Swayback when…

Today was a disaster. A complete fail. After almost 4 years of not properly drafting a pattern (don’t judge, no sew mojo remember?) I discovered today that I really need to read a few books before I start drafting from scratch.

Yesterday morning I met up with an old work colleague for coffee and catch-up, and we ended up pottering around the shops for a little bit before she had to head off. Whilst window shopping, I saw a sweet sleeveless top in with a sort of cut-out back, with the pieces crossing over at the back neck. I thought to myself, I could make that. The navy polka dot I bought in the Rag Market would be perfect for it as it’s a similar weight to the one used for the summer top in the shop. Seemed pretty simple too – no fastenings, no facings, no sleeves – an afternoons work at most.1

How wrong I was.


I should probably draft some of these in the right size…

It all started pretty well. I found a RTW top I’ve had for about a year that’s a similar shape and style to the one I had seen and started tracing the pieces to then draft a pattern from there. The RTW top only has 2 pieces with 2 bust darts and although the fit isn’t perfect, I figured I could just adjust that for my pattern. But this didn’t work – I couldn’t get the pieces to lie correctly to be able to trace them properly, and I had forgotten about the dart. Oops! So I bailed on that idea, made a cuppa, ate a flapjack, prepared some more paper and dug out my pattern blocks that I’d drafted several years ago whilst at RADA. After tracing these I set to work making the adjustments I needed – shortening the shoulders, the crossed over cut-out section at the back, rounded and lowered neckline. I moved the dart to a better position on the bust. I even used my bargain new French curve set to redraw the armscye!  All pretty easy and straightforward so far, although it took a lot longer that anticipated as I was watching and singing along to Pitch Perfect… I am a procrastinator. That’s probably why it’s taken me so long to start sewing again…


How do you even use a French curve anyway??


The cross over worked surprisingly well first time!

I dug out some horrible brown lining from the stash to make up a toile. It’s a similar weight to the polka dots and odds are I am never going to need faded brown lining. I cut out my pieces, giving 2 cm seam allowance ready for adjustments. It went together quickly, and the cut-out section worked first time – not bad for something I’d drawn by eye! It was all going swimmingly until I tried it on. A teeny bit snug across the chest but nothing that couldn’t be fixed by adjusting the width at the seams. But the waist was sagging, and there was a lot of pooling fabric at the back waist. I looked like I was wearing a brown bin bag. Not a good look. After consulting the Winifred Aldrich pattern cutting book and the Readers Digest guide as well as a few articles/blogs online, I found that the best way to get rid of the excess was to create a tuck, and then transfer it to the pattern. All guides seem to show that this would be pretty simple, so tuck I did. Except my tuck meant I was taking out nearly an inch and half at the centre-back waist. I also made some adjustments on the side seam to try to take out some of the bagginess all over.

I redrew the pattern pieces, unpicked the toile (joy) and started again. I thought it was going to be fine until I tried it on again… Still the same amount of pooling! How could this happen?!


Tuck tuck tuckity tuck… Ignore the mess in the background please!

Turns out I have what is known as a swayback. Except mine is quite pronounced, at least in comparison to the tutorials I’d found online anyway. As far as I can make out, the only way I will be able to stop the sagginess is to add darts to help create the right shape. after spending almost 7 hours working on my first self-drafted pattern in 4 year, I am so disappointed that I didn’t get a project finished today. But I learned a lot too. First, I am not as good at pattern drafting as I had remembered. Secondly, there is an actual name for my curvy back – I thought I was just a bit weird. Thirdly, I really need to finish rearranging my sewing room as there is paper everywhere. And finally, the simple things normally tend to be the most complicated. What should have taken only a few hours at most to draft, fit and make up just didn’t work. I don’t have any pictures of quite how bad it was as I am not an octopus and just couldn’t reach to get one!

So it’s back to the drawing board. I am going to trawl the internet to see if I can find a pattern that is similar to what I have in mind. It seems almost a little strange to think that after years of putting up with ill-fitting tops off the peg, maybe the reason they don’t fit is because of my body shape and not poor construction and ridiculous ideals set by people about women’s bodies. Maybe I should just put up with it and get used to looking like I’m wearing a sack from behind… I don’t know. I feel a bit demotivated right now about my polka dots. I will keep hunting to see if the internet brings up anything good – I may just stick to the Colette Patterns Sorbetto top and hack it. I may just have to learn to accept the baggy back in things I make. Who knows. Maybe a back brace would help?? When I do draft/buy/find a pattern that would work with a swayback adjustment I will let you all know in case you need it too! In the meantime, if any of you have any tips or tricks on how to deal with swaybacks, or any pattern suggestions for simple hackable tanks, please leave a comment.


4 thoughts on “Swayback when…

  1. Katy says:

    Aww, I wouldn’t call the day a complete disaster! You learnt some stuff! I have never tried a swayback adjustment myself but I haven’t made many tops. But I have definitely seen heaps of people writing about their swayback adjustments so I’m sure there is plenty of info out there! Good luck. Can’t wait to see your next product. xx


  2. Sewing with Scoobys says:

    I have the same problem with a sway back and there is not a whole lot of info online about how to fix it. Sure you can pinch out fabric in the back but then that throws your pattern off grain and I had no idea how to fix it till I went back and re-watched a course I bought from Craftsy ages ago on alterations (Sew the perfect fit) and it was in there. I am currently taking drafting courses through Craftsy and the bodice was so hard to get just right. I was able to get my sway back pretty flat though thanks to those classes and I blogged about the bodice sloper problems I had.

    So I feel your pain! You are not alone but you will get it, you got so much farther then I did in just one day. Great job 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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