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Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong - Swayback alteration

Aloha Sewists, and welcome to the Alterations Week for the Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong! Throughout these posts we will be going through as many pattern alteration tutorials as we can physically crush in, relevant to the Orsola. But it doesn't end there - the extra great news is that a lot of these tutorials will be applicable not only to Orsola, but to a huge amount of other patterns too as we tackle most of the common issues surrounding pattern fitting. 

Today, we'll be showing you how to:

  • Alter the pattern for swaybacks

And you will need:

Before you begin, have you read our posts on how to take accurate body measurements, and how to download, print & assemble a PDF sewing pattern

*Click here to be taken to all the posts in the Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong*

Swayback Adjustment

Today, we'll be talking about how to alter a paper pattern for swaybacks. Sounds a little scary but I promise it's actually a very simple and straightforward alteration to make, and one that will make the world of difference to the fit of your handmade garms.

So what exactly is a Swayback? And how do I know if I have one??

A swayback is basically an exaggerated concave curve at the small of your back. It can be due to your posture, for example if you're a dancer or gymnast, or it could just be the natural shape of your spine.

If you have a swayback, you'll notice that garments often seem too long at the centre back, creating horizontal wrinkles where the excess fabric pools at the small of your back.

As with most fitting alterations, but this one more than most, it's important not to mis-diagnose! Other fitting issues that could easily be misconstrued as a swayback include:

  • Short torso/high waistline - if the horizontal folds extend around the front of the waistline as well as the back, or the entire waistline falls below your natural waist, try shortening the bodice first. A swayback will only be too long at the centre back, but should fit nicely at the centre front and side seams.
  • Full bust - if you have a full bust, this will elevate the waistline at the front, probably causing it to droop down at the back and create those horizontal wrinkles. Try a full bust adjustment.

The good news is that altering your pattern for a swayback is really quick and easy! All we need to do is pinch out those unwanted folds and thereby shorten the centre back, without changing the side seams, the waistband or the front.

Step 1

Put on your toile and carefully pinch out the horizontal folds that occur across the small of your back on either side of the waistband. If you have a friend to help you out here, all the better. Pin the excess fabric in order to measure the amount by which you'll need to shorten the centre back.

Step 2

Now you can take off your toile and measure that unwanted excess. 

For example, we pinched out about 1" of excess fabric pooling below the waistband at the centre back, and about 1/2" from the bodice centre back just above the waistband. As a result, we'll be taking out 1" from the centre back length at the skirt, and 1/2" out from the bodice centre back, sloping out to nothing at the side seams.

Step 3

Take your bodice back piece and fold it in half along the centre back line. Mark out the seam allowance lines at the side seam (shown in blue). 

Step 4

Then mark 1/2" up from the waistline at the centre back and draw a smooth line from that 1/2" mark out to the side seam to create your new waistline (shown in red). 

Trim away the excess, open out the fold and repeat this exact process for the skirt back piece.

Tip from the top: Always check your adjustment by making a toile to check the fit. Once you're happy with your newly adjusted pattern, copy it out onto some card for extra safe keeping! Although this is a straightforward adjustment to make, no one wants to have to do it twice...

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