The Fashioned Back Shoulder

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All rights reserved. Copyright Helen Sharp 2017


For years I was puzzled by The Fashioned Back Shoulder, or The English Shoulder.

fashioned back shoulder

Normally the shoulder slope would be created by a series of short rows. The back and the front would be the same and the shoulder seam would lie along the top of the shoulder.

I thought the fashioned back shoulder was a reference to couture where all of the seams are moved slightly to the back of the garment.

Last year I visited John Smedley in Derbyshire, the oldest manufacturing factory in the world. One day I will publish details of that lovely day out in a newsletter. They are still using fully-fashion machinery dating as far back as 1957. Mostly these are Bentley Cotton, Monk or a Bentley/Monk hybrid. I am familiar with these machines from working in factories in Scotland and Lincolnshire. They can only knit jersey (the ribs are transferred from another machine at the start of each piece). They can increase, decrease, stripe and make some pointelle/lace and that is the extent of their capabilities. I have known this for decades, but still the penny didn’t drop.

bentley cotton

I met with the designers at Smedley and happened to ask about the fashioned-back shoulder. They explained that because the machines weren’t capable of knitting short rows, it was a way to create a shoulder drop. Knit the front piece straight and an inch or so longer and fashion the back shoulder. When the back and front are attached at the shoulder seam a drop is created. There is no need for a back neck drop as the slightly longer front panel creates the drop when it is folded over. Genius!

fashion back shoulder 2

When the fashioning is placed to the front instead of the back, it is called an Envelope Shoulder.

As with the best designing, the limitations of the machinery spark creativity and a need to push the boundaries. This is how and why the fashioned-back shoulder was created.

Now it has become a “design feature” and is nothing to do with the capabilities of the machinery currently used (except at Smedley, of course!)

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