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Roberta | Posted in The Archives on

As a self taught sewer, I have been sewing with varied fitting success for many years.
I read all that I can about fitting, but I have to say that I find it mostly confusing.
I think that big pattern companies are partly to blame for the drop off in home sewing. Labelling a pattern VERY EASY that obviously needs extensive fitting alterations for any but the exact figure that the pattern was drafted for is almost bound to lead to failure for the average amateur who tries to sew it. And the suggested petite alteration lines on paper patterns may be in the wrong place for you, as I have only recently discovered.
I read with bafflement letters that ask readers to recommend patterns that fit well – surely as everyone is a different shape then what is the point of buying a particular pattern that fits an entirely different person? Successful fit surely depends on how well you can alter the pattern to your body. And I agree with another reader who states that nowadays most people don’t have the fitting skills and many don’t even have the sewing skills to cope.
I also recently had a sloper made by Betty Foster, a famous pattern making teacher in Yorkshire, UK. I hope this will solve some of my fitting problems – although I don’t know how successful I will be in transferring the changes to a bought pattern. She travels around craft and sewing exhibitions in the UK. She has measured many people and confidently states that there is no standard shaped person anywhere!
I read in Discussion somewhere that a USA shop measured customers, then cut out and altered their paper patterns for them – does this service exist in the UK, in the south of England? It might be a lucrative sideline for those in the sewing business.


  1. wp | | #1

    Dear Roberta - I agree that the very easy pattern title is a misnomer and I think that fitting is essential otherwise the garment looks homemade. I study articles on fitting and I think I know how to alter patterns but the skill seems to be in the diagnosis of the fitting difficulty. So I rely on the vague observations of my husband or friends or more successfully (but tediously)I avoid this and I draft my own patterns,particularly for trousers.

    I live in the UK and have heard Betty Foster speak and studied some of her books but not put her stuff into practice since I have used drafting techniques taught differently at night school. These have suited me but I think its 'horses for courses' and you might well find her ideas work for you. I think her company will also draft a pattern for you too and I am pretty sure I have seen ads for companies offering similar services here in the UK.

    1. Carol_T | | #2

      *An experienced seamstress pointed out to me that the "easy" patterns had very little in the way of shape or fitting darts, they're mostly just sacks! No wonder they look lousy. The pattern companies would do themselves a favor, it would seem, by making a bigger deal of selling patterns for fitting shells, and including instructions on how to use them.

      1. lin_hendrix | | #3

        *Hi Carol, You're right about the pattern companies' approach to "easy." Unless your measurements are very close to the pattern company's sizing you might as well draft your own! (which I do by the way). There are two on-line companies that specialize in custom drafted patterns for what seems to me a pretty reasonable price. They are Unique Patterns and EZ Fit. I have never used these so I can't really make a reccomendation on their accuracy. Here are their web sites in case you want to investigate further:http://www.uniquepatterns.com/http://www.ez-fit.com/Home.htm--lin

        1. Betty_Kershner | | #4

          *I have always believed the "easy" patterns were made for people who have a background in sewing. Not for beginners. I always recommend a new sewer start with Vogue. Directions are very detailed. Compare an "easy" pattern with a similar pattern from Vogue and you will see what I mean.

          1. Roberta | | #5

            *Hi BettyAs a beginner I found Easy Vogue patterns no better than others – there is not enough emphasis put on the importance of fitting and how to do it with the result that you waste time and money on constructing ill fitting garments. Fitting properly is a complex business Most people are non standard and so the fitting part makes a mockery of calling a pattern Easy. I think what I am saying to beginners is learn to fit your figure first THEN go out and buy a pattern – and even an Easy one may turn out to be complicated depending on how much fitting you need to do. The pattern companies entirely sidestep this issue resulting in customer’s frustration and blaming themselves for lack of success.

          2. judi | | #6

            *I have found unique patterns to be very easy and, since they've already done the fitting for you, that headache is gone. The directions are clear and they seem to have simplified many of the steps that are more complicated on other commercial patterns. I just made a lined jacket that took no time at all and except that I don't like the particular style of pocket, I'm very pleased.

          3. E_nid_Shapiro | | #7

            *I have found Nancy Zieman's "Fitting Finesse" really wonderful. It makes pattern alterations without "altering" the pattern itself and then fine-tuning the fit after you cut out the garment and baste it together. After getting the "jist" of it, it couldn't be easier.

          4. marie_berman | | #8

            *After years of disappointment with Easy patterns I realized that "easy to construct in short amount of time" isn't the same as "easy to fit or wear." I do use some of the Burda easy patterns. I have had good results with some, but they may not suit everyone. I have found them the easiest to adjust of the major commercial patterns. Also, I mainly use them for knits which are much more forgiving. I found two solutions. First, I decided to only sew when I have the time to do the type of garment construction that actually looks good on me. For me, this means princess seams and set in sleeves. I can't sew these as fast as the boxy unfitted easy patterns, but they look and feel much better. I actually want to wear them! In reality, these aren't any more difficult to sew, they just take a little longer.The other thing that really helped was learning to draft a sloper from my measurements. There are several books on the market (or in libraries) that teach this. It is much easier than I thought. Even though I don't always draft a pattern from scratch, I learned why things do or don't fit. I think everyone who sews should try this at least once. You have the power!

          5. Kelley_Dean-Crowley | | #9

            *I have to agree with Marie. the Easy patterns are usually A two pattern piece shirt with shoulder seams and side seams and rolled hems. While they are easy to sew, they tend to have fitting issues...classically pulling across the bust and gaping armholes. A pattern can be "easy" without having large fitting considerations:1. Some pattern company make poor patterns: Vogue, Butterick, and Burda patterns tend to go together quickly and accurately, while the Simplicity, Style and New Look patterns tend to need adjustments to seam lengths etc. 2. Patterns with multiple sizes on the same pattern tend to be better as you can cut the top of a dress a different size than the skirt for better fitting.3. DO NOT buy a pattern using your arbitrary dress size. ALWAYS use you bust measurement to determine the size of a top and your hip measurement for the bottom as the primary measurement. Again some pattern companies are better at this than others....Vogue runs small..I buy a RTW 12-14, but 16-18 vogue pattern. Let go of the emotional issues related to your dress size when it comes to pattern purchases.4. Be very careful about the styles that you buy....buying a pattern from a catalog is like buying clothes from a catalog but without the return policy! If you are not sure about the style, try it in RTW...does not matter the color etc, just that you like the style. This is something I have a hard time with and I am now more likely to purchase patterns where there is a picture of a model wearing the garments, as they more accurately represent the garment relative to a human,5. Feel free to do your own adjustments to how garments are constructed. A number of years ago I tried using bias tape to finish the arms, necks and hems of shirts instead of those damn floppy facings. Now I never cut facings, unless the garment REALLY requires it, and then if I can I use 'self facings', which are cut with the garment pattern piece and just folded over. The nice thing is that the Bias solution offers a whole new world of ideas...They make these thingees that help you make bias tape which are little wonders!6. I also learned how to make french seams....any sewing book will give you diagrams to do this...basically you sew the seam with the wrong sides together, trim press and foldover to sew the wrong sides together. I find that I enjoy wearing my garments so much more and they are more durable without raveling and threads hanging. I am also starting to flat fell shoulders (This is the seam they use on jeans) to have them lay very flat with good success.7. Threads has a book that is old articles and one of them talks about the Dart. Try to find this book (Fabrics and Fitting??) and read the article. I remeber being afraid of darts when I was younger.....8. If all else fails and you are afraid to cut....make it out of muslin first! I do this myself and most of the time you find that it all comes together, but it can save you fabric!

      2. Crafty_Manx | | #11

        I think an "Easy" pattern has its merits, but it depends on what you are looking to do with it.  Are you interested in learning to properly fit clothes?  Then you probably don't want this type of pattern.  Are you interested in learning how to sew a basic straight seam, a basic armhole, etc.?  Then 2-hour "Easy" pajama patterns are a great starter because, after all, the fitting and other issues are confined to the bedroom, not the workplace!  And pajamas (for example) are such a great place to get your feet wet, without worrying about ruining really expensive fabric and notions.  The same could be said about those "Easy" fleece patterns for winter hats and such.  And an "Easy' pattern, something that goes together fast, is good for someone who is just learning and prone to frustration, who may get fed up and never sew again if s/he had to learn fitting and such (which can be very tricky!) in the very beginning.  The key would be choosing a pattern, such as a loose, flowy skirt, that is not designed to be very fitted and could more easily be adapted to many body types than, say, a tailored jacket.

        Ok, enough of that.  Happy holidays everyone!


  2. Vilar | | #10

    Dear Roberta!

    Try the following link: http://www.lekala.info/e_dn.html. I've downloaded about dozen of free patterns (skirts, trousers, evening dress). I'm quite satisfied with them, for they are easy to sew, and ready garments really fit!

    1. SEWSERIOU1 | | #12

      Your link does not work for me and the main site is an FTP server that needs a password.

  3. ElonaM | | #13

    Actually, Loes Hinse's patterns seem to be both easy to construct and extremely flattering on a wide variety of figures. I suspect the reason for the good fit is that she has a shop where she sells garments made from these patterns, and she has therefore much experience with tweaking these patterns to fit many body shapes.

    I have only made two of her patterns, a beautiful tee and a blouse, but I must say that I was astounded at how quick they were to make, and how becoming they were, with almost no alterations--and I am hard to fit.

    Her patterns are much discussed (complete with photos of finished garments) at http://www.patternreview.com

    Here is her website:


    1. SewNancy | | #14

      I always hesitate to sew "easy' patterns because they can look homemade.  The sewing instructions are never easy!  They don't use some of the newer  methods that make a pattern look good.  A great companion for a new sewer is Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing.  Substituting her methods will make a big difference.  If you have a hard to fit body, fewer pattern pieces make it much harder to get a good fit. 


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