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Ready to Give Up Sewing

SeoulSearch | Posted in Fitting on

Could someone please advise me on fitting? I am ready to give up sewing. I sewed in high school and my body “fit the patterns” a little better then. Ten years later, I have a few more curves and challenges. I’ve read books on fitting but some of the methods I’ve tried haven’t help much–in fact, it seemed to make an even bigger mess in some cases.

Is it worth all the time and effort to make a gingham fitting shell? Will that help?

I am trying to make a simple pair of panties right now–tricot and stretch lace, the basics. I first tried a commercial pattern and it turned out much too big, but only in certain areas. Nest, I took apart an old pair of exactly the same materials I’m using and drafted my own pattern. So far, I’ve tried twice (adjusting as needed as I go) and they still don’t fit.

I thought sewing was supposed to help you make things better than ready to wear and also be time-efficient. Please give me some advice. I am flustered beyond words.




  1. carolfresia | | #1

    K, hang in there! We all have fitting challenges, but most can be solved...eventually! Unfortunately, you can't usually solve them all at once--it often takes a while to figure out exactly what needs to be altered and how to go about it.

    One thing that I've always thought would help me is a dress form, preferably a "duct-tape double" or similar one that actually matches my shape, including asymmetries, untoward protuberances, areas that where my length doesn't match that of the pattern, etc. etc. If you can get someone to help you make one of these, you can more easily fit garments you're making.

    However, that can be a big project, and it's usually more practical to start out with pattern fitting and alteration. In this case, you'll need to start working out how your figure differs from the one the pattern is drafted to fit. Using a pattern company's sloper or fitting shell can help with this, but you can also start more basically by comparing your measurements with those of the specific pattern you're working with: check lengths and widths, and see where you may need to alter. It's very likely that you'll need to make several garments to fine-tune your alterations, but be patient while you're doing it. You learn something new with every project, so even an ill-fitting thing you want to throw away can tell you something useful for the next garment. Just use less expensive fabric while you're in the experimental phase!

    When you've determined some specific fit problems, post your questions here. I'm sure someone will have some advice--there's a lot of experience among Gatherings posters, and it's quite possible that someone will have solved the very same problem you're facing and will be able to offer tips.

    Good luck.


  2. Stargazer49 | | #2

    Goodness, Seoul, have you lost your marbles, Dear??  :)))

    If this is your first foray back into the wonderful world of "needle and thread", you couldn't have picked a worst fabric to work with!! Tricot comes with a fine print warning:  "May cause serious nervous breakdowns!" LOL.....  I think it comes from the planet TRICON and only the Triconians can sew that infernal fabric!  Ackkkk!!!  ;)  God knows I've tried it myself...and, NOW look at me! 

    Seriously, it is a very difficult fabric to work to start with...you sew one way, it goes the other. That applies to cutting it, too!  Very slippery fabric.  Your pattern is just as important in fitting your figure as are your measurements....and, patterns ARE made to fit the general figure of "that size".  I never fit into any pattern size but I had the most luck with Vogue since it is actually more true to a "real" woman's figure than most of the others.  And, as for altering the pattern, that's pretty tricky unless you have really been sewing non-stop for years now and have learned a lot of the tricks you need to know to get a nice fit.  Oh, and your machine WILL certainly make a difference as well.

    Don't give up the ship, Girl...just try another project or maybe a different fabric.  Of course, your pattern will tell you what the garment CAN be made with and you need to pay careful attention to that, too......until you get familiar with fabrics!! 

    So, let me know if you're just trying your hand at the machine again, so to speak, or are you really trying to "get back to basics" and make clothes that really ARE better than those you buy???



    1. SeoulSearch | | #3

      Thank you both so much for the advice. Growing up, I was in 4-H and that's where my sewing began. I won Reserve Grand Champion at the local fair, believe it or not (the winner got a new machine and coat... I got a ribbon and a few bucks!) but that was some time ago.

      Last summer I tried to make myself some slip dresses and that's where I found out how much trouble my body had become (as far as fitting the patterns). This year, too, I need some summer dresses and lingerie items. Thanks for the advice on tricot--I do have some experience with it but that was also when my body had few curves/fitting problems.

      It seems to me that I'll have to make a "test garment" of each thing I want to make with basting stitches so that I can make adjustments, they try to transfer these changes to the pattern, and then try to make the actual garment. Is this reasonable? It just seems like it will take up so much time. But is this what must be done until I get more familiar with fitting? I already know a few things, such as that I have to add front and back darts in every dress pattern because of my full bust (I hate the look of something that just "hangs" off me).

      My machine is a Viking S215. I've had it for ten years and I love it, except that I have trouble with the tension. I have thought of purchasing either a lower-priced serger OR updating my machine, although I may just keep what I have to save money.

      Any more ideas? Thank you!! I feel like I should only have about 5 patterns on hand because it seems that will be the only ones I'll have time to master! :)

      Thanks again. Please inspire me to keep trying :)

      1. GhillieC | | #4

        It sounds to me as if you need a book on fitting. Why not look at Fit for Real People by Pati Palmer, Marta Alto and Barbara Weiland. I am sure you will get recommendations for other books too.

        I see you have 'the full bust problem' - like me. The accepted way of dealing with this nowadays is to use a pattern size which fits the rest of you and use a standard technique for enlarging the bust area.

        Many fitting books will describe this. Once you get the hang of it you can alter patterns to your liking very quickly.

        Test garments are widely used. Either you take it apart once it is fitted and transfer the alterations to your pattern, or you use a cheap fabric and just learn from the experience.

        I think if you use a little patience and careful thought now you will soon be making garments that fit correctly every time.



        1. SeoulSearch | | #5

          Thanks for the suggestion. Actually, I have already read Nancy Zieman's Fitting Finesse and just finished the Fit For Real People book. I'll keep trying and post here when I have a question. That past few items I've tried to make have had elastic so it's been difficult to make adjustments through just tissue-fitting. But I appreciate all the encouragement! You'll probably see me here again soon with questions galore :)


  3. Crish | | #6

    Nothing is more disheartening than working hard on something that is great in your head and yucky on your body!

    You say you just getting back into sew biz.  A suggestion:  Remember that pattern sizing is real; Ready-to-wear sizing is vanity sizing but both are just arbitrary numbers.  Take your measurements honestly.  Don't pull in your tummy more than normal; don't think you can get rid of that new soft spot on your upper arm - it's there because it wants to be, not because you want it.  Burda counter catalogs have a very good measuring guide you might use to help you.  You probably want a really good friend  - some of those measurements are in hard to reach places.  Record all.  Compare them honestly to the envelope chart and then pick your pattern. 

    Before you cut anything, check finished measurements that are printed on all major American patterns. (Theyre also on the European ones but may not be on the pattern piece but rather on the excess tissue).  On American patterns you can identify them by the circle surrounding crossed lines at the bust on the major front or side front piece and hip on the major front piece.  Sometimes there is also one at the waist.  These figures represent the fullest part of the finished garment as it would be worn.  The figure includes your measurement plus the pattern ease.  The first line of the garment description on the pattern envelope has a line describing the fit of the garment - close fittting, semi-fitted, etc up to very loose.  The back pages of the counter catalogs and sometimes the home editions include an ease chart.  This shows how much "wear" room is included to have the finished garment look like it does in the envelope illustration/photo.  You have to have it if you want to sit, breath, move comfortably.  Subtract your personal measurement from the printed figure.  If the result falls in the ease amount range, proceed.  If not, adjust either with a different size or necessary pattern adjustment.  

    Use all those other measurements to check pattern pieces.  The ones that I always check are upper arm circumference and front bodice AND back bodice lengths.  The old carpenter's adage -"measure twice, cut once" is very appropriate for sewing too.

    Go through this with a couple basic garments and you'll probably find you're doing the same adjustments each time.  Then it will be easy again.  Have fun!

  4. enidshapiro | | #7

    Fitting is a problem for most everyone.  I go crazy too.  I finally started picking very simple patterns:  skirts with elastic waist bands, pants the same. 

    A simple fitting book is Nancy Notion's book.  Forgot the name.  It's the pivot method; it is good, but not perfect.

    You can always take a course on fitting.  It's an art in itself.

  5. sissorhappy | | #8

    I too have struggled with panties!   As I'm sure you know, fabrics that have stretch can stretch one way, or both ways, and sometimes more in one direction than the other.  So I have found that measuring, fitting and patterns all become irrelevant if the fabric is more or less stretchy than the pattern requirements.  So what I do is put the fabric up against my body, usually with the greatest degree of stretch going around the body, but not always, read the pattern) and gently stretch it comfortably from one side of my waist to the other.   I then choose the pattern size accordingly. 

    That's half the battle, many a panty or bathing suit has been made in the wrong size because the stretch was more or less than what was required.  So if I can comfortably stretch a piece of tricot from side seam to side seam, and when relaxed it is say 14", that is width I want my front piece to be.  You could also wrap it around you to get a total width for the tricot too, if you're agile, or have a buddy.

    I have found that on the rear panty pattern, if you don't want your panties to ride up, and if you need extra accomodation like me, you can dip the pattern down a half inch  or so. I also stretch the elastic a little tighter there to keep the panty in place.  Once you get a good fit, and are using the same fabric you can go into mass production and it'll all be worth it-panties galore! Plus then you can do the fun stuff like embellishing.  Don't forget to take notes so you can repeat  your successes! 

    I know sewing can be frustrating, but I think the key is to find something fun and easy at first, and enjoy your triumphs. Sometimes when I get discouraged I go back to a simple t-shirt or something, and I can relax and just enjoy the process. Then I'm inspired to move on to something more challenging. 

    Have you tried Burda patterns?  I have made a few, and found the measurements to be very true. Some Burda have seam allowances included in the patterns, and some don't. Either are good.

    Don't give up, and have fun!

  6. HappyToSew | | #9

    Dear Seoul:

    Cannot believe we have the same problem! Just posted my question on sizing. How are you doing now with your sewing? I love to sew, have not done so for a long period of time, like you, I discovered some of my body had gone more than "south." :)  I believe this wonderful site will help us rediscover the magic of creating something special from a gorgeous piece of fabric!

    Glad to have met  you,


    1. silkscape | | #10

      Yikes!  Tricot panties!   Not only do I think stretchy fabrics are more difficult to deal with, but tricot is slippery too.  And the elastic in panties has to be just right.  Why not start with the easy stuff....cotton and linen tops (perfect time of year).  With mandarin collars and one bust dart (move it if necessary).  Easy skirts and burda pants.  (Note, many people, me included, have to add about 3/4" length to the back crotch length- just add it at the waist and taper to side seams) or the burda pants fit closely there.  But burda pants are worth it anyway....I only make burda pants b/c they fit so nicely and are so flattering.  Have you tried princess seams?  Once you get the bust altered the princess seams offer lots of options for tweaking fit.  I don't have the big bust problem!  But I have big other things problems.  Please don't give up!

  7. ReneeParrill | | #11

    I've been making panties too, but not out of tricot. I've been using a nice cotton lycra knit that sews up really nice and is so comfortable, I'll never buy another pair. I use tricot for bras, but I've been thinking of using my cotton lycra for those too, but I'm a little concerned about support.

    1. ryansmum | | #12

      Hi all,

      Fitting is one of my favorite subjects and I appreciate how complicated it is. I was  a professional patternmaker/asst designer in my past life .  I learned this along time ago and I still do this today. 

      Pick an article of clothing that is perfect in almost everyway that you would like to have more of. Look for a pattern that has the basic silohette. Take measurements of clothing in every direction possible.  Take pattern and using measurement make adjustments. This may mean cutting pattern apart and adding more paper to it in order to make adjustments or pinching out paper.  This is time consuming and you must be meticulous.  Be very careful around the armseye as sleeves shouldn't be fiddled with too much at that point.  Bottom of sleeves you can make lots of changes.

      Keep in mind it could take 3 or 4 tries until you get a perfect pattern. Use cheap fabric to do this. Each time you do it tranfer all corrections to pattern.  Know that virtually NO ONE can use a pattern straight out of the envelope.

      An other thing to keep in mind is that the type of fabric is critical. If you have a top that is beautiful in a drapey fluid fabric it will not have the same results if you chose a stiff cotten fabric.

      Also for those of you how make undies, try working on the bias.  Coutoure clothing often has this and it's beautiful although more costly in amount of fabric used.  I try to do most of my sleeves on the bias if I have enough fabric and you get a much lovelier drape.


  8. ElonaM | | #13

    K, in addition to all the excellent suggestions already supplied here, there are a couple more things you can do to ease yourself back into fitting and sewing.

    The first is not to try pants as a first garment! Making panties was brave of you, but fitting the rear is hard, hard, hard, even for those of us who have sewn a long time. And then to work in tricot! Wow.

    If I were going to suggest a good first-time garment, it would be Loes Hinse's cowl top (you can see it at http://www.loeshinsedesign.com). It's a simple tee shirt that you can make long or short, and with or without a cowl collar. The pattern is a little expensive, but it is multi-sized (you can combine sizes to suit your figure) and it seems to fit many, many people quite well, right out of the box. Loes' instructions are also generally very user-friendly.

    Kwik Sew is another pattern line that sewists seem to have great success with, both in terms of fit and instruction. The Big Four--Vogue, Butterick, McCall's, and Simplicity--are iffier in the fit department. I personally feel that it is almost impossible to get a decent fit with Simplicity.

    The key in sewing for yourself is to measure yourself honestly, and then compare your measurements to the finished measurements of the garment at bust, waist, hip, and back waist length.

    And frankly, it's much easier to get a handle on all this via Adult Education sewing classes, if your school district offers them. Some fabric stores (not many, to be sure) also offer sewing classes.

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