A few weeks ago, I signed up to join some other local sewing bloggers to try out the fitting techniques presented by Lynda Maynard in her Craftsy class: Sew the Perfect Fit. If you’ve sewn garments, you know that fit can be a tricky beast to deal with. No one, not even a super model, will fit a pattern right out of the envelope, and that’s not the fault of our bodies. But it takes technique and skill to modify a pattern to fit your body. There are many, many, MANY books, videos, and classes that all cover this topic. Nearly all sewing instructors cover the topic too. So you can imagine that there’s plenty of different techniques on how to achieve the “perfect fit”. Some classes I’ve taken have suggested not even bothering with a muslin, but just measuring yourself and make changes straight on the pattern according to your measurements. Given that I’m an engineer (okay, sure, there’s some argument about whether software developers are truly engineers), I like to think in measurements. Taking a measurement and changing a paper pattern based on that makes a lot of sense to me. So when I purchased Lynda’s course on Craftsy, I wasn’t sure if I would really like the way she does her fitting.
A long time ago, one of the first things I learned about fitting was to make a muslin if you’re unsure how something will fit on you. I’ve done that a couple times for some special occasion dresses just to make sure they were going to fit me. I’d make the appropriate changes to the muslin garment to get it to fit, and then take apart the muslin and that would be my new pattern using the actual fabric. But that can be so daunting to do that for EVERY garment you make. Most of the time, I don’t bother to make one, and just use the pattern out of the envelope, using the size that best fits my bust and waist measurements and then grade it out to a size or two larger, depending on where my hip measurement lies. I don’t worry about waist length (because I’m only 3/4″ difference between the pattern size and my actual waist length) and I don’t do any bust adjustments.
So on to Lynda’s class. It starts out pretty typically: take your measurements, and then pick your pattern size based on your bust measurement (or high bust, if you’re bigger than a B-cup). Then make the muslin in that size, all the way through. Wait, what? I can’t grade out to make sure my pear-shaped hips will fit in it? No? Okay… Then she goes on to show the muslin on the models and how it will pull in certain areas. After a few snips and moving the muslin pieces out to where it will want to hang naturally, you can see how she’s actually putting the muslin to work. She fills in any gaps she creates with some scrap fabric, and works to do this in all areas of the muslin, starting at the shoulders and working down to the skirt and out to the sleeves. Eventually, she’ll have carefully turned the ill-fitting muslin into a well-fitting muslin that can be used to alter the pattern.
Here’s where I used to deviate how Lynda does her fitting. Lynda will take those changes make on the muslin and apply them directly to the pattern. The point of doing this is so that you’ll have a hard copy of the changes you made and then be able to apply those EXACT same changes to other patterns from the same pattern line (or maybe more, since the Big4 pattern companies tend to have similar pattern standards). This means not having to make a muslin for each and every garment you sew, once you figure out the areas you need to adjust to make your garments fit from a pattern. I think that’s the most exciting thing to learn from this class.
So how did I do? Well, based on the measurements I took 35-(34 high bust)-28-41, I went with a size 14. The dress she has us make for the muslin is style E from Vogue 8766. I had already made this dress before, so nothing was new to me. In fact, the dress is pretty basic: bodice with darts, straight skirt with darts, and sleeves. I made up my muslin about a week ago based on my measurements then, and set it aside for our meet-up today. When it was my turn to try on my muslin to do the fitting, apparently I had lost enough inches in the past week to greatly affect my muslin. The other gals said I must have cut the wrong size (although, it fit fine after I was done making it). I had lost an inch off my waist and an inch off my hips, so that was enough to affect the fit of the garment. I’ll actually have to be taking in some on the skirt than adding more to it! The shoulder seams were a little off center of my shoulder, so we had to reposition those, which caused the back to slide up and the front to slide down (that’s a good thing).
Modified Muslin Front
The darts crept over my bust line and were positioned a little off center from my bust point, so first, we dropped the bust line down, and then repositioned (with Sharpie, because we were lazy) the dart lines.
Modified Muslin Side – No “rudders” here! But apparently I have terrible posture
Next, we had to raise the waistline of the front and the back, so fabric was folded up on both parts until the waistline matched that of the piece of elastic that was tied around my waist.
Modified Muslin Back – Oops, looks like my sleeve’s falling off
After all these changes were made to the muslin, I’ll transfer the changes to my pattern, and then recreate the muslin to make sure all the changes we made make for a well-fitting garment. So far, I have to say, I definitely would recommend Lynda’s class on Craftsy. Yes, it definitely helps to have another sewing buddy (or five, in my case) to help out, but I think a reliable dress form (so, not the one I have) would work just as well to make your own adjustments.
Special thanks to Amy from Sew Well for organizing the meet-up, and to Denise for the use of her home!
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