Archive for the ‘fit of clothes’ category

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 😀

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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How do you like to do your fitting ?

January 26, 2013

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.

There are many parts of the fitting process. Long ago I innocently assumed fitting was all well understood and everyone used the same method 😀 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 wedge adding 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. See the intro photos 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’m the sort of person who puts the pattern back in the envelope using the original fold lines – eek 😀 Fitting buddy essential for tissue fitting, preferably someone who knows about fitting alterations. You only have half the garment, and how do you pin the centre back in place on yourself ! If you do want to try this, lots of guidance in Palmer-Pletsch books and DVDs. Though remember that tissue paper and fabric don’t behave in the same way.
I used to have all their books, much loved by many but they never answered my questions so I’ve passed them on.

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 😀

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 and videos at Taunton Workshops.
Detailed information, and personal help in the PR courses. Better content on fitting armholes and making a sleeve to match than I’ve seen in other courses.

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.

P.S. 2018 – I’ve now taken some of Brooks Ann Campers’ fitting classes with video teaching, and they suit me very well. Having tried nearly every ‘works for everyone’ fitting method without success, I have at last got bodice and skirt patterns which fit, and without having to analyse my unusually long list of the fitting issues listed by Liechty et al. You start by drafting a pattern that is a first approximation to your shape, but most of the work is done by draping the fit of a muslin. Her classes don’t suit everyone, some don’t enjoy her cheery style and there is a lot of problem solving to do (with her help), but for me – hurrah !

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Pattern with or without seam allowances

Pattern with or without seam allowances ? People feel strongly for or against.

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).


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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 for a first test for a woven fabric, 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. (P.S. 2018 – it needs to be ‘proper’ swedish tracing paper. Sadly what is now available in the UK under that name is just tracing paper, not like interfacing, and can’t be used for making trial garments. A sad loss.)

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

As well as the basic technique for making alterations (starting from the pattern or from a test garment), there’s also the sequence in which fitting issues are dealt with. Different experts start with different areas of the body. Try starting with your biggest area of difficulty. I find once I’ve got the shoulders / high back/ neck/ armholes right, most other issues disappear. But some fitting methods deal with the shoulders last !

I have sloping shoulders, a high round back, forward neck, unusual armholes. Many people like to start with an FBA. Or re-locating the bust point. One fitting system starts by getting the waist at the right height. For fitting pants, I first get the crotch extensions right. Other people may deal with large buttocks first, or waist/ abdomen larger than average. 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 😀

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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From muslin to pattern

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. Here are a couple of them.

Many people, for example Lynda Maynard in her fitting class at Craftsy/Bluprint, mark the original stitching lines on the muslin, measure the distance away of the new stitching lines, and transfer those measures to the original pattern.

Personally, I find it easiest to make a new pattern : mark along the stitching lines of the finished muslin, then take the muslin apart, flatten it, and trace the stitching lines through to pattern paper.

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I’m secure now about the methods I like for fitting, and for revising patterns. 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, but never again 😀 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 much 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 😀

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First published 2013, links checked October 2021

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Change muslin, acknowledge original – raglan tee

January 12, 2013

This is my second post on whether to acknowledge the source of a pattern. Again I had no intention of making a different style, but had to make so many changes to the pattern to get something that fit and flattered, it looked very different.

My previous post on this topic was about a casual drop shoulder dartless pullover. One of many simple pullover tops that are so similar I didn’t feel obliged to mention the original designer. I felt my version was one variation on a very generic style. But commenters felt strongly I should acknowledge my starting point !

This post is about a raglan knit tee. It has a key feature I think the original designer does deserve credit for.

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A knit tee

Here’s a photo and line drawing of the original – The Sewing Workshop Trio Tee by Linda Lee.



I didn’t notice when choosing this pattern that it’s close fitting, which isn’t for me.  The hips have negative ease, the last place I need stretched fabric.  The sleeves are so tight I couldn’t bend my average size arms, and the neckline was too small for my head.  Debated whether to use another pattern, but this is the only pattern I have with 2-piece raglan sleeves – extra seam along top of sleeve.  Which makes it possible to get a good fit over the shoulders without all the strain and drag lines at the armhole of a 1-piece raglan sleeve. 

Other people love the out-of-envelope fit of this tee pattern, so you may well not agree with me 😀 I’m a shirt rather than a tee person, for reasons of climate, body shape, and personal style. I only wear knit tops as loose over-layers.

So I’ve changed nearly everything except the armhole seam shapes.  It does still have the original general style elements : raglan 2-piece sleeve, near jewel neck.  But it is now a loose fitting top, not a close fitting one.  A different spirit.  So I wondered if the designer would be peeved to be linked with it if I said ‘derived from’ or ‘inspired by’.

Here’s the back of my ‘muslin’ (actually made of swedish tracing paper).


‘Looks like a dog’s dinner’ as we say. I greatly prefer this slash-and-add method of working, and do it in a fabric test garment too. Some people make a new muslin every time they make a pattern change, but I would find that very tiresome. Of course sometimes things get such a mess I have to start afresh, and make a new ‘muslin’ for where I’ve got to so far.

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Changes made

Parallel slash and spread strips in the sleeves. That solved 3 problems for me :
– wider sleeve,
– bigger neckline,
– bigger armhole.

Changed shape of the upper sleeve seam to match my sloping shoulders.

For pear-shaped ease, I had already traced from M size at bust level to XXL at hips, but wanted more. So there’s a wedge added down CB.

All that extra width at shoulder level meant the neckline dropped. But that solved a lot of lumpiness in the armhole area, and I need a big armhole to be comfortable. So I filled in the neckline rather than pulling it up. Then added a neckline the right shape and size for me.

The armhole is now low. If I wanted a version with higher armhole I would have to re-work this – pull up and re-shape at the shoulders and scoop out the armhole curve.

When I made the ‘muslin’ I thought the major issue would be how to make a high round back adjustment on a raglan style. That was the least of my problems ! – dealt with by the neckline fill-in and a small change to the back raglan seams.

Obviously I give comfort much higher priority than a close fit, however fashionable that may be 😀

Greatly changed ease and proportions from the original. But this isn’t a generic one-piece-sleeve raglan style. I specifically chose the starting pattern to meet my fitting needs. So the original designer should be acknowledged.

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Yes, my tee ‘muslin’ is in swedish tracing paper – open down the front for trying it on. I think I remember the late Shannon Gifford suggesting you use a woven for your first test of a knit pattern. To be sure you’ve got rid of sags and strains. Instead of avoiding fit issues by depending on the knit fabric to deal with them. Which doesn’t always give a comfortable line-free garment.

Many people will be horrified by using this material to test a knit pattern. But it works for me. The knits I’m attracted to usually have little lengthways stretch. Of course using a non-stretch trial garment isn’t possible if you like body-fit or negative ease in your knits. And not sensible if you’re using a very stretchy fabric. (Pattern making books develop different blocks for fabrics with different amounts of stretch.)

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Moving on with the pattern

Despite all the added ease, my version of this tee is too tight for me to wear in a non-stretch woven. I’m planning an enlarged version for wovens. Perhaps then make a top mimicking designer Koos’ triangle dress, see Vogue 1301.


And an even larger version for woven casual jackets. I like the look of the Cutting Line Butterfly and Bees oop jacket, also with upper sleeve seam. Though that’s a semi-raglan style – probably a better look for my sloping shoulders. [More pattern adapting needed to get that right for me, but I’ve now done enough raglan pattern work to feel confident about it.]


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I acknowledge the original for my raglan pattern was a named style from a named commercial designer.

For my fitting efforts in general – so far I have a raglan top and a dropped shoulder ‘dartless’ top. I still need to finalise a fitted top with fitted armhole. Yes, I know in proper personal pattern making you’re supposed to make the fitted bodice block first. But the casual and raglan blocks are easier – I don’t need an FBA, so just the shoulders and loose armhole to fit. When I’ve done the fitted block, I’ll have the key upper body patterns-cum-blocks. For a complete set of upper body basics I also need a dartless top with cut-on sleeves, but so far haven’t managed to get a good result for that style over my high round back and sloping shoulders. Though I have found a pattern making book which gives the guidance I need. No hurry, it’s a shape used for many easy patterns but isn’t essential. Skirt and pants are also well on the way. Then hopefully I can move on from focus on getting a good fit.

Would you enjoy doing all this, or would it not be at all your idea of a fun part of sewing 😀

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Patterns and links available January 2013

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