It’s hard to imagine that standing around and saying “aah, I see” would result in any learning, but this weekend I was doing just that with four other ladies at a fitting class.
Nancy Siefert is a Palmer/Pletsch certified teacher, and she held a shirt fitting class at a local fabric store. So this post is about my day as a pattern fitting student, and I hope to pass on some useful fitting pointers. If you’ve made lovely garments but they don’t fit, I think you’ll learn something new too.
There were five ladies total, and this was the first of two sessions. Nancy first measured us. I knew that to establish your pattern size, you should measure at the “high bust” — that is, not the full measurement of your bust. So in front, the measuring tape should fall below your armpits. So many new sewers make this mistake, so I’ll say it again: To determine which pattern size to cut out, measure under your armpits and ignore how full (or flat!) your bust is. In back, I was surprised to learn that the measuring tape should be placed at the bottom of your brassiere strap. So the measuring tape will lie a little lower in the back. From this measurement, find the back-of-the-pattern measurement that closely resembles yours and choose the corresponding pattern size. If you’re in between sizes, it usually best to size down. The number WILL BE higher than your ready-t0-wear size, but don’t despair. This happens to everyone. You can take comfort that your size 4 friend could be a size 8!
Our next task was to cut out and pin together the special-order McCall’s shirt pattern pieces, or “sloper.” A sloper is a tightly-fitting pattern, tighter than anything you would actually sew up, and it’s used to determine which fit alterations you can make at the pattern tissue stage. We pinned the shirt pieces so that all of the pattern lines were printed on the outside. Now, this was only half of the pattern since you would normally cut out two pieces of fabric. She then showed us ourselves in the mirror how the half-pattern pieces laid. A number of ladies had the same issues, and somehow it’s a relief just to see you’re not alone!
How do you know whether the pattern size is right and which alterations to make?
1. The pieces should come to your exact middle in the front and in the back. If there is too much overlap or the pieces don’t quite meet, try another size.
2. In the back, the armholes should fall right at the join between your back and the crook of your arm. This ensures that the size fits your body’s frame. Again, too far beyond will result in a too-big garmet, and the opposite is true as well.
3. If there are “drag” lines, they point to an issue, such as a higher shoulder, which can be easily addressed by modifying the tissue.
The most common alterations that you can make at the pattern stage include: full bust, forward shoulder and high round back. A full bust adjustment is needed if you wear greater than a B cup. Forward shoulder is very common these days due to computer work. And finally you know if you have high round back if your clothing tends to ride back, such as a collared shirt in which the button tends to pull back to your neck.
Okay, that’s all for now. For next weeks’ class our homework is to sew together the altered, cut-out bodice pieces but not complete the garment, and see what modifications can be made at the seam allowances, if needed. This class is based on this book, “Fit for Real People,” and here’s an Amazon.com link. If you can’t afford the time or expense of a class, the book uses real people with real figure “flaws” and corrects them step by step. It’s a great resource.