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Fitting a pattern to YOU

maddie964 | Posted in General Discussion on

Now here is a problem I am sure many of you encounter. You buy fabulous fabric and a great pattern. You cut perfectly and sew perfectly. Then you try on the garment to see you it looks only to find that the garment doesn’t fit at all. The proportions on the pattern just don’t match your body type. Is there any methodical way to correct this, to make a pattern fit you? Or do I have to keep trying it on, taking in a little here and letting a little go there?
Thanks if you have any suggestions
Sincerely,
Maddie

Replies

  1. suesew | | #1

    You have asked the most maddening, difficult to answer question. Those of us who have sewn for ourselves for years have figured out that the patterns are made for the perfectly proportioned body and they fit few of us on the first try. So you learn from your mistakes and keep track of them. On almost every pattern I have to lengthen sleeves, back waist length, accommodate a larger bust and add skirt or pant leg length. Pay attention to what doesn't fit properly on your garment and it will tell you what you have to do differently the next time. You may try reading some of the threads about making slopers,(or check the magazine). You can learn a lot about your own peculiar fitting problems that way.

    Edited 7/7/2007 10:31 pm by suesew

  2. tmorris1 | | #2

    Maddie;I know how maddening your issue can be. If you compare a couple of patterns, you will notice that even they are not the same from piece to piece. Eventually I grew tired of all the alterations, so I did this...I drew cardboard cutouts of my perfect crotch seam, shoulder slope, arm hole, and bust line. Took careful notes of my shoulder to waist depth, crotch depth, hip curve, etc. Now when I pull a pattern out of the package, I can just alter the flat pattern slightly to match these points. This way I know for sure that these points will match my body before I even cut my fabric. A little bit of careful preparation before you cut a garment can save hours of seam ripping and frustration.Happy sewingT.

    1. MaryinColorado | | #3

      Thanks for the great advice.  You are so knowledgeable, wish I had some of you gals nearby to help me with fitting.  Maybe in the fall I will join a sewing guild.  Mary

      1. tmorris1 | | #4

        Mary;I love to help, so bring on the questions!!! Thank you for your kind words.T.

    2. User avater
      maddie964 | | #6

      good idea!! i will definetly try! And if anyone has any more suggestions....keep them coming!
      Sincerely,
      Maddie

    3. user-217847 | | #7

      Hello T,

      I'm with Mary, you give great advice. Question!  Can you talk us through the making of the cardboard cut outs I for one would be most appreciative. I have learnt a lot from you wonderful ladies, whilst hovering quietly in the back ground, unfortunately my mind boggles easily these days.

      warmest regards,

      wombat

      1. Josefly | | #8

        I second the above request. Did you use a flexible ruler to get your crotch curve, then trace it to cardboard?

      2. User avater
        maddie964 | | #14

        I also want to know exactly how to make a cardboard cutout. I understand the concept, but putting it to practice, I'm already confused. How can you measure crotch depth and shoulder slope? I also understand that the texture, weight, etc. of fabric plays an important role, but right now I'm concerned with getting the garment to fit me! So can someone walk us through making a cardboard cutout.
        Sincerely,
        Maddie

        1. WandaJ | | #15

          I agree with Maddie's request and a few others. This cardboard pattern sounds interesting if one knew how to make it, and then use it.

  3. stitchintime | | #5

    Something to consider is your basic body shape. Are you a pear, rectangle, triangle or hour glass? Are you under 5'3"? Not every pattern is appropriate for all figure types, regardless of  how much fixing you do. Try on lots of different styles in RTW and see what you like. Look for similar styles when you choose a pattern.

    I also agree with the gals who wrote about measuring.  Bust, waist and hip measurements really aren't enough. The Burda WOF magazines have 11 measurements to take to compare with their patterns. I find I get a much better fit with Burda patterns over American ones. They have far less ease which is more to my liking. And measure RTW items in your closet that fit you well.

    The really hard part of sewing clothing is the fitting as you've discovered. It will take a lot of trial and error and a lot of measuring. But don't give up. Go and buy some cheap fabric (or use up what you have around the house) and do some practising. The fabric should be a plain or an evenly checked woven so you can see the if the grain line lies straight on you as you make adjustments. Another thing I've done is to make up a pattern one size smaller or one size larger than the size you tried originally (depending on whether it's too big or too small). Sometimes a size up or down makes all the difference and results in fewer adjustments.

    A lot of women have found that making a duct tape or saran wrap duplicate of themselves is really helpful in getting an accurate assessment of what their bodies actually look like. I've yet to do this myself.

    Come back here regularly with discoveries to share and more questions to ask. This is a big issue for most of us and IMO really needs to be addressed in a systematic way as you mentioned in your post.  

    Edited 7/2/2007 3:05 am ET by stitchintime

    1. Gloriasews | | #16

      Tell me about the saran wrap body form - I haven't heard of this one before.  I checked the archives here & there is nothing (I'll try googling it).   I'm having trouble updating my old paper tape form for accuracy (I've gained weight over the past 20 years - who hasn't?) & I don't have anyone to help make a new one, so I am researching ways of making a form of myself by myself.  There have been many ideas recently which I have been considering (like the lady who used duct tape & laid on her bed to fit the back).

      1. stitchintime | | #17

        This is where I saw it. Kathleen is pretty savvy about industrial clothing making. It will give you a flat pattern to work with instead of a body form.

        Let us know if you try it out.

        http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/saran_wrap_pattern_making_method_1.html

        Edited 7/7/2007 5:38 pm ET by stitchintime

        1. BernaWeaves | | #18

          Wow!  What an interesting article.  It makes perfect sense.

          Thanks for posting that.

          Berna

        2. Gloriasews | | #19

          Thanks so much for the website - very interesting!  I printed both methods of construction, so will see when I read them.  It may be worth a try.  Thanks again.

          Gloria

  4. sewingkmulkey | | #9

    I, too, have made the equivalent of cardboard cutouts of my crotch curve, full bust adjustment along with sleeves, etc.  I made these personalized patterns (cutouts) off of my best fitting RTW garments and they have saved me lots of headaches.  Threads has had numerous articles on making patterns from RTW so check them out!

    Karen 

  5. cat42 | | #10

    Having a garment look good on you is more than just a matter of fit. You should also consider the style and proportions of the garment. Color, print and texture of the fabric are also important. Some maximize and others minimize. Garment lines also play a role: some lengthen, some shorten; some widen, some narrow.Regarding fit: I like the cardboard cutout idea, as long as you have something that fits the way you like, so you can copy it. I have never bought RTW because it never fits me. So I'd first have to sew something that fits right, before I could make the cardboard cutouts. Once you have them, its somewhat like using a sloper. Actually, I have found a sloper quite helpful. Something else to try is pin-fitting the pattern tissue before you lay out and cut your fabric. Of course, the paper pattern doesn't stretch and drape like fabric, but it still gives an idea of where the fitting problems will be, and what type of correction is required. another option is to trace the pattern onto lightweight muslin for pin fitting. If you do this, use 1" seam allowances on fitting seams like the shoulder, side seams, etc. as "in case."There's a great book on tissue fitting, and there have been articles in Threads and Sew News on this subject, too. The book is "Fit For Real People" by Patti Palmer and Marta Alto.I don't have anyone to help me with fitting, so I have some trouble fitting the back. I invested in a cheval mirror to help me view my back side better, but it's still a challenge.As far as the order in which to make modifications: Fit Right for Real People suggests fitting the back first, as that often is all you need to do. AFter the back, then the neck adn shoulders, and armhole. Then the bust. For skirts and pants, use the size that best matches your hip size. Then first modify crotch depth (if pants), and then modify the waist area, including for high hips. High hips are especially problematic because they can throw off the grainline, and cause the skirt or pant not to hang properly.Regarding style, proportion, color and texture: Create a croquis to test the design of the garment on your shape. There have been a couple articles in Threads in the last year or so ago about this (here's two online articles: http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00147.asp and http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/th_125_051.asp). A croquis is an outline drawing of your body, made from a photograph. Once you have the drawing, you make multiple copies to play with. Using colored pencils or felt markers, draw the basic style lines of the garment on your croquis. If you don't like the look (proportions, shapes, etc), you can play with it on paper before playing with the pattern and fabric. For example, lengthen a skirt or a jacket; make a skirt fuller or straighter; raise or lower the garment waistline; make longer or shorter sleeves; adjust size of a collar, depth of front neckline; shape of front neckline, etc. You can also play with color positioning, using dark colors where you want to minimize, and bright colors where you want to emphasize. All of these things impact the way a garment looks on you, independent of the fit.It's fun, once you get over the shock of what your shape actually is!

    Edited 7/2/2007 2:50 pm ET by cat42

  6. BernaWeaves | | #11

    Maddie:

    When I was little, my mother always fit the paper pattern to me, and made adjustments to the paper pattern before she ever even bought the fabric.

    Standing still long enough for her to make all the adjustments wasn't fun, but I learned from it.

    I'm currently in the process of making a custom dress form (brand = Uniquely You), so that I can make the pattern adjustments on it, instead of trying to do them on me.

    When all else fails, make a muslin version of the pattern first, before you buy or cut out your "real" fabric.

    Berna

  7. Tatsy | | #12

    I gave up on trying to fit patterns to me and went to the Lutterloh system. The pattern is drafted to the wearers' bust and hip measurements. That's all. Sometimes I have to use the underarm measurement instead of bust, but that's about all the changes I make. It's wonderful.

  8. solosmocker | | #13

    Maddie, one of the things you may not be aware of is that Vogue patterns use a "shape" recommendation. On their patterns are triangles, hourglass triangle shapes, rectangles, etc. If you are an inverted triangle shape, that is shoulders and bust being wider than hips, then look for a pattern with the inverted triangle on it in the pattern boo or look for whatever shape applies. Patterns with the "shape" that matches your shape will be more flattering and easier to fit. Check it out next time you look at the Vogue pattern books.

  9. sewelegant | | #20

    I have to add my 2 cents!

    Nothing turns you off more in sewing than when you get the results you encountered.  I used to be able to make a size 10 or 12 and make no adjustments other than length so I suppose I got spoiled early and loved sewing.  Now I am working with a matured (does it ever quit?) body and find I have to measure, measure, measure.  I make myself a worksheet: 

    <!----><!----> <!---->

    PATTERN  WORKSHEET<!----><!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    date: October, 2006<!----><!---->

    plaid fabric<!----><!---->

    <!----><!----> 

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    pat. # 501<!----><!---->

    straight skirt<!----><!---->

    my <!----><!---->

    meas.<!----><!---->

    <!---->pattern<!---->

    meas.<!----><!---->

    diff.<!----><!---->

    + or -<!----><!---->

    actual pat.meas.<!----><!---->

    ease<!----><!---->

    adjust.<!----><!---->

    + or -<!----><!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!---->size 20 <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    waist<!----><!---->

    <!----><!----> 

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    4"  hip<!----><!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    7"  hip<!----><!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    skirt length<!----><!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    width at hem<!----><!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    <!----> <!---->

    I measure the pattern (some already print the measurement on the pattern for you)  To get the ease amount subract the size measurement from the actual pattern measurement.  The next column tells me how much to add or subtract to get that ease.  I add another column to break that measurement down into 4ths or whatever many of seams I have to work with.

    I have spent a fortune on books that tell you how to fit and I think the best advice for an acceptable fit when the problem is minimal comes from Nancy from Nancy's Notions and her fitting finesse pivot and slide method.  Sandra Betzina used that too when I was watching her show on tv.  I'm sure you can still buy the book from Nancy or maybe even in the fabric stores... an updated version is always coming out.  You get very acceptable pattern alterations.  The first important piece of advice is to find out which size you need in the first place, to make your neck-shoulder line fit you. To find out you measure from armpit to armpit just above bustline... 14" means a size 14.  1/2 inch increments up or down equate to the next size.  14 1/2" means a size 16 etc.  13 1/2" means size 12.

    this chart may not come up on the web page, so if you want to see it I will be happy to email it to you.

     

    1. Minnie63 | | #28

      I would love to have a copy of your chart. [email protected]

  10. SewNancy | | #21

    Having some fitting books, such as Fit for Real People are indispensable for altering to fit your body. I tissue fit all patterns after I make my regular changes. ie, I know that I am a size 14 in the upper body and I make an fba on all tops. I add to the hip to make a size 20. I know how much I need to add for the big 4 and for Burda WOF, my other choice. I have found that the new size chart on Hot Patterns is terrific for comparing my body to and figuring out what size for what part of my body I need to use. If you make a lot of changes, make a muslin. I know that newbies don't usually want to do this, but this is really the only way to sew and get that great fit. You don't have to cut or sew the facings or finish anything, and usually only one sleeve needs to be added. I wait for a 50% off coupon at Jo Anns and then I buy a bolt of muslin. Cheap and easy to see wrinkles in and I use a sharpie to draw in the darts, hip line etc. It is really a whole lot easier in the long run, and less frustrating, to sew a muslin than to toss the finished product! The only piece that I will sew a zipper in, but the quickest way possible, and add a waistband to, is pants. you cannot fit pants without something immovable, the waistband, without it. Good luck and remember that the only person that pattern fits out of the package is the perfect size fit model it was fitted on!

    1. User avater
      maddie964 | | #29

      Thank you! Consider me a convert, I will now make a muslim sample before I sew the real garment. Thanks again!
      Sincerely,
      Maddie

      1. cat42 | | #30

        Maddie,
        One thing to consider about a muslin: try to use a fabric with similar weight and drape as your good fabric, to get the best fit. Light weight muslin is not normaly a good choice. Although you could use it to fit a basic shell from which to draft a sloper.Also, not a good idea to use a twill weave fabric unless your good fabric is also twill. This is because the twill weave can create a twist, making the garment on the right side of the body drape differently than on the left side.A recent article on fitting in Threads (Drafting for Plus Sizes) suggests using a certain type of lightweight drapery fabric. It drapes better than cotton muslin. I've not tried it, but plan to in the near future. it's relatively inexpensive, too.Cat

  11. User avater
    DonMcCunn | | #22

    Maddie,Altering commercial patterns is problematic because everybody's body is going to be different. That's just the way nature works. One time when I was teaching a pattern drafting class I had a woman who had a twin sister. They shared a common wardrobe. The woman in my class made a wedding dress for her sister that was custom fit. She then wondered what she would look like in it but she couldn't get into it. The problem is that prefabricated patterns are not going to know your specific dimensions or how your posture is going to affect the hang of the garment. The older you are the more likely your body will be changing in ways that the pattern companies will have trouble addressing. At least when you buy ready to wear garments you can check them out before you buy them.Of course my solution has been to make my own patterns for the last 40 years. But if you don't want to do that, I would suggest making a sloper that shows the shape of your body. Buy the sloper or "basic fitting shell" that is sold by the pattern company, and note the difference between the two.The problem when you want to adjust a commercial pattern is to determine what the designer did to the fitting shell to get the look they wanted. You then need to make the same changes to the sloper you have made that shows your specific body shape.Sorry. I don't believe there are any easy answers to this problem.Best,
    Don McCunn
    http://How-to-Make-Sewing-Patterns.com/

    1. SewNancy | | #23

      You couldn't have said it better. I have found that after years of sewing that I know what my figure flaws are but the exact changes vary by pattern company and by pattern. I have resisted making a sloper over the years, but a recent experience with using my basic tnt pants pattern to alter another pattern has changed my mind. It was really easy to change the pattern and get great results. But, I still like to add in case sas and baste and try on before I sew up final seams as fabrics affect the fit too. I am always surprised by people who don't baste and try on before a final sewing and then they are surprised when it doesn't fit as well as they would like. If you aren't the size of the fit model, then you have to adjust the pattern. Period.

      1. amapola | | #24

        Thank you, thank you to both of you. Now I see the light. It's just difficult to face that you have to make three or four changes and that you are not a size five any more nor will you be. Amapola

        1. SewNancy | | #25

          I was never a size 5, but gravity and menopause has really created changes in my figure that it has taken a while to figure out.

  12. Bernie1 | | #26

    I recommend you get "Fit for Real People" by Marta Alto. I always make a muslin - I trace my pattern and use that for basic fitting. After a while you get a good feeling for what needs to be adjusted. But always make a muslin before cutting your fabric.

    1. amapola | | #27

      Thank you, thank you. Amapola

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