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pattern review

poppyqlewis | Posted in Fitting on

Dear editors and all,
I am a long time sewer (34 years) and fashion and fabric lover. Recently I’ve become addicted to the British TV show What Not to Wear, on BBC America. The hosts have developed very good “rules” about what flatters each body type. I’d love to see a pattern review based on the different body types to develop capsule wardrobes for each. I’m sure I already do this intuitively for myself, based on what flatters me ( with my long waist, small boobs, broad shoulders) but the show hosts are so amazing in how they help all the “victims” look better – I think it’s worth a thought. Check out the BBC America web site, they have a link to WNTW and then to “the rules.”
Thanks, and happy sewing!!! martha


  1. lindamaries | | #1

    Pati Palmer has an online free magazine that does just what you are asking for.  http://www.palmerpletsch.com 

    Fashion For Your Figure

    1. poppyqlewis | | #2

      thanks so much - i will check it out! martha

  2. marijke | | #3

    Is this the same show as the one on TLC?  The hosts are quite rude/mean to many of their victims, but they do end up making them dress in a much more flattering way.  (Although I was disappointed with a recent show where they lambasted this one woman for sewing her own clothes -- she chose her patterns poorly, but her sewing shouldn't have been made into an issue.)

    Threads has occasionally done stuff on flattering your figure.  I think something by Jan Larkey (not sure I got the name right)?  It's some years back.  More recently, I remember an on-line extra about this -- I think related to the Spring pattern review?


    1. Greythound | | #4

      The show on TLC is an American version of the British show. and, yes, it's hosts are EXTREMELY rude.  The British hosts are not.  I don't think this says much for the state of American culture.

    2. carolfresia | | #5

      Oh, I saw part of that episode on the woman who loved to sew her own clothes, and felt just terrible that they made such a big deal out of it...as though the sewing was the problem, rather than a less-than-ideal pattern or fabric choice. I really wish they had made sewing into a virtue--i.e., you can actually choose flattering styles and colors without having to rely on what's in the stores. Maybe they should have let her spend half of her money in the fabric district on gorgeous fabrics, and guided her toward pattern styles that would work better than what she's been making.

      Well, that clearly wouldn't be as much fun as seeing the transformation at the end of the program, but what a cool boost it would be for the home sewing industry!


      1. marijke | | #6

        Yes.  My point exactly.  From what I could tell, her sewing skill was quite good.  Selecting flattering patterns and fabrics (drape, weight, color, pattern) -- that's a skill in itself. 


        1. carolfresia | | #7

          And you could tell she really enjoyed sewing, so it was doubly sad that they made her feel as though her work was not adequate. On these shows, they have a pretty narrow definition of what's stylish--it has to be this season's latest look (or at least this season's version of any classic style), or it doesn't fly. I don't think I've ever seen them feature a one-of-a-kind garment, for example, or something that's really artsy or unusual. Probably a good thing, since those kinds of looks are very individual and they would have trouble making a general point about them, but still a shame.


    3. poppyqlewis | | #8

      the american version of WNTW is terrible and mean spirited. Please try to watch the BBC version if you can. New episodes are on tuesday nights.


    4. SewNancy | | #9

      I saw that show too!  You have to admit that she didn't really know what fit her body and how to fit what she sews.  I remember the Jan Larkey article and others over the years, they are definitely helpful.  The on line extra was helpful.  Sometimes we don't really want to look at our bodies in such a critcal fashion, but it is really necessary for good fit.  I recently made two muslins a la Kenneth King for a jacket I am making.  It is the first tailored jacket I have made since losing 75 lbs and that and age have really made a difference in how to fit my body.  Obviously, posture and basic body type haven't changed.  But I finally pinpointed certain fitting problems by trying on the muslin and looking through my fitting books till I found what looked like my set of wrinkles.  It worked.  The jacket is going together without any fitting problems.


      1. carolfresia | | #10

        What I'd love to see is someone else--maybe Sandra Betzina, or even Threads--invite the makeover-ee for a consultation about her sewing. She could learn how to duplicate the attractive looks she found in RTW by choosing the right pattern/fabric combination, and by doing a more careful job of fitting. Of course, we have a magazine to get out, so it probably won't be us...but you never know!


        1. Barbaran8 | | #11

          Actually Carol... think that idea through a bit more... they do have episodes where they go back and check out what their victims/clients are doing now - what if Threads did do a tie-in with her - and then she showed up on a future episode with good-looking self sewn garments - after a $500 shopping spree for fabrics, say for instance, and advice from one of the Threads contributors - that fabric spree could be videoed, and the sewing advice - and all of a sudden there is Threads mentioned on prime time cable and satellite... I bet your marketing department would have a hernia trying to get this kind of coverage!!!

          1. carolfresia | | #12

            I didn't know they went back and checked up on the makeover-ees. Hmmm....you're right, our promo and marketing folks would have a field day with that!


      2. marijke | | #13


        I am very impressed: two muslins!  I have been contemplating whether I should invest time in that.  I want to make a jacket that's like a suit jacket but without shoulder pads or lining -- more casual and easier during hot and humid summer days.  I was going to buy one (J Crew had such a jacket), but I tried on the regular size and the sleeves were way long, and on the petite size the upper back/chest was too tight.  I sent both back but still want that jacket.  I liked the style.  Now I am trying to figure out what pattern to use...  A muslin would probably be a good investment of my time, but with little sewing time, it's a step I often try to skip (not always successfully...)

        Your experience is encouraging me to very seriously think about doing the muslin!


        1. FitnessNut | | #14

          I find that a muslin is a worthwhile investment of my time. I only use the major pattern pieces, eliminating such things as facings, upper collars, pockets etc., so sewing is relatively quick. Besides the obvious fitting benefits, it is also a double check that all pieces fit together properly and the notches match. I mark the pockets directly onto the muslin in the most suitable location for me, not where the pattern says they have to be. Because I am fortunate to be symmetric, I only insert one sleeve....you may want to follow my lead if you can as it saves time. Now, I don't make muslins for everything for myself (I do for my clients), only complex garments or those that have details which I have questions about. Or if I'm not sure of the fit. Another thing to think about is that I find the real garment goes together more quickly because it is the second time around and I don't have to stop to try on.

          1. marijke | | #15


            Thanks much!  I am beginning to think that skipping the muslin has not been the timersaver I always considered it.  I am planning to do one for my next jacket.  Maybe, if I can fine-tune a pattern I can actually sew several jackets from the same pattern (in different fabrics, they'll look different anyway, plus I could vary other details).

            Thanks for the encouragement!


          2. Bernie1 | | #16

            FYI, Cynthia Guffy recommends always making a muslin to perfect fit.

          3. SewNancy | | #18

            I found figure faults I didn't even know that I had!  I intend to make the pattern again in different fabric and different details.


          4. Alexandra | | #20

            And what is everyone using to make the muslin?  Muslin?  Or something in your stash you can't believe you purchased?

          5. FitnessNut | | #21

            Personally, I use muslin....because I design and sew as a business I always have it on hand in several different weights and I can match it to the fashion fabric. I'm also buying it wholesale, by the bolt, so its about as cheap as you can get. When fitting, I write directly on the garment, so visibility is important to me. This isn't to say that your test garment has to be done in muslin. You can use anything you have in your stash, as long as it has a hand similar to the fabric you will be making your final garment in. As a rule, it should also be stable, unless of course you are making stretch garment. I've used ugly, cheap swimsuit fabric to do a "muslin" of a swimsuit. And I've actually gone to a discount place to buy $2/m gauzy cotton to duplicate the design of a chiffon dress.

          6. Lword | | #22

            Fabulous info, thanks Sandy! Your suggestions have given me an idea to use various pant legs as "muslins" from the numerous pants I have with a too small waistband. It would take some work to replace with insets, drawstrings or elastic to re-use, but as nice fitting legs on me really seem to depend on the fabric and so much more it might be worth saving those legs.

            Whoever designed the stomach should have spread it all over our bodies and made it moldable. Grandma made most of my fancy or day-wear clothes and she always made muslins. To my young mind I just wanted to grab the material and stitch. Later I learned that meant I'd have to tear out stitching (also something my teen self did too fast), and sometimes ruined the fabric.

            Using cheap imitative fabric is a great tip for swimsuit muslins. Wonderful post. This forum gives me many ideas. Thanks again. 

          7. carolfresia | | #23

            I use stash fabrics that either I've decided just aren't really me, or stuff I've bought inexpensively for the purpose of making potentially wearable muslins. I actually have some garments that I've made as muslins in cheapo fabric that turned out so well they've become favorites. Sometimes you get a pleasant surprise!

            When I was growing up and my mother was a custom dressmaker, she bought bright, sometimes obnoxious prints at the local Newberry's discount store (where they measured fabric by pulling the selvage through one of those meter thingies and then snipped the edge and tore it) to make muslins for her clients. This was great for me and my sisters, because the muslins became our dress-ups afterward, and we didn't mind all those loud patterns at all.


          8. Lword | | #24

            More great ideas and memories, thanks Carol.

          9. SewNancy | | #25

            I like using different weights of muslin because I can easily write on them and mark the sas.  They are also the cheapest fabric that I have found and easy to sew.


          10. Lword | | #26

            Good ideas, thanks. I know some muslin can be pricier than stuff on remnant tables however, or was years ago.

        2. SewNancy | | #17

          I have tried before to skip the muslin stage, and also not very successfully.    I read this advice some where that is you make more than 2 or 3 changes to a pattern or if the last few things that you sewed were a disapointment, than make a muslin.  Well, it is great advice.  My jacket went together quickly and easily because I had solved all the problems on the cheap stuff first! 


          1. marijke | | #19


            Thanks much!  I think my own experience should have pushed me to make a muslin a long time ago.  The feedback I have gotten from you and others makes that I will definitely do this the next time I sew a jacket!

            It really helps to hear from others' experience!


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