Solution 1 – adjust the old pattern
Before my double mastectomy surgery, I wanted to try to get a knit shirt pattern that had a decent chance of fitting my post-surgery body. I naively thought this would be simple – I’d just take out the “dart” that my DDs had required. The rest of me should stay the same, right? I took my sewing pattern – a shoulder princess style – to my teacher and we eliminated the dart by doing a small bust adjustment (SBA) using a traditional method that essentially is the opposite of a full bust adjustment. You may notice a big change in the arm scythe. That’s because the FBA puts a weird angle in that area (also shown in the angle of the shoulder seam), and the SBA takes it out.
I made up a few knit dresses and shirts with this pattern so that I’d have something to wear when I got home and could lift my arms above my head. Oddly, the garments didn’t fit well in the upper chest area, and I needed to remove some flare from the under arm area. You can see the flare in the before pic, above.
At this point, I put on the garments I had made and Marla pinned out the excess fabric from the princess seams (which is why I used this style, so they could be adjusted), and the fit was improved. Additionally, she modified my pattern to have a upper round back adjustment.
Solution 2 – try a new pattern
However, I wanted a pattern that really fit my new body well. At this point, Marla was off teaching a workshop and co-leading the ASG tour of NYC, so I was on my own. I decided to try a pattern that most people had good success with, seemingly regardless of bra cup size: The Lady Skater. This was a moderate success! I made the pattern up as a tank top and wore it several nights for sleeping. It seemed good. Then I made a test t-shirt with sleeves, and it slid back so that the shoulder seams were about 1″ behind where they should be. This was weird. (Spoiler alert – the problem was the sleeve. I was using the arm scythe and sleeve pattern from before surgery because they seemed to fit. However, the sleeve was drafted in a class I took, and the instructor did some fancy drafting to eliminate a wrinkle that happens at the bottom of knit shirt sleeves. Through an arduous process of elimination, I found that the sleeve was causing the shoulder problem. It was not a round upper back problem.)
In the middle of trying to figure out the shoulder seam problem, I decided to try another approach. Other post-mastectomy people have reported the issue of the shoulder seam sliding back. The theory is that the shoulder slides back due to having too much length in the front bodice in a women’s pattern in order to go over the bust. So, I downloaded the free Arrowsmith Undershirt men’s pattern from Thread Theory. Like the Lady Skater, I made just the tank top, and it fit well.
In my next post, I’ll write about Solution 3 – what I did next to solve the bodice problem (before I figured out it was the sleeve). I’ll also discuss my next steps to get going on sewing.