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has anyone tried a Palmer/Pletsch patten

blingy | Posted in Patterns on

I am getting so down about not getting any woven top to fit that I bought a Palmer/Pletsch pattern (McCall’s M5433) that claims to teach you how to fit a full bust.  That is easy, it’s in every book.  What I can’t believe is that they show you how to make the full bust enlargement but they don’t show you how to lower the dart and let’s face it, if you take a pattern for a B and make it a D, chances are that D ain’t gonna be in the same place as a B!!  But that too is easy enough to change.  What really gets me is that the sleeve, a short sleeve, is too tight.  My arms are pretty average, yet this pattern is simply too snug!  And the armhole is too tight.  I have never encountered these problems before so I am going to wing it.  I am glad I am making this out of muslin and I pray this isn’t as bad as the other McCall’s pattern I made with a collar stand.  I had to cut down the neckline a good inch because the collar was half way up the back of my head!  Has anone else tried these so called Fitting Patterns and what kind of things have you learned from them?


  1. WandaJ | | #1

    Thanks for bringing the subject of fitting patterns up. In my stash are a few Palmer Plesch fitting patterns, however, that's where they've been and are now...I too am interested in the feedback that will be posted.

  2. solosmocker | | #2

    Blingy, have you figured out how to lower the bust dart? If not let us know. I can help you with that one as I have the same issues. Now the arm, I am not sure.


    1. User avater
      blingy | | #3

      Yes I have lowered the bust dart ok, that was one of the first things I learned how to do.  As for the armhole...I am thinking maybe the armhole is ok as is but the sleeve is definitely too tight so I will do a slash and spread.  This should be no problem.  What really bugs me about this "fitting pattern" is that although I am making a size 20, it's still too tight around the middle, even though I removed all the body darts and its too tight across the back shoulders. I still need to put the collar on to see how poorly the collar band and collar will fit.  I just don't see any advantage to this type of pattern.  And I have to say I cannot disagree more with the silly notion of pinning the pattern to my body.  Each and every time I have done this in the past it looked as if the darts were in the proper place and the shoulders seemed wide enough, I have always found this step to be a complete waste of time and it damages the pattern.  I know a lot of people don't like to use muslin but I get a much, much better idea of how badly a pattern will fit than by pinning the fragile tissue to myself.  What a silly idea!

      1. starzoe | | #4

        It sounds as though your pattern is too small all over - did you go by their measurements when choosing the pattern? Also, is the pattern for knits, and did you make the muslin in woven fabric?Check your measurements again against the pattern. Sometimes it is the simple things that mess us up.

        1. User avater
          blingy | | #5

          I went by the upper bust measurement instead of the full bust because I know how to adjust for a full bust and I know how to lower the dart.  Adjusting for body width is no problem either.  My biggest problem area is my shoulders.  I only need about 4.5" from collar seam to sleeve seam along the shoulder.  In a book I read by Nancy Zeiman, she recommends using the upper bust measurement so you don't need to mess with the shoulders.  I have done all these adjustments several times now, with a small measure of success and I do think it's best not to mess around with the shoulder length, it's too easy to look the armhole curve and really mess things up.  But still my point is for a pattern that claims to teach you to make a perfect fit it seems to me they leave out a few crucial points.  I am mucking my way through this, I have the new muslin cut and I will let you all know how it goes.

          1. celkalee | | #6

            One of the reasons we all sew is to get a better quality and fit than what is available in stores. Particularly for a blouse under $300.00! I have similar fitting issues. I have small narrow shoulders, but the "GLIRLS" are big! I have not used a fitting pattern although I have seriously considered it. I too am anxious to see the outcome of this topic. Currently, I mostly use an upper bust measurement, then adjust darts, and slash and spread. It is soooo hard to fit my upper body. Every year or so I make a basic bodice in muslin and adjust as needed.  I over-lay patterns to that to get the basic fit. The pattern then supplies the wearing ease and design lines. I have several Silhouettes Patterns that I picked up at an expo that allow for full bust adjustment but I have not tried them yet. Anyone familiar with those patterns?

          2. sewelegant | | #9

            Have you tried the Petite Plus line of patterns?  I purchased several because I am 5'2" and shrinking and am a "D" in the bust department.  My shoulder length is OK at 5", but I think 4 1/2" would be appropriate.  At 68 I find the basic look suits me just fine and I like using wonderful fabric to make a fashion statement.  The arm width on these patterns is a little bigger than on simp. mc calls, etc.  If you are not petite in height, that is an easy adjustment.  I do have to lengthen the bodice a little.

            My only problem with this pattern company is that it is Canadian and uses a 3/8" seam width and I am so used to the 5/8" I get a bit confused, but all in all that is minor.  Each pattern includes instructions on fitting that I find quite generic and useful   I have not purchased a Top 4 clothing pattern in 10 years.  I have boxes of them stored in my sewing room (for inspiration) and am so glad I have found a pattern co. that makes patterns more like my shape.


          3. User avater
            blingy | | #10

            I have made all of my adjustments and made the new muslin, in fact I am wearing it now.  I find that even if a garment isn't perfect I need to wear it to try to figure out what is wrong.  This is less than perfect but it's getting close to being wearable.  I have taken some pictures of this project so far.  As you might guess since I do not have a sewing buddy I also don't have a photographer.  I would like opinions about the front armhole seams, which explains the unnatural pose in pic. #4.  Please if you would, take a look at the pictures and let me know what you think.  I think its still a little snug across the upper chest and although the back looks big, if it was any smaller I wouldn't be able to wear it at all.  I need to make the diameter of the sleeve bigger too.  If anyone is interested I will list all of my adjustments so far.

          4. sewelegant | | #12

            I think your blouse looks very nice.  The sleeves being the only exception, as you have mentioned.  I recieved the e-mail newletter from Threads magazine this last week and they featured an article by Peggy Sagers of Silhouette patterns.  I copied it to my files so I could go back and read it again because I too have a problem liking the seeves of my garments and this article seemed very informative.  The web site that sent it to me is below.  Have you signed up for the newsletter?  If not maybe they can send it to you.

            [email protected]

          5. fiberfan | | #13

            Why is the muslin not wearable if the back was any smaller?  It sounds like the extra in the back is making up for a problem elsewhere. 

            The drag lines pointing toward the bust makes me think the bust shaping isn't enough.  If this blouse doesn't have a dart, I would suggest adding one.  It is amazing the armhole fitting that are solved issues I solved when I have bust shaping in any fitted or semi-fitted top or dress.


          6. jjgg | | #14

            Blingy, I just saw your pictures. for what its worth, here is my 2 cents. The armholes are too low, that's why you can't raise your arm well, the sleeves are too tight, the baggiensess under the arms in the back needs to be removed.YOu need to start with raising the armhole a little, see my post to Wanda about that. you will also need to raise the underarm portion of the sleeve to match. Then you need to make the sleeve wider in through the sleeve cap area- split the sleeve from shoulder point to the hem and spread it about one inch. this makes the sleeve cap longer, and we have already made the armhole opening smaller, (by raising the underarm)so now you need to make it larger again to accommodate the larger sleeve. Do this by scooping out the back lower armhole opening on the shirt back. this will remove the excess fabric in the back.After the changes are made, carefully measure both the armhole and the sleeve cap, the sleeve should be about one inch longer.
            Good luck

          7. User avater
            CostumerVal | | #15

            Hello Blingy.  I feel your pain.  Here are my observations.  In photo 3, the armscye is plenty low enough.  Since this is a sleeved shirt I think it's location is fine.  Photo 5 has drag lines and the back width is too wide by about an inch, 1/2" each side.  Photo 6 shows a need for more bust shaping, but that can wait.  Photo 7 tells ALL.  Heavy drag at the back of the sleeve cap, partially due to the fact that the back width is too wide.  You need to add some serious inches to the bicep line.  This is where I disagree with jjgg. 

            The armscye fits the body, so it's altered and drafted to do that.  The sleeve cap is designed by the armscye measurement.  The cap fits the shirt not the body,  however, the bicep line fits the arm.  I'm just saying this so you know where critical measurement points are.  Now, it does not appear that you have changed the armscye measurement at all.  This is going to be easy because the sleeve cap pattern is already drafted to fit the existing shirt.  So here we go.

            Trace your sleeve on another piece of paper, mark your seam lines at the shoulder point and armpit.  Tape another long narrow (5"x24") peice of paper to the diningroom table.  With your tape, measure your bicep, add 3-4" to that number.  (on most shirts ease is: fitted is 3-4", semi is  5", loose 6-8")  On the long strip on your diningroom table make a line that is the length of your bicep plus ease.  Now you need to slash your copy of the pattern in two places,  top to bottom and armpit to armpit, so you have 4 pieces.

            Pin your top pieces so the sleeve pattern armpit seamline is on your bicep line.  When both pieces are pinned at the armpit, tip them so the shoulder point comes together.  Now you have successfully widened the arm without changing the armscye or sleeve cap measurement.  Pin the bottom of the sleeve to the top sleeve at the armpit and tip them (if you want to) so the hem is together.  Now your wondering about the fabric lost where those pattern pieces overlap at the bicep line.  Dont worry, just square off the hem with a ruler and you'll find that you've just added it back to the length at the bottom.   Easy huh?  You'll find you have a tremendous amount of room to move your arms.  Don't forget to undo your back width alteration.



          8. SAAM | | #19

            Hi Blingy,I know I'm jumping in a little late, but I just want to mention that your shoulder seams still seem too long. They look like they're falling off your shoulders. That means the sleeves are set too far away from your body to give you ease of movement. The closer to the body the sleeves are set, the more you can move your arms. Shortening these seams should help with the back bagginess while doing away with the restriction you're feeling. Also, it looks like the front is riding up a little at the bottom edge, so you probably want to play with your full bust adjustment a little more; give yourself a little more ease up top (that should do away with the strain lines there) and add a little more to the front length.

          9. User avater
            blingy | | #20

            You have hit the nail right on the head!  Each and every blouse I have made so far has the same main problem...the shoulder length is too long!  The sleeve seam hangs off of my shoulders no matter how much I try to bring it in but what is really odd is that all my RTW fit the same way, off the shoulder, yet I have complete movement, no binding at the sleeves, plenty of room across the back.  I have no problems with RTW yet when I have tried to compare my pattern with RTW, the RTW measures smaller yet I have more room to move.  I just don't get it!

          10. fiberfan | | #22

            One of the non-obvious things about armholes is a smaller armhole makes movement easier.  With a fitted sleeve the top of the armhole seam should be about 2 fingers down from the armpit when the arm is straight down.

            After getting a sloper that fits, I am amazed at how loose the armholes are on commercial patterns.


          11. SAAM | | #23

            Hmmm... have you compared your sleeve width with your ready-to-wear? I wonder if a too tight sleeve is contributing to the binding you are feeling, especially across the sleeve cap. In the fitting book FIT FOR REAL PEOPLE, a Palmer/Pletsch Publication by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto, the recommendation is at least 1.5" to 2" of ease in the sleeve width of a fitted sleeve. You may also want to play with the height and width of the sleeve cap to eliminate any stresses or diagonal pulling in the top of sleeve.Sherry

          12. sewelegant | | #24

            hi blingy, it's looking good.  I am thinking:  too wide across back and not enough width in front.  What do you think?  That does affect the pull on the sleeves when you move.  In my past sewing experiences I did read something about this, but can't remember the exact advice.  Someone who teaches sewing could probably explain.

          13. User avater
            blingy | | #25

            Yes, someone else suggested the front may be too narrow and yes the sleeves do pull when I move.  I have taken a break from woven tops since I haven't had any luck so far and am now reducing my stock pile of fabric making my great fitting knit tops.  I think I will bring in the back and widen the front.  I thought when I made the front dart bigger and lowered it that would be enough but maybe a little more will do the trick.  Keeping my fingers crossed!

      2. WandaJ | | #7

        I'm chiming back in. This time it's on the subject of sleeves being too tight. Sometimes when fiddling (mentally more than physically) with the notion of expanding the sleeve in order to fit, I wonder what to do with the seam of the garment? Do you have to also expand it under the arm? If so, does this cause the garment to become wider and then, not fit the body after the full bust measurement has been made?  What about the armscye? Where does the adjustment here come into play, if at all?

        When reading the pattern alteration section of Anna Zapp's "The Zapp Method of Couture Sewing, Tailor Garments Easily Using Any Pattern," I noticed in one section that her directions included '...measuring the armscye depth...' After continuing reading I could not make a connection with why she gave this instruction (pg. 18).

        I still am looking for someone out there with pattern adjustment expertise to give a step-by-step (i.e., elementary as 'a, b, c...') guide to pattern alterations. Obviously, from what I am reading here this process has not been developed, or it has not yet been communicated. What I now see is how to fix this or that with no relational sequence.

        When I read some of the authors' work on pattern alterations it appears as if they are speaking to people that already know versus people that want to learn/know.

        Next, and this may be a separate topic, however, it does fall under fitting a pattern, what is it that can be done to ensure that the back fits when you are working alone, and there is absolutely no one that you know of for miles around that can assist? 

        Edited 10/19/2007 11:18 am ET by WandaJ

        1. jjgg | | #11

          I'm dropping in here in the middle of this thread - I haven't read all of the post, but will reply to your question of altering sleeves that are too tight.There are a couple of ways of going about this. First, it depends on how much wider the sleeve needs to be, and on what fabric you are using. If you need to add only about 1/2 inch of width, you can often get away without altering the armscy of the garment, esp. if its a looser weave fabric, You will have to add the extra 1/2 of ease into the opening when you insert the sleeve. Add the extra 1/2 inch - 1/4 inch on each side by extending the bottom edge of the sleeve cap (where the sleeve cap ends on the pattern) out longer, then bring it down , if you just need it int he upper arm, you can then taper it back to the wrist. If you need significantly more room, you need to determine where you need it, some times you have to add it by splitting the sleeve from shoulder point to wrist, as well as evenly spaced on both sides AND add some as above in the underarm area. If you do this, then yes, you most definatly have to elarge the armscye opening of the shirt. This again depends on how much you add, for an inch or so, you can just add it at the side seams (1/2 inch each side - front and back) and yes, this will give you 2 inches more room across the bust, you can taper this down towards the waist, or bring it all the way down.The other way of doing this is what is frequently done in alterations where you can't widen the side seam, is to scoop out the armhole both at the sides, and at the underarm (lower the underarm) and sometimes this is visually easier to understand if you look at the shirt with the side seams sewn up, place pins (or mark with a pen on the muslin) a bit lower ont he side seam and curve it back to meet the opening.Lowering the armhole will give a little more restriction on raising the arm, but somethings have to be a trade off here and there.If you make any changes to either the sleeve cap and/or the armscye opening, you need to make sure to measure both after the changes are made. The sleeve cap should be about 1 inch larger than the armscye to allow for eas in the sleeve cap.Oh, if you add a bit tot he side seams which enlarges the armscye as in my first example above, and DONT change the armscye opening, but just plan to ease in the extra, your dots and notches wont' match up. You want the extra ease going in near the cap, not at the underarm where you added it, so shift the marks on the sleeve up the amount added.I hope this makes sense to you, let me know if you need anything clarified.

  3. Tatsy | | #8

    I had no luck with the pants pattern.  The changes they recommend came nowhere near managing the problem. Search Don McCunn on this site. His changes were the first time I made pants that didn't have me searching for a wall to stand against.

  4. Teaf5 | | #16

    Answering your initial question, yes, I tried a P/P pattern and found it hopeless for my body type, which fits into a rtw petite large (small boned but full-busted and mature-shaped).  It was boxy in some areas and too tight in others; just terrible. 

    Recently, I tested a Simplicity Fit Rules pattern and its D-cup pattern option, which featured a dart with--let me drag it out of the recycle bin--3 1/2 inches between the legs! (It also landed at exactly the same point as the B-cup dart.) I lowered the dart, and theoretically, that should fit me. The pattern gave me enough space for my bust; however, the resulting top looked like an architect's model of a building--huge planes and panels that made me look awful.  Technically, it fit, but it was not at all flattering.

    Currently, I'm working with rtw blouses and patterns that have other options for fitting a large bust with woven fabrics--piecing, seaming, and gathers--and am having a lot better luck.  Unlike you, I have problems with the sleeves being too big, so that's next on the list of challenges....

    1. User avater
      blingy | | #17

      I think I have found the reason the sleeves were too tight.  I thought I was making a size 20 but when I started to work on the pattern again I realized I was actually making a size 14!  I then remembered that I was following the Sewing With Nancy technique of going by my upper bust or chest measurement, and that's where all the problems came in.  Because I too am small boned, big busted with a spare tire around the middle I simply had too many adjustments to make to this size.  Since McCalls' patterns were on sale this weekend I bought another copy and will start over with a size closer to what I need.  I thank everyone who has responded to my posts about this and I will let you know how this turns out but it will take some time since I have to start over.  I have made so many adjustments to the sleeve/armhole areas that I honestly don't know where I stand with it all.  Yesterday I made not one but two Kwik-Sew sweatshirts!  I can make knit tops at a pace almost equal to a commercial enterprise yet I still don't have one single, solitary woven top for all my efforts!  What a mystery this is!!!

      1. SewistKitty | | #18

        Making knit garments to fit you is easier because the fabric stretches and the pattern is usually simpler than woven garment patterns. You have so many more areas to fit closely on a woven garment. In a knit garment there are far fewer pieces to work with. I have made lots of knit garments and few fitted tops because of the many fitting issues involved. You are definitely not alone.

    2. WandaJ | | #21

      Hi, Will you please go into a bit more detail about this statement, "Currently, I'm working with rtw blouses and patterns that have other options for fitting a large bust with woven fabrics--piecing, seaming, and gathers--and am having a lot better luck." Thanks.

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