how to do a high round back adjustment

Do you have trouble with your handmade tops and dresses sliding backwards on your shoulders? Does your neckline creep up in front? Have you tried a forward shoulder adjustment without success? If so, you might benefit from a high round back adjustment.

As its name implies, this adjustment is useful for people who have a rounded upper back. This rounding elongates that section of back, which means you need to add length for the garment to fit properly.  Today I’m going to show you how to do this adjustment, which is actually quite simple and doesn’t take much time.

Learn how to make a high round back adjustment with this photo tutorial.

I’m demonstrating this adjustment on view A of our Gelato Blouse + Dress pattern. Performing the adjustment on this pattern does require an extra step or two, because view A has a back placket.  I am going to walk you through adjusting for a two-piece back with a placket, as well as the simpler adjustment that you would do if you were working with a back piece that is cut on the fold or is simply seamed.

Step 1: Determine how much length you need to add to your pattern piece. You can do this several different ways.

  1. You can make a muslin, and then slash the back bodice piece about 1/2″ below the neckline, leaving small fabric “hinges” on either side of your slash to hold the top and the bottom fabric together. If you use this method, you will need to pull the fabric above the slash up to the point where a chain necklace would sit on your neck. The rest of the back bodice garment will fall to its proper position, and the remaining gap represents the length you need to add in your adjustment.
  2. You can measure, while seated, the length from that chain necklace point on your neck down to your back waist. Then measure from the neck seam line on the back bodice piece, to the waist point. The difference between the two measurements is the amount of length you need to add.
  3. You can use good, old fashioned trial and error. If you’re the type to make “wearable muslins,” this might be a good choice. If you opt for this method, I’d recommend starting with a 5/8″ adjustment, because if you adjust more than 5/8″, the adjustment has to be performed in two places

Step 2: Prepare your pattern.

If you are using a single back bodice piece cut on the fold, this method will create a center back seam. You do not need to do anything to prepare the pattern before you start, but you will need to add a seam allowance to the pattern piece when you’re done.

If you are using a pattern that already has a center back seam, you’ll want to remove the seam allowance before you start the adjustment. You’ll add it back at the end.

If you are using a pattern with a back placket, like the Gelato Blouse, you’ll want to fold the pattern along the fold line before starting. Here is my pattern piece with the placket portion folded to the wrong side.

Learn how to do a high round back adjustment with this photo tutorial.

Step 3: Draw a horizontal line across your pattern piece at the neck seam line. The seam allowance for this pattern is 1/2″, so I drew my line 1/2″ below the neck edge. The pencil is pointing to the line that I drew.

Step 4: Cut along the line you just drew, starting from the center, and cutting to, but not through the armscye edge. You want to leave a tiny paper “hinge.”

Insert paper underneath the pattern (in my case, I folded my paper before inserting, so that when I unfolded the pattern piece at the end, I would already have paper under the folded placket). Hold down the bottom of the pattern while gently moving the top part up, spreading the pieces the amount of your adjustment (up to 5/8″; if you need more than 5/8″, you can add the difference to the pattern piece in Steps 5-6). Tape the pattern in place. If you are doing a 5/8″ adjustment or less, skip to Step 8.

Step 5: If you need more than 5/8″ length added, you can add the additional length here. We’re going to slash and spread a bit further down. This creates a gentler curve than if we tried to add all the length at the neckline.

Draw a horizontal line 6″ below the neck seam line.

Learn to do a high round back adjustment with this photo tutorial.

Step 6: This step is exactly the same as Step 4. We’re going to slash and spread this area of the pattern. I wanted a total of a 1″ adjustment, and since I have already adjusted my pattern 5/8″ at the high back, I need to spread my pattern pieces 3/8″.

After you’ve slashed and spread, tape the pattern piece in place.

If you are working with a pattern with a back bodice that was cut on the fold, or that has a center back seam, continue to Step 7. If you are working on a pattern with a back placket, skip to Step 8.

Step 7: (This step is only for patterns with a back bodice that was cut on the fold, or that has a center back seam. If you’re working on a pattern with a back placket, skip to Step 8.)

Trim the excess paper from your pattern. If you need to add a seam allowance, now is the time to do it. After you’ve added back the seam allowance, the adjustment will be complete. Congratulations! You are on your way to a perfectly fitting garment!

Step 8: (Only for patterns with back placket.) This is what your pattern piece should like when you’ve unfolded it. You can see that we can’t use it as is, because the placket allowance is higher than the neck seam, and they won’t match when folded over. Luckily there is an easy fix for this. Simply fold back the placket at the fold line, and trim the neck seam so that the seams match. Below I’ve outlined in black where you will cut once the placket piece is folded back in place.

Learn to do a high round back adjustment with this photo tutorial.

Here’s what your pattern piece will look like while still folded after you make the cut. Trim any other excess paper (like the paper I still have sticking out past the armscye).

Step 9: Unfold your placket again. Because of the way we did this adjustment, the edge of the placket piece will be slightly longer than the area it needs to match up with once it’s folded back. You have two options here. 1) You can  just leave the pattern piece as is, and ease the excess in while sewing the placket shut. 2) You can shorten the placket edge so that it lays flat. Do this by cutting from the edge of the placket to the fold line (the upper black line below), and then overlapping the two resulting edges until the pattern piece is the right length (check this by refolding the placket line and making sure the fold is smooth, with no puckers). In the photo below, the lower black line represents where I overlapped the pieces to get a smooth fold.

Learn to do a high round back adjustment with this photo tutorial.

You’re done and ready to cut out your pattern pieces. Congratulations! You’ve just mastered one more technique to help you achieve a custom fit on any garment.


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  1. Barb

    This is a great adjustment! I have made a gelato blouse and I have this issue, but didn’t know that I could fix it. I love the top but not how it slides back on my neck. I will be making another one and will give this a try. Thanks!

  2. Adrienne

    I’m just teaching myself garment sewing and your tips and tutorials are great! I am very much a visual learner, and it would be helpful to see what a ‘bad fit’ would look like that you would use this adjustment on.

    1. Hi Adrienne! The need for a high round back adjustment is a tricky one to illustrate because it’s not really a static fit problem. Basically, it is characterized by a garment that slides backwards on your shoulders. If you constantly find yourself shrugging your tops forward because the neckline is dipping in the back, or if the front necklines of your tops and dresses feel like they’re choking you, you might need this adjustment.

      If you look at your profile in the mirror, you might see that the hemline is higher in front than in back until you shrug the top forwards again. But an uneven hemline is not a reliable indicator of the need for this adjustment, as it could mean other things. For example, sometimes it means that you need a full bust adjustment. I hope this explanation has helped a little.

      1. Adrienne

        That is very helpful. Thank you!

  3. Marge

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THIS EXCELLENT TUTORIAL.I have been doing a type of this but this is more sophisticated. Spreading the extra in the way you show will give me a smoother finish..

  4. Peg Looby

    Thank you very much for this tutorial. Due to early onset osteoporosis, I am needing a round back adjustment now on every top. You are right, it is a drastic improvement on the look of the finished garment. I don’t know why I am afraid of adjustments. Maybe cause like most of us I love the fabric I pick out & don’t want to ruin the finished piece. This is so much more simple than I thought, thanks for all your time with tutorials that include pics. I cannot tell you how much I have learned from you. Teaching seems to come natural to you, the tutorials themselves are easy to follow. I just wanted you to know how much you are appreciated, Thanks again. I am clearly moving on from beginner to intermediate sewer with alot less fear!

    1. I’m very happy you’ve found it helpful! Try it out and let us know how it goes!

      1. Peg Looby

        I am planning on it, will tag you somewhere, Instagram probably quick to find & view. Thanks!

  5. Beverley

    I would really like to make about a 1/2″ high round back adjustment on a t shirt without having to make a centre back seam. Would it be possible to straighten up the curve? Would it make the neckline and/or the shoulder seam bigger?

    1. Hi Beverley. Yes, it is possible to do this – I did it on a Metro T-Shirt that I made last year (you can see it here). The neckband pulls the excess in. As you can see in the photos in the link, the neckline doesn’t gape in the back. Hope that’s helpful!

  6. Chris

    Thanks for this tutorial! What about the curve that you now have at the back vs a straight line from e added 1”? I also added a total of 1” and now have a curve from the waist to the neckline that is nearly ½”. Do you just edge on it and cut straight on the fold? Also, you have lengthened the center back. Do you angle the hem slightly? Again, thank you.

    1. Hi Chris! This tutorial creates a center back seam (see Step 2). You can sort of fudge it if you’re using knit fabric and making a tshirt, as the neckband will pull it in – I’ve done this and it has worked for me. But this won’t work on a woven.  And yes, you’ve lengthened the center back, but because of the curve, that length is going over the rounded upper back. I have done this adjustment a number of times on different garments and have never adjusted the hem at all.

      1. Chris

        Thank you so much for responding! Yep, I missed that even though I went back and looked for it! I’m going to try this tomorrow!

  7. Marge Gammie

    Thank you again for this excellent tutorial. I will make the extra adjustments next time. Your tutorials are do well, written making them easy to follow.

    1. You’re welcome! Enjoy!

  8. Bonnie Plested

    I’m about to make the Geneva V Neck blouse and need a 5 cm (2″) adjustment. This split option is perfect for the results I need. Thank you for generously sharing your knowledge and describing the technique in a thorough and practical way.

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