • My latest alterations produce a back bodice that is more or less exactly that of my sloper - if larger at the side seams. BTW, this isn't a complex alteration but it is fussy. I actually cut the armscye segment from its original spot and moved it over towards the centre back, correcting the width at the underarm, to ensure that I'd maintained volume for the bust. This is where having a sloper came in very handy. Without it, I'd have been guessing or doing math.
  • I overdid it slightly when down-sizing. I should have kept the side seams where the original pattern put them. Sure, it would have been a bit roomy, but I could have corrected that on the next go round. As it is, I had to go to the effort of adding back @ an inch of circumference at the waist and hips because, if I'm looking for skim I need an adequate amount of fabric! How can I say I want a better silhouette, for my current shape, while retaining my original pattern dimensions?
  • Hilariously, my most erroneous alteration was in the armscye/sleeve. I didn't make it high enough or wide enough, though my version is certainly wearable on this account. I've now corrected this on the pattern by adding back  @1.5" of width at the underarm tapering to @0.5 inches at the hem. I also raised the height by about 0.5". Gillian wondered why I didn't make the 12 E/F (rather than the C/D). (Reminder: these labels do not align with proper bra sizing!) I can't confirm this, without reprinting and reassembling the original pattern, but I suspect that my back narrowing / armscye alteration has resulted in the pattern's E/F bust volume, while respecting the narrowness of my frame.
What I can tell you is that this pattern is NOT devised for a small and narrow frame, not even one with padding. It presumes a wide upper back and full shoulders (structural) in addition to boobs and thick arms (sometimes a side effect of weight). I don't know if all of my work will be worth it - from the perspective of the final outcome - but that's offset by the learning, which has made it time well spent.

Furthermore, if this allows me to make easy, stock adjustments to Cashmerette's other patterns (and future patterns) it will have been worth it. Alas, that remains to be seen. The back width issue may be a deal breaker because that's not always an easy alteration.

I've now cut out and prepped muslin 2. Regrettably, I am all but out of my good fabric. I actually cut muslin 1 out of a dress I made, that never worked. I had to cut the front bodice of muslin 2 (not yet assembled) on the cross grain. Yeah, it's a high-quality, 4-way modal, but I still think that cutting one piece opposite to all of the others is dicey (and maybe irritating). But my next version is yet another muslin so I'm going along for the ride.

At any rate, I hope to put together muslin 2 tomorrow. Note: Coverstitching a neck band below the seam is really tricky without a see-through foot. Any tips?

Update: OMG, people, I do have a see-through foot?! (I had to read back through the blog to remind myself that I'd bought and installed one when first I got my machine.) That bodes badly for my current skill (and maybe my short-term memory). Sometimes I concern myself.  I've read everything that Debbie (Stitches and Seams) has written on this topic - twice at this point - but I guess that's no alternative for actually coverstitching to gain ability. Mind you, now I see that she often stitches on either side the neck seam. Didn't know that was an option! I've also decided that I like single line, machine stitching down the serged neckline more than coverstitching it. I'm not there yet with my coverstitching skills and when a neckline goes awry, it's nasty. FWIW, I've got better at pulling the front-side stitches out the back when I pull the work back / out of the machine at the end of a row. I'm also improving on my waist hems. Everything in time, I suppose...


  1. I’m amazed and somewhat baffled with how much dedication you try to make this pattern work. Since you’re apparently not plus-sized yourself, I was wondering: why do you want to make this plus-sized pattern work instead of using a regular pattern and making a simple full bust adjustment? I think this would save you so much time :)
    Wishing you all the best,

  2. Claudia - Terrific question! Partly, it's cuz I'm insane and I love altering patterns (well, I love to hate altering patterns). Also, I'm intrigued to see the drafting nuts and bolts of a plus sized pattern so that I can apply the relevant aspects and just learn more about how body shape and pattern shape intersect. Also, I really like the other 2 patterns and I would like to make this work to unlock the key to those. Finally, standard FBAs don't work on my shape - trust me, I've tried them many different ways. (It's a combo of torso narrowness and bust projection.) Of course, you're right that I could spend my time on the world of alternate FBAs (I have at times) and just work from a pattern of more appropriate size. But, you know what, I have to adjust every pattern for the bust and shoulders - this time I thought I might be able to avoid that. Apparently, no dice. :-)

    1. I also love altering patterns, so I get you :) (Although I make mostly design changes and not fit changes ;) Most patterns I use are from Burda and after years I finally figured out exactly what I need to change to make them fit me, yay!
      Anyway, I hope you find the perfect fit, soon!
      Cheers, Claudia

    2. It would be much smarter for me to make the design changes to my sloper but I'm still in the thrall of buying/making/testing new patterns. I should just adopt the design features and change my block.

  3. All so fascinating! Yesterday I made a Cashmerette (tester) pattern for Anne, and interestingly, her measurements but her in exactly the same size as me... a 14c/d, graded to 16 at waist and hips. The end result was the same on her as me - really, she needed a e/f. (It fits her fine, but the side seam swings forward and a slightly larger dart would have fixed that.) I guess my take-away is to size up a cup size?
    As for the beck neckline... I"m glad you are figuring out how much to narrow it, because all her knit patterns have avery similar straight back neckline. I almost wonder if she is designing for people who slouch, because so many people do now... it certainly fits Anne and I just fine out of the packet, but because you have a narrow frame AND great posture, I can imagine why it doesn't work for you!
    How did you find the length? It runs long on me, but I prefer being able to adjust the length shorter once I'm finished, if I want to.
    I hope the second version works out for you! (Ok, sure, you'll still have more adjustments to make, I'm sure, but I'd be so happy for you if her patterns work out with your figure!)

    1. Do you mean you were testing a pre-existing pattern for Anne or that there's another Cashmerette pattern that you're testing? Interesting, either way! I find the length too long also - but in the same way, I'd like to have hemming options. The one I just made (good end result, btw - more to come) is about 2 inches shorter than the first because I didn't have enough fabric to cut it according to the pattern pieces.

      My made up back narrowing alteration may come in very handy in the future. I'm glad I've come up with something that will allow me to address patterns with more average back width!

    2. testing a new one... I'm glad to hear V2.0 turned out better!

  4. maybe your time and money would be better spent with a seamstress and a pattern designed for your shoulders/upper bust and make the adjustments needed for YOUR boobs, rather than the endless complaining about all the changes you need to make for your skinny arms and small frame to a pattern intended (and very clearly indicated) for people with thick arms, boobs and torso.

    Jenny has a couple good patterns for large women, I hope she continues on that path. Just as it's not so simple to adjust patterns up past a certain point, it's not simple to adjust then down, as you are finding with this pattern. Larger sized women have been dealing with the "lovely" patterns from pattern companies that assume our shoulders expand at the same rate as the rest of our bodies do. So suck it up and deal with adjusting the other way buttercup. Sorry, that was perhaps a bit let me end with - keep on with this experiment, cut the veiled comments about who this pattern was DESIGNED for, and consider that many more women have been dealing with more severe pattern alterations in the opposite direction for decades. And then thank your lucky stars that you are of a size that is covered by a great many more pattern companies who even offer FREE patterns in your size. Yes, you will probably still need to make some adjustments as do 99% of the people who buy patterns, but they will not be nearly as major as this project.

    1. I don't understand your vitriol, Anon. Maybe my time and money would be better spent with a seamstress but then I'd never learn anything.

      I've been harping on about my narrow frame, small arms and big boobs for 10 years now. I complain about the tiny patterns, the large patterns, those drafted badly or well (in silhouettes that most naturally suit mine or others). My commentary isn't veiled because I'm relating my own experience.

      If you read my blog regularly you would know that I suck it up CONSTANTLY! I find nothing easy to alter, partly because I'm self-taught (entirely), partly cuz maybe I'm not a natural. I'm not expecting this to be easy and I don't intend to write outside the scope of my experience. Otherwise, what help would I be to someone else who looks like me (or different) who can relate to the content.

      I've made zillions of patterns in my size that were just as complicated to alter and my skills expanded as a result. Furthermore, if you'd read the other comments, you would have heard more about my rationale for doing this.

  5. K.Line, I'm impressed with your dedication to change a pattern because you want to make it work.
    There is an Australian independent designer who has started up and designs for normal frames with large boobs - all patterns are by size and cup size. She understands how boobs change the way your arms hang at the side of your body - a distribution thing.
    Link is here:
    I have tried the basic t shirt and it is the best fitting t shirt I have ever had. At last count I have made 6 and change in the neck lines from other patterns, but keep the basic body shape. Next I'm going to try the shirt

    1. Sam - thanks so much for this great information! I love a new pattern company - esp. one that cuts for the boobs! Cheers, K

  6. I wonder if you will eventually get into pattern drafting, like I did. I get the need to alter patterns! Over the last couple years, I started to understand the differences between my body and the imaginary body that commercial pattern-makers draft for. Having a bust measurement that consists of a small band and larger cups means I can fit my body into a standard size, but the distribution of fabric is all wrong. I would need an FBA to the front and a narrow adjustment to the back.
    Oh well, keep learning and keep posting - I find it all very interesting!

    1. I wonder also. I mean, I essentially redraft things for myself - but that doesn't mean I understand grading or the mathematic complexity of pattern-making. And I figured out exactly the same thing as you - that I can fit into the things but that doesn't mean the fabric distributes optimally. I find, also, as my size has increased, the fitabiilty isn't as consistent as it used to be, vis a vis RTW purchase.

  7. So, this is so interesting to me. My upper body isn't plus size (Burda 40), but my lower body is (Burda 46). I wear a smaller band (34) and a larger cup (F or G). When I muslined this last night in a 12 grading out to a 16 at the hip for the long version, I also found there was a little too much ease for me above the breast. But, reading your posts I understand why. I'm not necessarily fleshier there. And, the neckline is really wide for my upper body frame. I like the arm draft because I've always had more muscular arms. I don't know if the excess fabric is worth me trying to get rid of since no one else is going to notice. Oh, and I found that their draft actually has more ease than my measurements convey. Whew. Overall, I think it's a decent pattern. And, I like not having a dart in a tee.

    1. As is your info about this pattern, to me! I do find the pattern to be quite wide, proportionately. That's neither bad nor good, in general, but it does mean that some of the peeps who are within the size range, but narrow, are going to have to alter too. I'm going to make the Appleton next. I hope that I can simply apply the same back bodice alterations and sizing achieved in the Concord, to get a first finished result that looks good. Of course, one never gets one's hopes out, first time around :-)