Archive for the ‘fit of clothes’ category

Ease levels

October 12, 2013

After those voluminous architectural jackets, perhaps this is a good time to talk about ease levels !
Ease is the difference between the body measurement and the finished garment measurement at the point of interest. (Finished measures sometimes on the pattern envelope, usually on the tissue.)

For example, if your bust measures 36 in, and the finished garment measure at bust level is 38 in. then the bust level ease is :
38 – 36 = 2 in.

In practice the amount of ease is a surprisingly complex matter, as it depends on ease of movement, stretchiness of fabric, personal preferences, layering, and design.

I’m always wanting to check ease levels, and never seem to find my version of the BMV patterns ease level chart, which I always need to adapt anyway, so here are some comments.

The original BMV ease table is here .

Some of us are not a RTW shape and have to buy garments which are huge in most places, just to be able to move without tearing the buttons off in our largest area. . .
Hopefully when we can make our own clothes, we can learn enough about fitting and pattern alteration to get round that problem.

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Types of ease

Ease is not a simple matter of a few easy rules, as there are different types of ease for different purposes, as well as personal preferences to take into account.

There are 4 sorts of ease :

Negative ease

Garments made out of very stretchy fabrics, such as lycra leotards, may actually be made smaller than the body.
In these modern days of many stretch fabrics with different properties, pattern making books provide several different basic pattern blocks for fabrics with different amounts of stretch.

Movement ease

The minimum ease needed to be able to move.
For example, if you wore a skin tight garment in a non-stretch fabric, you wouldn’t be able to breathe.

The amount of movement ease needed depends on the amount of stretch in the fabric.
And people differ in their preferences.
Some people want to look sleek, and are happy to go without being able to move easily, to get the effect they want.
As in wearing a party dress which is too tight to sit down in. . .

In a close fitting jacket, with less than 2 inches of ease, you may not be able lift your arms easily above about 45 degrees.
So people who like freedom of movement often prefer 4 inches or more of ease in a jacket.
Most casual garments are made with more than minimum ease.

One of the problems with getting a good pants pattern is that they have both to look good while standing and feel comfortable when bending over or sitting.

There’s all sorts of specialist information available for particular sports, about the different areas of a garment where special ease is needed.

Layering ease

Here’s a diagram of the different levels of ease, adapted from the BMV table.


This is an ease scale for non-stretch wovens.

CF . . . close fitting
F . . . . fitted
SF . . . semi-fitted
LF . . . loose fitted
VLF . . very loose fitting

Each level of ease assumes you want the garment to fit over the next one down : coat over jacket over blouse.
Though these days things are not quite so simple.


The BMV ease table says jackets are not made close fitting.
But I know at least one pattern making book where the jackets are made from the same block as the dress.
Which means there’s not room for more than a camisole under, and minimum movement ease.
Say 2 in./ 5 cm. Perhaps less if the jacket is the focus of your outfit and always worn closed.

A jacket needs to be at least 1 inch larger than what it’s layered over, if it’s going to be worn as a layer over a blouse or shirt.
A lined jacket is often made 1 in. larger than an unlined one, for the same reason.
Then add at least 1 inch more, for each additional layer.

For layering a lined jacket over a sleeved shirt/ blouse, many people prefer at least 4 in / 10 cm. Especially in winter for more layering.

And also beware ease of sleeves. Fitted jacket pattern sleeves need to be checked. Many of them assume you’ll be wearing it over only a camisole or tank. So armhole and sleeve are not large enough to be worn comfortably over another garment with sleeves.

When you have a well-fitting jacket pattern, you may find you can wear a closer fit and still be comfortable. It’s a matter of personal preference and the usual clothes you wear a jacket over.
I need many layers for warmth, like to move easily, and am not close to a RTW shape, so most of my jackets are very loose fitting.


A bit bigger than jackets, as they’re usually designed to layer over a jacket.
The diagram has the coat ease levels BMV recommend for wearing over a jacket.

The BMV ease table says coats are not made close fitting.
But I have one coat pattern from them with ease of only 2 inches, obviously intended to be worn only over a top without a jacket.
So again, check finished measurements of a coat pattern to make sure you will be able to wear it in the way you expect.

Also the suggested ease levels assume the coat is worn over a jacket at the same level of fit.
For example, a fitted coat wouldn’t be comfortable over a very loose fitting jacket. There just wouldn’t be room inside the coat for all the extra fabric.

Design ease

The ease added by the designer to give the desired silhouette.
For example the 80s – 90s are famous for their huge shoulders and very loose fit.

For the last decade or so, fitted or close fitted has been the norm.
In recent seasons a ‘slouchy’ look has appeared – very loose fit has returned but without the huge shoulder pads supporting it.

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Hip level ease

The main recommendations are for ease at bust level.

Hip level ease applies mainly for skirt, pants, shorts, culottes.
But also applies to the hip level of dresses, long jackets, coats.

On close fitted and fitted and semi-fitted styles, there’s often one inch less ease at hip level.
For example, if the bust level ease is 3 in. then the hip level ease is 2 in.

But allow for your personal needs.
For example, as my hips spread 4 inches when I sit down, I make sure there is at least that amount of ease at hip level.

On loose and very loose fitting styles, the finished garment measurements are often straight up-and-down. Hip level is often the same as the finished garment measure at the bust level.
But as the ease at bust level is more than 8 inches on these loose garments, that’s usually no great problem – unless your hips are 3 or more sizes larger than your bust.

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This is all very dry. Ease is not a simple matter, but it is useful to understand how ease works and what your preferences are.

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Link available October 2013

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Pant patterns and body shape

August 24, 2013

3 years ago (!) I wrote a post on pant styles for different body shapes.
Which suggested patterns that help with pant fit.
Also one of my most popular posts is on adding wedges to pants patterns.
Since then, I’ve seen two more patterns which deal with different pants fit difficulties.

The fit issues I’ll mention are :
– long or short rise,
– deeply indented waist,
– midriff larger than hips,
– protruding stomach,
– large or flat butt, deep torso, large thighs.

– – –

Fit for Art Eureka pants


Those aren’t 3 different styles, they’re 3 different rear sizes !

Pattern information here, with videos about fit.

The basic pattern has CB or side seam zip and tapered legs. Brief instructions for making other styles.
No instructions for inserting zip. Try this free Craftsy class on zips (not fly zips).

No pockets, so add your choice by copying across from another pattern.

The advantage of this pattern is it offers 3 different back pattern pieces for each size.


Basically, a pattern choice for people with a flat butt, an average butt, or a large butt.
The largest back also helps people like me who have a deep torso, or people with large thighs.

The patterns differ in :
– length of crotch extensions,
– angle of CB seam,
– shape of crotch curve.

This pattern doesn’t claim to be a quick and easy fix. You’re expected to make a test garment (perhaps several) marked with horizontal and vertical reference lines. Then adjust it according the instructions until the reference lines are horizontal and vertical on your body.

This is based on Sarah Veblen’s fitting ideas. She has a pants fitting class with pdfs and videos based on this pattern, at Pattern Review. Or get help from her direct, by video or e-mail and photos, contact information here.

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Sure-Fit Designs Pants kit

Pattern information here

The SFD pattern uses waist, high hip, hip, and crotch length measurements.
Find the dots corresponding to those measurements on the master pattern, and join the dots to trace off your pattern shape.

(Sorry about the quality, this is a screen shot from an on-line video, not the pattern ! I have an earlier version of the pattern.)

Looks complex, but the grid is for finding your crotch length.

There’s DVD support for fitting, and for making a jeans pattern (closer fit).

And many support videos at the SFD Video Library
(scroll to about 2/3 down the page)

Sadly this pattern doesn’t work for me, even as a starting point for fitting tweaks.

My back is several sizes larger than my front.
Well, I could get round that by taking separate front and back measures, and drafting the Sure-Fit front and back to these different measurements.
(See my post on getting to know my sizes.)

Large or small waist

I also have a deeply indented waist. When such people buy RTW pants to fit our hips, we get spare fabric flapping around at the waist. We need more than minimal darts.

My large high hip pads mean I need 3 back darts for a good fit to the waist. Here is my ‘hip template’, back on left.


Perhaps I can’t complain about the Sure-Fit pattern only having one standard dart. Such an extreme waist-high hip difference is rarely mentioned by anyone. Some writers even rule against having that many darts that wide. I’ve only seen one example of a pattern like mine – one of the people in Lynda Maynard’s CD-book on De-mystifying fit.

In contrast, if your midriff is larger than your hips, the last thing you’re concerned about is adding more darts. In RTW, the best you can hope for is to find a company that designs for rectangle shape people, with waist similar to hips. Rather than for the ‘average’ person with waist smaller than hips.

Sure-Fit Designs do consider whether you’re bigger at mid-riff or hip. She talks about ‘heart’ and ‘diamond’ body shapes, rather than ‘apples’ and ‘pears’.
The master pattern includes both high hip and low hip measures. So if your high hip is larger, that can be represented.

(The only person with this body shape I’ve seen being fitted is in Lynda Maynard’s Sew the Perfect Fit class at Craftsy, though that’s for a skirt not pants.)

Deep body

The need for more than one waist dart isn’t my only problem with SFD pants.
SFD assumes that, if you have a long crotch measure, the extra length needs to be added to the rise.

While for people like me, with a deep torso because of deep pelvic bones or large butt, or large thighs which cause a similar issue – what we need is longer crotch extensions.


All these lines are the same total length.
Think of them as a simple diagram of a vertical cross section through your lower torso mid-line from front to back. Which is most like you ?

This shows that just knowing the crotch length measure alone is not enough. You also need to know where that length is.
Are you longer or shorter than average from waist to crotch – are RTW pants always too long or too short for you here ?
Or are you longer or shorter than average from front to back :
– Do RTW pants collapse at the back ?
– Or give you big ‘smiles’ – fabric pull lines pointing to the crotch ?
– Or just plain feel uncomfortable and cut into your crotch, especially when you sit down ?
– Or do your pants pull down an inch or more at the back when you sit down ?
Big thighs also mean you need more fabric between your legs.

The Eureka pattern deals with this depth issue directly.

Unlike the Eureka pattern, all SFD patterns have the same crotch curve shape and CB seam angle. And all SFD patterns with the same hip measurement have the same crotch extensions.

However, Sure-Fit pants do solve fitting problems for many other body shapes.

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Add princess seams

If your main fit issue is a protruding stomach, start by letting out the CF and side seams. If that doesn’t give a good result, add princess seams to the front pattern piece. They give lots of opportunities for adding extra fabric in this area !


This is supposed to be a horizontal cross section of either your lower front or back, such as the view looking down at your tum.

Shaping seams or main darts are usually best placed about where your body stops being sort-of straight across and starts to bend back to your sides.

Quite easy to add these seams.
– Feel your body to find where the biggest ‘bend’ comes in your shape around.
– Measure how far sideways this is from Centre Front.
– Draw a line down your front pattern piece, this distance from CF and parallel to the grain line.
– Separate the two pattern parts and add seam allowances.

Make up your test pants with wide seam allowances here, so you can try out how much to add. 1 in./2.5 cm on each new seam edge adds 4 in./10 cm to the total width. Like people with large midriff all round, you may need to compromise about how much extra fabric you have to allow over your hips and thighs to deal with the transition from large mid-section to thin legs.

(P.S. here’s a post from Colette Patterns with another method for abdomen adjustments.)

If you have a large rear, you could try adding princess seams to your back pattern. There may be some combination of shaped princess seams and longer crotch extensions which gives you the best result.

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Which pattern for which fit issue ? – summary

If you have difficulties with a long or short rise, you could try the Sure-Fit Designs approach.

While if you have a flat or large butt, deep torso or large thighs, the Eureka pants may help.

Both ? I would start from the Eureka pants, as adding or removing rise is just a matter of lengthening or shortening the pattern between waist and hip. Much easier than changing the crotch extensions and crotch curve shape and angle.

Heavily indented waist : Eureka pants could be best at dealing with this. As the dart positions, numbers and sizes are fitted directly on the body, rather than being supplied by the pattern.

Though it is a bit of a fiddle to do this on yourself. I used a mixed approach, made some guesstimates about dart position by feeling my shape, and about numbers and sizes by comparing my waist and hip measures. Drafted a trial pattern, then improved the details using a test fit.

Midriff larger than hips : Sure-Fit Designs patterns include an explicit measure of the midriff area.

If you have a protruding stomach, try adding front princess seams.

Whichever pattern may be best for dealing with your fit issues, SFD is the company to go to for instructions on altering your basic pant pattern to make everything from palazzo pants to jeans, yoga pants, leggings, shorts, capris. . . These instructions apply to any basic pant pattern, not just to patterns produced by their system.

Might either of these patterns help you towards the perfect pant fit which is at the end of the rainbow :D

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Patterns and links available August 2013

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Up-down, side-to-side

August 10, 2013

One thing Gale Grigg Hazen mentions in her book Fantastic fit for every body, which I’ve found very helpful and haven’t seen elsewhere.

I get a better fit if I :

– move front and back bodice pieces sideways relative to each other at shoulder seam.


– move front and back bodice pieces up and down relative to each other at underarm seam.


Of course this isn’t a completely straightforward change, as it requires a bit of adjustment to neckline, armhole and sleeve cap, to get them all to match up properly. Plus a small added strip to one of the pattern pieces.

But as my back is wider and longer than my front, I’ve found this adjustment is surprisingly effective in improving my fit with commercial patterns.

P.S. Another tip on fit.
I’ve recently discovered the free pdf from Fit for Art Patterns, on how to fit their Tabula Rasa jacket.
Very clear.
Draw similar horizontal and vertical reference lines on your muslin for any pattern and follow the same instructions, to improve the fit of nearly any upper body pattern (though it’s no help with waist fitting or sleeve cap).

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Links available August 2013

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Favourite books – pattern drafting and fit

June 15, 2013

More of my favourite books. I found I had so much to say on pattern making, it’s become two posts.This is the second, on pattern drafting and fit.
See the first section of my post on Favourite books – pattern altering, which explains the distinction I make between pattern drafting and pattern altering.

For general comments on my book lists, see my first book post, on favourite books about Style and wardrobe planning.

So here are some books on starting pattern making with just a blank piece of paper, pencil, ruler, list of measurements, and no simplifying tools or aids.

I’m just talking about pattern drafting books here, not about commercial simplified methods for getting well fitting basic pattern blocks, such as a fitting shell from one of the pattern companies, a template/ ruler, a multi-size traceable pattern, or pattern making software. As far as I know there are no books on these. (See my post on Easier fitting shells.)

Also here are books on fit. Even when you draft a personal block, you usually have to adjust the fit, unless you’re lucky enough to be an ideal match with that particular approach to pattern drafting. Before I started trying this myself, I was naive enough to assume all pattern drafting methods are the same, and that they all really do make a perfectly fitting block without any further effort. Sadly, not so.

These are personal favourites, I make no claim that they’re best for everyone !

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Pattern DRAFTING from personal measurements

Simplified drafting for specific projects

Francesca DenHartog Sew What Skirts

Jessop & Sekora Sew What Fleece

Simplest books on general techniques

Easy books on both pattern drafting and pattern altering.

René Bergh Make your own patterns.
I often look at this book first as she makes pattern making look easy. Sadly her simple methods don’t always give good results (the finished clothes often don’t fit well). So after I’ve built my confidence by looking at her instructions, I check other books for refinements. She includes quarter-scale patterns, with instructions for how to scale them up, to use if you don’t want to do the drafting.

My second-easiest book is Gillian Holman Pattern Cutting made easy.
Simpler pattern alterations than in Adele Margolis Make your own dress patterns. (Margolis doesn’t include drafting personal blocks so is listed in my post on pattern altering.) Gillian Holman gives instructions for drafting but recommends starting from a commercial fitting shell pattern.

Professional textbooks

I haven’t seen some of the big ‘bibles’ of pattern making. None of those get full enthusiasm at Amazon from beginners.
Here’s the index to the 3rd edition of Connie Crawford’s book, to give an idea what these big books contain.

Lori Knowles Practical Guide to Patternmaking
Project-based, but I find this is my ‘go-to’ pattern making book. I nearly always find what I’m looking for in the index, then find the instructions are what I want. Why is this so rare ! There’s a version for men too.

Winifrid Aldrich Metric Pattern Cutting
I love the beautiful presentation of this. Interesting chapter on uses of computers in the clothing industry. Note metric.

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Whatever your source of base patterns you use as your starting point for making your own styles, for a quality final pattern you need to get your base pattern to fit well. Then anything you make from it will be well on the way to fitting well too.

So to get a good pattern you also need to know how to fit. This is true even if you use one of the methods based on personal measurements. After all my struggles to get good basic blocks from pattern drafting or easier aids, all without success, this is something I do go on about rather! (If you don’t believe I’m that different from average without looking odd, see my post on Getting to know my sizes.) I don’t know of any pattern drafting method or simplified aid which includes all the measurements needed to get a good result for all possible body shapes, to cover all 88 fitting issues included in Liechty et al (see below). Any method which did try to include everything would be horrendously complicated. So you may need to make several muslins to perfect the fit of your carefully drafted personal basic blocks.

It’s also a good idea to make a test muslin of your final pattern. To check that reality matches your vision before cutting good fabric. An essential step for professional designers and custom dressmakers.

Sarah Veblen Complete photo guide to perfect fitting
Many photos on how to ‘read the wrinkles’ in a muslin (bodice, sleeve, skirt, not pants). This is my preferred fitting method, but many people don’t like it.

Gale Grigg Hazen Fantastic fit for every body
Many photos of and good advice for people who haven’t got ideal bodies. Detailed instructions for making a personal croquis from photos.

Liechty et al Fitting and Pattern alteration
The big ‘bible’ with 88 fitting issues. Three ‘alter the pattern before you cut the fabric’ methods.
The only fit book I’ve seen which covers all my fit issues. It was a good ‘aha’ moment when I tracked down my final fitting problem here. I knew I have a deep lower body, which causes some difficulties with pants fit. I didn’t know I have a deep upper body too, which affects armhole fit.

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Pattern altering or pattern drafting. Which approach suits you best ?
You can tell I’m not such a fan of pattern drafting and prefer pattern altering, as my post on books about pattern altering was twice as long as this :D

These are my favourite books about pattern making and fit.
Final post in this group of posts on books will be about sewing.
I hope you find something useful and enjoyable !

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Links available June 2013

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