Another ‘readers ask’ email came in, this time from Linda, who asked me about striking a balance between time-saving techniques and ensuring a good fit. Skipping the fitting process to save time is clearly a false economy if you end up making garments that don’t fit properly – but who wants to make a toile every time we try a new pattern? When I thought about how I approach this issue, I can offer up a few tips which might help to speed along the fitting process.
1. I know own my shape pretty well now, so I make pre-emptive changes to patterns based on how my body deviates from the ‘norm’. For me that means cutting smaller at the shoulders and bigger at the hips, taking out neckline wedges, making a sway back adjustment, and shortening the bodice. The Big 4 commercial pattern companies (Butterick, Mccall, Vogue and Simplicity) all use the exact same fitting block (thank you Fit for Real People for that nugget of insight), so I make those same alterations to any new Big 4 pattern as soon as it comes out of the envelope. Often this addresses the major fit issues and I can fine-tune as I sew.
2. Do a bit of research into pattern companies and pick one that targets your body shape. For example, Deer & Doe designs for slimmer shoulders, bigger hips and a C cup bust so usually fit me straight out of the packet. Try Sewaholic for pears, SBCC for petites, Named if you’re tall and willowy, etc. Check the company’s standard sizing chart and if you span 1 or 2 of the size range instead of 3 or 4 then you might be onto a good fit.
3. I refer to the finished garment measurements to check I like the design and wearing ease that’s been adding to the pattern. Often I’ll compare it to a similar RTW or pre-made garment to see how it measures up. If the finished measurements aren’t given you can just measure the pattern pieces, being sure to remove seam allowance and fold out any darts/pleats.
4. Self-draft from your own fitting blocks. This obviously takes a bit more upfront effort, but you know it will fit properly. You could also compare your blocks to commercial patterns, but to be honest I find this a bit difficult because it can be like comparing apples to oranges – a closely-fitted shell without seam allowances will not correspond to a fully-designed pattern with wearing and design ease added.
5. Make the same pattern over and over! It’s surprising how much variety you can get from one pattern, and once you’ve ironed out the fit and construction it goes really fast the second, third, fourth time. If your chosen pattern allows it, try altering the base fabric for wardrobe variety. Try pleated trousers in both a rigid twill and drapey wool suiting, or a shirt-dress in crisp wax cotton and flippy viscose.
I hope these tips were helpful – they definitely work for me to save time, and I don’t have fit disasters very often these days even when skipping the toile process. Anyone have more tips to add?