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Expanding the Middle
Sandra Betzina, Power Sewing

As many women age and put on weight, a disproportionate amount of this weight goes to the middle section of the body, making it a difficult area to fit without increasing the armhole and bust area.

To determine how much you need, measure your body 3 inches under and above your natural waistline. Choose the larger measurement as your reference measurement. To this measurement add 4 to 6 inches of ease. A drapey fabric which is slightly generous on the oversized area will be more flattering than a skimpy cut.

Compare your full bust measurement to the pattern size you are using. If more is needed at the bust, divide the alteration amount by 4 and add to the side seams. Now flat pattern measure the pattern between the seamlines in your oversized area. Determine how much will be needed to reach your tummy measurement plus 4 to 6 inches of ease.

Check yourself out in a full length mirror. Is the majority of fullness in the front or is your fullness distributed around the middle section of the body in front and back? This will determine where the pattern is altered. For many women the back is relatively flat and the fullness is located on the front only. For this figure, only the front pattern piece will be spread. If an additional 10inches is needed, and the front pattern piece represents only half of the front, the front pattern needs to be cut and spread 5 times with 1 inch spreads to achieve our goal of an additional 10 inches.

Divide the bottom of the front pattern piece in half to mark the location of the first slit. Now divide each side into thirds so that 5 marks are clearly visible along the bottom of the pattern front. Starting at the marking closest to the side seam, extend marking parallel to the grainline for 3 inches. At the end of this line, draw a perpendicular line all the way to the side seam. Starting at the next division mark on the bottom front, draw another line parallel to the side seam, only make this line an inch or so longer before drawing the perpendicular line over to the side seam. Continue in this manner across the front, each parallel line extending higher than the previous one, before heading to the side seam. All perpendicular lines must reach the side seam below the armhole.

Place a large piece of paper on your work surface with scissors, tape, and pattern ready for the slash-and-spread process. Tape center front to the paper at the top and bottom. Begin cut at front bottoms, continue cutting across the pattern until you stop 1/8 inch from pattern cutting line at side seam. This will allow the pattern to lie flat when expanded.

Allow the bottom of the front to fan out with 1 inch openings along bottom cut lines. Begin taping pattern to paper from the center, working toward the side seam. Even up the bottom front with a curved ruler. Lengthen at center front so that the garment will hang correctly.

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Plenty of fullness has now been added without affecting the armhole area.


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