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CDs or DVDs for alterations

LostWeight | Posted in Fitting on

I am SO new to all this creative fiber-arts stuff, and I need some advice!  I recently lost a lot of weight.   I have loads of clothes that are too big for me.  I am not an experienced seamstress.  My abilities are limited; but I’m willing to patiently, and slowly alter my size 18W trousers into a size 8.

I have a nice Singer sewing machine; and I’ve used it for hemming—but that’s about it!  Could someone direct me to an education source for alterations only?  I would hate to see my expensive plus-size clothing go to waste. 

I would really like to get a hold of some illustrative DVDs on altering clothing.  Is there any such source?   I appreciate any help available.  Thanks in advance!


  1. chopchop | | #1

    Hate to tell you this but you're dealing with a whole new body and it will require a recut on your trousers. Here's what I would do - take your measurements and find a basic pattern - Burda would be one place to look or Claire Schaeffer's basic pant in Vogue - then make a muslin. Try it on and see what needs to be altered. If you can't alter it readily yourself then maybe ask a friend who sews or as at a fabric store if someone could help you (fabric stores are a great source when you need help) or send us a picture and we'll all jump in and help. Then, use your basic pattern to cut out a new pair of trousers from inside the size 18. You'll have to take them apart completely first!
    Sounds like a long process but probably the safest.
    Good luck!

    1. LostWeight | | #2

      The way that I look at it is that there is NO way that I can wear them now; so if they're all cut-up, it doesn't make a difference.  I want my trousers to SURVIVE the alterations; and I expect trial and some error on my part.

      Wow, you guys actually assemble a muslin replica for sizing purposes?  That's "tried and true!"  I really want to try doing this.  I don't know about the muslin thing, but I think I'll do things one pair at a time.  I'll take the pants apart, cut them, and sew them back together.

      I think it shouldn't be too difficult to pin a pattern to my trousers' parts.  Then I'll cut, follow directions, (there ARE directions in pattern packages, right?) and I'll sew them together. 

      If I ever actually get this project completed, I promise to send you guys a picture!

      1. GinnaS | | #3

        A muslin refers to a test garment made from a pattern to check fit.  It is usually made out of a cheap material that is similar in weight, drape, etc. to the fabric you plan to use for the final garment.  Pants are notorious for needing tweeking of the pattern to get a good fit.

        1. chopchop | | #4

          Ginna is right, Lostweight, pants can be frustrating if you don't do a muslin and try them out first. Sewing is so much more rewarding if you take it one step at a time and have fun along the way.

        2. LostWeight | | #5

          That is why I chose to join this board.  I realize that I need the help of the experts.  I haven't done anything yet.  What I may do is completely un-stitch one pair of trousers.   After I do that, I will look for a pattern that is in similar style.  Then, I'll do that muslin thing. 

          I have some old flat sheets that I can use for my muslin material.  Since I am a newbie at everything from cutting, pinning, sewing, etc, I agree that the creation of a muslin is not only wise, but necessary.  In doing so, I'll be getting practice on every step---including threading my machine, adjusting thread-tension, etc!

          My original question was on illustrative CDs or DVDs to assist me in learning.  Does anyone know of any such products?

          Thank you SO MUCH!!!

          1. chopchop | | #6

            I would look for back issues of Threads with articles such as Jennifer Sauer's on making muslins in the last issue of Threads. Then there are back issues dealing with fitting and construction. Go to the Threads index on the web and check out those articles. Good luck. Keep in touch.

          2. becksnyc | | #7

            STOP!!! (Smiling)  Altering from an 18W to an 8 is fraught with difficulties!  Before you take any of your treasured pants apart ask:

            1.  Is the crotch baseline (the level of the crotch between front and back crotch curves) lower than my bum at my new svelte size? This fabric has been CUT OUT and cannot be replaced.

            2.  If the baseline is too low, can the slacks be shortened from the waistline, or are there yokes, pocket or zippers that would have to be removed and lowered?  CAN they be lowered?  (Patch pockets, yes, welt pockets no). 

            3.  Are there any other features that will be off center after your alterations, like darts & creases?  If you move them, will seams, fade or wear lines show?

            If the slacks are of simple construction, the fabric is fabulous or you are financially constrained, go for it!  Otherwise, spend the money on new clothes and use all that time to get out and enjoy life.  It's too short to spend altering!

            Becksnyc, full time Alterationist (is that a word?)

          3. LostWeight | | #8

            Wow Becksnyc, I haven't done anything yet.  I'm still waiting to hear from someone that can lead me to DVDs or CDs on alterations.  I am an audio/visual learner.  If I can SEE a procedure, as well as HEAR an explanation of the process, I really think I'll be able to do it.  If not, I would learn from my mistakes.

            For the most part, I work in an office environment; therefore, I have business attire in many different sizes.  I was an 18W for a long time, and I own several pairs of expensive business trousers.  I just thought that I could make them smaller, since I'll have plenty of "extra" material to work with.  It may be a total disaster; but I cannot wear these huge trousers now.  Any alteration would be an improvement.  I am NOT an experienced seamstress.  But I know which methodologies that I can learn from.

            If DVDs or CDs on alterations do not exist, perhaps it is time that someone created them.  That is what I need.  I'm still looking for a full narative audio/visual learning experience on altering clothing.  Does this type of product exist?

          4. GinnaS | | #9

            I do not know of any CDs or DVDs on alterations at all.   There used to be a book on general alterations but I haven't seen any ads for it in the last year of so. 

            Alterations usually means that the garment fits is some areas and just needs some changes to fit completely.  You will probably need to totally recut your size 18 pants which would not be considered an alteration.


          5. diday | | #15

            There are sewing videos/DVDs which have some information on alterations although there is more in the actual book. This author has already been mentioned so if it's permissible in the forum here is the link to read more. I'm not affiliated in any way.http://www.palmerpletsch.com/

          6. LostWeight | | #16

            Thank you Diday!  I'll look into it!

          7. lauraflo | | #12

            Gosh almighty it's Me again (I haven't done any sewing for awhile and I miss it so I guess I just need to talk about it a bit--We've been busy with some house remodeling.) A muslin is not a garment all constructed out of muslin. It is the major tissue pattern pieces cut out of muslin with the markings (darts, seams) drawn on with marker or pencil, then it is fit around the body and pinned with the seams outward, and adjusted. Draw on it if you need new lines or an extra dart, etc. Then either safety pin, or hand baste or loosely machine stitch, and check the fit. (You can't really do this too easily on yourself, tho it's not impossible. Get a friend to help.) Use a marker to mark where you pinned the best (different colour pen) then take out the pins or loose stitches and use the muslin as pattern pieces on your cloth.The book FIT FOR REAL PEOPLE by Palmer and Alto uses the tissue the same as a muslin. The muslin is more durable and can last forever, where the tissue will rip apart. Once you have a good fit for a muslin you can use it over and over. So if you have fabric for several of the same type of garment you have it easy. You can always change details to make them look different.
            I will try to shut up now. Lauraflora

          8. LostWeight | | #13

            Thank you for your explanation on exactly what a muslin is.  Quite frankly, I was confused by it.  I even thought to myself that it would be better to use cloth pieces (which were perfectly sized) than to use pattern tissue.  About 30 years ago, I bought a pattern, and I made a blouse; in fact I made two completely different blouses from that same pattern.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I couldn't even thread the machine properly!  I had to look at the diagram in the book every single time!  The blouses were OK.  I wore both of them for many years.  No one ever suspected that I made them. 

            The plus-size trousers that I want to alter are dress trousers made of polyester, rayon, & spandex blend.  They are NOT elastic-waist type.  I wouldn't bother altering elastic waist clothing.  They all have zippers and metal clasps (I don't know the terminology).  They all have belt loops, and front and back pockets.  I also have some cashmere and woolen blazers that I would like to alter; but that would really be difficult!  

            You guys are probably right about just going out and buying new clothes.  I've been doing that---a lot! 

            As for how I lost the weight, contact me personally and I'll tell you.

          9. mimi | | #14

            Congratulations on losing the weight!

            About altering the pants down to a size 18:  it can be done I suppose.  After you took the pants apart, you would have to find the straight line of grain in the size 18 pants and mark it clearly.  Then you would have to incrementally take away 6 sizes.  Since you would have to guess at this amount, you would have to make several muslins as you decreased the size.  You would also have to reposition such things as the darts, waistline, pockets, etc.  At the end of all this you might have a pair of pants that fit well.

            Instead I would advise you to find a new pattern in the right size.  I have been sewing for thirty years and I would never attempt to cut a pair of pants down more than one size, the variables are too great!  I know that I would drive myself nuts with the resizing.

            Good luck!


  2. lauraflo | | #10

    Hello---First of all, tell us HOW you went from size 18 to size 8. (I'd like to knock off a few extra sizes---they seem so stubborn and recurring---from 14 to 10 would be just right.) Anyhow---perhaps you deserve NEW clothing instead of making due with the old clothing---unless you have something really special you really love. I'd think psychologically you would want new clothes for the new you--not to have the things you are wearing remind you of your old size.
    That being said---rather than try to take in and alter (which distorts too much in shoulder and body frame area which is critical for fit---the better thing to do, esp. with such a big size change, is to use the larger clothing as yardage. Ex. with a top, cut it apart at the seams, lay the pieces flat and put your new pattern piece on the corresponding section and cut it out. Much easier to construct a new garment than to try to take in something so drastically. You will only frustrate yourself and end up with something less than desirable looking. People do this with second hand clothing when they like the fabric, also.
    I have a knack for alterations BUT I am frustrated when I am working on something tricky (usually for someone else), while constructing something new is much more joyful and creative. (Of course, simple alterations--hems, sleeves, and such are easy, but yours would not be simple.) Good luck , lauraflora

  3. lauraflo | | #11

    Hello again---just wanted to add a few things after reading other people's replies---which said just about the same things i did about cutting a garment apart and using it to make something new. A good book on fitting that I have used for some oddly shaped people I made different clothing for---it was INDISPENSIBLE---(because it goes over all the different shape variations of different body area--ex.--round or square or sloped shoulders, legs, long or short torsos, arm lengths, etc. is FIT FOR REAL PEOPLE by pati Palmer and Marta Alto. It does tissue pattern piece fitting (tho you can make a muslin-I usually do for other people or for durability.) There is lots of explanation of the science of fitting, and pictures and line drawings of the examples and areas being fitted.
    Start with something easy---a simple top made into another simple top. Get a similarly shaped, but smaller, pattern. Match up pattern piece to clothing piece to see if they correspond well----then cut off the seams right next to the stitches--don't pick out the stitches unless you have to, don't waste your time. With that big of a size change you will no doubt have plenty of material. Since you are new to sewing, you have to practice those basic skills. Fitting is an art, and alterations is an even more difficult art. So, start simple and build your confidence from there.
    I would bet that many of your old pants have elastic waists. If they do, they are easy enough to cut apart and make into new elastic waist pants (if you still want them) (Pajama pants maybe?). Pants with zippers and flys (sp) are not for beginners, so don't frustrate yourself. ####dress might be cut apart and used to make another dress or maybe a skirt, if the fabric is of the right weight. Or even a casual jacket. If you try to start with things that are too advanced you will scare yourself off from sewing, and that would be a shame. Remember too that Princess Diana had her maternity clothing made into new non-maternity clothing to wear later. In theatre costume making, I have made second hand clothing into completely different garments, using the material as yardage.
    Ready made clothing sizes do not necessarily correspond to sewing pattern sizes, so get one with multiple sizes (most of them are today). The frame of the body is important, so match the pattern piece to your shoulder, then adjust for the bust as needed. You will find that explanation in the aforementioned book above. But start simple with something you like, (but not your favourite old garment,) and see how it goes. Good Luck--lauraflora

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