Fitting to a tee - Forward Shoulder Alteration


Forward shoulder alteration - why!

FIT(TING) TO A TEE (the forward shoulder alteration)

The great thing about sewing is that we are all designers and we are all able to get clothes that fit us well and make us look and feel even better.

But yet many people just sew up the patterns straight out of the envelope (or printer, as may be the case) with out enjoying the possibilities for individual fitting. Some may not do it, because they don’t know how.

SO I thought I would do a series on fitting and altering different kinds of t-shirt.

While there are many ways to fit garment and almost as many books instructing how to, most of them merely talk about fitting woven fabric garments. And while I’m a big fan of tissue fitting, it just will not work with a pattern with no or even negative ease.

According to Celia (The Palmer/Pletch instructor I interviewed for the Twin Needle podcast (a bonus episode from April ), the forward shoulder alteration is one of the most common needed alterations today.

This is because, as we spend more and more time at the computer and sewing machine, we round our shoulders bit by bit. Luckily it’s a very simple alteration!

I have quite a lot of forward-shoulder-ness (damn being in a computer literate family who had PC before anyone else and also sewing since child hood. And writing a lot… ;-)) – meaning that the outer part of my shoulder turns forward.

Forward shoulder alteration - why!

See? Very round (forward) shoulder – sorry for the lousy Iphone pic. What I could manage today..


This alteration is the  same whether you are working with a woven or a knit shirt. And I should mention that I’m just following the directions from Fit for real people (page 162).

I usually do a kind of big alteration of 12 mm (as I have very forward shoulders). To determine the amount you need, wear a shirt (with a shoulder seam, of course, raglan won’t work) and look in the mirror. Then place your finger at your shoulder point, and figure out how much you need (maybe getting somebody to measure it for you) to move the outer point of the shoulder seam.

The rest is easy:

You are moving the shoulder (outer) point of the shoulder seam towards the front, so you need to take some off the front shoulder and add some to the back shoulder:

Forward shoulder alteration

I’ve rotated the shoulder seam forward 1.2 cm (the red line) by taking it down in the front and up in the back


Then just adjust the seam allowances, too.

Forward shoulder alteration the final step.

Added seam allowances again (the broken lines) and I was done!



And voilá! Ready to cut!


Do you have any fitting issues you would like me to talk about here? Please let me know!

, , , ,

22 Responses to FIT(TING) TO A TEE (the forward shoulder alteration)

  1. sophie o. August 25, 2012 at 10:30 #

    I haven’t encountered this alteration yet, but maybe I should look at myself in a mirror from the side :) thanks a lot for sharing this, it doesn’t look too complex!

    • mariadenmark August 25, 2012 at 10:34 #

      It is really easy. The way I realized that I needed this (besides being told:-) was that shirts always seamed to be to high in the front – and too low in the back. And then getting my picture taken from the side…

  2. Kay August 25, 2012 at 22:34 #

    Thank you Maria! This is very helpful reminder. I work with a computer all day and my shoulders are pretty round! But I tend to forget so shoulder alterations and focus more on fba.

  3. Kay August 25, 2012 at 22:36 #

    Oh! About the fitting problem I have.. would you happen to know how to do a forward head adjustment on the pattern?

    • mariadenmark August 26, 2012 at 08:01 #

      If head sits forward on body (i.e. the shoulder seam doesn’t align with the back of the ear) you move the entire seam line (not just the shoulder point) forward.

  4. Kay August 28, 2012 at 04:39 #

    Thank you, MAria!! That is quite easy to do.. I’ll give it a try.

  5. Christine September 2, 2012 at 04:04 #

    Thanks for this tutorial. I had better look in the mirror too. Maybe I should think about good posture! Any tips for fba in tshirts without darts or with raglan or kimono sleeves?

  6. Christine September 2, 2012 at 04:07 #

    Oops, I just found all your other blog posts on fitting tees. Thanks

    • mariadenmark September 2, 2012 at 06:14 #

      I will be doing a post for an FBA on a kimono tee very soon :-)

  7. Sewing Princess September 3, 2012 at 11:18 #

    I have recently started to make this alteration too. Like you I have been sitting in front of a PC for years. Tees look so much better. Now I am trying to alter my sleeves too…wish me luck!

  8. Manuela November 5, 2012 at 20:08 #

    Thanks for this great tutorial. Because of scoliosis, my right shoulder is very much lower than the left one. So I need to learn to make a forward shoulder alteration to every pattern I use, except raglan sleeves, of course.
    I am having trouble altering the sleeve cap to fit once the shoulder has been altered, though–I am a beginner at sewing).
    Could you help me with this? Thank you!

    • mariadenmark November 6, 2012 at 12:16 #

      Hi Manuela

      Usually I don’t do anything to the sleeve. It depends of how much of a forward shoulder alteration you are doing, of course. But I just let the sleeve hang like I would without the alteration, but don’t match the shoulder points.
      However. If this doesn’t work for you, you might need to rotate the sleeve a bit. I found this tutorial on how to do it, which might help you until I get the time to make a more general tutorial on the subject:

      • Manuela November 6, 2012 at 13:32 #

        Thank you!!!
        I’ll study the link you provided–whenever you have a chance to make a tutorial about this, it will be wonderful. Thank you again.
        I do need to alter the sleeve because the fabric wrinkles and the fitting is really poor otherwise (my shoulder is really much lower then it should).

  9. Ginger Nelson June 4, 2013 at 16:01 #

    I have a quick question about this. When setting the sleeve, do you match the dot with the original shoulder point or with the new point? Thanks!

    • mariadenmark June 10, 2013 at 09:04 #

      Dear Ginger

      In knits, I match the sleeve with the original shoulder point – i.e. I don’t match the sleeve shoulder point with the shoulder seam, but place it where the shoulder seam would have been, had I not moved it.. Does that make sense?

  10. That's Sew Amy March 8, 2014 at 22:34 #

    Thanks for the tip about wearing a seamed shirt and measuring. I really need to start doing this adjustment, I have very rounded shoulders :/

    • mariadenmark March 17, 2014 at 08:41 #

      You are very welcome. It is sometimes the simplest things that makes the difference!

  11. Amanda March 19, 2014 at 06:17 #

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have been working on fit for a couple years and trying to figure out what additional adjustment(s) I need & your photo helped me realize this might be one of my problems too! I’m definitely going to try this on my next project & see if it helps – thanks so much!! :)

    • mariadenmark March 19, 2014 at 08:22 #

      Hi Amanda!

      I’m so glad you like it! Let me know how it works out for you!


  1. GIVEAWAY WITH MARIA DENMARK! | Sew Busy Lizzy - August 28, 2012

    […] I wasn’t even trying to match the neckline stripes, so it’s a little bit out-of-line but getting it this close with zero effort is very cool. I attached the neckband, flipped it over and went ‘WOW! Miracles never cease’.The fit on me is perfect. If you require some alterations, Maria has done two posts so far on this pattern 1) a full bust adjustment (alas this has never been a problem for me…) and 2) one for a forward shoulder adjustment. […]

  2. Ginger and Edith | maevesshed - May 29, 2015

    […] the need to do an FBA. I still had to do my other regular adjustment – for broad back and a forward shoulder. I used Nano Iro double gauze fabric and it is so soft and feels great to wear.  I got it from Miss […]

  3. Bold and blue Belladone | not sew simple - May 31, 2015

    […] know for certain until I have worn the dress for a day. Initially I assumed that I needed a forward shoulder adjustment as I often find that dresses slip back off my shoulders as I wear them and pull at the front as a […]

Leave a Reply

Get a FREE MariaDenmark pattern!

Get your FREE MariaDenmark Pattern

  • PLUS articles on fitting and sewing
  • PLUS great offers when you subscribe to the newsletter