Have you ever felt like giving up garment sewing as nothing seems to fit? Do you love to be creative, working with textiles and colour, but are disappointed with the garment fit so you never end up wearing your creation? Well, it’s not your fault! You just need to understand how to alter the pattern to fit your body and embrace what you have. A properly fitted garment (regardless of the size) will take 10 pounds off of you. Who wouldn’t want that?
When I first started sewing, I found that I could just lengthen the pattern and presto it fit. That would be true for others if you have the 20 something B Cup hourglass figure. This is the typical sizing block that the big commercial pattern companies use. Well fast forward to post kids and that isn’t my case any longer. I loved to sew but just couldn’t get the fit, and quite frankly I don’t think I truly understood what a good fit was. Then I came across the Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting Method. I dabbled a bit but didn’t really understand the process until I took a hands-on workshop in Portland. Although there are many fitting approaches, I found the Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting Method the easiest for me to follow. Pati Palmer is a master at fitting and writes fabulous books with her partner Marta Alto who just recently retired. Her latest fit book, Complete Guide to Fitting, is an accumulation of many years of fitting experience and well worth purchasing.
The concept is really quite simple. The first step is to tissue fit the pattern. There is a bit of prep to prepare the pattern. Then you literally pin the tissue with wrong sides together on the seam line, try on and evaluate the fit. Are there any pulls or gapping tissue? Are seams lining up to where they need to be? Is the centre front (CF) and center back (CB) at my CF and CB?
Both Marta and Pati giving me a hand tissue fitting at a workshop in Portland.
Tissue fitting allows you not only to validate the fit, but also to test drive the design. Do you like the overall length, style and length of the sleeves, amount of design ease, neckline shape and depth etc.? As Pati always said, if you don’t like it in tissue you aren’t going to like it in a $100/yard silk piece. Once you have the fit and design nailed then the next step is to cut out your fabric and fabric fit. You are about 80% of the way to a great fitting garment before you even cut anything out.
Fabric fitting by myself at home.
Pin the fabric together with the right side facing out but the seams are pinned with the wrong sides together and try it on. This is an important step as fabric has ease where tissue does not. With the seams pinned on the outside, you can adjust as needed and tweak for that high full hip, one sloping shoulder etc. When you are tissue fitting, you typically fit one side of the body. When you are fabric fitting you are fitting your entire body with all of its unique curves and scallops! This stage gets you to about 90% of the way there before you even stitch a seam. Doing less ripping or some say, unstitching is a bonus. During construction, I frequently try on the garment throughout to fine tune the fit. This gets you to about 95%. There are always small tweaks you might make to perfect the fit when you attempt the pattern again. Fitting does take a good portion of the overall sewing process but is well worth the effort in the end.
I am happy with the overall fit but noticed one thing that I can tweak for the next dress. I am getting quite a rounded back and forward shoulder from bad posture at the computer. When doing the forward shoulder adjustment, I also need to adjust the armscye. I will have to take a little bit out of the front at the crease of my arm and add to the back. This will keep the overall balance in the sleeve but give me a better fit through the chest and back where it’s needed. Also, I have a slight sloping left shoulder from carrying handbags. A small adjustment here will help as well. Notice this slight wrinkle with the close-up of the sleeve.
Though the concept is simple, I really consider it an art. You learn as you begin to understand your body and the adjustments that are required. Try things out, tweak and adjust. Every pattern and person is slightly different and some might need more adjustments if their body shape differs significantly from the original pattern.
If you want to learn more about this great fitting method and live in the Calgary, AB area, I have several in-person workshops you might want to check out. Of all the workshops offered, I have 3 that are a great place to start.
We start from the beginning and build a body map so that you understand all of the alternations you would need when sewing a dress, top or jacket. We utilize Pati’s basic fit pattern for a Sheath Dress (B6849) . Once we understand the basics, we jump right to fitting fashion patterns of your choice. The goal is to fabric fit at least one of your patterns. This will give you an appreciation of the entire fitting process. This is simply a fitting workshop with no sewing.
Pants can be a challenge and deserve a class on their own! In this class you will fit and sew a basic pant (B6845). We start with a woven pant to fine tune the fit and construction techniques. With some minor adjustments, the basic pattern can be used to sew a Ponte knit pant. I even had a client who drafted her own jeans patterns from her basic pant.
Learn the latest fitting and sewing techniques for knits. We will make a basic T-shirt (or dress) and then using your customized basic, let your imagination run wild and create something new; modify the neckline or sleeves, colour block, and turn it into a jacket or cardigan. Options are limitless once you have that great fitting basic T. This is my favorite class as we talk about and play with design.
I do hope you realize that you can get patterns to fit and be proud to wear your own creations. I would love to hear about your fitting experiences, good or bad! We all learn from shared experiences. I never stop learning!
Here is to a great fit!
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