“Walking” a pattern is the process of matching up stitching lines of each seam, to determine if the seams will line up correctly when sewn in fabric. In some cases the stitching lines will be exactly the same length, which is straightforward matching: center-front and center-back seams are almost always the same length. Seams that need “easing in” extra fullness will have slightly different stitching line lengths and need to be measured:
- sleevecaps of set-in sleeves that get eased into the armscye
- waists that get eased into waistbands
- princess lines easing over the bust apex
- backs of shoulders which get eased into the front shoulder (in tailoring)
- backs of sleeves which have extra fullness ease into the front at the elbow
- backs of men’s trousers which have extra fullness eased into the front at the side-seam so that they will drape correctly
Every seam of every pattern piece in every size should get walked in alpha-testing. When patterns are graded with a dedicated pattern-grading software system such as Accumark , walking is done automatically. When grading is done manually, walking is done manually, using a measure tape or flexible ruler:
I’ll show you how to walk a pattern seam manually, using as an example the “Pumpkin Spice” dress by Heidi and Finn. This is an adorable kids’ dress or tunic, with an extensive size range, and several variations on set-in sleeves….so there’s a lot of value for the price.
Last March a friend was having difficulty setting in the sleeves for this style. She sent me photos: strangely it appeared that the bodice was being eased into the sleevecap, instead of the other way around (lining, left…look how flat the sleeve is and how puffy the bodice is) and the shoulder-seam formed a strange peaked bump-out, making it hard to set in the sleevecap (damask outer fabric, right):
Generally when you have a dressy set-in sleeve (as opposed to a casual dropped shoulder that is stitched flat), the sleevecap has extra length to be eased into the armscye, so that the sleeve will shape over the upper arm…anywhere from 1/4″ to 2″ extra length depending on the size of the garment and the height of the sleevecap. I bought the pattern to see what the problem was.
I walked the armscye and sleevecap and determined that it was indeed incorrect. I sent an inquiry to the designer through the Etsy convo system (twice) but didn’t hear back. Then I put the pattern in my “to do” pile (planning on making muslins and reviewing the pattern) and forgot about it until today, when somebody asked about the pattern on FB. Let’s look at how to walk the seam, and also how to fix it the discrepancy easily and quickly.
Here are the sleevecap (left) and armscye (right). Both are “mirrored” ie; there is no separately drafted front and back. That’s a fairly high sleevecap but also a very large armscye cut-out that the sleeve needs to fit into:
Also the shoulder-seam ends in a “peak” which has got to make setting in the sleeve difficult (left), but it appears to be deliberate because it looks the same way in the instructions (right):
Before you start walking a seam, you should draw the stitching line/seam allowance onto the pattern pieces, for accuracy. You are matching the stitching lines, NOT the pattern edges:
To walk the seam, you start by matching up one end of the stitching line, and then taking little “walking” steps, you match up the stitching lines as if the pieces were being sewn together:
The sleevecap at the fold is too short to meet the seam-allowance line of the armscye shoulder-seam:
I proceeded to measure the stitching lines; this can be done with a measuring tape (left) or a flexible ruler (right):
Edited to add : you can also use this nifty tool, suggested by a fellow sewist (I am ordering one today, yay!….product review coming soon):
Here is how the sleevecaps and armscyes measured up (stitching lines not including seam allowances):
It’s not possible to set in a sleeve correctly with negative ease in the sleevecap. But there’s an easy fix here, because the shoulder slope is very shallow and the corner of the bodice at the shoulder & armscye needs to be trued, both front and back (unless you want to keep the jagged peak at the shoulder):
This reduces the armscye by 3/8 in sizes 12 month, 18 month, and 2T….and 1/2″ in the upper sizes, both front and back:
You could adjust size 5 and 6, and proceed. There’s personal preference involved in “how much” sleevecap ease is optimal: my grandmother believed in putting in as much as possible without puckering (in her mind the sure tell-tale sign of an amateur). You can imagine this involved lots of steaming over a sleeve-ham. She would have slashed-and-spread the sleevecap, adding 1/4″ to each side of the sleeve so that it looked like this:
But it’s up to you; as long as you don’t have NEGATIVE ease, it’s okay. Tech guru Kathleen Fasanella writes that excess shouldercap ease is unnecessary.
Another reason that the armscye is too large for the sleeve is the shape: in my opinion the scoop is far too deep in the back and needs to be adjusted (left) ..and the back of the sleevecap accordingly (right):
And then I would re-walk everything. I wish I had time right now but I’m backed up with orders. I do plan on it however because it is a VERY CUTE design, and worth perfecting.
Edited 7/25/16 to add: I decided to make a bodice muslin. Here’s what it looks like before setting in the sleeve (left). The shoulder slope has enough room for shoulderpads (right):
The shoulder-seam does indeed form a strange shape (left) which remains after setting in the sleeve (right) which required lots of stretching the bias of the bodice:
The problem with having a sleevecap smaller than the bodice is that the sleeve is “flat”, or collapsed, when it should be full and rounded (left) and also the shoulder has too much puff that needs removing (right):
Second muslin: after trueing the shoulder there is a smooth slope:
The peak bump-out shape is gone, so setting in the sleeve will be easier:
The sleevecap gets eased with 2 rows of basting thread to create shape for the upper arm:
And it fits the way a sleeve should:
You may notice the across-shoulder and bodice are quite wide:
This muslin is a size 4 and measures 11″ across-shoulder ; standard body-size across-shoulder is 9 1/2″. The garment chest measures 28″; standard size 4 chest body-size is 23″. Even though this is a lined garment, so that will pull up some of the ease, it still seems too wide to me. The bodice can be decreased in width by overlapping 1/4″ (left) front and back….this will increase the armscye depth 1/8″ which is fine because it was reduced when trueing the shoulder so this opens it up again (right):
From here I would go to the next fitting muslin (when I get time)….
7/26/2016 edited to add: a reader has advised that testers found the armscye very tight. Keeping in mind that this style is completely lined, including the sleeves, the armscye needs to be increased. I would slash-and-spread the bodice horizontally (where it is cut on photo above right) and increase the armscye depth by at least 1/4″.