Sway Back Adjustment with Claire-Louise Hardie
Posted in Projects on Wednesday the 21st February 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
This adjustment is the one that makes the most difference to at least 50% of my dressmaking students. What is a sway back and how do you know if you need a sway back adjustment?
If you often find that there are folds or extra fabric pooling around the waistline on the back of your clothes, then a sway back may fix this. Essentially if the centre back is too long between the shoulders and the hip, this can be caused by a flat bum, or a backward tilted pelvis. A sway back adjustment essentially shortens the centre back of the garment between the shoulders and hips.
Note: Not all pooling at the back of your garment is a sway back issue. These are a couple of fit issues that may mis-diagnose a sway back.
1) The waist sits too high all the way around both the front and the back. In this case you need to shorten the torso all the way around.
2) The side seams tilt forward and the front waist rides up too. In this case you may need to adjust the width on the front of the bodice to allow for a full bust.
3) You have a delicious full booty. This can cause the skirt to ride up into the waist becasue there's not enough width around the hips. Try adding a little extra into the centre back seam of the hip area.
How to Apply a Sway Back Adjustment to a Bodice or One Piece Dress
This adjustment is essentially a narrow dart / wedge being taken out from the centre back to the side seam just above the waistline. On some pattern brands like Palmer Pletsch, the position will be marked.
One way to approach this is to do a tissue fit. If the centre back is not hanging down straight, i.e. it swings to the side, then pinch a small tuck at the CB about 1 inch above the waistline.
Once you lay the pattern flat, measure how much you want to lose at the centre back. You can get rid of the excess either by pinning out a dart like wedge from the CB to the side seam or by slashing from the CB to the side seam and over lapping. You'll then need to true up the sides and the centre back.
You'll now notice that the vertical lines like the darts, grain-lines are now no longer straight. Simply re-draw by placing a ruler in line with the ends and drawing a new straight line.
If your centre back seam is on a fold, you'll need to straighten up the centre back seam line, as the sway back creates a curved line that can't be placed on the fold. Use a ruler to straighten the centre back.
The final step is to true up the hemline which may have become too short at the back. Use a ruler to square up the new hem line.
Applying a Sway Back Adjustment to a Skirt or the Bodice of a Waisted Dress
The same principle applies to a skirt or the bodice of a dress with a waist seam. Sometimes the side seams of a skirt don't hang straight indicating a sway back is needed, or the back of the waistline sits too high. Instead of removing the dart shape, you're merely removing a triangular wedge along the top of a skirt or the waist of a dress bodice. You may find it helps to tie some elastic around your waist to work out this adjustment.