Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads


user-106611 | Posted in Fitting on

Hi y’all,

             I have a huge problem with fit, and would like to make all my clothes.  However, I am very short, and have recently lost weight so that now everything is hanging on me.  Believe me when I tell you that nothing in my wardrobe fits properly; everything must be altered as best as can be.

     I have tried making alterations on storebought paper patterns using Sandra Betzina’s book, but there seem to be too many overall changes needed to make it fit correctly.  The computer design programs seem to target an average height/weight female, and I’m wary of throwing my money in that direction. 

     I want to make my own patterns, but there are no local dressmaking classes.  I am 4’8″, 95lbs., 47 yrs. old, and tired of looking like a ragamuffin.  Any input will be most appreciated.  B.Raines


  1. gracec | | #1

    Dear Mrs. Raines,


    Kenneth King has excellent ebooks on pattern drafting.  The basic draft is called "The Moulage"; there is also one on pants.  They are very well done and the price is right too!



  2. cafms | | #2

    Another source that I've found helpful is the book Fantastic Fit For Every Body by Gale Grigg Hazen  (Rodale Press).  She has a lot of pictures of different sized women and the alterations they made to patterns to achieve a nice fit.   She also has suggestions for looking at the body to understand just where you need the alterations and how one alteration affects another. 

    In addition, see if you can find someone who can help you with the initial measuring and then fitting once you have made a muslin.  Even if they don't sew but can be patient with the process it will be a lot of help to you.  From your greeting I think you may be from the south.  Mississippi, Kentucky, and Texas have active Master Clothing / Sewing Volunteer groups through the Extension Service.  You may be able to find some help there or at least contact the Service in your state/county to ask if there is a sewing group.



    1. user-106611 | | #3


               Thank you ma'am, I'm a Virginian, and unfortunately, those services are not offered through our local government.  It really would help to find someone who teaches these techniques, so I'm going to pursue that route a bit more aggressively.  There's got to be a way to do this!  Thanks again!

      1. mygaley | | #4

        Try University of Virginia Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service.  Then, the person(s) you want is Cooperative Extension Agent in charge of Sewing Lessons--I'm sure the receptionist will know to whom you should be referred.  If you hear the words County Agent or 4H, talk to them!  This is a wonderful service, already paid for with our tax dollars, so don't give up! Galey

      2. mem | | #8

        You know I taught myself to make patterns and have been able to extrapolate that to ready made pattern alterartions . I think getting a very simple book to begin with is the key . Also lots of paper a T square and good ruler and then draught out your basic blocks and make them up in muslin.You need some peace and quiet and to have read a few books to get the idea of how it works.

        1. EileenB | | #10

          One of the things I found helpful in making K Kings Moulange was to use "flip chart paper"  Get the kind with faint 1" gridlines in the background.  I also then use this paper for drafting patterns etc.  The gridlines help with the 90 degree angles!  You can get this at any office supply.  The pads are about 20"  by 36"


      3. SewNancy | | #15

        See if there is a dressmaker around who you can pay to take your measurements. I think that the first thing you need to do is shorten the pattern to bring it in line with your body before you do any circumfrence changes. You would shorten above the bust, below the bust, and below the waist to start. Then if the pattern is too wide you would take out a pleat front and back. I also reccomend the Fit for anybody too. There is a section on determining where you are petite. Some people are evenly petite others are long in waist or leg, etc.

      4. mjorymer | | #21

        You might check the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers for the names of dressmakers in your area.  Many members do custom pattern design.  One friend, Linda Stewart, who lives in Bristol VA knows everyone in the area who might be able thelp you.

        Go to http://www.paccprofessionals.org and click on the area for finding a dressmaker and go to your state.

        Good  luck

        Marijo Rymer

        PACC Colorado

  3. FitnessNut | | #5

    With your description of your body and fitting problems, I think it would be in your best interests to learn to draft patterns rather than altering commercial ones to fit you. Believe me when I say that it is indeed easier....and once you have a fitted sloper and understand the basics of turning that sloper into the patterns for the garments you desire, you'll never look back. It really isn't rocket science and not that difficult to learn.

    Should you not find anyone capable of teaching you, I urge you to look into some of the books on the subject that we have discussed at length on this forum (see the search function). My understanding is that Kenneth King's books on CD are wonderful. Indeed, it is a version of the same method I learned in fashion design school and the fit is incredible. For someone unfamiliar with manual pattern drafting, I do not recommend going the computer route - you really do need to have a background so you know what you are doing.

    And always, always make a muslin or sample garment before cutting into your good fabric. Take the time to evaluate the styling, design and placement of details, as well as the fit. It is well worth the time.

    Hope this helps. Sorry to be so long-winded, but you've hit upon a subject dear to my heart ;-)

    1. user-106611 | | #6

           I have access to K. King's Moulage CD---and it looks like a tremendous, eye-crossing undertaking.  But, all things considered, I'm just going to have to take it on.  I have a week-long break coming up, and I have made up my mind to focus on making one.  Wish me luck!

           Thanks for your encouragement--I can't get over how few people-that I know personally- sew, yet there seems to be a huge, unseen, underground community out there.  I just wish y'all lived next-door.   B. Raines

      1. SewTruTerry | | #7

        You may also want to look at the independent pattern companies like Silhouettes by Peggy Sagers.  Her website is http://www.silhouettepatterns.com I bought one of her patterns on a whim at the Sewing and Craft Expo more than a year ago and was so amazed with the fit that I purchased another 4 several months ago. I also happen to be under 5' tall but do not weigh 97 lbs.  The nice thing about Peggy's patterns,you go by measurements and overall ease that you want not by average size. You also get all sizes in the pattern so that you have everything that you could possibly want to fit your body perfectly.  In fact this afternoon I am going to make a muslin of her pants pattern and anticipate being able to sew the pants tommorrow.  Possibly while I am at work.  I work for a sewing machince company so this is part of my job description.  Isn't that fun.  Good luck.

        1. helen1930 | | #20

          Hi-I'm new to this site-however I know from experience that pants are the most difficult to fit--margaret islanders video tape and book are exceptional--certainly worth a try--you can develop the perfect pants pattern-

  4. user-108513 | | #9


    You might try calling your local high school or junior high school to see if they have a home ec teacher that might be able to help you fit yourself and get some good measurements and make a basic muslin that actually fits.  If they aren't interested they will still probably be able to give you some names in your area for help.  If there is a college that teaches home economics (it's now more commonly called Family and Consumer Science) in your area, they will be able to help you and will have books in their bookstore that will show pattern drafting and fitting techniques.  It would also be helpful to you if you had a dress form.  It's much easier to pin up needed alterations on someone(thing) else.  If you have a local quilting guild, you would also find some good seamstresses there.  And like someone else suggested, your county extension agents really should be able to help you.  You might also ask at your fabric store if someone would be interested in helping you get a basic muslin done to work from.

    Don't give up!

    Texas T 

  5. Julie B | | #11

    I use pattern drafting software and sew for myself (petite) and clients (not petite) and I can say that this technology works for all body sizes and types. I used Wild Ginger's products and the patterns are based on your particular measurements. There is a learning curve involved with the software (just as there is with everything new in life) but once you've gotten the measurements down the patterns will draft to your size. You can try out the system by purchasing a Click and Sew which does not involve the investment of the full programs.

    Also, if you are willing to share where in Virginia you live I might be able to recommend some specific local resources (I live in Virginia, too).

    Julie B
    No Va

    1. Sewdance | | #12

      Have you considered hiring a professional dressmaker to help you with measurements and/or pattern fitting?

  6. gracec | | #13

    Joyce Murphy (author of the wonderful pants fitting articles in THREADS) is offering a workshop from 4/4 to 4/9 in Laurel, Maryland.  Details at jsmpatterns.com.

    Her website has a list of persons she has trained.  You might be ineterested.




    1. SAAM | | #14

      A couple of books I've had luck with while sewing for my disparitly sized children are FAST FIT by Sandra Betzina, THE VOGUE SEWING BOOK, revised addition — their fitting section is pretty comprehensive — and EVERY SEWER'S GUIDE TO THE PERFECT FIT by Mary Morris & Sally McCann from G Street Fabric in Rockville, Maryland. I've just gotten started with the last book. It looks pretty comprehensive and clearly written, plus they use the ladies from the store to model the before and after garments. And these ladies are of ALL different sizes and shapes, so we know the authors were writing with real women in mind.

  7. jandheurle | | #16

    You might try as well Kathleen Fasanella's website, http://www.Fashion-Incubator.com for lots of info on this topic. Look especially at her tutorial on saran-wrap pattern making.

    1. User avater
      Thimblefingers | | #17

      I understand your dilemna as I am 5 " and 100 lbs.  A size 4 pattern sometimes fits me and I make a 6 smaller.  I also draft my own patterns, and being such a small size, drafting is often less time consuming than trying to alter.  I am 48 and many of the styles appropriate for our age group start at size 8, which is very frustrating.  The latest issue of Vogue Patterns (Feb/March) has an article on pattern grading.  I have used this method to great success to grade size 6 and 8 patterns down for years (just figured it out on my own - article confirms I was doing it right).  Because you are proportionate (I'm assuming this because of your weight/height ratio), grading would probably work well for you with perhaps a few minor alterations, and is much easier and less time consuming than trying to completely alter a pattern. 

    2. EileenB | | #39

      This web site has a posting about a Japaneese pattern magazine called Mrs Style.  Does anyone know where to subscribe to it??  I tried googling to no avail.

      1. jandheurle | | #40

        Try searching the web for Japan and books. There are several stores around the country that carry Japanese books and magazines. Check for a series of posts on SewingWorld for more information.

  8. sandign47 | | #18

    You might try "How to Make Sewing Patterns" by Donald McCunn.  His book is in its 12th printing and is excellent.  It was written in the 70's but it is timeless.  His website is  http://how-to-make-sewing-patterns.deofsf.com/  You just missed a great chat by Don at FitSnobs on Saturday.  He had some great things to say.

    I've learned that making my own patterns isn't as hard as I thought.  A little bit of a learning curve but then what worthwhile doesn't have one.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    Sandy Norton



  9. TJSEWS | | #19

    I certainly understand your situation.  I am 45 years old and have a petite frame (size 8) - however, I have a 34DD chest, protuding tummy and flat derriere. 

    What has helped me greatly is having a body form that is an exact duplicate of my body, with all its inperfections.  I made the My Twin Body form.  It was a very messy and time consuming project but well worth the effort.  You might want to check out their website:  http://www.mytwindressforms.com.

    I am lucky to live within commuting distance of New York City where I am taking draping and patternmaking classes.  One of the books recommended to us as students is a book by Connie Amaden-Crawford, The Art of Fashion Draping, 3rd edition.  The book is expensive (close to $70) but excellent.  It has very clear explanations with very helpful illustrations.  If you cannot find the book at your local bookstore, you can find it on Amazon.com.  If I weren't taking the classes, I would be able to learn from this book.

    Having the My Twin form and this book have proven to be invaluable tools for me and have helped me greatly in making clothing that fits.  I hope the same for you if you decide to do the same.  Best of luck to you!!



    1. saysew | | #32

      I too live reasonably close to NYC. Where are you taking the classes? I have always wanted to learn 'in person' rather than from a book.

      1. TJSEWS | | #35

        I am taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology located at 27th St and 7th Ave in New York City.  I am currently pursuing a certification in Draping Techniques.  You might want to check out their website http://www.fitnyc.edu.  I would recommend getting on their mailing list so that you can receive their course catalog.  Good luck!

  10. user-116532 | | #22

    I own every book on fitting mentioned in previous posts, and I also have tried the Wild Ginger software. (The learning curve on Wild Ginger was too steep for me, and I sent it back for a refund.)

    Even using my MY TWIN dressform, I spent hours trying to achieve a good fit, usually without succeeding, and very little time sewing. My sewing output was minimal because I spent most of my time trying to fit myself.

    About two or three years ago, I discovered Unique Patterns, computer-generated patterns to fit your own individual measurements. My sewing life has been transformed as a result of Unique Patterns. I now spend my time sewing, designing, experimenting, and enjoying the process of creating.

    I have purchased dozens of Unique Patterns for myself and for my 84-year-old mother. They are a dream come true. I will never again sew garments with any other commercial petterns.

    If you have patternmaking skills and want to save money, you can order the sloper pattern 9023, which only lacks an elbow dart to be perfect. Order pattern 4524, a close fitting jacket with an elbow dart, account for the slight difference in ease, combine the two, and, VOILA, you have a perfect sloper.

    Alternatively, you can do as I do and order several patterns with design elements you like and combine them creatively.

    The Unique Patterns are drafted by human beings, and occasionally they "goof." If a pattern doesn't fit, the company will re-draft it and replace it. They guarantee a good fit.

    You can submit your individual measurements to the company or have your measurements taken by their lazer measuring device. My mother and I went this latter route. The lazer device travels around the country to different fabric shops and sewing exhibitions---check for its availability near you. We had our measurements taken at the Houston International Quilt Festival.

    Go to the http://www.uniquepatterns.com website for details on prices and ordering patterns.

    I highly recommend this company and the pleasure you will have (is joy too strong a word?) at finally having well-fitting clothes you made yourself without going mad trying the techniques in the fitting books.

    1. jandheurle | | #23

      This reads like an ad.

      1. Desiderata | | #26

        Funny, that did occur to me too. I have read other opinions on Unique Patterns. Hope this helps too.

        1. mem | | #27

          what were the other opinions???

        2. user-116532 | | #28

          I guess I should have introduced myself, as #23 was my very first post ever to Gatherings. I didn't expect to be greeted as I was! I am a retired lawyer, and I have been sewing for 41 years. Now that my daughter is grown and I am no longer practicing law, I finally have lots of time to follow my passion---sewing. I subscribe to Threads, Sew News, Australian Stitches, and the Butterick Pattern Magazine. I am even going on a group shopping trip to Manhattan with Peggy Sagers in April! Lucky me!I am hard to fit---short stature, long-waisted, sway back, large, low bust and tummy, one high shoulder and one low one. The Unique Patterns have been a life-saver for me, and I so appreciate getting to spend my time sewing, not fitting (over and over again, in my case). My mother, who is 84, has no figure problems at all---she's straight as an arrow. I still enjoy being able to sew her something and mail it to her and have her report that it fits.Please remember that it is all too easy to give an off-hand, intemperate response to a posting. You can hurt people's feelings without meaning to do so. I put a lot of thought into my posting #23 because I know a lot about the frustrations of fitting, and I wanted to share my positive experience with Ms. Raines. I've never written an ad in my life!I hope to learn a lot from you and all my fellow sewing enthusiasts!

          1. Teaf5 | | #29

            The posters who reacted that way were probably misled by the very articulate prose in your post; only retired lawyers and English teachers (me) write impromptu responses that follow standard rules of composition!Please don't let the initial reaction dissuade you from participating; this forum is rich with inspiration, exploration, and solutions. If nothing else, you can take heart that you were mistaken for a professional advertising copy writer!

          2. user-116532 | | #30

            Thank you so much for your kind welcome. I am already getting benefits from my participation in this forum---several people have offered valuable advice on my upcoming trip fabric shopping in Manhattan with Peggy Sagers! This trip probably will be "once in a lifetime" for me, and I want to get the most out of it. People have had such good suggestions to make it a success.I feel very lucky to have found this group.Thank you, again.

    2. jandheurle | | #24

      I think it is an ad.

      1. user-116532 | | #25

        I hope I have helped Ms. Raines.

    3. saysew | | #33

      I 'joined' Unique patterns a few years ago and found that I still had to make alterations to their patterns to get a fit I was pleased with. Not as many as an off the shelf pattern, but not the perfection I had anticipated.

      1. user-116532 | | #34

        Saysew, I agree that we still haven't reached nirvana with Unique Patterns. They are so much better, however, than anything we have had before that I remain a satisfied customer. Here are the few areas where I have experienced problems:1. The pants fit can be hit or miss in the crotch area---I presently am redrafting a Unique Pattern using the body contour method in a recent Threads issue. (I just took time to look it up---January 2006, number 122. Joyce Murphy is the author, and the article, "Adjusting Pants from Waist to Seat," begins on page 36.) Between the nearly correct Unique pattern and the adjustments for my particular body shape, I think I'll be quite happy with the result. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!2. Unique patterns sometimes omit pattern markers, such as small or large dots. Once or twice, I've even received a pattern piece without a grain line. These problems do not occur often, and, as I am an experienced sewer, they do not hamper my enjoyment or results.3. For my large bust, Unique patterns adds a bust dart. I usually agree with their placement of this dart, and it always improves the fit. Once, however, the pattern drafter added a bust dart to a very shapely princess jacket with horrible results. In the original jacket design, the bust and waist area is shaped by a princess to-the-shoulder seam and a vertical double-ended dart, parallel to the princess seam, giving an hourglass shape to the jacket. The Unique pattern maker added a bust dart from the armhole to the bust apex. The result, if you can picture it, was the near convergence of the top of the double pointed dart, the tip of the oblique bust dart, and the curve of the vertical princess seam. If you can't picture it, just take my word that it was ghastly. To correct the visual nightmare, I rotated the bust dart (the one added by the Unique pattern maker) so that it was hidden under the lapel. I found the instructions in a book on pattern drafting by the flat pattern method.To sum up my third point, I'm not sure the design sensitivities of the Unique pattern drafters are always keen.On the other hand, I have ordered many Unique Patterns and have been completely satisfied with all but a very few. And, for those two or three with which I've had problems, I have either e-mailed Unique Patterns to ask for a corrected version, or done it myself with the help of Threads magazine or my fitting and drafting manuals.Hope this is helpful!

        Edited 3/15/2006 10:10 am ET by Short Memory

        1. SewTwin | | #38

          YEA! I finally found an informative review of Unique's Body Scanner. I could have also done that at the Houston Quilt Festival. I delayed since I didn't know if it was hype, or not.

          I may try both the Sew Twin (Mold of your Body), and Unique Body Scanner; if I can't get it with those aids, I am hopeless!

          Sorry for the thoughtless comments, not all of us are so eloquent in our descriptions of items available. I joined this site for education in sewing, and partnership.

          I took a class from Peggy Sagers in Denton, Texas at Texas Womens Univ. in February. Her company, Silhouette Patterns set up the event, Fashion Show & all. She is extremely talented, and was there to educate us, not just to sell for vendors. I envy your shopping trip. Please tell us how it went, so we can envision ourselves there someday! 


    4. solosmocker | | #36

      I truly appreciated your post as I also have a unique petite figure with its challenges as well. I am going to attempt a duct tape form of my butt. My DH seemed very willing to help me out, hmmmm.... There are great instructions for this on Pattern Review. Please continue to post. You clearly have a lot to add to the forum and personally apologize for any ill will you may have felt. I welcome you aboard. One thing, just in case you are not familiar with some of the lingo on forums there is a great abreviation, NAYY. No Association, Yada, Yada. When someone loves a product and wants to tout it to others, this abreviation is often added in somewhere. It took me months to figure this out and I eventually stumbled on its meaning. I am a closet writer and your wonderful expression was truly appreciated by me. You must have been a great lawyer! Thanks for posting.

    5. cloetzu | | #41

      Wondering if someone who has used Unique Patterns can clarify something for me... do they give you a comprehensive list of your measurments after the scan that you can print out and then turn around and use on any pattern you purchase (from sources other then them)?  Or are the measurments useless unless you order patterns from them?

      I was thinking that it might be worth it (for me) to get the scan just so I have the correct measurements - then I can apply those measurements to patterns I have (some of which are the exact ones they have on their web site but cost far far more then I paid for them)...

      1. user-116532 | | #42

        I last had my measurements taken by the BodySkanner in November 2004. At that time, they gave you a complete print-out of all your measurements. I found it helpful for a number of purposes, mainly hemming pants.I don't have any more up-to-date information.---Krista (Short Memory)

  11. debbie_doo13 | | #31

    Hi. What area of the country to do live in? I live the Denver area and there is a school called the Emily Griffin School of Opportunity and they teach pattern making, etc. Debbie

  12. User avater
    melanie56 | | #37

    At sewing classes.com heather Claus does an excellent online class on making your perfect dressform. Winnifred aldrich pattern drafting books are excellent for drafting basic blocks to your body shape. It may take a few days to make some well fitting blocks but once you have learnt to adapt them to the styles you want you will be pleased again with your garments.

  13. ineedaserger329 | | #43

    How much of a shambles is your wardrobe in? I take it you have a favorite outfit.....or at least used to? I know it is labor intensive, but I'd take that apart and scale it down (with pins) until it fits again. Cut off the excess and make a pattern from the pieces while it is apart......sew it back up, and it is easy to duplicate and modify.....I have done this with many articles I just couldn't stand to part with and although labor intensive, I was happy with the result. Good luck!

  14. tmorris1 | | #44

    Mrs. Raines;

    Here is my suggestion to you...If you were to pick up some basic patterns that fit well with your body shape, and lifestyle. Put the time into altering these, and you can simply use them again and again. I use just a couple of basic patterns for all of my wardrobe, and add details to these patterns as fashion dictates. If you are careful with your pattern selection, you can find, for example, a button down shirt pattern with several different sleeve types and several different collars. Make you perfect fitting pair of pants, and make several different pairs. You can change pocket styles etc on them to make each pair unique.

    I used to go out and buy every pattern that caught my eye, spend hours altering them, and then never use the pattern again. Then I discovered that I had purchased several patterns over the years which were essentially the same and I was wasting my time altering every one of them. Now I use the same basic patterns for everything I make, because I know that they will fit well. It is very easy to cut a new seam into a pattern, add a flare to pants, change the ease, etc, just have faith in yourself and go go go!!!

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All