21 November 2014

#SewingFrancoise: More Fitting Alterations

Making the Francoise dress? We’ve talked quite a bit about fitting:
Today I want to show you a few more examples of pinching out or slashing and spreading fabric on a toile and transferring those changes to the paper pattern. Fitting is a huge topic and this list is by no means comprehensive - but I hope that it will give you a general understanding of the principle of adding and removing fullness which you can use on the particular area that you need to alter.

If you do need more help, I'm going to link to some further resources at the end of this post, written by people with much broader knowledge of the subject than me. Don't feel overwhelmed though, you really don't have to read a fitting book cover to cover in order to make something that fits you - you probably only need to make a handful of tweaks to a sewing pattern for your own fitting issues, and once you know what they are it'll become easier and easier for you to make these changes as you sew more things. Hooray!

(Ooh, BTW, in case you're looking at the piccies of the toile below and thinking, "But she said I didn't need to finish the seams on my toile!", you don't - ignore the zigzag stitching and stay stitching in the photos, this was a toile made by lovely Laura when she was testing out the pattern instructions - that lady is thorough!)

Right, onwards...

Adjusting the sleeve shoulder seams
One of the versions of the Francoise dress features two-piece raglan sleeves. Since our shoulders are different shapes, you may find that you need to alter the shape of the curve of the shoulder seam that joins the front and back sleeve pieces at the front. (The two-piece shoulder seam is designed to sit 1cm forward of the centre of your shoulder so you can see the style line from the front.) Repin the shoulder curve into a shape that fits you (you may need to unstitch the toile if you need to add fullness here), then draw your new shoulder seam shape onto the paper pattern - on both front and back sleeve pieces. Measure the seams on the front and back sleeves from the neckline to the first notch to check they are the same length, and adjust if you need to.

You can make a similar alteration if you need to add or subtract fullness at the raglan seam lines.

Wide or narrow shoulder
You can also add or subtract fullness horizontally. For example, if you find you have excess - or not enough - fabric at the shoulder on the sleeves, you can pinch some it out or slash and spread it on the toile. Then draw a cutting line in the same place on the paper pattern, marking the stitching line 15mm / 5/8in from the raglan seam line. Cut from each end of the line to this point, leaving a teeny bit of paper intact as a hinge. Slash open the shoulder seam side if you need extra space, or overlap the pieces if you are removing it. Glue or tape in place (with a new bit of paper under the gap if you've spread it open), and redraw the shoulder seam. Do the same on the front and back sleeve so that the shoulder seams end up the same length.

Sway back
If your lower back curves inwards more than most, you may find you have some excess fabric pooling itself horizontally around that area. Pinch out a wedge of fabric where you need to. Mark a cutting line in the same place on the paper pattern, and mark the stitching line 15mm / 5/8in in from the side seam. Cut from each end of the line to this point, leaving a teeny bit of paper intact as a hinge. Overlap the pieces at the centre back seam by the amount you removed from the toile. Glue or tape in place and redraw in smooth seam lines. Redraw the back waist dart.

Gaping or tight back neckline
If you find you have excess fabric - or not enough fabric - around the back neckline, the simplest place to make the alteration is on one of the existing seam lines. Try taking in or letting out the seam at the centre back opening or at the raglan seams joining the back dress to the back sleeve. Depending on the shape of your body, however, this might not always fix the problem...

If you tried that and found that actually the excess fabric falls around the middle of the back neckline, then that's where you want to pinch out a wedge of fabric. Measure how much you pinched out, then draw a dart the same size and in the same position on the paper pattern. If you are happy to sew a dart here on your real dress, then "true" the dart the same way as we did when we moved the bust dart.

If you'd rather not have a dart here, I get you. What you can do instead is draw a long wedge from the top of each dart leg to the bottom of the pattern (or to the waistline). Cut up one of the lines of the wedge, overlap the pieces at the lines and stick them down. Redraw smooth seam lines at the neckline, centre back and hemline if you need to.

If you change the neckline, don't forget to add or subtract the same amount of fullness to or from the neckline facings and the collar if you're making it.


I do hope this helps. But if you do need a more comprehensive list of fitting alterations, may I suggest the following resources:

Next week, we're going to cut out our Francoise dresses and then get sewing. I'm so excited to see what you make! Have you chosen your fabric yet? What did you pick? Tell me, tell me!


  1. Oh, I so hope I won't need to do any of this, because I do feel overwhelmed :)
    As for the fabric, I'm going for boring solid black. It's only the second dress I'm making and I will most probably spoil something, so I decided to use fabric I'm not particularly attached to :)
    And while I'm here, can I ask a small question about the collar? I've read the instructions for both versions of the dress, but mine is the PDF text-only version of the pattern, so not everything is clear. There are instructions for the version with sleeves and a collar and there are separate instructions for the sleevless and collarless version. Is it diffucult to make it without sleeves but with a collar? There seem to be some differences in how the dress is constructed with and without sleeves. Am I right? Or is it the same and the collar can be attached to either version in the same way?

    1. Solid black sounds like a great idea - it's not boring, it's classic :)

      To make the sleeveless dress with the collar, simply follow the instructions for the sleeveless version (ignoring the section on sleeves) and follow the instructions for the collar version. The construction is the same (apart from the sleeves), so you don't need to change anything.

      The PDF instructions don't include pictures, so I'll be showing you those in the sewalong here on this blog :)

    2. Thank you, Tilly. I actually even like the fact that I'm getting the instructions gradually, one by one like lessons. This way I have time to digest every lesson before I get the next one :) I think if I had got all the instructions at once I would have been too overwhelmed.
      Besides, while waiting for the next lesson I have time to struggle with my first Mathilde blouse. I'm kind of a I-want-to-do-it-all-at-once person :)

  2. I have some lovely navy fabric with gold stars on it. I think I'm going to put a solid navy collar on it. I can't wait to get started.

  3. I made a muslin and realized that I need to raise the underarm seam for better range of motion. I usually just raise the seam by 1 inch, but I have never made this adjustment with raglan sleeves. Would I have to adjust the sleeves too (shave one inch from the seam)?

    I love your patterns. I have three Megans and three Delphines and look forward to making many Françoises.

    1. Hello, I just finished my toile and have the same problem, what's the best way to do this? Thanks!

    2. Oops sorry for the late reply, I missed this comment earlier. What I would do is this - once you've raised the side seam on the front and back dress, draw in the stitching line (15mm / 5/8in in from the cutting line) at the underarm just between the lower notch and side seam (again 15mm / 5/8in in from the cutting line). Measure this line. Then draw in and measure the stitching line on the sleeve between the lower notches and side seams. If the length of the first line has changed since you've raised the underarm, redraw the curves on the sleeve (just between the lower notches and side seams) so they're the same length. I hope this makes sense!

  4. Hello Tilly and co!
    I am thinking of making this dress with a good old Linton wool, What do you think? I know you recommend lighter and thinner fabrics, but I want a "Chanel" dress and a jacket to go with it, and the raglan sleeves, the A line of you dress speak to me! So, what do you think, Tilly:
    Do you think it would be possible?

    1. The fabric looks gorgeous! Can you request a sample? It may be a little thick for the darts, so best get a sample and check.

    2. Thank you, they are sending me a sample. The matter is I don't know if I'll be in time for your deadline!!! Specially when I wanted to make a jacket to go with it. But I'll try!

  5. Hi Tilly, I bought your book a week ago and devoured it in one sitting. It's amazing and it has really given me courage to sew clothing (I'm afraid of patterns...they are confusing and scary). I only managed to make half a Megan bodice before my sewing machine timing died but I found the instructions clear and the pattern really easy to use. I'm planning on getting a new machine (something more powerful) so hopefully it won't be too long before I can finish the dress. Thank you for writing your book, it feels like I have someone holding my hand as I cut and sew which gives me a great deal of confidence.

    1. Pam, I'm so happy to hear that my book has given you the confidence to sew - hooray! Thank you for your lovely feedback :) I hope you get a new machine soon!

  6. cant wait to dig into this pattern, it will be my second pattern ever and i cant wait, i will get it printed tomorrow, even shilled out money to refill my ink cartridges for my dusty printer. i'm a bit busty so hopefully all will go well. i think i'll use a knit to sew the dress but i would like to try it in a woven material as well. hopefully another random piece of my oldish machine doesn't fall off again. i had to crazy glue the needle holder back on.lol! cant wait to try

  7. Hi again, Tilly. Have you heard of anyone having issues with too much fabric at the back of the neck in a Francoise? There are not many pictures of the back of Francoise dresses, so I don't know if anyone else have similar issues. I've fixed it in a way by taking more fabric in when sewing the zipper, but may be that's not the best way to do that. Any advice on this?

    1. Yes, some people may have to take the back neckline in (or let it out) depending on the shape of your back and shoulders. It came up in the pattern testing process actually because the pattern testers are different shapes, so some had gaping and others didn't (which meant compromise!). The last section of the tutorial above covers different ways of altering the back neckline - where you take out the fabric really depends on where on your back you find you have excess fabric - do what works best for you.

      If you want to see photos of the backs of some Francoise dresses, click through the images on the Maker Gallery.


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