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Q&A: How to Fit Without a Helper

Threads magazine - 177 - Feb./Mar. 2015


Q: Is it possible to ensure a good fit when you don’t have a dress form or someone to help you in the fitting process? Making a muslin requires marking and pinning – not easy when you are the one wearing the muslin. How can I fit successfully on my own?
-Nancy Gruber, via email

A: Joi Mahon, fitting instructor and author of Create the Perfect Fit: Measuring and Pattern Fitting for Real Sewing Solutions, answers:

This is a common question. Ideally, each of us would have a fitting helper, but that is not always possible. Here are some practical solutions and tips that I share with my students.

First, purchase some adhesive dots from an office supply store, and use them to mark reference points – distinct start and stop locations – on the body (bust apex, shoulder point, side seams) for measuring. Stand in front of a mirror while measuring so you can check the measuring tape’s alignment with the dots.

The fitting method I teach divides the body into smaller areas for measuring, so the measurements tend to be more accurate. This helps you more precisely compare your body’s lengths and widths to a pattern’s lengths and widths. For example, mark your body’s side seam locations. Then, measure your front-waist width and your back-waist width. Add them together for your full waist circumference. You can break this down further into smaller areas of measure if you wish. Compare those measurements to the same areas on a pattern. If you do this before sewing a muslin, you’ll eliminate most fitting issues, and it doesn’t require assistance.

I also teach that sleeves should not be attached to a muslin until the rest of the body fits correctly. Sleeve fitting issues affect the rest of the garment and vice versa, and it can be difficult to distinguish whether it’s the sleeve’s fit or the body’s fit causing a particular issue – especially when you’re fitting yourself. So save sleeves for last.

Fine-tuning and polishing a muslin’s fit by yourself works the same as if you had a fit buddy assisting you, although it requires putting on and taking off the muslin a few additional times. Simply mark the change on the muslin while it’s on your body with tailor’s chalk or a marker, take the muslin off, pin the area that needs adjusting, and put the muslin back on to check. Use a seam gauge when marking fit adjustments on the back. Write the changes on paper, take off the muslin, pin the changes, then put the muslin back on to double-check the fit.

Don’t feel limited if you face the challenge of fitting yourself. With a few work-arounds, you can do it successfully.

This post was originally featured in the Q&A department of Threads #177 (February/March 2015).

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