completed waistband and button fly and rivets installed

Jeans drafted from ready-to-wear

One of my favorite times of the year is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I love taking a break from work (or at least letting up on work a bit) and focusing on personal fun stuff. For the last holiday season, I treated myself to the Craftsy class Jean-ius! Reverse Engineer Your Favorite Fit with Kenneth D. King. I was filling the break with some personal sewing projects:

And I also decided it would be my mission to sew a pair of jeans. Except I don’t wear jeans very often these days, so my husband signed up to be the guinea pig. He’s really good about wearing jeans until they fall apart (I’ve patched a few for him since getting my sewing machine), and loves wearing jeans.

The project started in early January, then took a big break while I prepared for the Spring Jackalope show. Once I felt caught up with my business I worked on The Jeans a little bit on weekends, making sure I never pushed myself past the point of enjoying the process. It was so much new stuff to learn!

I used the Craftsy Jean-ius class for my primary direction, and also the Ginger jeans sewalong from Closet Case Files for additional perspective.

Matt's finished jeans
Matt’s finished jeans

Pattern

Self-drafted pattern based on a pair of men’s Lucky jeans

Project features

  • self-drafted pattern
  • sewing with Japanese selvedge denim
  • serged seam finishes
  • topstitching with jeans thread (with all purpose thread in the bobbin)
  • button fly
  • 5 pockets, including pocket bags
  • rivets installed at stress points

Process notes

  • used the jeans making kit from Clost Case Files (which came with a denim needle that I used, the buttons for the fly, and the rivets)
  • made a test fit pair of pants (with zipper fly) from a similar weight fabric — miraculously no fit changes were necessary
  • ordered 6 yards of 30″ wide denim (used about 3 1/2 yd, with about 2 1/2 yd left over)
  • traced pattern pieces with soap sliver before cutting out
  • consulted this post and examined the construction of the ready-to-wear pair to recreate the button fly
  • used selvedge for top of coin pocket and inside of waistband
  • finished all exposed seam allowances with serger

My construction order:

  1. Prepare the patch pockets and install on back pant pieces
  2. Attach the yoke to the back pieces
  3. Assemble the front pockets
  4. Prepare and install the fly (making buttonholes before installing)
  5. Attach front to back
  6. Install fly buttons
  7. Install waistband
  8. Make and attach belt loops
  9. Make buttonhole in waistband and attach button
  10. Install rivets
  11. Hem
back pockets of Matt's jeans topstitched and attached to back pieces
back pockets of jeans topstitched and attached to back pieces
front pockets of jeans topstitched and assembled
front pockets of jeans topstitched and assembled
yoke attached to back pieces and front fly installed
yoke attached to back pieces and front fly installed
button loops ready to be sewn onto waistband
button loops ready to be sewn onto waistband
completed waistband and button fly and rivets installed
completed waistband and button fly and rivets installed

Results

For my first pair of jeans, I’m super happy with how these turned out. I loved working with this denim, and since it’s only 11 oz. it went through my machine really well everywhere but just a couple of places (e.g. at the top of the back pockets, it wanted to skip a few stitches getting through the layers and over the hump.)

Since the gold denim thread was going to be so visible, I paid close attention to my topstitching and the extra care paid off.

There were some areas that gave me trouble, which I’ll watch for next time:

  • before cutting out the pieces, I had increased the side seams to 1″, but forgot to account for this on the pocket bag pieces, so the pockets are a little too narrow
  • the fly ends too low, making the fly longer than I wanted, and the bottom button is too difficult to reach
  • the burrito method mentioned in King’s class for finishing the ends of the waistband was really tricky for me, so I may try a different method next time if I can find one
  • the waistband is a little narrower than I’d like, and when lining up the waistband at the front it sent me down a road of making the front overlap too thin
  • making the buttonhole for the top button did not go well because of the bulk at the bottom edge of the waistband, pushing the hole too far up and making the top edge of the hole rather thin (I compensated by attaching a patch to the back of the waistband around the hole)
  • it’s important to use a flat, smooth, metal surface for installing the rivets because anything softer like wood or textured results in either the rivet post poking through the front of the rivet head or imprinting the texture onto the rivet head
  • they seem to be a little short in the crotch length, something to re-measure next time

I’d like to make another pair of these some day, since a big part of the project was drafting the pattern — and that’s done now!

How long did they take? I started watching the Craftsy class around January 1, 2016, and finished the jeans on June 25, 2016. I didn’t track my time, but I’d ballpark it at 9 weekends, working about 3 hours each weekend. The basic steps were:

  1. make a pattern based on the existing jeans
  2. make a quick version of the pants from test fabric (for fitting)
  3. make the final pair of jeans
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woven drawstring sleep shorts drafted from ready to wear

Woven drawstring sleep shorts drafted from ready to wear

Pants (and shorts) fitting is an ongoing endeavor for me. One day at the mill ends and remnants fabric store, I picked up a couple of yards of printed fabric (meandering little duck footprints I think??) for cheap. My intention was to get fabric I don’t care about and sew some bottoms to see if I can zero in on a good pants block. At least it’s 100% cotton!

PATTERN

Self-drafted pattern from a pair of ready-to-wear shorts (also knit version)

Project features

  • self-drafted pattern
  • drawstring with casing
  • finished seam allowances

Process notes

  • finished seam allowances with serger
  • joined side seams and waistband on the serger, stitching and finishing the edges all at once, with 3/8″ seam allowance instead of the original 5/8″ drafted into the pattern
  • made drawstring from cotton twill tape

Results

woven drawstring sleep shorts drafted from ready to wear

These sleep shorts are feeling pretty good. I’m really happy with the construction, and it was nice to get more comfortable finishing seams on the serger.

My on-the-fly decision to use the serger on the side seams resulted in a narrower seam allowance than originally intended, so the shorts are essentially a total of 1″ wider around the body. That’s something to watch for next time I make a pair of these.

I was going for a boxer short style, but because of the way I did the fitting, they’re a little slimmer than a typical roomy boxer short. They’re also a little too long, and when I crouch down the front of the legs tug more than I’d like. Going shorter would help that.

The big challenge for drawstring woven bottoms is that on my body, the waistband is quite a bit larger than my waist in order to get the shorts over my hips. I don’t love that, but this was a good project for learning more about pants fitting.

I’d really love to switch to knits and make a pair of shorts like the American Giant Essential Short. I think my knit version of these shorts would be a good place to start!

blue knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

Knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

PATTERN

I drafted my own pattern from a pair of knit drawstring shorts (originally used for a linen pair) using the skills I learned in Steffani Lincecum’s fantastic Craftsy class Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear.

Project features

  • self-drafted pattern
  • drawstring with casing
  • front patch pockets
  • twin needle on knit fabric

Process notes

Results

I keep forgetting that with knits, I don’t need to make the waist the same measurement as my hip measurement, so these are a little big around the waist. But with the drawstring it’s not a big deal.

blue knit drawstring shorts drafted from ready to wear

I learned a lesson about cotton twill tape: cut to length after washing and drying! My string shrank so much that I can only make a tiny bow at the waist.

The construction went really well, which I’m happy about. And the fit is relatively good, too. The only thing I’m not wild about is the color, but it was what I found at the remnants and mill-end store, so it is what it is ;)

Black knit lounge pants (not quite yoga)

After sewing another Coco, I moved over to some personal sewing projects drafted from ready to wear. I have several patterns in my pattern stash from this technique. (It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Craftsy class, but Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear is so great because of the versatility of the skills learned.) There’s a lounge pant drafted from Gap yoga pants blended with a lycra Nike workout pant, a hip-length boatneck tee with 3/4 sleeves from Loft, and long sleeve scoop neck tee from Loft.

I’ve had better success making garments from this type of pattern — vs. using one from the big pattern companies. I know the original fits, and I’m able to make some fit refinements when making the pattern.

Pants have proven tricky for me to get right. Not the construction, but the fit. I don’t have a basic pant block that fits yet, so each project is another learning experience in pants fitting. The learning continues with this pair.

Process notes

  • used black rib knit fabric
  • after constructing, went back and trimmed a bit off the inside seam at the crotch
  • the front and back leg lengths don’t match — need to research this more
  • used elastic instead of drawstring

Results

They’re not terrible, but there are definitely some fitting areas I want to address. The front rise is too long, and the legs are too wide. I wanted something a touch looser than the original yoga pant, but this was too far. And the waistband needs to be taken in more to achieve more of a slim fit. They hang pretty well in the back though.

If I can muster the patience, making a pants block that fits right would be an excellent step. Between One, Pattern Many Looks: Pants and this blog post about pants fitting, I could make real progress in this area.

Simplicity 1202 woven cap sleeve blouse detail

Wardrobe Architect Project: Cap Sleeve Blouse

The final garment to sew for my Summer 2015 wardrobe project was going to be the Simplicity 1693 blouse in a blue-and-white striped fabric. But I took a detour after:

  1. reading that the sleeve on that top was rather voluminous
  2. re-watching the One Pattern, Many Looks: Blouses class and feeling inspired to draft my own custom design
  3. drafting my own  blouse from my sloper from that class, including cap sleeves
  4. sewing a muslin from said self-drafted pattern and getting totally stuck because the cap sleeves did NOT behave as I wanted (they were far too tight across my arm no matter what I did to try to remedy it)

So. I switched up my plan and instead went back to a commercial pattern. And I didn’t think that the raglan-style sleeve in that pattern would look very good with my original striped fabric choice (awkward things might happen where the angled sleeve joins the bodice), and instead subbed in a tissue-thin fabric of blue pinstripe plaid.

PATTERN

Simplicity 1202 cap sleeve blouse

Project features

  • raglan sleeves
  • keyhole opening with center back seam
  • baby French facing neckline finish

Process notes

  • skipped the muslin
  • made size 10, view A
  • replaced the facing instructions in the pattern with the baby French facing technique from Crafty’s Sewing on the Edge: Finishing Techniques class, with bias pieces cut 1 1/2 inches wide, joined, and folded in half
  • after trying the top on for fitting, took the underarm and side seam in by 1 inch (1/2 inch from each piece) and re-finished the seams/hems
  • removed the button tab because the neckline is large enough to fit without needing to unbutton it; stitched on a decorative button to hold the keyhole opening closed

Results

I just can’t win with sizing on commercial patterns! It’s becoming kind of a joke. This top is rather billowy on me, including arm holes that went down too low on my sides. I could have made the size 8.

Blue plaid woven cap sleeve blouse Simplicity 1202

Simplicity 1202 woven cap sleeve blouse

While I love the idea of pullover woven blouses, I’m struggling with them on my particular shape. My back sways in, and my hips and shoulders are the same measurements with my waist being smaller. By the time the top fits my hips and pulls over my shoulders, it’s gotten pretty boxy and isn’t flattering for my shape. I could belt this one, but I don’t like the way sitting with a belted top makes it puff out in front and pull at the back. I’m fussy that way.

Maybe shaping it along the back seam and side seams and adding a side zipper to pull it over my shoulders would help. Or that might just make a stiff, uncomfortable side seam. Not sure the solution, but I’m not quite ready to give up on casual woven tops all together.

I’m really happy with the construction (all of those School of Sewing projects paid off!). The baby French facing is a great technique, although I wish I had made the fabric 2 or 2 1/4 inches wide. It was really narrow by the time it was stitched to the neckline. After stretch pressing it I had to stretch it wider again so it wasn’t too narrow.

After sewing all of these garments I’m learning that I wear fabrics with stretch SO MUCH more happily than fabrics without stretch. Whether they’re stretch wovens, or knits, they’re more wearable in my life. I’d like to focus on those types of projects next.

Linen drawstring shorts copied from ready to wear

Wardrobe Architect Project: Linen Drawstring Shorts

My Summer 2015 wardrobe project originally include a chambray gathered skirt. But my test muslin was far from flattering, so I called an audible and switched it to a pair of linen shorts.

Linen drawstring shorts next to the original ready to wear pair
My linen shorts on the left, with the original off-the-rack knit pair on the right

PATTERN

I drafted my own pattern from a pair of knit drawstring shorts using the skills I learned in Steffani Lincecum’s fantastic Craftsy class Pattern Drafting from Ready-to-Wear.

Project features

  • self-drafted pattern
  • drawstring with casing
  • front patch pockets
  • bartacks

Process notes

  • traced the pattern pieces using Steffani’s techniques
  • before making the muslin, added to the side seams to accommodate a woven fabric (the original shorts are knit), and adjusted the shape of the crotch seam to be more like an “L” than a long shallow curve, based on Kathy Ruddy’s One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants class
  • after making the muslin, increased the length of the back center seam by raising the waistline at the center back and smoothing to the side seams to accommodate the shorter length between the legs (this was a problem I ran into on my olive ankle pants and didn’t realize it until I started wearing them and they rode down in back and pulled at the front when I sat down)
  • made the drawstring from lightweight chambray, double-folding and stitching down the length, making clean finishes at the ends (I use this clean-ends bag strap method all the time)
  • the single buttonhole for the drawstring didn’t work — the chambray strap didn’t slide when I tried to cinch it closed because the linen had no flexibility like the knit casing does — so after assembling the shorts I ended up cutting two slots next to the center buttonhole and dabbed some fray block on them (I’m not entirely optimistic that this will keep the holes from fraying though, but I wasn’t about to rip out the finished waist band and do it again)

Results

The construction went very well (except for that drawstring buttonhole) and I’m really happy with how they look. The fit is good, although they’re a little bit loose around my body and I didn’t need to add as much to the side seams as I did. When I cinch the drawstring around my waist, there’s a bit of extra bunching up with the fabric requiring some shuffling around to even things out. But they are comfy, which is one of my priorities.

Linen drawstring shorts copied from ready to wear Linen drawstring shorts copied from ready to wear

I love the pockets! The stitching came out nice and even, and they help add interest and functionality. Without them I think these shorts would be quite dull.

I want to try this pattern with knit fabric, too. Especially since the original pair I bought is starting to fray apart because I wear them so much.

Simplicity 1696 Olive Ankle Pants

Wardrobe Architect Project: Olive Ankle Pants

Next up for my Summer 2015 wardrobe project is sewing the olive ankle pants.

Pattern

Simplicity 1696 Amazing Fit Pants

Project features

  • front zip fly with bar tack
  • hook closure
  • mock welt pockets
  • waistline facing
  • 4-piece waistband for fitting
  • slip-stitched hem

Process notes

  • made size 12 average fit
  • made a fitting muslin, then took quite a bit off of the crotch/inseam on the pack piece and lowered the front waistline a little
  • used a 100% cotton twill (no stretch)
  • omitted front pockets
  • omitted carriers (belt loops)
  • finished waistband facing with serger instead of bias binding

Results

I’m so glad I started with a fitting muslin on these pants, because it would have been really frustrating to make all of the changes necessary on the final fabric. On my first muslin there was a lot of fabric pooling under the “bum” as Kathy Ruddy puts it. I’m also really glad I had One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants to guide me through fitting. Even though it’s not a pants fitting class, Kathy provides excellent information on getting pants to fit well. I was able to use her instruction for seat fullness adjustments and for the crescent leg adjustment at the thigh. The pattern instructions for fine-tuning the fit would not have gotten me the fit I was after (or the fitted look as described on the pattern).

At a certain point I had to accept that this project was going to be slow-going. After spending pretty much a whole weekend on fit, it took me a couple of weeks to get through the final construction, sewn in little bits here and there. In the end, it was probably good to go slow because if I’d tried to power through making this pattern for the first time it could have led to frustration and exhaustion. Or a half-made-pants bonfire in the back yard.

I’m super happy with the final construction. Since I didn’t rush, stitching is clean and even, even where I had to stitch in the ditch around the waistband. The front zip fly took me a LONG time to get through, but it’s my first and it turned out well so I can’t complain. However, it’s awkward to zip them up using my left hand — the fly overlaps from right to left, but I apparently prefer pants that overlap from left to right.

Simplicity 1696 Olive Ankle Pants waistband and fly

 

Simplicity 1696 Olive Ankle Pants mock welt pockets
I sure hope those needle marks in the center back come out after washing…

My hope is that these pants soften and mold to my body over time. Right now they’re heavier and stiffer that I’d like or am used to. I really like pants with stretch, but I wanted to experiment with this twill to see how it went.

Adjustments for next time:

  • switch fly from right to left
  • lengthen the crotch depth on the back piece
  • use the lightweight stretch denim in my fabric stash
  • use a softer cotton for the waistband facing
  • continue fiddling with the fit of the back upper thigh area
  • finish the raw edges of the mock welt pocket flap

I’m also considering what it would take to turn this into my pants block, and using the fly installation technique from One Pattern. Many Looks: Pants.

Simplicity 2215 blouse detail

Sewing the Simplicity 2215 Sleeveless Blouse

While not typically not a dress or skirt person, I’m open to becoming one some day. And at a recent $1 pattern sale, Simplicity 2215 struck me as a classic-yet-modern option that just might work for me. But first, I dip my toe in the water with the blouse.

Project features

  • collar
  • facing
  • bias tape facing
  • darts
  • buttons

Process notes

Simplicity 2215 Cynthia Rowley Blouse, Skirt, and Dress

Instead of using the pointed collar that comes with the pattern, I drafted a Peter Pan collar. This was a nice blouse to try that on because it doesn’t have a collar band.

After making a size 8 muslin to test the fit, I made some adjustments:

  • omitted the front waist shaping darts
  • replaced the arm hole with the size 12 arm hole
  • added about 3/4 in. to the back side of the armscye (broad back/shoulder blade adjustment)
  • shaved 5/8 in. off the neckline

For the fabric, I used some of the mystery challis from my stash because it has such a nice soft feel. I love sewing with regular cottons, but they tend to have a stiffer shape in tops that I don’t care for. I like my tops to look polished, but not stiff.

Results

Simplicity 2215 sleeveless blouse with Peter Pan collar

The challis feels wonderful, but it’s tricky to sew with — it wants to slither around quite a bit. And I think it’s going to be snag city with this particular fabric. Just during the sewing process some little snags appeared, causing little hiccups in the fabric pattern.

I’m super happy with how the collar turned out. It was challenging to figure out where exactly it should stop in front, but I lucked out big time. Some of my Craftsy classes were a huge help for getting me through this top successfully: 40 Techniques Every Sewer Should Know, One Pattern, Many Looks: Blouses, and The Classic Tailored Shirt. And I’m sure if I watch Sewing on the Edge again I’d pick up ways to improve the arm hole binding process.

The arm holes ended up being too large, and the broad back adjustment could have been reduced by about half. On the plus side, this top fits over my head if the top button is unbuttoned, which gives me some good direction for designing a popover blouse.

Somehow the fabric got uneven on the bottom front — either when the facing was attached or when the buttons were sewn on. I’ll have to watch for that sort of thing in the future.

This top would look wonderful with slim navy pants. And on that note, perhaps making the skirt from this pattern in a navy is the way to go.

Adjustments for next time:

  • make size 10
  • shorten the length of the back neck facing a little bit to lie smoother

Simplicity 2215 sleeveless blouse

 

Tee drafted from ready to wear

T-shirt Sewing Mission: Shoulders

As an addict of online courses (Craftsy and Creative Live in particular), I enjoy learning what different platforms have to offer and how they differ from each other. There are many Craftsy classes in my library, so when BurdaStyle opened up a new sloper class, I wanted to see how that platform works as well. I own the Craftsy course Sewing with Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials and it has been tremendously helpful for getting me comfortable sewing with knits. The first tee I made was from the pattern that comes with that course, with my adjustments for square and broad shoulders. But the adjustments didn’t pan out:

White tee from Sewing with Knits
The shoulders are too square and it’s too tight under the arms

The square shoulder adjustment was totally wrong for me, and the shoulder seams were too short. It was also too tight under the arms and there are pull lines on the fabric (and I can feel it pulling uncomfortably). After seeing how square the shoulders were I pinched out some of the fabric and re-sewed the top of the sleeve/arm hole seams but it didn’t fully solve the issue. When BurdaStyle opened up their Draft Your Own Personal 5 Piece Sloper Collection for May enrollment I jumped on it. Through this course we learned how to draft slopers for the bodice, sleeve, pant, dress/torso for wovens, and the sleeve and torso for knits. One of the great things about the course is gaining familiarity and comfort with the drafting process — drawing over and over helps me feel like it’s no big deal to rip off a sheet of tracing paper and get to work. After drafting each of the woven slopers I sewed up muslins to see how the fit was going. I learned that just because the sloper is drafted from my measurements, it doesn’t mean the garment will fit right out of the gate. The shoulder area was challenging, especially once it came time to add the sleeves. I fell pretty good about where the woven bodice/torso slopers landed, but we’ll see what happens when I eventually draft a pattern from the slopers. I was really excited about the knit sloper. But when I constructed a tee from mine, the arm holes and shoulder placements were off.

White tee from sloper class
Shoulders are too wide and it’s too tight under the arms

It’s also too short, but that’s an easy to fix in the future. After these two experiences, I was looking for a win. So I drafted a pattern from a tee from my closet that I know fits me well following the Craftsy class Pattern Drafting from Ready to Wear. I love this class so much. It takes a lot of the mystery out of garment design and construction — not in the sense that it teaches how to design and construct garments, but rather by reverse-engineering the pieces of the garment it demonstrates that it wasn’t created through magic.

This tee turned out much better, and I’m pretty happy with the fit. I think the under arms are still a bit too small, and the neckline in front is a little high. There are several more tees in my closet to copy — my goal is to get a good basic fit to which I can apply different necklines, hemlines, and sleeves.

Bias facing detail on Simplicity 1364

Sewing the Simplicity 1364 Retro Sleeveless Woven Top

I love a classic top with a bateau neckline. And this pattern is fairly simple, with just a few pieces. But the lapped zipper in the back and the bias facing in the arm holes did make things a little trickier.

Project features

  • lapped zipper
  • facing
  • bias tape facing
  • darts

Process notes

Simplicity 1364 retro blouse pattern

For fitting this top, I used Nancy Zieman’s book The Busy Woman’s Fitting Book. After experiencing Joi Mahon’s pattern fitting techniques, it seemed like a good idea to give the pivot and slide method Nancy teaches in order to compare the two.

I chose the pattern size based on Nancy’s front width fitting chart. It’s hard to say how effective this method was because the pattern needed to be made wider at the shoulders and narrower at the bust. I started by doing the wide shoulder adjustment (adding 1/2″ to the shoulder width) and the square shoulder adjustment (moving the shoulder up 1/2″), then made a muslin to test fit.

The test fit revealed that there was way too much fabric in the bust, waist, and back, and not quite enough at the hip. In addition, the neckline in the front was cutting into my neck a bit, the darts on the front were too long, and the arm holes were too snug. I really liked how the neckline looked though — the bateau neck was crisp and flattering.

After seeing the fit of the muslin, I made further pattern adjustments:

  • dropped the front neckline by 1/2″
  • lowered the bottom edge of the arm hole and blended it into the upper part of the arm hole
  • brought the side seam under the arm hole in and blended it down to the hem (small bust adjustment)
  • widened the hip at the hem
  • shortened the dart by 1″

Then came the difficult decision of which fabric to use! A remnant of lightweight indigo chambray was calling to me, and for the bias facing on the arm holes a white and navy stripe was a good complement.

Results

Simplicity 1364 Retro Top

Striped bias facing on Simplicity  1364
Striped bias facing on the arm holes

With the exception of the shoulders and shoulder blade area, I’m super happy about how this top turned out. The fabric is soft, lightweight, and has a good drape. And the design of the top is crisp and polished, but casual as well. The long zipper in the back makes it feel purposeful and put-together.

The ends of the shoulders at the arm holes are just a bit too high, making them pop up when they should mold to the shoulder better (this is less evident when my arms are bent like in the photos). And I learned a valuable lesson: if there’s a poorly-blended curve in the pattern, that will show up in the final garment. Makes sense! These areas are now fixed on my pattern.

I’m on the fence about whether a bit of a broad shoulder adjustment would help me or not — my concern is that adding fabric to the back will exacerbate the sway back fitting issue, but I’m consistently wearing tops that pull at the upper torso/shoulder area. That’s something that will continue to evolve for sure.

I also learned why some sewers like to stabilize the fabric before attaching a zipper. My fabric kept smooshing downward as the zipper got stitched on, causing wrinkles and puckers. If I had fused some interfacing on before folding and stitching, it probably would have alleviated this issue.

Vogue 1004 fitting shell in gingham

Pattern Fitting and the Fitting Shell

Once every seven years or so I get the itch to sew a garment. And every time the results disappoint me. The primary reason for this is the fit. It seriously never occurred to me before that patterns wouldn’t fit right out of the envelope. And when they didn’t fit, I blamed myself, thinking that my body was just a weird shape or I didn’t have the skills to make the item correctly.

So when I learned more recently that it’s uncommon for patterns to fit well right out of the envelope — that they’re just a guide to get started — it was highly enlightening. And encouraging!

There are so many options when it comes to pattern fitting, it was a little overwhelming to know where to begin. People seemed to favor one of two methods:

  1. slash and spread
  2. pivot and slide

I was most interested in the slash and spread, and fitting a muslin before jumping into nice fabric. Because I’m a visual learning, video classes are my go-to learning tools (I’m addicted to Craftsy and Creative Live). It was really hard to choose between the Craftsy classes Sew the Perfect Fit with Lynda Maynard and the Fast-Track Fitting series with Joi Mahon. A helpful Craftsy Comparison blog post on Bobbins & Whimsy described the differences between them, and the most compelling factor was that Joi teaches how to measure and fit the pattern before making the muslin, making a sewing buddy less necessary.

Joi teaches a logical approach that includes measuring the different sections of the body and adjusting the pattern in those specific sections. This allows the adjustments to be made where they match the body instead of just where the pattern’s existing adjustment lines are printed. And it gets the muslin much closer to a good fit the first time, although some fine-tuning is likely after the muslin is made.

Method

Followed Crafty’s Fast-Track Fitting and Fast-Track Fitting: In the Details classes

Process notes

  • used Vogue Fitting Shell 1004 with 1″ gingham check fabric
  • traced off a copy of each pattern piece and left originals intact
  • forgot to pin out the darts when measuring the pattern against my body measurements, so had to trace off a second copy of each pattern piece
  • compared body measurements to pattern measurements and adjusted in batches (vertical first, then horizontal)
  • cut fabric one layer at a time to stay on grain
  • transferred pattern markings to fabric with transfer paper and wheel (and fabric pen for darts)

Results

Vogue 1004 fitting shell in gingham check

Vogue 1004 fitting shell in gingham, torso

This was a fantastic learning experience. The best parts were:

  • gaining an understanding of how to compare body measurements to pattern pieces
  • learning how to change the pattern to fit me
  • gaining confidence that now I can adjust a pattern before cutting it out in the final fabric and it’ll fit so much better
  • the moment I tried on the muslin and saw how well the bodice fit
  • having the time to go through the entire fitting process on a practice garment rather than feeling pressured or rushed to fit a final garment

The most challenging parts were:

  • transferring the pattern markings to the fabric so they would show up
  • knowing how to make the pattern pieces for arm holes and sleeve cap fit each other
  • doing the math on the horizontal adjustments and still have the side seams match up
  • fitting the sleeves into the arm holes (causing many rounds of getting up and down from the sewing machine, trying on the muslin)

Forgetting to pin out the darts when measuring the pattern was actually a happy accident — it allowed me to experience the process of making pattern adjustments so that the second time it went much more smoothly. The first time, I made one adjustment at a time, in pace with the videos. But the second time I was able to see it more holistically and make smarter cutting choices.

Trying on the muslin for the first time was such a delight. The bodice (without sleeves) fit like a glove. The lower body needed a bit more wiggle room, but it was definitely in the ball park. To adjust the lower body I removed the front darts and increased the area and length of the back darts. In retrospect, I think it would have been better to adjust the sided seams and leave the front darts.

Attaching the sleeves to the arm holes was tricky! This by far took the longest time in the muslin fitting process. My primary hangup was the shoulder area — my shoulders are wide and I didn’t end up with quite enough fabric in that area. I never did fully resolve the sleeve fitting, but eventually had call it good enough to move on.

Once I had it fitting well enough, I went the seam lines with a marker and disassembled the muslin, then transferred the changes to the paper pattern. Mostly this was for gaining the experience doing it. It’s unlikely I’ll actually use the pattern again as it is. And I had to laugh because by the time the muslin was done, a few of the adjustments needed to be put back to the original pattern measurements.

What I learned and can apply to future garment fitting projects:

  • don’t be too stingy with seam allowances on the fitting garment
  • adjustments for wide shoulder and square shoulder should help my upper torso fitting issues (this method for square shoulders looks interesting because I also have the sway back)
  • a broad shoulder adjustment may be necessary (as in this method written about by A Fashionable Stitch)
  • it’s important to make horizontal adjustments in the right places so that the side seams still match up when joining the top to the bottom

It’s also become clear that it’s going to take practice and repetition to become confident about when pattern adjustments need to be made. My hope is that by making several different garment patterns in relatively quick succession things will become more intuitive.