A huge part of the sewing process involves getting the garment to fit to our 3D shapes from a flat pattern, that mainly started as rectangular shapes. It can be very frustrating, specially doing it by yourself.Recently I met two of my fellow sewing friends (Mela
) for a fitting season with an arsenal of fitting books and a measuring chart for each of use.
There are mainly 3 techniques of fit/ adjustment:
Flat pattern, where you compare your measurements to the flat pattern. That way you will discover the amount of ease.
Pin fitting a garment
Creating a muslin/toile
My personal preference, I always measure the flat pattern to know the ease when dealing with a new company. If I been sewing a vogue or simplicity based on previous experiences and notes, I already know. It’s always good keep all your info in a sewing notebook.
It helps understanding what fitting terms translate to, for example a ‘semi fitted’ skirt offers 3 to 4 inches. It can varies by pattern companies so keep a chart on your notes too!
99% of the time I will pin fit the pattern. It just works well for me and allows me to gather information for my constant adjustments: Lengthen, FBA, Reposition of darts etc. I may also use my block pattern to compare. It’s a very fast way to see the adjustments needed.
1% of the cases I will do a muslin. If I am unsure of the alterations or using fabric I care enough to protect it!
During our fitting session, we did all techniques on Dibs, because we wanted to debate results. Each method offers positive and negatives and you don’t need to do it all at the same time.
The process start with an accurate measure of yourself. I have been gaining weight since my back operation so I tend to update my sheet every 3 months. I really recommend getting a friend to do it for you.
I personally like having an additional column next to the measurements where I divide my measurements by 4 so it’s easy to measure pattern pieces individually. I also make sure I measure from the stitching line so I don’t have to keep adding/subtracting the seam allowances on my comparison.
Step by Step to pin fit a garment:
1. With your measurements, decide the pattern size. Most fitting books recommend taking the high bust adjustment. If you have broad back, take your measurements from the underarm line to the underarm line on the front. You can check the difference by measuring the back but use the front measure as your guide. It will eliminate the excess (gaposis) the extra measurement on the back will give on the neck.
2. Look at the flat pattern. Sometimes the ease will allow you to go for a smaller and more flattering size.
3. Once you confident with your pattern, start marking the stitching line with the pattern seam allowance that is generally 5/8. Neck vary! It will be so easy for you to pin and sew later.
4. Fit your tissue. This has a inbuilt sleeve. If not, leave the sleeve out of it because they are very delicate. Before you pin fit. reinforce the curves with seller tape. I use micropore. Yes, you heard it right.. the one you get in the pharmacy. It’s cheaper, more available that scotch tape and easily removable from tissue. I also careful clip the curves so they give as fabric.
5. Measure the distance from the pattern to your centre front. Then to your centre back. Those are the alterations you will make on your flat pattern. Alterations should be done mostly by slash/ spread methods unless the different its once size up or down.
6. Make your modifications
7. Add fitting insurance. Specially if you are not making a muslin. Fitting insurance is a couple of cm or inches on your side seams that will allow you to play more with the fit. I never sew without it!
That confused poor Dibs a lot as she keep thinking we were making the pattern too big. That’s why having your stitching lines marked is so important. You don’t need to keep checking back to your 5/8s.
The extra fabric also allow you to have a beautiful even seam finish too.
If you are not confident on your changes, try a muslin or use a cheap fabric to test the fit there.
Set your machine with large/long basting stitches9.
Pin your pattern pieces, considering the grain
and using a tracing paper and wheel trace the stitching line, mark all the pattern references as grain, notches, etc… this must be very accurate process.10. & 11.
Sew as you would and consider your muslin from all angles. Here the arm holes were too tight and high so we tried lower the shoulder. The darts could be a bit higher to eliminate the extra fabric that happen when we lower the shoulder.
12. All seams must match perfectly so you can use your fitting insurance to re-arrange if they aren’t.
Once you happy, transfer all the changes to a fresh pattern paper and sew!!!
The fitting books I recommend are:
Fit For Real People by Pati Palmer, Marta Alto
Pants For Real People by Pati Palmer, Marta Alto
Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina
Intermediate and beyond:
Fitting and Pattern Alteration by Elizabeth L. Liechty
Photographic tutorial on how to measure yourself
Threads Magazine Tutorial on measuring yourself with a chart.
Sew News Body measurement chart for comparison
Hope it helps sharing our day and what I do. I will write more on muslins as I construct my coat!