Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Sway Back Dilemma - Simplicity 5956 and Vogue 1197

One of my biggest fitting challenges is the sway back adjustment. I have tried adding darts and folding out were the pooling occurs. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn't. I've tried using the method of making the horizontal tuck with placing the center back on the fold. That doesn't completely resolve the issue.

 A few years ago, Pati Palmer noticed that one of my hips was slightly higher than the other and gave me some advice on how to fit my pants (M5818) better. After an spinal x-ray two years ago, I learned that I have slight scoliosis in my lower back. This discovery supported Pati's observation. So of course, when I went to the Palmer/Pletsch fit workshop, I planned to learn more about addressing my back fitting issues.

Because of the curve, the level of adjustment is slightly different for each side. This is probably no surprise. I think most of us are larger on one side of our bodies.

I decided to try a different approach for the sway back adjustment. It's easiest to make the adjustment if the back has a center seam. This allows me to scoop out access at the lower, center back as well as make a horizontal tuck across the lower back. I also have the option of making two backs to address the differences between my left and right side.

When making the horizontal tucks, I noticed that the back hem along the center is shorter than the rest of the garment by the amount of the tuck. This amount needs to be added back into the garment either in the hip or at the hem. I haven't figured out the best place to add this for a top, jacket, or dress. Recommendations are welcomed.

The type of garments where the sway back fitting is the biggest challenge are in knit tops and dresses that do not have a horizontal seam at the waist. I made Simplicity 5956 several times. Last year I tried this adjustment and it was nearly perfect. I had added the tucked length to the hemline where needed. This method was also used in the two versions I made this year.

Last month, I made a wearable muslin of Sandra Betzina's Vogue 1197. Pictured at the top of this post.  This top does not have a center back seam. I created one. I think the adjustment worked. I also think I will use this approach more often to get a better fit across the sway in my back.

What are your thoughts on sway back adjustments? Do you have issues with fitting your back? Have you found a way to successfully alter your garments for your back fitting issues? Please share.

Happy Sewing!


  1. I've seen posts on PR on how to make a sway back adjustment in a knit; they think that because there is no cb seam that they can't put one in. Every knit top I've seen from Rick Owens has a cb seam. If knitwear that expensive can use a cb seam for fitting why not use it? I don't have sway back, but I've added cb seams for better fitting a slightly rounded upper back in knits. It also saves fabric, a good way to economize if you are short on fabric.

  2. My right hip is higher than my left hip so I probably have the same issue.
    I've been inserting a centre back seam on knits for 2 years now so that I can manage my sway back, since one of my sewing buddies suggested this approach. It works nicely. I now do this in my first set of adjustments.
    The only new challenge becomes matching the print, but that's a challenge that I enjoy.

  3. Cenetta, I have similar issues and do just what you do. I add center back seams and I frequently add seams at the back waist if there isn't one. I think every garment needs to get "what works" and that is what muslins are for.

    I have everything on one side a tiny bit lower, but enough to cause wrinkles. We are all so unique!

  4. Hi, you add the length of the dart to the bottom of the pattern. I too have issues with sway back and sometimes I bother and sometimes I don't.

  5. And here all this time I thought that I'd MADE the garment incorrectly when it rested differently over one hip than the other. I love learning soooooo much here at The Mahogany Stylist!

  6. I've only just starting doing a sway back adjustment, when I fitting expert suggested it. Taking a pinch out of the centre at the waistline works well for me.

  7. I, like you, have to make swayback adjustments and add the amount taken out from the tuck to the bottom edge of the pattern so that the center back hem is not short. I have also added the width of the tuck to hip after truing the center back. My preference is the adding to the center back at hem line.

    In addition to swayback, I also add about 1/2 inch for the hip fluff I have, so my back pattern looks "wonky" but my skirts now go over the hip fluff without riding up creating folds in that area.

  8. My Dr. determined that my right leg was shorter than my left. Not enough to bother me when I was younger, but lately I've noticed that my pants were longer on the right side. The difference in leg length also was very hard on my hip joints, so he suggested that I use a small lift in my right shoe. I just bought those gel heel cushions one can purchase in the foot care section of the drug store. I would feel and see the difference right away.

  9. I know this is old, but I have a "protruding derrière" aka a bubble butt. I also have an extreme swayback from 30 years of dancing.
    So, after the swayback (usually a scoop out plus 1/2-3/4" folded at cb), I add the 1/2" back over the fullest part of my hips/butt. I do this by cutting as I did for the tuck and leaving a hinge at the side. Instead of folding over as in the swayback, I spread it out 1/2". When I walk my pattern pieces together, they still match up!



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