EAC: Playing with the NSA

I have much more to say about this version of the EAC (Easy Ageless Cool) pattern.  Next up is my NSA Narrow Shoulder Adjustment.  I know my shoulder is narrow in comparison to the standard measurement charts.  A full inch narrower at the size 10.  I can’t remember when I didn’t need an NSA. My shoulders, both RWT and pattern sewn, always collapsed causing gaping at the neckline and er bubbling between neckline and apex.  My sewing teachers recommended shoulder pads and padded bras. I was well into my 30’s and maybe my 40’s before I discovered that an NSA took care of all my upper bodice issues.  At the time my NSA was very simple. Where there should have been a shoulder dart

I drew a line perpendicular to the shoulder slope; slashed and overlapped.  Interesting at a size 10, I overlapped 1/2″.  At a size 18 I overlap 1″.  The pattern companies seem  to assume that my shoulder length grows at the same rate as my waistline.   Whatever amount I overlap creates a bubble in the upper back area. It’s supposed to. We add darts to create roundness in our fabric which we hope matches the roundness of our bodies.  But I didn’t want extra roundness, just less length (and a greater slope) along the shoulder.  I would smash the bubble flat. My pattern would keep its outline but be wrinkled in the interior of the upper bodice.  Because my shoulder is the same length whether looking at it from the front or back, I made the same adjustment to both front and back pattern pieces.

This slash, overlap, smash technique worked very well for a number of years, over 20, not due to weight gain/loss.  I eventually climbed to 194 lbs and now am averaging about 40 pounds less. (Holidays and winter, YKWIM).  Possibly this worked for so long because it was a tremendous improvement over my previous efforts to control the upper bodice … um … fluidity.  Possibly it worked because during part of that time the artsy-fartsy look we now call lagenlook was very popular and definitely a major player in my closet. Possibly I was satisfied for so long because I turned my attention to other areas of fitting and other sewing experiences.

But now, with my body really beginning to show signs of aging, the slash and smash NSA is under inspection.  My back seems to be more rounded (maybe I’m just noticing it more). My tummy is definitely more rounded. I have no visible waist from a front-on view.  My rear and abdomen measurements are the same (weren’t always.)  One of the things I noticed from experiments with rotating the bust dart for design purposes, was that ease gets shifted, moved or as I like to think of it ‘thrown’ to the new rotated dart. You have the choice of sewing in the bust dart, leaving it unsewn or moving it to the seams. I wondered if I could do something similar with the back shoulder darts. i.e instead of slash and smash, could I rotate the dart and ease from the shoulder where it wasn’t needed  to the hip where my garments were begging for just a few more threads? Later when realizing that my back was rounding, could I throw some ease to the back?

Moving the shoulder dart to the hem wasn’t highly successful.

It added very little across the hip but caused flare at the hem line. A wide hem makes my shoulders look even narrower.  I prefer designs which at least visually balance my hip and shoulder line.  Because I need more back room, I rotated the shoulder dart to the back:

I extended the dart line all the way to the back. This not only added length to the back but also tilted the upper back towards the shoulder. This is a good solution, if I’m willing to sew a center back seam in  every garment . Another good and easy solution, would be a yoke. However, I have to apply this solution to the front as well (my shoulders are the original issue and they are the same front and back.)  I don’t want every garment I make to have a front yoke or center front seam.  While the rounding of my back is getting my attention, it’s really my hip and stomach that cause the worst fitting.  I decided to throw the dart across the hip and tummy:

This time the shoulder dart is extended to about the waist and then angled towards the side seam. This too works as far as reducing the shoulder length and does add some ease directly across my tummy and hips.  I also start noticing the center front and back rising no doubt caused by the fact that when the shoulder dart is closed, the leg going to the side seam opens and in addition to adding ease across tummy and hips, adds length to the side seams.  Side seams can be shortened what I couldn’t seem to fix was some additional fluting occurring at the hem especially in the center front. Again, I didn’t want the fluting at the hem;  I’m going for a pegged or at least vertical side seam to keep the visual balance between hip and shoulders.

I spent several session working just with tissue attempting to rotate the excess shoulder length by creating a dart at the shoulder, into other areas of the side and center seams. In short, I didn’t like the results.  In sheer desperation I decided to drop the line vertically (instead of perpendicularly) from the shoulder to meet with a horizontal line extending from the notches at the armscye.

slide it over 1″

and then true shoulder and armscye

I was really afraid to do this.  All  my sewing life, I’ve been told not to change the armscye or sleeve cap. It’s like burned in my brain. If you mess with these you’re going to ruin your garment because they can’t be fixed.   I’ve been emboldened by viewing to Peggy Saggers broadcasts. I was mesmerized by her demonstration of creating the sleeve cap and how it related to the armscye. I decided if this failed, I couldn’t be any worse off than before.  I did make the effort to measure the armscye both before moving that chunk and after truing the new armscye. It’s really close.

Sometime in the future, I’m going to attempt the seam allowance method of pattern alteration, but this looked so good, I wanted to see it in fabric.



3 thoughts on “EAC: Playing with the NSA

    1. Not quite sure I understand. Are you experimenting with the seam method of pattern alteration? Would love to see that myself. Judith Rasband has 2 books out of this method (which she claims to have invented). I’ve got one on my wishlist but at $100++ don’t expect to ever possess it. I don’t see many posts using the seam method to alter patterns. With so few reporting, I really wonder if it is worth studying.


  1. I am sorry, that was unclear, I have been working with getting the shoulder length right and had just tried Ann Rowley’s method (which is similar to your last diagram, that was the mystery comment 🙂 I have the Rasband book (it was a Christmas gift a few years ago from family) and have used it with many good results although Peggy Sagers’ webcasts and DVD’s have helped my understanding *much more* than any book I have purchased.


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