Sorry but I can’t point you to a source which will instantly solve all your fitting woes. I happen to have an unusually large number of body areas which are different from ‘average’, so ‘easy fitting’ methods don’t work at all for me. At least by trying them I’ve learned a lot about what doesn’t work. But many people are closer to ‘average’ than me, and get all the help they need from easy methods, or at least something noticeably better than their starting point.
Fit is an area which repays effort, as every little improvement can make a garment look and feel better. But don’t expect it to be a quick and easy process to get to where you’re satisfied !
Most of the comments here are about why ‘easy fit’ methods may not get quickly to an ideal solution for you.
Though there are beginning to be pattern companies which do this ‘fit to your features’ processing for you. I haven’t tried them so don’t know if they meet their claims. See section near end.
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That’s the basics if you mainly wear casuals. All the rest of this post is details, if you like more fitted clothes, or want well fitting pants.
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We all have different fitting issues, and also different fitting styles – we prefer different fitting methods. And we prefer different teaching styles. The methods mentioned here are the ones I have noticed as they work for me. Sadly I can’t guarantee they will work for you 😀
I’m mainly talking here about methods which deal with getting a good fit by making a test garment, here called a ‘muslin’. May also be called a ‘toile’ (french word pronounced twaal). Yes, if you have difficulty with fitting, it is worth doing this.
A first test of a woven garment can be made in any broadcloth type fabric (not just muslin (US) /calico (UK)), or in Pattern Ease. I love using Pattern Ease as you can trace the pattern onto it and then stitch it together, so cutting out one step of the test process if you use fabric. But it doesn’t move on the bias in the same way as fabric, so it’s not a final fitting solution.
It can also be good to make a first test of a pattern for knit fabric in a woven fabric (unless the pattern has negative ease). Amount of stretch greatly affects the fit of knit patterns. For final test of knit patterns you need to use fabric with the same amount of stretch as in the pattern.
I don’t mention ’tissue fitting’ as it is impossible to do without knowledgeable help, and paper doesn’t behave the same way as fabric. (If you can get to a face-to-face real class organised by Palmer-Pletsch then yes, otherwise no.)
Fitting issues covered in a fitting method
There are many ‘easy fitting’ methods, but I haven’t listed them here as I’ve tried many and they don’t work for me. I’ve also worked my way through many on-line classes and books, done much block drafting from personal measures, used a couple of personal pattern making software lines, all without success (many posts on my fitting adventures at Sewingplums).
I would love to be able to use a drafting ruler or a master pattern. They cover most of the issues dealt with by an ‘easy fitting’ method, and make drafting a basic block look so easy. They should certainly give you a result that is better than using a commercial pattern. But sadly I haven’t got a standard shoulder slope and upper back, or a standard armhole and sleeve head shape which are the same at front and back, or the standard distribution of bodice length above and below the armhole, or a standard crotch curve. And my waist and hips are not divided into 4 equal lengths by centre and side seams (I could go on – did I mention I have prominent high hips.)
Those two tools (ruler or master pattern) can give you a ‘basic block’. Get it to fit you well, then any style you make using it should also fit well.
But many sewists don’t want to do their own pattern making, so they need to know how to get a better fit from a commercial pattern.
All the fit issues I mentioned are ‘non average’ curves, bumps, and proportions. Some ‘easy’ fitting and pattern drafting methods do include bust cup size. But, for most curves, bumps and proportions, ‘easy’ fitting and ‘personal’ pattern drafting methods just use ‘industry standard’ shapes and measures. And poor fit in such areas all affect the look and comfort of a garment.
Liechty et al’s fitting bible includes 88 fitting issues, and most easy-fit methods and personal block drafting methods include quarter of them at best. I don’t actually use the methods in that book (most fit issues interact so you can’t deal with them in isolation). But I did find it well worth the investment as they include several fit difficulties not mentioned elsewhere.
Detailed help with getting a well fitting personal block
(Though most people don’t need one.)
I finally got good sleeveless bodice and skirt fit with the help of Brooks Ann Camper. She doesn’t adapt an ‘average’ pattern or use any ‘standard’ body measures. She has you draft a starter block entirely from your own measures. Then has you fit a muslin made from it to your body, with instructions and much help available. By the time I’d finished this muslin-changing process there was not a single feature of my starter bodice block that was unchanged. A clear message that drafting a pattern block does not work for me (which I already knew from attempting other drafts). The fitting is not quick or easy, but very rewarding (at last I have comfortable armholes, most fitting methods don’t mention them).
But we all like different teaching styles, she’s not for everyone.
There are classes for skirt (essential prerequisite for the others), sleeveless bodice, pants. I haven’t tried her pants class as crotch shape is my big problem there, and I solved that with the help of Joyful Expressions, see below.
I haven’t tried it myself but have seen good reports of the sleeved bodice class from Alexandra Morgan. Also has a personalised armhole and sleeve head – which I need and are never mentioned in ‘easy’ fitting and pattern drafting methods.
And again, these two sources are only helpful to people who want a personal block so they can do their own pattern making.
Most people are not so different from average that they’re willing to do their own pattern making. They have two options :
– there are several pattern companies which specialise in showing you how to make further styles from a base pattern, such as : Fit For Art, Fit Nice, Sure Fit Designs. See pattern ‘hacking’ post.
– or change a commercial pattern for better fit.
Revising a commercial pattern for better fit
Like many other topics in sewing, different people have different preferred fitting styles.
It doesn’t work for me to assume altering a flat pattern tissue will solve all my problems. Though as a basic book on understanding fitting problems I think Nancy Zieman’s Fitting with Confidence is clear and simple. But she only deals with the basics (many of the items in this list), not all the curve issues I listed above as problems for me. The ‘pivot and slide’ method also doesn’t work for fit issues which need changes to a pattern piece shape, such as cup size and crotch curve.
I have found most of my fitting issues need to be dealt with directly on my body, by ‘draping’ a ‘muslin’. Fitting issues interact, if you alter one measure on a pattern to solve one problem, it will probably affect another. Fabric on the body will show all the fitting issues together. There is a fitting class Sew the Perfect Fit from Linda Maynard at Craftsy which illustrates my preferred method.
You can see from the photo that she adds in fabric to the fitting ‘muslin’ in areas where the starter fabric is not large enough. I don’t know how so many people manage to post photos of neat muslins – don’t expect your altered muslin to be a thing of beauty. It should be full of pins and basting and written notes 😀
Basically in this method, fitting is done by ‘reading the wrinkles’ .
A taut wrinkle shows there is too little fabric along the line of the wrinkle. Slashing across the wrinkle will show how much fabric you need to add in.
A baggy wrinkle shows there is too much fabric. Try pulling on fabric from the sides across or along the wrinkle, to find how much needs to be taken out at the nearest seam or dart.
For a detailed class on this, see Sarah Veblen at Pattern Review.
From revised muslin to revised pattern
There are also several different methods of getting from a fitted muslin to a new pattern. I don’t follow Linda Maynard’s method of getting a well fitting pattern by making the same alterations to the paper pattern as you’ve made to the fitting muslin. I find it easier to mark the final stitching lines, then take the muslin apart and trace off the pattern pieces to make a new pattern. (More instructions in this post on cut-on sleeve tops.)
And don’t expect one fitting and muslin to be enough. Start by assuming fitting will be a slow bit-by-bit process, and it will be less stressful. Have you wondered why people make many versions of the same pattern before moving on 😀
Free specific items I find useful
I need to take all this slowly with pauses for thought, so I prefer photo tutorials rather than videos, but haven’t found them for all the issues.
Common fit challenges
Ease levels (Sewingplums)
Sure Fit Designs doesn’t include all fitting issues but she has some useful articles.
Bodice fit :
A general guide to bodice fitting, from Sew Liberated patterns.
There are many on-line tutorials on how to change the cup size of a pattern. But there are also some good sources if you don’t want to do the pattern work yourself, such as :
Jennifer Lauren Handmade, A-F.
Some tutorials :
How to add a bust dart – video from Sure-Fit Designs (no need for their shirt kit, instruction book, or other tools)
Basic Full Bust Adjustment, from the Curvy Sewing Collective.
Full Bust Adjustment – Debbie Cook’s tutorials on doing an FBA on various pattern styles – scroll down to her Alterations.
A few other issues :
Tips for dealing with a ‘muffin top’ : video from Sure Fit Designs.
Many videos on dealing with other bodice fit issues, such as round upper back, or forward neck, here from Sure Fit Designs. The methods can be applied to any pattern, not just hers.
Sleeve and armhole :
One of the big problem fit areas which is rarely mentioned in ‘easy’ fitting methods. I’ve seen one person who teaches fitting who wears very obviously badly fitting sleeves. Here are some of the issues :
Scoop out the armhole curve, video from Sure Fit Designs.
Sleeve cap shape and ease, from Sure Fit Designs.
Sleeve pitch – big diagonal fold from elbow to cap : intro to problem in above post, solution from Sure Fit Designs here.
Enlarging the upper arm, from In-House patterns.
Modify sleeves for better mobility, video from Threads magazine.
Bottom of armhole is tight : I get this because I have a deep torso. The only place I’ve seen this dealt with is in Liechty & Co. The simple solution is to add more width to the flat section at the bottom of the sleeve cap and armhole. This makes for a baggy upper sleeve, one of the many fit compromises you may find you have to accept.
Pants fit :
There’s much useful information in this Making Perfect Pants pdf from New Mexico State University. Everyone could look at this to celebrate that we don’t all conform to the standard hip shape expected in patterns !
Most ‘easy’ pant fitting and ‘personal’ pattern drafting methods don’t even mention crotch curve length and shape, but Liechty & Co. have over 40 pages on it. We’re lucky that there are some good overviews of the main issues.
Photos and drawings : the most basic adjustments, from Melly Sews.
Diagrams of problems and solutions : more adjustments, from Closet Core patterns.
Fitting your crotch curve using a bendy ruler : 2 videos and photo tutorial from Joyful Expressions. I haven’t got an unusual rear, I have got a deep torso with a base that slants plus a protruding stomach. This method is what solved most of my pants fit issues for me.
Issues such as a large rear can only be solved by changing the shape of the pattern piece (it’s a similar problem to adding fabric in the right place to accommodate a large bust). Here’s a post from Sewingplums on adding wedges to patterns.
If you don’t think you would enjoy drafting your own patterns, or doing your own fitting work, there are some companies which claim to make personalised patterns. Such as :
Lekala uses six measures. Many people love these patterns, but with such a small number of measures, I think they’re unlikely to produce a pattern that fits my special body features such as sloping shoulders, small bust, short waist, high hips. But they do have a wide range of styles, so if you’re fairly close to average they could be well worth trying.
There used to be a pattern fitting method that claimed to produce a perfect fit using only 3 measures. I am happy to see it’s no longer available.
Apostrophe patterns claim to make patterns for a few very casual styles and undies according to personal measurements. Number of measures used depends on style. You buy access to the pattern software, not one final pattern. So you can put in many different sets of measures for yourself and other people.
So far I have found two pattern companies which use much more detailed personal information – a few measures plus photos. It’s possible that by referring to measures from photos they may be able to deal with many special body features. I haven’t tried either of them – they have appeared after I had put all the work in to make my personal blocks – ah well 😀
Fayma – wide range of garment types.
Sewfitography – classic styles, no jackets/coats.
You’re very lucky if you find an ‘easy fit’ method that works for you. I do think those methods are irresponsible when they claim they work for everyone. I remember how much distress I suffered for a long time, until I realised that if a tool didn’t work for me, that meant there is something wrong with the method, not with me !
Many of my fit posts at Sewingplums are about understanding why most ‘easy’ and ‘personal’ methods don’t work for me – by finding the difference between what the ‘easy’ or ‘personal’ method includes and what my body needs for a good fit.
Unless you are lucky and have a close to ‘average’ body, don’t expect fitting to be quick and easy despite all the claims. It can be a challenging process but the pay-off is huge, and every small improvement makes your clothes look better.
A good fit makes anyone look as if they have a good body 😀 👍 😀 👍 😀
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First published July 2020, links checked December 2020
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