When it comes to making clothing getting the fit just right is by far the most challenging part to sewing them. Fitting patterns, by and large, is a process that begins before the first pattern piece is cut and continues throughout the entire assembly and construction process. It is not a singular step but rather a series of adjustments that take place at various stages throughout the process of sewing any garment.
Learning to properly fit and adjust patterns takes a great deal of time and practice to master, but once done, is a skill that will pay huge dividends in beautifully made clothing that look good and will last a lifetime.
The steps you take well before the first pattern piece is cut are among the most critical to getting the right fit. There are four key fitting opportunities that every garment sewer must perform to ensure the right size is cut and the most important pattern adjustments are made before layout and cutting begins.
The four key “pre-sewing” fitting steps
1. Select the right pattern size.
Its important to remember that pattern sizes are not the same as the sizes represented in bricks and mortar stores. Pattern sizes are typically anywhere from 1-3 sizes larger. Yes, larger. Get over it! It is what it is and size is but a number. Cutting out patterns that are too small typically can’t be fixed, so be sure to pick the right pattern size from the start — it’s imperative. Plus, you’ll feel like a million bucks in a garment you sew yourself that fits like a dream.
Pattern sizes are based on three basic body measurements: the fullest part of the bustline, the natural waistline and the fullest part of the hips and buttocks. These are all circumference measurements that are done with a good measuring tape. The measurements should be perfectly horizontal to the floor. Make sure the tape fits snuggly, not tightly, around the body, and, by all means, be honest with yourself.
2. Use the Finished Garment Measurements (FGM) to fine tune pattern size selection or to help in between size decisions.
The finished garment measurement is the circumference measurement of the garment once completed at the same three basic body points. They are the sum of the body measurement plus both wearable ease and design ease.
The FGM is a great tool to use to help zero into the right pattern size especially in those cases when your body measurements are in between two sizes. By placing a measuring tape around each body point using the FGMs for both the smaller size, and then the larger size, you can get a feel of how the finished garment will fit around your body. Then pick the size where the fit feels right for you.
3. Measure with tissue pattern fitting.
By pinning the base (tissue) pattern pieces together and placing them on the body critical fitting issues can be identified. This is an important step to sewing the right fit. For the best fit the tissue fitting should be done over the undergarments you intend to wear with the garment you are making. Since tissue fitting is done on only half the body make sure to secure (or pin) the front and back pattern pieces to your center front and back. Key fitting issues to check when tissue fitting include:
1) Make sure the shoulder and side seams are properly positioned.
2) The bust darts are sufficient and properly directed to your bust apex.
3) The bodice, sleeve and bottom patterns are long enough as this can’t be adjusted once the patterns are cut.
4) Check the armhole and neckline for gaps as these need to be addressed before patterns are cut.
5) Make sure crotch seams sufficiently fit over the buttock and follow the curves of your body appropriately. Now is the time to make all of the adjustments needed for a good fit on pants.
4. Prepare a muslin.
To prepare a muslin means to create a prototype of the base garment using inexpensive fabric. This process help isolate all fitting issues and will provide the most comprehensive fitting adjustments needed for a good fit. Not all projects, of course, require making a muslin, but for those with intricate styling details or that require exact fitting, a muslin is best.
It is also important to note that even with a muslin, more fine tuning of the fit will be required throughout the construction process as fashion fabrics will perform differently than muslin fabrics.
Create clothing that compliments your unique contours. Find out how to customize any pattern for a fabulous fit, with guidance from fit specialist Lynda Maynard in her online class Sew the Perfect Fit.
Enjoy up-close instruction as Lynda works with 3 real women to overcome fitting challenges, and flatter their shape. You’ll receive downloadable class materials, including a versatile Vogue pattern, with your 10 HD video lessons. Plus, with unlimited access to your online class, watch anytime, anywhere!