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how do I alter for large waist

Ladysong | Posted in Fitting on

I’m new to the “gatherings” here, but I’m hoping someone can help.  I’ve been trying to sew for my mother. I’m pretty adept at sewing, having sewn for many years off and on, however I still have problems with fitting and alterations.  My mother poses a couple.  She has a high bust of 37 and her bust is 40, so I’ve learned that choosing patterns according to her high bust size of 37 (Size 14 on most patterns) is a better fit for her in the bust area, especially since her shoulders droop a bit.  BUT here’s where I run into problems…her waist is 39″ and her abdominal area (3″ below waist) measures 45″.  THEN, her hip is 45 as well.  The size 14 is way too small for her at the waistline.  And even with multisize patterns that often have cutlines for 2 or 3 sizes above 14, the waist is still not large enough.  But in many cases, the finished hip IS fine.

 I know about studying the finished measurements, and I understand ease for design as well as for fit.  I know how to measure pattern pieces to check for those finished measurements if they’re not written on the pattern. However, where I run into problems is how do I increase the waist and abdomen area without messing up the bust and/or the hip. In making a jacket for instance, and using multisize patterns, I use the size 14 for her bust from shoulders down to the armhole.  Then, I find i usually need to add about 6-8 inches to the waist just to fit, not to mention needing to add ease. Then I try and get back to the original seamline for the hip.  It makes for a fitting nightmare.  I have studied the internet for days trying to find the slash and spread method everyone alludes to, but it’s never addressed for tops, shirts, jackets or dresses. Only skirts and pants.  Can someone please give advice.  She’s not big enough for plus size patterns.  I also just went to 3 bookstores for Sandra Betzina’s book or any book on fitting help and no one had any at all.  I’m getting desperate. Whatever help anyone can offer would be GREATLY appreciated.


  1. knother | | #1

    Slash & spread can be found in several books by Nancy Zieman.

    I  am unable to reach my bookshelves to give you the correct title names. 

    Go to http://www.nancysnotion.com

    1. Ladysong | | #3

      Thanks for replying.  I ended up going to the library and have found several books on the subject of fitting and feel armed and ready now to slash away.  It is very interesting how it's done.  I never would have thought about cutting anywhere on a pattern other than on the cut lines. But now that I'm sewing for several figure types besides myself, I want to be sure I'm doing it right, especially since things aren't always what they "seam" to be. lol



  2. vertlaw | | #2

    Here is the expert scoop on THE book you need to answer these questions:

    SRL,PF: _Singer Reference Library: The Perfect Fit_:

    A good introduction to fitting with beautiful photos, but not quite as
    complete as several of the other books available.  Still it covers most of the
    common alterations necessary. The introductory chapters discuss garment ease,
    figure analysis and taking measurements. The section on adjustments shows pin
    fitting a tissue pattern (can you *really* do this?  without a helper?) and
    fitting as you sew.  Then there is a large fitting section that shows
    photographs of common fitting problems and minor and major adjustments for
    correcting them. _The Perfect Fit_ is the only fitting books I have seen that
    uses color photos instead of drawings and this can be extremely useful.  _The
    Perfect Fit_ is also very well organized; if you read through it once it can
    be used regularly as a reference book.

    Additional comments from Marie-Christine Mahe [[email protected]]
    What really makes the Singer book unique is the use of photos.  Each problem
    is presented in mild and severe form, so you can tell easily what the pattern
    companies consider as a real objective problem.  There are so many people
    running around with distorted body images that it's very useful to be able to
    look at 2 pictures and see that you only have a mild case of square shoulders
    or big thighs or whatever, or a really serious case of skinny arms.  Moreover,
    the adjustments also come in 2 versions: the easy one for the mild cases, and
    the slash-and-rip ones everyone else recommend, but only for the extreme
    cases.  I haven't seen any other book that makes such a clear distinction
    between the possible adjustments and why you'd want to use one or the other.
    Of course, you can also slide and pivot, but that really falls into the more
    extreme category too.  Most people really only need small adjustments, if any,
    and these are rarely explained so well.

    Additional comments [[email protected] (Deborah Trytten)]:
    Go to the store and buy the Singer Reference Library Fitting Book.  It's a
    gem.  I found out things about my figure that I never knew before.  I had
    always thought that my fitting problems came about because I am large busted.
    Come to find out, that's only half of the problem.  The other half was that I
    have narrow shoulders.  They have hundreds of pictures of fitting problems and
    the cause.  I was paging through it when I saw this weird front armhole gap
    that shows up on all my clothing.  Then I started measuring, and found out
    that my shoulders are very narrow--and I had never suspected it.  Give it a
    try.  It's as painless as fitting can be.

  3. PASDENOM | | #4

    I think you'd make things easier on yourself and probably make more flattering garments for your mom by choosing things styled more like she is shaped. Stay away from fitted waists, dresses with a waistline seam, skirts with waistbands. Look for straighter lines from bust to hips and use styles like open jackets with matching skirts to create an illusion of a waistline and a hem at hip level to make that appear wider. A skirt with some fullness can create more shape below the waist.

    If you have mom try on things that fit her well and see which style lines are most flattering it will help you decide what to sew and save struggling to make something look right that is designed for a different shape.

    1. mygaley | | #5

      I wish I'd been the one to give that excellent advice.  Galey

      1. PASDENOM | | #6

        Thanks, what a kind thing to say.

    2. Ladysong | | #7

      Hi.  Thanks for your good advice. You're right about choosing clothes that aren't fitted.  And that's what I've done. I've stuck to elastic waistbands and A-line dresses. She's hard even with A-line though, because of her small bust, her large-in-comparison-to-bust waist and ab, and her just-fine-hip-as-far-as-the-pattern-is-concerned.  So if you can imagine a dress that has no shaping, you still have to make room for that waist, and that's where my problem lies.  But the books I got from the library are showing me how to slash and spread at the waist and still keep the bust and hip intact.  Now it's a matter of trying it.  Wish me luck!

      1. mygaley | | #8

        Just reminding you that an apple-shaped person (or one with a large waist) is longer in front.  It takes extra fabric to go over a curve.  Sometimes just a deeper bustline dart will do this, then of course you have to true the hem on the sides.  Galey

      2. mem | | #9

        I actually think that having a shoulder pad and the emphasizing the narrow hip is a good look with this sort of figure . Also never have a contrasting line across the middle for example have matching tops and pant or skirt and the have a contrasting jacket or blouse to wear over the top and leave it open at the front . This will emphasize the verticle line . Also when sewing your hems think about them dipping a little at the front so that the tummy doesn't cause them to ride up at the front on either tops or skirts.Long simple tops with a skirt cut narrow over the hips and with a split or kick pleat would emphasize that narrow hip Actually a straight skirt cut on the cross and with elastic in the waist is also good and can be made out of pretty sheer fabric with an underlay and the top in the same colour as the background colour in the skirt. Hope that helps . I have some experience with this body shape.

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