Last year for my birthday I was gifted material and a pattern to make myself a raincoat. The fabric is a gorgeous deep burgundy with a navy floral fabric for the lining and I love looking at it.
Now, I’m a knit garment sewist. I mean – I. Am. A. Knit. Garment. Sewist. That seriously. I can alter a knit pattern to fit well with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back. But wovens, I sew them a whole lot less often, and thus, from time to time, I still have to talk myself off the “fit” ledge.
And so that raincoat still sits in its uncut and unsewn form waiting for me to be ready to dive in. Because as is likely the case for you, I always have to fit the pattern to my body. Always.
And why wouldn’t I, honestly? We all have such unique bodies, we’re not a standard size or shape, and that’s one of the top reasons I hear from new garment sewists on why they want to learn to sew clothes. They are tired of not finding clothes that fit their bodies.
And then, that problem follows them into the sewing room.
The problem of Fit. As in, sewing clothes and trying to get the fit right and feeling completely frustrated by that process.
I get it.
It’s hard to wrap our heads around and there are so many ways you can go about it and our bodies are dynamic and wonderfully, three-dimensional. And so complicated.
But it doesn’t have to be so frustrating. (or complicated…but that’s a topic for another day!)
I have certainly made clothes that did not fit. Clothes that were too big or, gasp, too small.
Now, I start every new sewing pattern with some math.
Here’s the path I use to get a much better fit from the get-go…
- Measure your body. First and foremost…be kind and gentle with yourself. Sewing is an act of self-care after all.
Your body is unique and special and should not be defined or shamed by the numbers you see.
Pull the tape snug but not tight and for goodness sake, don’t lie to yourself. Well-fitting clothes are the most flattering.
Here’s the body measurement form I use.
- Choose the size you want to start with and then get comfortable making YOUR regular adjustments.
Compare those measurements to the body chart on the sewing pattern and pick the size you’ll use as your base.
For me, as a large busted woman, I use my high bust measurement (just under the armpits but above the bust) to determine what size I use. I use the high-bust measurement in place of the bust measurement and then plan to make a full bust adjustment to the pattern.
My adjustments are almost always the same – full bust adjustment (most patterns are graded for a B cup, to increase/decrease you want to add/subtract 1 inch per cup size), grade out two sizes from the waist to the hip, shorten the bodice pattern for my short waist, lengthen the sleeve and if pertinent, a full bottom adjustment. Knowing that is very empowering. And truly as I write this, I’m like…for crying out loud, sew the raincoat!
To determine your base size, you might want to use your full bust measurement (again most patterns are drafted for a B cup and if you are close to that, use the bust measurement) or your shoulder measurement to determine what size to start with. Like most things in life, there are many ways that will give you success.
And it’s simply that, a starting point.
So, I choose the size I plan to use, then I start to compare my measurements to the body chart of the pattern.
Say I was sewing a size 16 in the pattern (this gorgeous, fictitious pattern) because that corresponded with my high bust and my hip measurement was 7 inches larger than the hip measurement of the size 16 but corresponded with the size 20. Then I would know that I need to grade from a size 16 at my waist to a size 20 at my hip.
I would write that all down. I would write down my plan – to do a full bust adjustment that added 3 inches, to grade at the waist from the size 16 to the size 20 at the hip, to take 1/2 inch off of the center back because my measurement was 1/2 inch shorter than the size 16 body chart and to lengthen the sleeve by 1 inch.
So, write down your plan.
(oh hey, want the cheat sheet I made on how to make adjustments and judge the fit on your knit garments? Get it here.)
- Adjust the Pattern. I like to make my adjustments before I ever cut my fabric.
Then I take my plan and make adjustments to the pattern before I even cut it out.
These steps set me up for a much more pleasant sewing experience.
I don’t know about you, but it’s super frustrating when you take the time to do lovely finishes, like french seams, only to have to sacrifice them for fit alterations.
Does that happen to you?
Do you have regular adjustments that you always make to patterns? What are they? Hit reply and tell me!
In Deep Kinship,