Mary Baxter is undoubtedly one of our Atlantic Sewing Guild’s most experienced fitting gurus.  She proves to us that there is no body quirk that can’t be adjusted for and she is unfailingly generous in helping us figure out where and how to work on our patterns.  Most of us aim for a great fit in our garment sewing, so we asked Mary if she would share a few thoughts on the order she uses to make well-fitting outfits.

A few ideas from Mary:

I have been asked in what order do I alter a pattern?  Before I answer that question, here’s one to answer first:

How to choose the right pattern size?

The majority of us work from a purchased pattern. Most pattern companies follow a standard body measurement and a minimum fitting ease added of: bust 2.5″, waist 1″, hip 2″.

Body measurements + ease (fitting ease & design ease) = fashion silhouette.

The finished garment measurements on the pattern clue you in as to how much ease is included in the garment. You can establish the amount of ease you prefer by measuring your favourite garments.

Fitting is easier if you chose the right sized pattern based on 3 measurements:

1. bust: patterns are typically designed for a B cup (with the exception of patterns that provide various bust sizes). If you are larger than the standard B cup and your bust measurement is larger by  2″ (or more)  than your upper chest measurement, then use the upper chest measurement. The upper chest reflects the body’s frame, a better fit will be achieved and the garment will hang nicely from the the shoulders.

2. waist: place the waist where you prefer to wear your pants or skirts and use this measurement.

3. hip: use measurement at the fullest part. This measurement is often a standard 7- 9″ below the  waist but may be higher if there is  a full tummy.

For a good fit, trust your measurements. Then compare your measurements to the pattern, make alterations and then fine tune when fitting.

A current, comprehensive measurement chart is an essential tool for fitting. Always trust your measurements and measure both sides of your body in case there is any asymmetry.  Fitting takes time but once you have determined your body shape/measurements, it becomes easier to make the pattern adjustments.106-measurement-chart-01

(One of our own members, Barbara Emodi has two excellent articles in past issues of Threads magazine. How to Take Measurements is in issue #106 and How To Measure a Pattern to Assess Fit is in #112.)

Pattern Adjustments

Keep the original pattern intact and start by copying (tracing) the main pieces of the pattern. (I will not be explaining how to go about the alterations. There are various methods and articles on-line or in sewing books that cover this process.)

I start the alteration process with the length, both front and back which includes:

1. shoulder to bust in front, shoulder to waist in back

2. bust to waist

3. waist to hip

4. hip to hem, front and back

5. sleeve, shoulder to elbow, elbow to wrist

Next, I adjust the width:

1. back ( narrow or broad)

2. high round back ( if your clothing pulls towards the back & off the shoulder)

3. shoulder ( narrow, wide and slope)

4. upper chest ( narrow or wide)

5. bust (possibly a large bust adjustment)

6. waist

7. tummy & hip

8. sleeve

After these adjustments are done, pin the darts and then the seams wrong sides together. Carefully try the pattern on to assess and refine.

Make a muslin

Take the fitting one step further: make a muslin out of fabric similar to the fashion fabric you will be using for your garment.  After the fit has been fine tuned you can either take the muslin apart and use it as a pattern or transfer the final adjustments from the muslin onto your paper pattern.  Then cut your altered pattern from your fashion fabric.

The alteration and fitting process takes time but the end result is a well fitted garment and a huge sense of satisfaction.

Thanks, Mary for a very helpful article!

Next Atlantic Sewing Guild meeting is  Tuesday, February 14, 7pm at St. Theresa’s, corner of Dublin & North Streets, Halifax

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