Fit is a Feeling ...

Posted by Susan Liane, The Smuggler's Daughter on 3/18/2014
A wise sewing teacher once told me that "fit is a feeling, not a fact." Although I see the wisdom in that statement, I have to admit that I hid behind it for many years.  That means that I did a poor job at fitting and the accompanying pattern alterations, sewing over-sized clothing that did not truly "fit" me at all.

Here is the basic fact for sewistas: Unless you are an athletic 18-year-old, who wears a B-cup bra, you will need to do some pattern alterations if you want your clothing to fit in a way that feels good.  And sometimes, even healthy teenagers need to alter their patterns.

At the recent Sew Expo in Puyallup, Washington, I attended a class taught by Pati Palmer, who is the sewing world's queen of fit.  Pati says that "fit is an art, not a science" and offers some basic tips and techniques for tissue fitting that every sewista should know. Tissue-fitting is often an easier way to achieve a good fit, than sewing a muslin.

The first thing Pati suggests is to select your pattern size by a snug measure of your high bust. For example, if your high bust measures 40 inches, then your pattern size is usually 18. Be sure to look at the chart on theg at the waist mark or seem at the side. Is it at your waist? If not, adjust.  Check the back for broadening, narrowing or for adjusting the top for a rounded back - very common for older women.  To adjust for a round back, you can use darts, pin tucks or even add a curved seam at the back of the garment.  Make all of these adjustments on the tissue before you move on to the second fitting.

On the second fitting, adjust for shoulder slope first, then for bust size.  Commercial patterns are generally designed for a B cup.  If your cup size is larger, you will have to add. It is a good idea to be wearing one of your best quality and best fitting bras during this part of the pin fitting. Raise or lower the bust fullness to match your body.  Then compare the pattern center to your center, to determine the amount to add.  Exactly how you add for a full bust will depend on the style of your pattern.  You can add at the shoulder, the side under your arm, or at a princess seam. Then, for longer tops, be sure to check if you have enough room at the hips. Again, make all of these adjustments on the tissue before moving on to the third fitting.

The third fitting is when you can adjust the dart location if needed. Check the shoulder seam location and shoulder width and make adjustments at this point.  I need to narrow the shoulder width on almost every top, because otherwise I will have the sleeve starting a quarter of the way down my arm. Finally, check the garment length and make sure it is flattering for you.

In my experience, this process is always easier with a partner. Unfortunately, you may find that it is difficult to find an experienced sewista who will work with you to make the best fit alterations possible.  This is a good reason to participate in an actual sewing circle, not just an online sewing forum.  The American Sewing Guild and its neighborhood groups can be great resources and great ways to meet other sewistas.

Most of the time, I do tissue fitting at home by myself and I feel like I can do an adequate job.  Doing this by yourself is far far better than not doing it at all.

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