Adjusting Your Armscye

One adjustment you might need to do to your patterns (particularly if you are shorter or taller than average) is to adjust your armscye. If your shirt feels tight (or baggy) in your armpit or if you have excessive wrinkles or fabric at or near your armpit, this is a good indicator that your armscye may need to be adjusted.

This tutorial will show you how to lengthen your armscye but the exact same principles apply for shortening your armscye.

You will start out with 4 pattern pieces:
- Front Bodice
- Back Bodice
- Sleeve
- Neckband (this may or may not be required, more on that below)

Let's start with adjusting our bodice pieces. Lay the front and back bodice pieces on top of each other, line up the armscye, and draw a horizontal line across approximately half way down the armscye. Cut along these lines to split your bodice pieces.

Extend your pattern pieces by taping a piece of paper to the back of them. Measure how much length you want to add and draw a straight line across. *NOTE* - a little goes a long way. You will be lengthening the front and the back by the same amount so my 3/8 addition really gives me an extra 3/4 inch total in my armscye.

Align the bottom pattern piece for each bodice with the line you have drawn and tape into place. Use a french curve or free-hand draw to make a smooth curve along the new armscye. Cut any excess paper away. Your front and back bodice pieces are now done!

Moving on to the sleeve, draw a horizontal line across approximately half way down the sleeve cap. Cut along this line to split your sleeve.

Extend your pattern piece by taping a piece of paper to the back. Measure down the exact same amount you added to your bodice pieces and draw a straight line across. Optional, but very helpful, after you draw your line across, draw 2 straight lines directly down from each end. (This will help you line up the bottom of the sleeve properly - which is sometimes tricky since we are working with steep curves.) 

Line up the bottom of the sleeve to the horizontal line you have drawn and again, using a french curve or by drawing freehand, make smooth curves to create the altered sleeve cap. Cut off any excess paper and you are done with your sleeve!

Now, lets talk about the neckband. If your armscye adjustment lengthened (or shortened) the neckline, like it did in the example above, then you must add (or remove) a bit of length from your neckband as well, so it won't be too tight or too loose.

Before we move onto the simple neckband adjustment, I want to point out that not all armscye adjustments necessarily impact the neckline. On bodices with a higher neckline, sometimes you can cut across the bodice without touching the neck. If our neckline was the red line below, we would make no alterations to the neckband.

Neckband adjustments are incredibly easy, you just add a little tail onto the band. In a precise world, we would add 85% of whatever we added to the bodice. But because we are talking about such small increments of measurement, I typically just adjust the neckband by 1/8 of an inch different than how I adjusted the bodice. So in this example I added 3/8 to my bodice and I will add 1/4 to my neckband.

And thats it! You now have a lengthened (or shortened) armscye and are ready to sew!

Questions? Please tag me (Jodi WM) in the Sonia Estep Designs Facebook Group! I'm happy to help!

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  • Vicki on

    This is an excellent tutorial. So clear and just what I needed. Thank you.

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