More on personal sewing style – how do you like to fit ?
I reviewed fitting aids in a post on aids to well fitting blocks.
Most of those are methods of getting a pattern that’s a better fit than average.
This post is about ways of getting an existing pattern to fit better.
There are two groups of techniques involved :
- methods of fitting (here),
- if you make a fabric trial garment, then there are several methods for transferring changes from muslin to make a revised pattern (later post).
There are many parts of the fitting process. Long ago I innocently assumed it was all well understood and everyone used the same method :D Now I don’t follow any one expert entirely, but combine tips from several.
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Different basic approaches
Liechty et al Fitting and Pattern alteration show 3 different ways of fitting :
- altering the pattern, on the basis of differences between your measurements and the pattern measurements,
- tissue fitting,
- altering a trial garment (‘reading the wrinkles’).
Many people like to make as many changes as possible to the pattern before (or without) making a test garment. For that you need to analyse your fitting issues, and find the differences between your measurements and the pattern measurements. I thought I’d like to work that way, as I’m good at analysis and practical sums. But I’ve found I prefer ‘reading the wrinkles’ on a test garment. Look for sags and strains, and try changes to see what works. Without any need to analyse what’s wrong and by how much.
Fitting gets better with experience – you know what to look for and what to do about it.
There are some fit alterations where you need to add a wedge to the flat fabric shape, such as doing an FBA or allowing for a large behind. See my posts :
Fabric wedges below the waist.
Note on the FBA.
It isn’t necessary to do this to the pattern before making a test garment. If you don’t minding slashing and spreading your fabric, it’s quite easy to add a wedge to a muslin. Watch the ‘At a Glance’ sales video for Lynda Maynard’s fitting class at Craftsy if you’re not familiar with this technique. Drawings and written instructions in Liechty et al Fitting and Pattern alteration.
It is possible to do this on yourself. You just need patience to keep taking the muslin on and off while you test different size darts or widths of added strip. I add temporary front openings if need be, to make it easier.
It is easier if you have a fitting buddy. I haven’t, but I have got patience. Use a full-length mirror in good light. Light from the side shows wrinkles well. Other people find taking photos is a big help, but that’s not something I’ve tried.
Tissue fitting – loved by many but not for me. I like to keep the starting point pattern intact – I put the pattern back in the envelope using the original fold lines – eek :D. Fitting buddy essential for tissue fitting. You only have half the garment, and how do you pin the centre back in place on yourself ! Lots of guidance in Palmer-Pletsch books and DVDs.
Another advantage of testing the fit on your body (tissue or fabric) is that you can adjust lengths, shapes and positions of style elements, etc. until they flatter your face and body shape.
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Some specific fitting guides
There’s a huge range of general methods and specific details used by different experts. Obviously fitting is one of my life quests, as I’ve tried a lot of them :D
Since writing my post on fitting aids I’ve taken some courses on ‘reading the wrinkles’.
Sarah Veblen has a book Guide to perfect fitting, and pdf lessons with support videos at Pattern Review.
Detailed information, and personal help in the PR courses. Better content on fitting armholes and making a sleeve to match than I’ve seen elsewhere.
Lynda Maynard – video lessons at Craftsy
Many examples of slash and spread on the muslin. (If you’re on the look out for ideas for fitting larger high hips above smaller thighs, Dolly is an example.)
I’ve also tried a class on changing the pattern before making a trial garment, Sandra Betzina on pant fitting at Craftsy. Reminded me that’s not a method I’m comfortable with.
I learn most easily from watching videos. These are some DVD series on fitting – haven’t watched most so don’t know what methods they use.
Palmer-Pletsch (tissue fitting)
There are also many books on fitting – I’ve only tried the Palmer-Pletsch ones and don’t know what methods the others use.
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Pattern with or without seam allowances
You can make many fit adjustments if you cut wide seam allowances. If you’re not happy doing this by eye, you need to add them to the pattern before using it to cut fabric.
I find it easier to use a basic pattern without seam allowances. So I can draw round it to mark the stitching lines, and cut outside them. I have a transparent french curve with 5/8″ marked round the curve – makes marking stitching lines easy (here in UK).
Pattern with or without seam allowances ? People feel strongly for or against.
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Reducing the effort of making a muslin
Some people avoid muslins like the plague. I have so many fit issues that making muslins has big rewards. I have reduced the hassle.
I use swedish tracing paper, so I can trace a pattern and mark out a trial garment in one step. Best to use fabric close to the garment fabric for a final test.
I have my basic blocks in card, with no seam allowances and the darts cut out, so I can draw round them easily.
(Yes, top and bottom don’t match – I haven’t finished revising the top to fit my new waistline. Neckline and shoulders are still useful.)
Mark stitching lines, and horizontal and vertical reference lines, on the test garment fabric. Some experts use tracing wheel and carbon paper to transfer the lines from the starting pattern, then baste over the tracing with contrast thread. They warn against permanent marker pens. Sorry, those are what I use ! Another advantage of swedish tracing paper – you can just trace all those lines.
I confess I do the first fittings with the seam allowances sticking outwards, and without pressing the muslin.
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Sequence of fitting
I like to bodice fit from the shoulders down.
Perhaps it’s best to start by fitting our ‘biggest’ difference from average. I have sloping shoulders and a high round back. It’s good to start by getting things to hang well from there. Many people like to start with an FBA. Or re-locating the bust point. For fitting pants, I first get the crotch extensions right. Other people may deal with large buttocks first, or waist/ abdomen larger than average. Some people find it best to start with length adjustments. When you’ve solved the biggest issue, many other things may fall into place.
And how important is it to be able to move comfortably ? I test sitting down in pants, walking in skirts, reaching forward in tops. . .
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How many muslins ?
I make adjustments to a test garment until it’s right, then make a pattern from the final version. Rather than going through a cycle of make pattern – test in fabric – revise pattern – make another muslin, etc. I do baste the changes into the muslin, instead of just pinning them. To stabilise the muslin before making more changes to it.
Some people like making many muslins so they keep everything neat and tidy. The most I’ve heard of is 7 muslins ! Sorry, I get screaming bored if I do this. I only started enjoying fitting when I realised it isn’t necessary to make a completely new muslin after each fitting adjustment. One of my personal limitations :D
Though in an ideal world you do make a muslin from what you think is the final pattern, to fine tune the fit.
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If you make a test garment, transferring the fitting changes from the muslin to make a revised pattern is an essential part of the process. There are several methods for this. I wrote so much it’s a separate post.
I’m secure now about the methods I like for fitting. Though it’s taken several years and multiple false starts to get here. Many methods are not for me. (Tissue fitting – I tried it once :D Many other details of methods – I look at and cringe “no way”.) But I’ve learned something interesting or useful from most of them. And many methods I don’t enjoy are loved by others.
There definitely isn’t “one size fits all” for fitting methods!
If you have a body shape fairly close to average, most methods may give you a good result.
If like me you’re well distant from average, you may have to experiment to find the fitting method you prefer.
If fitting involves a lot of work for you, best to think of it as a process of learning, exploring, improving – slow but sure rewards.
Find processes you enjoy, so you’ll willingly do this again :D
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Links available January 2013
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