Aids to getting well fitting basic blocks
An updated version of this post is in my free .pdf
e-Book on Personal basic pattern making blocks.
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I keep going on about starting from well fitting basic pattern blocks. But how do you get those well fitting basic blocks in the first place. . .
Some people have no difficulty with fit. But obviously many of us do need help, as we support a huge industry of books and teachers and companies providing tools. It’s fascinating how many different methods there are.
I’ve pulled together all the information I have about methods which are supposed to make it easier to get a good basic block. These links have been scattered around in various posts. So here’s the combined list in case it’s helpful.
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Pattern Drafting Software
Most pattern making software has a demo version so you can check if you like the method of working. Though you do have to pay out before you can find if it produces a good pattern for your own body shape. The software packages include guidance about improving the fit. Sadly that doesn’t necessarily work, if the calculations don’t allow for your particular body shape specialities.
Bernina My Label [support discontinued at end of 2012]
Garment Designer (link on left in menu along top)
P. S. Your Personal Fit and pattern.stringcodes.com are 2 companies that do the calculating and printing out for you. Claim to send you basic personal blocks drafted from measurements you send them.
Fit Me Patterns claims to do the same for specific styles.
P.P.S. Wild Ginger, makers of Pattern Master Boutique, have personalised individual style pattern downloads at e-patterns.com.
I don’t know anything about these.
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There are also paper-and-pencil easy ‘personal fit’ methods. Allow for a limited number of measurements.
Top, skirt, pants – plastic templates slide together to make different sizes.
Fit Nice System
Tracing very simple basic shapes for knit top and elastic waist pants. Many suggestions for pattern alterations.
Sure Fit Designs
Bodice, skirt, pants, shirt, by join-the-dots tracing method. Good booklets on pattern alterations.
The Lutterloh System only allows for bust and hip measurements. When I was trying these methods I already knew that was not enough for me.
A few more comments in my post on easier fitting shells.
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Simplest basic block drafting from scratch
For people who’re willing to do the work themselves, there are basic pattern drafting instructions on the web. Start with your measurements and a large piece of paper, and make your own basic patterns.
Perhaps the best known free ones are from Burda Style :
Fitted bodice with darts
[If your front is not average in size or location, you may want to add shoulder-to-bust-point, shoulder-to-waist-over-bust-point, and bust-point-to-bust-point measures to this method. Or try Sure-Fit Designs. Also doesn't include sloping/ square shoulders, high round back. . .]
[Doesn't include a bicep measure, so not much help for large arms.]
Simple bra pattern
[Developed from the bodice block, so has the same limitations.]
[Doesn't allow for different measurements front and back.]
[Doesn't include crotch length. Or allowing for the different effects waist-to-crotch height, flat/ large butt or abdomen, deep torso, sway front/ back have on the pattern needed.]
All pattern drafting methods using personal measurements claim to give a well fitting personal block, but they all have similar limitations. As do the software methods based on them. They would have to be horrifically complicated to include all 88 fitting topics in the Liechty book (see below). These detailed personal adjustments really are made more easily using a muslin.
If you’d like to start your pattern drafting with something simpler, here’s a couple of books.
The simplest is :
Jessop & Sekora. Sew What ! Fleece
Simple patterns and simple sewing instructions for near beginners.
A bit more complex :
Cal Patch. Design-It-Yourself Clothes
Basic tee, shirt, dress, skirt, pants, plus instructions for pattern alterations. Minimal sewing instructions.
For a list of some pattern making books, see my post on Pattern making – the formal route.
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Altering a muslin to fit
Sadly the ‘easy’ methods don’t work for everyone.
I spent several disconcerting years trying most of these methods (including a couple of top-of-the-line software systems and some college level pattern drafting books) without getting a good fit.
I finally realised the only way that worked for me was to start with a muslin for a basic block (from any source) and do a lot of alterations using the information in the marvellous fitting book :
Liechty et al. Fitting and Pattern Alteration. 2nd edtn.
Yes, ‘doing it the hard way’ – but
Hurrah, success at last :D
If you’re very lucky you can find a good professional dressmaker to do this for you.
If I’d started this way, instead of spending years trying all the ‘quick and easy’ methods, I might have got there much faster. On the other hand, I don’t think I would have had the knowledge about patterns and my body to be able to ‘see’ the alterations needed, from the start. Like many other aspects of styling, for many of us getting a good fit is a learning process, not something that can be got right in one step.
Butterick, McCall’s and Vogue all have patterns for basic fitting garments you could start from. With some instructions about how to adapt them to fit better (not enough for me).
McCall’s 2718 dress with bodice fronts for 5 cup sizes. Individual patterns for sizes 6 to 22.
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A mixed method
Donald McCunn How to make sewing patterns has instructions for a simple personal block. You make a muslin from that. Plus instructions on altering that to fit an individual body.
He also has online classes with many videos which show how to do the pattern drafting, sew the muslin, and adjust it to fit well. Plus photos of different body shapes and alterations they need.
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Kitchen cling film
Or have some fun with a helper and a generous supply of kitchen wrap.
Here’s the original article describing the wrapping method, by Kathleen Fasanella.
Here’s a blogger telling it for real with many photos :D
This isn’t a completely simple method, as you need to add movement ease to the basic body shapes, to have a wearable pattern.
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Oh dear, this was supposed to be a quick summary :D but I keep thinking of comments.
I’m considering a post on which methods include which measures and so which body shape features. But even if it’s possible that may be rather a large task.
Sadly, none of the tools which are supposed to produce a well fitting basic block without much effort actually work for me. And I haven’t got a good helper. Don’t know how many of us have this difficulty. But I’m no longer innocent. Don’t believe any marketing claims that a simple method works for everyone ! Now I’ve found what I need in the Liechty book, I’m quite relaxed about it all. Before this I had several upsetting and confusing years without success, trying many methods which claimed to give a good fit but didn’t work well for my body shape. Ah well, it was one way of learning about fit.
So if the easy methods produce a successful pattern for you – then how marvellous for you, and how lucky you are. I’m jealous :D
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Links available April 2012
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